My first day with my new guide dog

I check the time on my phone, even though I’ve already done so about ten times in the last hour. I put on some silver seahorse earrings and brush my hair.
To an outsider, it would look like I was preparing for a date, or a job interview.
I think about what’s going to happen today and actually wriggle with excitement.
I am going to meet someone new, but he doesn’t have two legs, he has four and an incredibly waggly curly tail!
The doorbell rings. At first I just sit there. I’m so used to that sound being followed up with a tremendous bark or howl from Chelly.
Then I get up, take a deep breath, and open the door.
My guide dog instructor is standing on the doorstep.
We’ve met before and she’s absolutely delightful.
I smile warmly at her.
“Shall I go and get your new dog?” she asks.
“Yes please,” I say and go inside to wait for the new arrival.
I can hardly contain my excitement. It’s all I can do to not jump up and down and break into song!
Now, James is very unlike Chelsea.
“Of course he is love,” I can hear you say.
“He’s a boy, and a totally different colour!”
You’d be correct on both points, but I don’t mean he’s different in that way.
Chelsea bounded into my house like a force 10 gale!
James recognises the house and me and pulls my instructor in. But he seems quieter, almost polite. We greet each other with typical British reserve, neither of us really knowing how to handle the situation.
I give him lots of fuss and he becomes a bit more bouncy.
We decide to let him explore his surroundings. He has a big drink of water and we take him out into the garden.
He’s absolutely adorable!
His tail goes round like a windmill, very much like Chelly’s.
He scampers in and out of the rooms downstairs before trotting back to my side and looking at me.
We practise feeding him and my instructor empties the huge bag of things James has arrived with.
He has grooming equipment, a whistle, Sam Brown reflective harness (for me, not him) and a new collar with a bell.
I show her the toys I’ve kept for him, plus his new toy piggy which grunts when you squeeze it.
James immediately seizes piggy by the tail and runs off with him!
We take him out for a free run. This is when the guide dog is allowed to run freely without the harness or lead.
James played with the other dogs, but when they got a bit boisterous he ran back to us.
Chelly is quite outgoing and insists on playing with other dogs until they either run off or bark at her.
Then my instructor says she’s going to settle the other lady on class into her hotel.
“You can get to know James, but if you need anything at all, don’t worry about ringing me, day or night!”
She closes the door – and James and I look at each other.
For the rest of the day he alternately sleeps and plays.
He’s completely tired out from a big free run, but spends a lot of time just coming over to me for a fuss or big cuddle.
I give him the choice of sleeping upstairs or in the lounge. The instructor and I have decided to let him choose where he is the most comfortable.
I feed him and take him out to the garden.
I brush him and spend time with him so we can start bonding.
This is a pivotal part of getting a new dog and has to be done without too much interruption from family and friends.
After more fuss I decide it’s time for me to go to sleep – it’s our first day of class tomorrow and both of us need to be fully revived and ready.
As I’m sitting writing my diary I hear footsteps.
James settles himself down on his bed, sighs contentedly and puts his head on his paws.
“Goodnight lovely boy,” I say, giving him a little fuss.
“I know things are strange for you, but we’ll be fine.” And as I say this, I really hope I’m right!

You can find out more about how James and I are getting on by visiting:
http://www.facebook.com/adogcalledchelsea
or
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

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