I love numbers, pneumonics…anything that helps me remember important stuff. Of course, if what I need to remember, has something to do with dogs or Guide dogs, I enjoy my memory aid even more. So, here is my personal Guide Top Ten: a checklist to ensure I’m doing OK with Opal.
- 0- Zero people food. I do not give Opal any handouts from the table. Giving a guide dog food, other than its rations, is not a good idea, because you must keep their weight within a close range, AND, your dog might get the idea that any food is fair game, including that twinkie she spots lying on the street as you are working across an intersection. You want to get across safely.
- 1- One person in charge. That would be me, in Opal’s case. I am the only one allowed to give commands and make rules. I am ‘top dog’, ‘Alpha’, ‘leader of the pack’, etc.
- 2- Two meals. I must provide The Girl with two squares a day, usually around the same time. The ammount is consistent and would only change if her weight had changed. The brand and type is between me and our Vet. It’s not a good idea to be switching a dog’s brand and type of food without a valid reason involving a health issue. “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
- 3- Three poop bags in my pocket: I don’t want to get caught without my bags. I never know when Opal might have a ‘two-parter’, or even a ‘three -parter’on one trip outside to relieve. On the road? Who knows.
- 4- Four feet: Opal’s feet are critically important. I wipe them dry on rainy days. I use a small container of warm water to dip her paws into after coming in from travel on salty sidewalks. I have four boots for her to wear on bitter cold days. I check her four paws for cuts, blisters, or any debris that might get stuck to them (chewing gum, tar).
- 5- Five Point Grooming: Check ears(smell) and clean, if necessary (labs have drop ears which are a natural incubator for bacteria that cause infection)… use a tissue to wipe shmootz from eyes…. explore mouth and gums, and brush teeth with a finger brush and DOGGIE paste…comb and brush coat. Explore body at same time for irregularities…examine feet again.
- 6- Check Opal’s ‘space’ for these six points… accessible fresh water in her bowl…NO access to garbage or food lying around…toys and bones should be checked to see if they are intact and safe…bedding should be clean and dry….Is there anything tempting in range? like socks, rags, medication, electrical cords, cups of boiling hot tea? Dogs have been known to get ill or die from bowel obstruction after swallowing a sock or facecloth. Others have chewed ‘puffers’ (asthma inhalers) and died. Hot drinks can burn. Dogs are individuals. One might be attracted to one danger, another dog to something different…Equipment. Her gear, including leash, play collar, and harness (girth strap, handle, chest strap, reflective sleeve, buckles etc.) should be checked for state of cleanliness and damage that require repair.
- 7- Seven toys on the go at any given time: It’s tempting to flood a dog (or kid) with a houseful of toys. They don’t need that many. Put some away and switch them around to keep your dog interested. Some toys last longer than others. Some are poorly made and dangerous. Others are just plain boring. (Just because YOU like it, doesn’t mean your dog will be impressed).
- 8- Eight opportunities for Opal to relieve on a typical day: Weather, health (mine and hers) will alter this number on occasion. If I have a bad flu, it could be that I take her out only five times. If she has diarhea…
- 9- Nine items in the Disaster Bag: Ok, chances are that we’ll never need the Disaster Bag, but I leave it hanging by the door, just in case. Consider what you might want in yours, if a fire wiped out you house or apartment. Taking care of a dog if you have been wiped out would be difficult, but with these things, life can continue. In our bag, I have… Opals ‘papers’ including Health book, microchip number, and other vet records…dog food in an air tight bag with a dish…a bone in a sealed bag…a toy…a cassette recording of all my important phone numbers…a print out of Opal’s contact information (Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, family) and instructions for her care in case of my demise…medication and ID (for BOTH of us)…crank radio…cell phone…and a grooming brush. I replace items as required. (I also have some things for Lucy the cat). When the fire alarm goes off in the building, I do not debate if I should leave, or what I should bring with me. We are outside with the Disaster bag in short order. It’s good practice. Hopefully we will never need our DB.
- 10- Ten minutes to rest: I give Opal a break after every 45 minutes or so of working in harness. She needs a chance to rest her mind.
I know I started with Zero and that’s actually eleven…but ‘top eleven’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.