a letter to Chelly

This is one of the hardest blogs I’ll ever have to write, so I’m going to write it in letter form.

Dear Chelly
I have to make a really big decision next week about you.
Do you remember when we were in town the other day with Kate and the boys and we lost (or, as Kate said, misplaced) them.
You were so anxious.
We soon found each other, but it happened again shortly afterwards. It frightened me, it was so busy and I couldn’t hear where they’d gone.
It’s not the first time you’ve been anxious when we’re out.
It’s like you’re slowing down and not really able to concentrate.
I blame myself lovely, I really do.
I’m losing confidence in simple routes, which isn’t helping you, I know.
I couldn’t even remember which way to turn when we got off the bus once, I turned right.
I did it so often, you had to turn round and get us to the right spot.
You must have thought: “Who’s the guide dog round here, me, or you!”
I’ve sussed it out now though, it’s left.
I think of it this way:
“Nicki has left the bus!”
I always imagine loud applause and cheers – but they never happen.
So, here’s the point of the letter Chelly.
I need to decide whether I should retire you – properly.
This could mean that I find a suitable dog to carry on where you left off.
There are three lists. I’m on list 2, but to find a more suitable match and possibly sooner, I need to go on list 1.
This means letting you go and stay with Mum up North.
I’ve written this letter once – and silly computer lost it, but last time I cried lots when I wrote the letter.
I’ve been doing a lot of that lately – silly Mummy!
Do you remember the other day at work when I got very upset after I spoke to the lady from guide dogs?
You must have wondered what was happening.
You don’t like it when I’m sad, do you lovely!
I thought if I really start crying, I’ll never stop.
But here’s where I really feel upset, I can’t imagine being in Cardiff without you, my precious, kind, and thoughtful dog!
How will I cope on my own!
Its simple things you help me with, not just getting from A to B.
You make me laugh, just by dropping a toy at my feet, or a gentle lick on the hand.
It’s not just been the last six months, but especially the last two years, since Dad…
If I retire you early you can play with your ball in the park with Mum, you can go in the sea (although not now poppet, cos it’ll be too cold for your old bones)
And, do you know what the best part will be? You can loll around and eat carrots all day!
Well, the best part will be when I pop up to visit – which I will lots!
But then I think, could you go on for a bit longer? Is it fair? What if you completely break down in the middle of a road or something, I’d never forgive myself for something like that!
Also, this sounds wrong, I don’t mean it to, but I would be able to go out properly again if I did get a new dog. I’d find my confidence! Oh, it’s so difficult!
I’m not losing you, I know that. This is something we sign up for as guide dog owners time and time again. But it never gets easier – never!
I think I’ve made a decision, but if I say it, or write it, it’ll just be too hard to cope with.
I’ll need someone with me if I make the phone call next week, or Email. They’d better have plenty of chocky, or cake for me – plus carrots for you, special girl!
Do you remember how I sometimes sing the Home And Away theme to you?
My favourite line is:
“You’re my guiding star!”
And, that’s exactly what you are Chelly!
Thank you!
By the way, don’t think just because you’re going to live with Mum that you can become all naughty and forget all your training? I will find out if you’re a pickle – Mum’s know everything!
Lots of love, always

celebrating the amazing work of guide dogs – part 2

In my previous post to celebrate national guide dog week, I told you all about my first guide dog Vale. In this post I’m going to tell you all about Chelsea – AKA Chelly, Chezza, cheesecake, and a string of other names. She knows she’s in trouble when I refer to her as: “Dog!” It’s enough to make her tail stops windmilling and really stops her in her tracks.h
Chelli’s totally different to Vale. Each dog is unique and brings us so much joy, fun and friendship.
Now, here’s a lesson for you. If a guide dog owner ever says: “My dogs never naughty/badly behaved,” they’re either lying, totally boring or not very observant at all!
Chelly’s naughty in a really quiet way.
She always looks like she’s either committed mischief, in the process of committing mischief, or thinking about it.
I got Chelly in the July of 2006. On Christmas day of that year she stole six pigs in blankets and two pears.
She also had a little Christmas dinner of her own; we always did that each year for the girls.
My Mum, sister and I went to the Boxing Day sales. When we got back, we saw Dad sweeping the kitchen floor.
“What’s happened in here?” asked Mum.
“Chelsea decided to help herself to the leftover turkey!” laughed Dad.
I couldn’t help smiling and giggling a bit.
Those of you who’ve read about Vale will totally agree with me that it was probably Vale who knocked it down, but Chelly certainly made sure she had her fair share.
I was really worried in case she had problems due to eating so many things that were bad for her.
The only side effects were an awful lot of wind!!
Vale tolerated Chelsea. I don’t think she’d ever go so far as to say she liked her, but they had a mutual respect for one another.
Chelly was totally devastated when Vale died. She sniffed all the places Vale would lie and put on a lot of weight.
Dogs really do grieve.
Chelly doesn’t like tears. She always runs up to me with a toy, pokes me with it like she’s saying: “Have my toy stoat Mum! It’ll make you feel better!”
However, if it’s general and raw emotion, as opposed to me crying because my favourite contestant in Masterchef has just been voted out, she really understands.
I’ve told this story in a previous post, but it really shows how in tune Chelly is to how I’m feeling.
On the day my Father passed away almost two years ago, I was sitting by his bed in floods of tears.
Chelly hadn’t come into the bedroom the whole time Dad was ill, but she crept in and sat next to me. I lay on the floor beside her, still really upset. She lay next to me, and put her paw round my shoulder, exactly the way humans hug one another.
She’s incredibly good at using her initiative.
The other day we were coming back from church and she pooed on the pavement. I picked it up, as I always do, and mentioned to her that we’d have to find a bin now on the way home.
About ten minutes later, after crossing several busy roads, she stopped, pointed her nose straight ahead and wagged her tail.
I followed her head and found a bin; she’d indicated it by stopping and pointing at it.
I didn’t teach her how to find bins; she has always associated putting her mess in one and now locates them if we need one.
She’s slowed down so much now.
I notice it on a daily basis.
I know we’ll have to part soon, and it really really upsets me to even think about it.
I’ll have to get used to a new pup, it’ll bounce its way into my affections I know, but Chelsea has been such an incredible girl, as was Vale.
The work of the guide dogs organisation, and especially the fundraisers, puppywalkers, brood bitch holders and boarders is really invaluable and makes a huge difference to the approximately 4500 guide dog partnerships throughout the UK.
Please consider sponsoring a puppy, holding a fundraising event or getting involved with helping guide dogs in any way you can.

For more information, please visit:

celebrating the amazing work of guide dogs – part 1

It’s guide dog week this week. It’s when we celebrate everything that’s fantastic about such amazing animals. I know how important they are, so I just wanted to regale you with a few tails (haahaa, see what I did there) about my two girls.
I’ll start with Vale.
Many of you who follow and read this blog will have heard about Vale, my first guide dog. She died almost five years ago at the grand old age of 13 and a half. She was a beautiful golden bundle of pure naughtiness, from the second I met her.
Vale was the sort of dog who did what she wanted, when she wanted. But, her work was very good. She actually won a national award for her work.
The first real display of utter naughtiness occurred less than one minute after we got home from three weeks training. Mum had lovingly prepared sandwiches for all of us, and as soon as Vale spotted them, she grabbed a mouthful and bolted towards the kitchen to see what else she could snaffle.
I always tell people about the time I was in Marks and Spencer, and a friend tapped me on the shoulder and said:
“Nicki, is Vale supposed to be walking round with a pork pie in her mouth?”
She loved carrying things. She paraded round the training centre with a whole pear in her mouth. She loved making people laugh.
I once had to go back into a pet shop after discovering Vale had stolen a rather large bone! I only noticed when she was walking with her head at a funny angle!
She adored fox poo, in fact, any kind of poo she could find!
We did have some very worrying times with Goldilox, as I affectionately called her.
She had to have a lump removed from her side while I was at college. I cried heaps, just the thought of anything happening to her was awful.
Guide dogs aren’t machines, we don’t just love them cos they’re incredibly helpful to us, the love, companionship and incredible loyalty is difficult to put into words.
Vale was very in tune with my emotions.
If I showed any signs of getting upset, she’d race over to me and let me cry into her soft, golden fur. She wouldn’t leave until I felt better.
Sometimes, just a pat from her paw made everything OK.
She scavenged for England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the world in general. During the 12 years and 1 day (very important that 1 day) she stole, or tried to steal a whole array of things, from socks to soap, a chocolate gateau I’d bought for a dinner party, to a doughnut from a small child.
In fact, she had such a reputation that when I met someone at a works event once and I had Vale her first words to me were:
“Oh yes, I remember Vale, she stole my sandwiches at a meeting we were at!” I smiled politely, and `surreptitiously patted Vale under the table.
One final tale I’d like to tell happened just after I’d got Vale.
I was invited to a coffee morning being held for guide dogs, and there was a young blind woman who was interested in getting a guide dog.
We were chatting away and she seemed very impressed by what Vale could do.
I suddenly stopped mid conversation and said:
“What’s Vale doing under the table?” my friend didn’t notice anything.
“No, she’s definitely doing something.” I said.
Then, a lady came up and said:
“Does anyone know where my cake went?”
“Where did you leave it?” asked my friends Mum.
“Under the table!”
I giggled.
“Well, I think that’s what my dog’s found!”
“Stupid place to leave a cake don’t you think?” said my friend’s Mum.
Needless to say my friend wasn’t put off. She’s now waiting for her third guide dog.
I’d urge anyone thinking of volunteering, or doing anything for the guide dogs to go ahead and do whatever you can.
We’re all so incredibly grateful for everyone, from brood bitch holder to boarder and everyone in between who gives any time, money or whatever they can to the guide dogs organisation.
Someone once asked me to describe what getting Vale was like.
I said it was like finding the key to a door that had always been locked. Vale allowed me to open that door and step into a whole new life.

For more information on the guide dogs organisation visit\:

Please read previous blog posts on this blog for more doggy tails about Vale and Chelsea
In the next part, I’ll tell you some tales about Chelly.