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Living with & Caring for a Guide Dog
A lot of people have shown interest in my new huggable helper, and so I thought I'd share some information about him here.
Nice To Meet You:
I recently got my first guidedog. His name is Ulan, and he's a three-year-old labrador golden retriever mix. I was told by his trainer that "ulan" means "first born" in Hebrew. He's quite large for his breed, and this comes in useful as he helps me get from place to place, but he also assists me with my balance, too. I'm quite unsteady whilst walking, and so I can lean on Ulan if I feel a dizzy spell is about to come over me.
A Typical Day For Us
I'll usually roll out of bed around nine o'clock, and I'll always find Ulan raring to go. Sometimes I'm jealous of him - I wish I could be that energetic in the morning! He'll race downstairs, ignoring my calls of "steady, Ulan! Steady!" Where Ulan is concerned, food is always of the utmost importance.
I'll place a towel on the floor to catch the streams of drool that flow from his mouth as I get his breakfast ready - kibble with a splash of water thrown in on top. I tell him to sit, then to wait. His eyes never leave me, worried he'll miss the signal to begin scarffing.
My hand slides into the pocket of my robe, and when it emerges, it clutches a small red whistle. He follows it with his eyes as it approaches my lips, and when I give it three quick, sharp blows, Ulan attacks the bowl of bland, boring chow as if it had just screamed the most dreadful, odious profanities in regards to his dear mother, and will not stop until he's licked it's shiny surface clean.
Once I've finished getting ready, I'll reach for Ulan's leash, sending him into a frenzy of excitement. I'll hook all of his equipment onto him: his halty, his harness, and finally his leash. He usually calms down enough at this point to sit still, although he'll proceed to wriggle and wag his tail so much that I'm surprised it's never lifted him right off the ground, once he's all togged out. Then we head out. He leads me around cars, lamp posts, etc, stops at kerbs until I give him the go-ahead to walk on, lets me know when we're about to climb a set of steps, and refuses to go any further unless I give him a treat once we've reached the half-way point on our stroll.
After our wander through the little village in which we reside, I'll usually groom him, using the following:
- A Zoom Groom: A brush with rubber bristles that doesn't really gather loose hairs, but rather just causes them to fall on the ground.
- A Steel-Bristled Brush: This is used only on his back and sides. When using this, you brush against his fur (i.e. from tail to neck)
- A Soft-Bristled Brush: This is used on his head, legs and belly, as these areas are more sensitive.
- A Steel Comb: A comb who's function is to gather up any remaining loose hairs that might have escaped the brushes.
- A Cloth: Rubbing Ulan's coat with a small piece of cloth will leave it looking nice and shiny.
- A Furminator: A rectangular grooming tool that appears to be the result of a one night stand between a brush and a comb. It's bristles are sharp, and if used too often, it will actually leave bald spots on a dog's coat. For this reason, I only use it once per week.
Next comes what I consider to be the most important part of my day - nap time. I do like my sleep. Ulan get's a rawhide or pig's ear treat once a week, and this is when I'll usually give it to him, just so he doesn't get bored while his master is comatose.
My alarm clock will waken me after an hour and a half of tossing, turning, snoring and mumbling, which is when our daily game of hide-and-seek begins.
The game goes as follows:
- I'll tell Ulan to stay in our bedroom and I'll then grab one of his toys and hide it in another room.
- The toy in question can be concealed either in any room upstairs, or if we've not got anything else to do, the hide-and-seek area will span the entire house - upstairs and downstairs.
- I'll call Ulan's name, and he'll open our bedroom door using his nose and paws to pull it inwards.
- He'll instantly switch to sniffer-dog mode, walking with his nose to the ground, searching for the elusive scent that signals his toy is close by.
- Once he's picked up the smell, he'll search the room in question from top to bottom, sticking his muzzle into every nook and cranny until he's found his beloved plaything.
- Ulan will drop the toy at my feet and wag his tail, staring at me until I bend down and congratulate him on his victory.
Finally, at five o'clock Ulan will start to pester me for his second and last meal of the day. The routine is exactly the same as it was during his breakfast.
We'll both spend the rest of the day lazing around the house, tired out after the long day. The both of us will drag ourselves into our own beds (Ulan sleeps in a basket under my desk, by the way) at around half-past ten or eleven o'clock. It's a lot of work looking after a seeing-eye dog, but would I trade in Ulan for more free time?
Not a chance.