Our first collection

Greetings and salutations one and all, and of course, happy Guide Dogs Week.

I hope you have all had fun finding ways to get up and glow for Guide Dogs Week.  As I did last year, I have been out and about in my lovely bright yellow Guide Dogs water-proof coat, so, even when it hasn’t been raining, I have, I hope, stood out for Guide Dogs.

As those of you who have been reading, and hopefully enjoying, my Guide Dogs Week blog posts will recall, I mentioned that Commando and I would be taking part in our first ever Guide Dogs street collection event, or as I called it in an earlier post ’fundraising classic’.

Well on the first day of Guide Dogs Week we joined many other volunteers and staff members from the Newcastle Mobility Team in a large street collection in Newcastle city centre.

Since this was our first ever collection I hadn’t been completely sure what I should bring along for Commando.  I was considering all kinds of scenarios, and in the end brought along a nice blanket, a towel and a trusty Nylobone, after making sure that there would be provision for Commando to have a drink back at base if he needed one.  For my part I wanted to be sure that as far as possible I could live up to the stand out challenge so I brought along my ‘I’m supporting Guide Dogs’ fleece coat purchased a couple of years ago from Dogalogue, as well as the afor mentioned bright rain coat, as well as my bright waist coat, which is often part of my daily attire during the darker months.

So, with the majority of these items in a back-pack we arrived at our base for the day.  Not long after, some other guide dog owners arrived, naturally with their dogs, and there was the usual enthusiastic guide dog to guide dog meet and greet.  They do seem to love the chance to say hello to each other. 

Once those pleasantries had been observed we were divided up into our teams.  The idea seemed to be to match a guide dog owner with another volunteer so that each team had a guide dog, or guide dog puppy, as part of their number.  Once pairings had been made we were assigned our locations along the Northumberland Street section of the city centre.  Commando and I, along with our team mate, an experienced fund raiser, were placed outside the Primark store.  I was also asked if I’d like one of this year’s newer stand out for Guide Dogs Week pieces of clothing.  At this point I already had the fleece on, so I thought I’d take one of the other garish items, and save anyone else from having to where it.  So, once I was suited up in this very bright smock, with various guide dog information emblazoned upon it, I felt that I was sufficiently standing out for Guide Dogs.  With that done it was time to man our post, and hopefully do our part to bring in those vital funds to help Guide Dogs do what it does…

Once we had all been briefed on collection procedure, safety and so on, it was time for us all to move out.  I imagine we must have looked quite the sight; a large group of people with a large number of eager guide dogs moving out of a single entrance and peeling off to our various locations.  But, it’s Guide Dogs Week, and surely such things are to be expected…

Once we arrived at our designated area I proceeded to put Commando’s blanket and Nylobone down for him and directed him to sit himself upon the nice blanket rather than on the cold ground.  Within about a minute or so I realized that I had likely made a mistake in bothering to bring the blanket along with me.  Commando was far more interested in staying on his feet and taking in everything around him.  It had been quite some time since I had last been to Newcastle city centre and to be honest I had forgotten just how busy the place can be, and how much goes on.  I suspected that Commando wouldn’t be using the blanket after all but decided to leave it in place for the time being in case he changed his mind. 

So, there we were.  Standing with our buckets and stickers which we were giving as a thank you to anyone who donated, Commando utterly fascinated by the world around him, just waiting for someone to be the first to say hello and put something in the bucket.

Regular readers, who have been with this blog from the beginning may recall that I suspected that Commando would be rather good at this kind of fundraising.  He had demonstrated almost from day one an ability to appeal to people and bring them into our sphere in order to say hello and give some fuss to my boy.  Well dear readers, it turns out that my suspicions were indeed correct.  We hadn’t been standing for very long at all when we had our first person coming over to greet Commando, and place some money into the bucket.  Everyone who came over was getting a cheery hello and a genuinely appreciative thank you very much for their donation.  As a guide dog owner I know first-hand how vital the work of the organisation is and how vital it is that funds are raised to ensure that there will always be guide dogs for those who need them.

I was very pleased to have another volunteer with me.  Not only could he let me know when people were coming over to us, something which was difficult for me to determine given the sheer volume of noise in the area.  But it also meant that we could divide the work, with me holding the bucket and my partner offering and providing the thank you stickers, which seemed to go down very well.  I’m told that many people who were walking past us were sporting the stickers, so other volunteers were also clearly doing well.

So, time went on, with person after person coming over, donating and often asking if they could say hello to Commando.  Naturally I was more than happy to oblige them, as I’m sure was Commando himself.  There came the usual comments regarding Commando’s cuteness and the softness of his fur. I also had the opportunity to explain to some people about Guide Dogs Week, and why we were there in such numbers that day.  Naturally I was also able to tell those who asked just how much of a difference Commando had made to me over the years we had been together.

Anyone who had volunteered for this collection was asked how much time they would like to give on the day.  Since Commando has, in the past, shown no problems with doing just about anything for as long as he’s asked to do it, I said that we’d cover the entire day from 11 until 4.  But of course I arranged for Commando to be able to take a break after a couple of hours to ensure that he’d have the chance for a drink, a spend, and if he wanted it, a rest.  So at around 1pm we headed back to base and Commando had the chance for his drink and spend.  There were a few other guide dog owners there, clearly thinking along the same lines as I was, and a large bowl of water was brought in.  Now usually dear readers Commando will gulp down any water in a new location, just because he can.  But on this occasion he only took, what our Community Fundraiser described as a pity sip once the bowl had been brought to him.  Much to the amusement of every other guide dog owner in the room, every other guide dog there promptly did exactly the same thing!

Not long after that Commando made it clear that he didn’t feel the need for a rest, so it was back out to our post for us.  Since we had been having rather nice weather of late I wasn’t sure if bringing along the fleece was such a good idea.  But on this particular day things just didn’t really warm up all that much, so in the end I was quite pleased to have it with me. Since Commando had shown no interest at all in laying on the blanket I brought for him I decided to leave it back at base, as I didn’t want it getting in anyone’s way.

For some reason I had expected things to be slightly quieter during the afternoon.  Looking back I honestly can’t work out why I thought this would be the case.  After all, we did have an international rugby match taking place later that day.  As it turns out the afternoon was far busier than the morning had been.  At times Commando had a small crowd around him all fussing delightedly over him and paying him compliment after compliment, which he was of course just lapping up. The bucket was gradually getting heavier and heavier and more than once my partner had to run off to grab extra stickers as our supplies were running low!

To say that I was pleased with the way things went that day would be an understatement.  Commando proved to be quite the hit in bringing people over to talk to us and donate.  But more importantly over the entire day he never once complained or became restless.  I’m told that he pretty much wagged his way through the entire day.  Although at one point he did seem to decide that whilst all of this fuss and attention from other people was just fine, it was no substitute for attention and fuss from me.  As a result he turned around to face me and quickly started performing for my attention.  Naturally I was happy to get down to his level and give him some fuss, for which I was rewarded with a cuddle and some doggy kisses.  I’m quite sure I heard a few awws from people around us.  This seemed to satisfy Commando who promptly turned away from me and back to his adoring public to once again resume his duties as a fundraiser.

Once our time came to an end and we started moving, I realized just how hard it can be standing still for a prolonged period of time.  Although Commando was just fine I was a little uncomfortable for a minute or two once I started moving again.  But that was a small price to pay for what we and the other staff and volunteers had been able to achieve that day. 

All in all, I found our first fund raising experience to be a positive one, and I’m sure Commando did as well.  With luck we’ll have the chance to engage in this vital activity again in the future.


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