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No Regrets – Leaving the Corporate World behind for a Dog’s Life.
It takes courage to leave the security of a large corporate company to start something new on your own. But that’s exactly what Aileen Foy, Guide Dog Trainer with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind did a few years ago. Following a year of travelling and soul searching, Aileen returned to Ireland for a friend’s wedding and while here, spotted an add in the paper for a position at Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Answering that advert was to change the course of Aileen’s life. However, it is clear by the constant smile on Aileen’s face that this difficult decision has paid off. Last week I met up with Aileen to ask her what prompted her to leave the banking world behind.
Aileen, you left a good job the bank, what were you thinking?
I know! I knew I would be taking a big risk leaving a well paid job but I felt that life was too short and I had to be true to myself. I was lucky when I worked in the bank as I gained a lot of skills in team training, organisational skills and team management. The job served me well and I progressed quickly within the department, however the hours were long and the work was consistently heavy going. I was financially rewarded for my hard work but I felt no sense of personal satisfaction in what I was doing. I found myself working up to and often well over 11 hours a day. I got to a stage where I would get home, have my dinner in front of the TV, go to bed, get up and do it all again the next day. I forgot about all the outdoor activities that I loved because I was just too drained from being in the office all day.
So I packed it all in and headed off travelling for a year around Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore. Although it was a very difficult decision to leave my boyfriend, family and friends behind it was the best decision I have ever made as I felt rejuvenated by the experience.
I came back to Ireland to help celebrate my friend’s wedding. My sister spotted an advertisement in the paper for a 6 month contract as PA to the CEO at Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and suggested it might suit me as she knew I loved dogs. I ended up spending nine months working as PA and was then offered a job in our Client Services Department dealing with potential applicants for our various programmes. About a year and a half later two apprenticeship posts opened up for roles as ssistance Dog Instructor working with families of Children with autism. I had worked on my grand-parents cattle farm growing up and my aunt’s horse riding stables so I was used to being around animals but I had no formal training. I completed a very challenging and detailed four part assessment (comprising of an interview, a presentation, dog handling skills and a dog assessment) and thankfully I was successful in getting onto the apprenticeship programme and finding my dream job!
It’s a complete change of direction, did you find it difficult?
The change of direction for me has been challenging but very rewarding. I was out of my comfort zone so it took a while to readjust but the personal challenge has been fantastic. Learning how to train dogs has been very interesting, they all have their own personalities and traits and it is a matter of adapting to suit their needs to maximise their potential.
Can you tell me about the kind of training you had to do in order to become a Assistance Dog Instructor?
I initially spent a month in kennels working with our dog welfare team learning how to manage the dogs in kennels, how to feed the dogs, groom them and manage weight loss and weight gain. We learned how to do a health check on a dog and to medicate dogs, flea and worm treat etc. Assessments on becoming a qualified Dog Care and Welfare Assistant followed. A stint in the Early Training Unit (ETU) followed where I started formally training the dogs under the guidance of one of the experienced team members. During that time I learned a variety of skills such as how to assess a dog’s temperament, read a dog’s body language and how to understand the different types of dog communication.
I then moved on to the Advanced Training Unit where I started working with clients under the guidance of experienced instructors. The Advanced Training Unit has the dogs for 10 weeks after (ETU). During this time the dog is trained up to class standard, matched with a family with a child with autism and the parent/parents are invited to Cork to train for a week with their new Assistance Dog. During that time I worked with numerous dogs to bring them to class standard. I learned how to assess families for their suitability for an Assistance Dog and how to train parent/s how to handle a dog. Parents also need to be taught how to handle a dog while the dog is attached to their child with autism. For the theory attached to the practical experience I attended lectures and seminars on training techniques for training clients.
Finally I completed my studies to become a qualified instructor.
What is the most difficult part of the training?
Giving up the dogs! Working so closely with the dogs I get very attached to them. It is difficult to let go but it is always worth it when you see how well they are looked after by their new family and when you see how much of a difference they make in their lives.
Last week Aileen completed her first Assistance Dog Class. Five families were matched with their assistance dogs and spent a week at our National Headquarters and Training Centre becoming equipped with the skills and theory necessary to make this partnership work. At the beginning of the week the families were understandably nervous and full of trepidation but Aileen and the team here confidently took them through their paces. Last Friday I watched as Aileen said goodbye to the families and to the Assistance Dogs who will go on to work with these families for years to come.
Someone once said that we never regret the things we do, just the things we don’t do. Aileen is an example of this. She has no regrets leaving the corporate world behind, and we at Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind are delighted that she did.
See News Section Next Week for more information on an upcoming training class on obedience training Aileen will be giving on April 2nd.
If you’re crazy about dogs, as we are, you’ve come to right blog. Here, you can trace the steps of our dogs in training as they journey from puppy stage to qualified guide or assistance dog. You’ll also get interesting bits of information about dog behaviour, training and care, courtesy of our Blogging Team.
- Free-running Fridays!
- Friday 18 June, 2010
- Show and Tell at Services Day
- Wednesday 23 June, 2010
- Services Day Photographs
- Thursday 24 June, 2010
- A day in the life of boarders!
- Friday 25 June, 2010
- A grooming good day!
- Thursday 01 July, 2010
- New beginnings...
- Wednesday 07 July, 2010
- Demos at the Cork Clipper Festival
- Thursday 08 July, 2010
- Nine little blessings!
- Sunday 11 July, 2010
- Lights, camera, action!
- Wednesday 14 July, 2010
- Feeling broody!
- Tuesday 20 July, 2010
- Oodles of Doodles!
- Sunday 25 July, 2010
- Elton - just a little bit special!
- Thursday 05 August, 2010
- A Helping Hand!
- Tuesday 17 August, 2010
- Marvelous May Osburne!
- Wednesday 18 August, 2010
- Eight happy little Goldendoodles
- Thursday 26 August, 2010
- Jacket required!
- Thursday 02 September, 2010
- New 'kids' on the Block
- Wednesday 08 September, 2010
- The softer side of Shepherds
- Tuesday 14 September, 2010
- Moving on up!
- Friday 24 September, 2010
- What a difference a dog makes!
- Friday 01 October, 2010
- Pick-up Day Nerves!
- Wednesday 13 October, 2010
- Total Recall!
- Friday 22 October, 2010
- Puppy Walkers keep it fresh!
- Tuesday 09 November, 2010
- Hector's in the house!
- Thursday 02 December, 2010
- A 'craicing' good Christmas!
- Thursday 23 December, 2010
- New dogs for the New Year!
- Wednesday 12 January, 2011
- A day in the life of a Puppy Walking Supervisor
- Monday 24 January, 2011
- Every day is a Holly day!
- Friday 28 January, 2011
- Transition Year Volunteer
- Thursday 10 February, 2011
- No Regrets – Leaving the Corporate World behind for a Dog’s Life.
- Friday 11 March, 2011
- Building the Breeders Network
- Tuesday 05 April, 2011
- A nudge in the right direction
- Friday 06 May, 2011