My name is Sarah and I am sixteen years old. I'm the reason we got involved with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and now have Hector. Hector is our 4th Guide Dog puppy. I had always wanted a dog, however my parent couldn't commit to getting a dog for life, by having a Guide Dog puppy it means that you can have a dog for a year and then take a break or if that's too long you can help look after other people's Guide Dog puppies while they are away or if they need a break for personal reasons.
      I thoroughly enjoy having the guide dog puppies, they are great company and funny at certain moments. Hector also protects me, for example, if someone he doesn't know or someone he gets a bad vibe off tries to come near me he will stand beside me and put his heckles up (hairs on the back of his neck.)
      In my opinion, the most interesting thing about the Guide Dog puppy has to be the individual personalities that they have. They all have different personality traits, for example, Neff was friendly and calm, Gill was easily excited and liked to take food from the kitchen counter when nobody was looking, Ike was the perfect one and Hector, well Hector is Hector... we haven't been able to put our finger on his personality trait as of yet. 
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At the weekends, I bring Hector for a walks with my friend, Ysabel and Hector's friend, Nikita. We go to the beach for a free run. Everyone has fun, the puppies and the people! I get into trouble sometimes, when I bring Hector home and he is all sandy, wet and smelly. However, the thing that matters the most is he had fun and got to let off some steam. Hector is a first dog that we haven't had to give treats to for every few steps deeper he goes into the water, instead one day on the beach he ran straight into the sea, he got a bit sad though when Nikita said she didn't like it too much =(.

It all sounds like fun and laughs, but in the end you do have to give him back.  Every time I meet someone when we are on a walk with Hector the same question is always asked "How do you give them back?" The fact is that from the beginning you are told and every time the question is asked you are reminded of the fateful day.  Although you are prepared and know it is coming, when the day comes it's heartbreaking. You have had the puppy since it was approximately 8weeks old and have watched him/her grow day by day, you could say it's similar to when a mother's child moves away from home and yes I have had a cry when they leave. With our last dog Ike, we were told that he would be going to Cork when Alice got back from the Gaeltacht, however unfortunately he had to leave while Alice was still away so she never got to say goodbye. Yet, she knew that Ike was going on to help somebody and was not dead or ill and that he would be happy in his new home and have a loving and caring owner. 

I hope by writing this weeks blog, I have given you a perspective of what living with Hector and other Guide Dog puppies is like for a teenager and that you will want to get involved too , even if the end is difficult, it's worth a few tears!

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Hi guys, can you believe it, Hector is 5 months old already.  The time is absolutely flying by.  I can hardly keep up with the weeks let alone Hector.  We made a bit of a fuss over his 5 month birthday and because he wasn't feeling very well he got rice and chicken for his breakfast lunch and dinner. yum,yum!!! 
Photos got deleted by accident so no photo-documentary of that moment.


Well, have you all checked out the new screensaver the Irish Guide Dogs created last week for you to download from their web-site at 
www.guidedogs.ie. It is of Hector at 6 weeks and 4 months old.  It is is the cutest thing, so don't miss this opportunity!!!
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Cianna, Declan, Debbie, Sarah and Clara (Hector in front, Missy in the background)
This year we were going to go to the Parade but Hector was not the best.  He was a little listless and off his food, so instead myself, Sarah and Hector went to St Annes Park for a walk with friends of ours Declan, Debbie, Clara, Cianna  and their dog "Missy", a Cavalier King Charles.  It was a really nice afternoon and the dogs had a great walk.  The girls were insistent that we did not cover him in green stuff, so to please them I withheld 
the shamrock and hats etc.  Not very patriotic but we quietly acknowledged the day!!!

Hector:  I wasn't that miserable, think they must have been fussing a little too much.  Anyway, all said, we did have a really nice time in the park and even though Missy is much older than me we had some fun together.  It was like being out with your big sister, she was really good to me.

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Patiently waiting for the lift.
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Hector must think there is something nice in Sarah's bag! He did sit down in the back corner when I got in and was not phased by the lift.
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In the main part of this very big store Hector was okay but for some reason he did not like the non-food section, surprise, surprise!
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Hector and Aidan in the supermarket with Sarah in the background, meant to be pushing the trolley but looking for goodies instead.
Work with a Guide Dog Pup is always ongoing.  As I said before, Hector comes most places with us, the supermarket, garden centers, shopping malls etc.  Like most families the shopping has to be done and if its not too big a shop I will bring Hector along with me.  So on Saturday we popped in to Tescos to pick up some food for our dinner.  Hector had plenty to think about, like how to negotiate an elevator, as you can see in picture above.  He did not seem to mind being in the elevator.  We are told to put them towards the back of the elevator and get them to sit before it moves.  We then went around a number of aisles, ensuring he stayed out of the food shelves and not to be sniffing the floor or the food on display.  Hector was quite good about this.  There are so many things to experience while in a supermarket, noisy trolleys, smells, intercom systems, people, children and just the general busyness that comes with a supermarket.  I wouldn't say he loves supermarkets but he copes well with it.


Hector:  I did see a really nice piece of meat in the fridge section but thought I had better be on my best behavior or they would never bring me anywhere again and despite their opinion, I do actually like the supermarket, there are always lots of nice people to say hello to at the shops and people who fuss over me.  Who wouldn't enjoy all that positive attention.

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Sarah with one of the many raspberry and strawberry plants that we bought. I hope they all grow well and we have a bumper crop of fruit!!!
On Sunday we hopped into the car and drove to Naas to a garden centre to get some fruit plants to grow this summer, some nice strawberry plants and raspberry bushes.  Hector I am sure will give us a helping paw in planting and growing them and I think he might even do a bit of self service picking when the fruits are ripe.
The garden centre was fairly busy and he was intrigued by all the smells and plants.


Hector:  I hope they know what they are doing because I look forward to the "fruits" of their labour!!!!

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Just chilling and observing.
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Next week Sarah is going to tell you all what its like from a teenagers perspective to have a guide dog pup.  It was all because of Sarah that we got involved with the Irish Guide Dogs.  Sarah is a big fan of all animals especially dogs.  Sarah is the one who keeps saying when one dog is about to go, "when are we getting the next dog?" and up to now saying no to that has not been an option!!!

 
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Hector meets Stephen our new Dublin (Northside) supervisor at the Red Stables cafe.
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Hector, Nikita and Chenna waiting for a treat while Suzi and Stephen look on during our walk in St. Annes Park last Friday.
Welcome back to our blog.  Unfortunately this is going to be short and sweet this week as I have not had much time to get out and about and we have been very busy doing jobs that just needed doing which has left me very little time to prepare for the blog i.e. blocked sewerage drains, broken fridge and doctors appointments just to mention a few!!!  All in all though, as far as Hector is concerned,  it has been a good week!  
Hector got to meet Stephen our new Puppy Supervisor, who is going to take over from Suzi.  Sadly, Suzi is leaving the organisation to pursue her career further with dogs and dog training.  Suzi has a wonderful passion for the care and welfare of all dogs, actually probably all animals.  She will be greatly missed but I am sure Stephen will do a wonderful job as our new supervisor.  Like Suzi, he has a great love of animals and has a background in animal rescue.  He has also personally fostered and adopted dogs  that have been rescued.  We had a lovely afternoon at the Red Stables cafe, sheltering from the rain initially but then we got out for a lovely walk while Hector, Nikita and Chenna had a great play.  Marguerite, Miranda and myself really enjoyed meeting Suzi and our new supervisor Stephen.
Hector:  I deserve the most treats because I am sure I was the best boy, don't you think!!!!

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Hector, Nikita and Chenna posing for a nice group photo with Suzi and Stephen.
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Hector looking for someone to play with at Mount Temple Hockey grounds while the rest of us looked on at the match.
Hector was at a school semi-final Leinster league hockey match last Wednesday offering his support.  Unfortunately our team didn't make it, we were all really gutted!!  Hector was an excellent supporter though and enjoyed the atmosphere and he got to meet lots of new people.  He was very calm and relaxed even with all the shouting and cheering.
Hector:  It was really noisy there but great fun,  all the supporters were petting me and chatting to me.  There were some young children there also and they played with me for ages.

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The hockey match in full swing!
Hector would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Happy Saint Patricks Day.  Also, Hector turns 5 months old on Patricks day!!!  What a big day for him.  Not sure yet what our plans are for the holiday weekend but i am sure Hector will have some fun!
Hector:  Happy 5 month-old birthday to me, happy 5 month-old birthday to me, happy 5 month-old birthday dear me, happy birthday to me!!!!  Hip-hip hooray!!
 
Last Tuesday a good friend and past puppy-walker, Carolyn O'Neill took Hector for the morning.  Sometimes dogs can have issues with separation from their puppy-walker and Golden-Shepherds are not exempt to separation anxiety.  Therefore I thought it would be a good time to introduce someone else into the equation.  Fortunately Hector got on very well and only whined the once when he was with Carolyn.
Hector cries a lot when I leave the room, if he is left on his own or when some one gets out of the car.  He doesn't even have to know the person who he is crying after.
Hector:  I did miss Michele a little but I kept up a brave face, Carolyn was really nice to me and brought me to her friends house for a charity coffee morning.  There were loads of crumbs for me to lick up that people had dropped from their plates.  Yummy, yummy!!

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Nikita and Hector having a quiet play together.
On Thursday Nikita and Hector had a play date.  These two will not let the grass grow under them when they are together for some reason.  They won't go and have a snooze.  I am not sure what this is about, they run and play non-stop, chasing each other.  When their play time is over, the two of them get into their respective beds and sleep for the rest of the day.  They are like two sticks of dynamite together.

As you can imagine, there is something new to learn everyday.  Last Friday was no exception.  We had our Northside puppy class in St Anthony's church hall in Clontarf.  As usual the classes are divided into two sessions.  The early one for pups under 6 months and the next class for the older dogs.  There is a 15 minute overlap for all the pups to meet and play which is great fun but it is also part of their training, they learn how to socialise with other dogs.
Hector, Nikita, Picasso and Peggy were at the early class.  Hector was wondering where his sister Orrin was, I think he missed her not being there.  When we arrived Suzi had set up obstacles.  Now what was this class going to be about?  Well we weren't long in finding out.  Suzi had set up the obstacles to simulate obstructions in a pathway and the dogs were to learn how to negotiate these obstacles so they could continue on their journey.  Could these little pups work it out?
Hector:  I searched and searched behind all those obstacles, but no, Orrin was not there, I thought she might have been playing hide and seek.  I even got Picasso and Peggy to help me look for her!
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Hector, Picassa and Peggy checking out one of the obstacles we used at class or was Hector really looking for his sister. Suzi our supervisor is to the left and the other 2 ladies are Picasso and Peggy's mammies.





















Well not surprising I suppose, these pups are bright and they all managed to understand the concept.  We were to say "find the way" to the pups when they realised there was an obstruction in front of them, initially encouraging them to go around the obstacle.  By the time we had done a the circuit of 5 obstacles a number of times the dogs were well into the swing of it.  I really enjoyed this lesson because it related to a real life situation that these dogs are going to come up against in their working life.
Next on the agenda was to teach the dogs the command "stand".  The commands we tend to use the most are probably "sit" and "wait".  The "stand" command is a very helpful command for a number of reasons but primarily it would be used so that you can fix the jackets/harnesses onto the dog.  It is a lot harder to fix their jackets on them when they are sitting down.  I have always found this a kind of tricky one to teach to the dog but Suzi explained it really well and gave very clear and concise instructions.  Hector sort of got the idea but I will have to work with him on this a lot more.
Our repertoire of commands are growing steadily.  We now have "sit", "wait", "eat-up", "steady" (used when you want them to slow down when walking), "busy-busy", "up-sit", "off"(if they jump up on you or onto something), "down" (when you want them to lie down but they must be in the sit position first) "stay" and lastly "find the way"  I think this is pretty impressive , these pups are less than 19 weeks old and they understand all of these instructions.  
Hector:  Yes, your right, that is a whole lot of words I have had to learn, my doggy dictionary is getting so big now I don't think I am going to be able to carry it around for much longer!!!
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That big blue divider acted as another obstacle. This is the interlude between the 2 classes.
Here are some puppy walkers grabbing a coffee and catching up while others (in the background) play and talk to the dogs.

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Nikita is just checking out if anyone has anything nice to say about her!!!
Most people enjoy meeting up.  This is a time where we pass on tips or get ideas from each other or just offer compliments as to how big or smart or clever our dogs are becoming.

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The young pups are getting ready to go so the older dogs can have their class.
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On Saturday Aidan and I went up to Petmania to buy him a larger crate with the voucher we got from Petmania the day we did the broadcast in Galway on the Breakfast with Hector Show.  Now he has a deluxe sized crate that even Hector and my two girls can fit into.  We gave Nikita the one we had because she had outgrown hers.  Thank you so much Petmania, we are really appreciate your generosity, we are very grateful.

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This is not where a guide dog pup is meant to be, he should be asleep on the floor. Hector took himself off to the TV room quietly for a little nap!!!
Hector has had a long week and was obviously tired so off he went for a little rest on his own to the TV room.  We were wondering where he had disappeared to,  when Aidan found him ensconced on the sofa. 
Hector: Its all very well slagging me but I am  working really hard and I think I deserve some down time and where better than a nice cosy sofa.  Whats wrong with that?

    About this Blog

    Welcome to Puppy Hector's Blog:
    Follow RTE 2fm's "Breakfast with Hector" adopted pup's progress as he trains to become a guide dog for a person living with sight loss or an assistance dog for families of children with autism.

    RTE 2fm & Hector Ó hEochagáin:
      RTE 2fm's Breakfast Show Crew and host Hector ÓhEochagáin have been supporting pup Hector since adopting him at 8 weeks of age. During the last year, they have been helping us create awareness about our work and just what goes into into training a guide dog. Their support has been invaluable and has helped to raise much needed funds towards Hector's training. 


    About the Blog Authors, Susan Turtle and Michele Munnelly:
    Susan Turtle has been with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind as a trainer for over
    13 years. Puppy Hector joined her in January this year to commence Early
    Training. She'll be keeping you posted on his progress over the next few months. Prior to January, Hector was with Volunteer Puppy Walker, Michele Munnelly who helped him get started
    on his journey to becoming a guide or assistance dog.  
      

    About Puppy Hector:
    Hector was born on 17 October 2010 and is German Shepherd x Golden Retriever. He is an intelligent, lively dog destined to become a life changing partner to a person living with sight loss or a family of a child with autism.   

    The role of a Puppy Walker:
    A Volunteer PW fosters a pup
    from 8 weeks of age to 12 months. During this time, the
    pup becomes part of their lives
    at home. A PW cares for and trains the pup to become a well rounded, confident, calm, willing, mannerly and socially acceptable dog.  The main focus
    is on obedience and socialisation, ensuring the pup is comfortable in many different environments like shops, restaurants, buses, trains, busy streets and malls etc.  Also the dog must get on with and not be distracted by people and other animals.  All of this provides the pup with a solid foundation for their future training and role as a guide or assistance dog. All training is done through positive reinforcement, learning should
    be fun, "a happy pup is a willing pup".

    Supported by PW Supervisors:
    Volunteer PWs are supported by our PW Supervisors who provide training and ongoing guidance. This is done through practical Puppy Training Classes, home visits and one‐on‐one training in supermarkets, shops, train
    stations etc.  The PW Supervisors provide valuable guidance and support to help equip our Volunteers for the task at hand and to monitor each pup's progress. All veterinary fees and feeding costs are covered by The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind along with placing pups in homes when Volunteer PW's go on holidays.

    Come on and become a Puppy Walker for Irish Guide Dogs!
    It is a commitment but one that is rewarding and great fun!
    Go to www.guidedogs.ie to apply!

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guidehector@gmail.com www.puppyhector.weebly.com Hector having a snooze in his cozy dog crate after our walk and bus ride this morning