This year marks 15 years of owning a guide dog.
On November the 16th 1997 – I was staying at the Bolton training centre for guide dogs. It was 5 to 11 – and I was incredibly nervous.
I knew what was happening – I knew why I was there – but then came a knock at the door which would change my life forever.
At 11 O’clock Neil brought Vale to my room. I’d met her once before, but this was the first day of our 3 week training.
Vale was a big cuddly golden retriever. She had a tail that was quite capable of clearing a low table with just one wag.
She trotted over to me and sat down – neither of us really knew what to do, so I stroked her, talked to her – and Vale investigated the bin – a trick she was to become well-known for.
I won’t say training was easy – because it wasn’t. I’d never owned a dog before, which I thinks makes having your first guide dog particularly difficult.
We watched a programme called “the wolf in your living room” by David Attenborough – so we had a sort of idea about how dogs communicate with each other and humans.
Something I was to discover – was Vale’s uncanny knack of getting up to mischief in the most adorable manner.
Vale loved stealing – both openly and without people knowing.
The first time she did it was less than 5 minutes after we brought her home to the house I was living in with my parents.
We’d done all the training – and were on our own for the first time.
I had Vale on a lead and was taking her through to the garden, when before you could say goldilox, she turned her head and snaffled up some of the ham sandwiches my Mum had prepared for our lunch.
I put this down to youthful exuberance – and the excitement of being in a new environment. Vale thought it was fantastic!
The first bit of public stealing Vale ever did took place at a coffee morning, ironically put on to raise money for guide dogs. I’d not had Vale for very long and had been invited to the coffee morning – as a local lady wanted to chat to someone about owning a guide dog, with a view to applying.
We were chatting away when I felt Vales head moving under the table.
“Vale, what are you up too,” I asked.
“She’s not doing anything I don’t think,” said Rowena, the lady who was hoping to get a dog.
“Excuse me,” said a cross voiced lady
“Has anyone seen my sponge cake?”
“Where did you put it?” asked Rowena’s Mum
“Under the chair next to you!”
Rowena and I started giggling helplessly – and her Mum said:
“Well, the guide dog must have eaten it – that was a stupid place to leave it wasn’t it?”
Rowena applied for a guide dog – and got one shortly after “the cake incident”
I could tell heaps of stories about Vale – but I fear this post is already getting too long so I’ll just leave you with my favourite Vale moment.
I was wondering round Marks and Spencers – looking for an assistant to help us.
Suddenly, my friend Mark tapped me on the shoulder and said:
“Nicki, is Vale supposed to be wondering round with a pork pie in her mouth?”
We remembered that incident and others on the day we said goodbye to Goldilox.
She was 13 and a half.
One of the vetenerary nurses came with the vet to my parents home – where Vale was put to sleep on the 18th of November 2009
I still miss her and think about her every day.
I haven’t told you about the kinder egg, prunes, donut or other “Valeish moments” or about the award she won – so if you’d like to know more – why not post a comment on this blog. I love talking about my “girls”
You stole my heart Goldilox – but you gave me the freedom to be myself! Now you have the freedom to steal anything and everything you can. .