The first year of training as seen through the eyes of Jemima, the guide dog. Compiled by dog trainer John Morris.
I was born on February 20th 2013 at 6.30pm along with 9 brothers and sisters, after 6 weeks I left my mum and went to the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre in Warwickshire; my new home for the next week was in the Puppy block, this was when I first met John who along with his wife Shirley were going to look after me at their home and become my Puppy Walkers for the next 12/14 months.
April 11 2013 I was taken to my next temporary home; this was to live with Shirley & John who would care for me and do my initial training. I was not allowed to walk outside my home until I had my first injections so they had to carry me around the shops at first, it was lovely snuggling up to John as I saw all these new things but I know I made his arms ache. At 12 weeks I had my injections, this was my first visit to the vets, he pushed and prodded a bit, no problem, nice guy. I continued to go to the vets over the next 12 months to have my weight checked; I know just where the weighing scales are!
I was 13 weeks old in May and at last could go walkies and have lots of adventures, new things to see, hear and explore; I also started puppy class so I could begin to learn all the things I would need to know and to mix with all the other Guide Dog puppies of about the same age, this is serious stuff but the trainers made it fun for us. This is where I met Nero who was being trained by Rich another puppy walker. Nero and I became best buddies, we went on training walks together and then later in the year on train rides to the airport where we saw the planes (strange things they are) away from the work we also had lots of fun free running together.
In May I went on my first visit to the seaside at East Runton near Cromer in Norfolk. I made many new friends when I visited the local shops and restaurants in the village. My biggest adventure here was a trip to the beach. It was interesting to see all that water and sand which felt strange on my feet. While I was in Norfolk I enjoyed my first time travelling on a train and having bus ride, both strange things but I soon got use to them.
Over the next 5 months, through the summer, I continued to go to East Runton which helped me as I could continue my training in a different area from my home and all of the local people liked me I will miss them all.
October brought a change in the weather and I had my first impressions of winter, colder days and wet ones, at first I didn’t like the wet days, but I had to get use to them as who ever I would be working with later would need me to go out in all weathers.
Through the winter more training and more classes to attend learning all the time, I now was able to go fundraising with other Guide Dogs all I had to do was be good, friendly, look at people and smile, John did all the talking.
January 2014 by now I have learned many things for my puppy walker John & his wife Shirley they have helped me to grow up, learning special words of command, lead work, getting used to wearing the training coat so everyone knows who I am and what I am doing.
February 18th two days before my first birthday I had a special meeting today I went to the Breeding Centre and met up with my Mum Faith, this was the first time I have seen her since I was 5 weeks old, I was a bit silly and playful, I can see where I get my good looks from.
There has been another Shirley I have known since I was born; Shirley is my Guide Dogs supervisor who has made sure that other Shirley & John have trained me correctly; nice lady, she is my special friend.
I went to a children’s school in March, to tell them all about me, but being as I can only do doggy talk John & Ruth who looks after Archie ‘the stud dog’ did the talking for me. There were 500 children which is a lot but I thought they were all very well behaved.
What I like: playing and having fun; free running with my friend Nero and his puppy walker Rich, I also went free running with Josie and Lola who are mum and daughter and are looked after by Lynne they have all helped me to learn how to have fun when free running.
I also like lying in the sunshine when relaxing, watching TV my favourite film is 101 Dalmatians, well it would be! I am always busy and like to find new things to do. I love people and enjoy life to the full.
Funniest thing: I went with John to a café, there was no other people there when we arrived, John asked for a table, the assistant asked John what he would like; he asked for a coffee, the attendant asked is that one or two, John replied just one as Jemima was not allowed to drink coffee!
Now its time to leave my second home for the last 14 months with my puppy walkers John & Shirley and go off to the Guide Dogs Training School in Birmingham for special training, then after another 4/5 months of training; I hope I have made the grade and become a Guide Dog I will then be paired up to a Blind person who I will live with and help to get around everywhere until I retire, I hope I can work well for them, when I retire I hope to go back to John & Shirley if my Blind friend does not need me any more.
I’ve overheard Shirley and John talking and they say I’m a very clever girl; I’m good, intelligent and very fumy. I know they love me and I love them, but I can’t wait until I take the next exciting step towards learning to be a guide dog.
Comments by Shirley:
“A ball of fluff, grown into an intelligent giant of a dog, she keeps us busy from morn ‘til night with her enthusiasm for work and play. She has given us a better understanding of the training a guide dog undergoes and the quality of life someone will eventually gain. Never a dull moment we don’t regret a minute!
Our highly trained and loving dogs help people with simple everyday tasks that so many of us take for granted. With a guide dog by their side mothers with sight loss can walk their children safely to school, teenagers can finally take those vital steps of independence and go to the shops on their own for the very first time; and many elderly members of our community whose sight has significantly deteriorated can get out and about and engage in society rather than being trapped in their homes alone.
Fundraising is very important, all funds raised for Guide Dogs are raised through public generosity – legacies, donations and fundraising; it takes £50,000 to cover the life time cost of each dog, one very popular way to sponsor a Guide Dog is to name a puppy.
If you are interested in giving a donation or sponsoring a Guide Dog please look on the web site to contact either the head office or your local Guide Dog branch”