My name is Torie and I am currently working my second guide dog, Vivvy. I was matched with Vivvy back in October 2018 and we qualified as a partnership in December 2018.
Many people think that a guide dog is just offered to you, and you instantly start working together, but there is a lot that goes into finding the perfect match for a guide dog and their owner. Your lifestyle has to be taken into consideration, as well as your height and speed.
You meet and observe the dog to see how they walk, what the tension is like in their harness, if they respond to you, and if they walk at your speed or pull a little… If you and Guide Dogs are satisfied that the dog is a match, you will then begin training where you can learn more about your dog and how they tick.
Vivvy is a very lively girl out of harness and would play all day if you let her. This took a bit of adjusting to. My previous guide dog, Ushi, was very gentle and would occupy herself with her toys. She was very confident in her work, whereas Vivvy sometimes needs a little reassurance at times. When I started training with Vivvy, I was constantly worrying about what she was up to as she was so different to my previous dog! However, when Vivvy’s harness went on, it was like a switch had been flicked and she calmed right down.
A typical day for us starts around 7 or 7:30am when it’s breakfast time for Vivvy. She is very patient while I weigh out her yummy Burns Pork & Potato kibble, but then she gobbles it up in no time! After breakfast, she usually takes herself off to bed again until we are ready to go out. No two days are the same so Vivvy’s work is often varied.
I can’t just say to Vivvy “take me to the shop”. Vivvy will work in a straight line avoiding obstacles working from kerb to kerb. I then need to direct her which way to go. After a while, she may anticipate where we are going, but I always like to direct her as it keeps the route fresh in my memory and keeps her focused too. It really is a partnership with us both working together to get to where we need to go safely. It can often take a good six months to learn how each other works and what is expected from one another.
The evening may involve another walk if she lets me, otherwise we’ll just play. I may groom her in the evening to keep her coat nice and shiny, which is very relaxing for us both, apart from when Vivvy steals the brush!
Vivvy is just full of life and loves every person she meets. She loves her work but when the harness comes off, and she knows that she is off-duty – just an ordinary pet! The harness is only ever on when we need to get from A to B. Vivvy and I attend a yoga class once a week. If anyone lies close to her, she thinks it’s time for cuddles! She usually sits away from me in class. However, if she can still see me, she will settle beautifully.
Vivvy has taken up the reins nicely from her predecessor Ushi and I know we can go anywhere together, tackling whatever life has in store for us.
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