The triathlete blog with no mention of triathlon

It hasn’t escaped my attention that this blog, Triathlete In Training, rarely covers anything to do with triathlons and the reality is that it’s unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future. I simply have little interest in participating in events at the moment other than Active Warrior and Rainbow Rampage which both Daniel and I are doing. Life is too busy for any training for any specific event and I don’t need the pressure of preparing for an event.

It’s felt like a fairly hectic first 4 months of the year.

Work continues to be busy with lots of achievements and happy customers.

I completed an excellent first aid course held by Lifeline Training ( with a couple of other Lordshill Road Runners.

The instructor, Brett, was excellent and, although I hope to never need to use the skills learned, I feel confident that I could help save a life in an emergency.

Daniel, Connor and I enjoyed a great skiing holiday with the Trents in early April in La Plagne. It’s brilliant to be able to spend a week in the French Alps with my boys and for them to enjoy the experience.

Daniel has moved from skiing to snowboarding and is really good. Connor tried snowboarding but has decided that skiing is for him. In 2020, we’ll return to La Plagne 20 years after my first visit. I can’t wait.

Having worked with helicopters since my early 20s even I’m surprised that I have never flown in one. When asked for ideas for my 50th birthday in March, I therefore suggested a helicopter flight. I was very pleased to receive a 30 minute pleasure flights from Bliss Aviation at Bournemouth Airport to Corfe Castle and back in mid-April. It was a brilliant experience with some fantastic views of Mudeford, Poole Harbour, Bournemouth and the surrounding areas.

As well as all of the above, a few kayaking and canoeing visits to St Denys Boat Club, the first Lordshill Mile of the year, the weekly S&C sessions I run for LRR, the main other activity has been the family starting to board trainee guide dogs.

I’ve had dogs in my life since birth with about 17 years of later life with Labradors (Harvey and then Milly) with Denise until just under 3 years ago. With us both working full time, a few holidays booked, we can’t commit to a 24/7 pet. It simply wouldn’t be fair. About 18 months ago, we heard about Guide Dog boarding and started the application process which subsequently stalled. Fortunately that changed earlier in the year and we re-applied.

Guide Dog boarding consists of looking after a trainee guide dog overnight during the week and at weekends while they complete their training with a local mobility office. During the week (Monday to Friday), the trainee goes to school to learn how to guide its visually impaired owner.

For about the first 12 months of a Guide dog’s life it lives with a ‘puppy walker’ who provides basic training and a family environment.

The dog then attends basic training typically for about 20 weeks followed by advanced training for 10 weeks. Assuming the dog passes the training, he/she is matched to an owner and they become a fully fledged guide dog.

In order to become a guide dog boarding family, both Denise and I had to complete an application form, be interviewed, have our home checked for suitability, have references submitted and complete a day and a half of training on dog care, responsibilities, the law regarding dogs and the responsibilities of a dog owner. The course, split over 2 days also included dog behaviour, training and lots of practical experience with trainee guide dogs.

The home assessment primarily checks that the house and garden are suitable e.g. the garden is secure, the house is safe, there’s somewhere for the dog to sleep, there’s an area in the garden for the dog to go to the toilet (to ‘spend’) that’s ideally a concrete area for easily cleaning.

Having completed all of the above, we passed and within days were providing a week-long board to cover holiday of 22 month old Golden Retriever, Ludo. A week later we picked up a 14 month old Labrador/Retriever cross Yana and will be boarding her for up to 20 weeks.

Boarding works for us perfectly. As experienced dog owners, we know how to live with dogs and what makes them tick. The mobility office where training is based is in Chilworth a few minutes from where I work so I can drop off in the morning’s from 8am until 9:30am and collect between 4:30pm and 6pm as part of my daily commute. This does mean that my cycling commute has had to be restricted to the couple of days a week that Denise takes Yana to school but that’s a small price to pay for having a dog in our lives.

For all intents and purposes, the guide dog can be treated as a family pet although there are a number of rules including:

– the dog can’t go upstairs

– the dog isn’t allowed on furniture

– the dog isn’t allowed human food or titbits

– the dog must be encouraged to spend on concrete and not out on walksAlso, during the first few weeks of each board, the dog isn’t allowed to free-run (be let off the lead outside the house/garden) or be pavement-walked on its leash. Instead much of the walking is some with a freedom harness and lead (an extendible lead).

Although it’s early days, Guide Dog boarding is working brilliantly for us for many reasons:

– we have a well-trained, well-mannered dog to look after without having to provide that training as a puppy

– we don’t have to worry about the dog being left while we are at work as they are at ‘school’

– we don’t have to worry about kennelling the dog during holidays as other Boarders can provide holiday cover

– we don’t have to pay for food or vet bills as the mobility office provide that

At the end of the boarding period, it’s going to be tough to say goodbye but we’ll know that we’ve helped do something positive for a very worthwhile charity and helped provide a warm family environment during its training and a well trained dog to a visually impaired owner once training is successfully completed.

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