Ramsey and District U3A


Our Chairman (Sheila Gilbert-Hill) welcomed everyone to the March meeting, especially the 7 visitors, who she hoped would be joining us in due course. General safety and housekeeping notices were read out along with a reminder that our 9th April meeting was our AGM. She hoped as many members as possible would be attending, and also mentioned that annual subs were now due. Our Membership Secretary (Bruce McDowell) had already issued renewal forms with the necessary information on how payment could be made.

The Lunch club had set up a notice in the foyer about the April venue and menu options. Sheila also read out a notice from Pam Blanchard about a fund- raising Tea & Cake afternoon on 1 May in aid of the Thomas a Beckett Flower Festival.

Our Groups Co-ordinator (Jane Cusworth) then apologised that on this occasion she had quite a long list of things to read out.

  • Maureen Fletcher has suggested starting a Short Tennis Group for which ideally a minimum of 5 members would be needed to keep the cost down. Maureen provided a brief explanation of the game.
  • The Metal Detecting Group had set up a display in the foyer and members were encouraged to see what items had been discovered in the fields around Ramsey.
  • There would be no Petanque Group meeting this month as the court still has drainage problems.
  • The Hand Chimes Group would be meeting later that week.
  • The Weight Loss Group would now be meeting on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month.
  • The Travel group had advised that the Christmas Trip to Thursford was fully booked.
  • A trip to Springfield Shopping Village with a stop at the Romany Museum has been arranged for 24 May at a cost of £25 per person.
  • A visit to Felbrigg Hall and Cromer was being arranged for 19 July at a cost of £20 per head plus £11.50 for entry to the Hall (but not for National Trust Members).
  • It was hoped to organise a trip to the Black Country Museum in Dudley for 18 October. The cost would be £40 per person but a £10 non-returnable deposit would be required on sign up.
  • It had been hoped to arrange a short holiday to the Loire valley in France but it would have been a 9 hour travel to and from the area which was considered too long for members, so an alternative venue was being researched for 23 – 27 September.
  • If sufficient members are interested in a trip to The Barbican, a special discount was available to reduce costs.
    • Sign-up sheets would be in the foyer at each monthly meeting.

    Our Chairman then introduced our speaker for the day. Sue Jordan-Tubbs Is a puppy walker for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and had brought her current dog Kes to the meeting to talk about the way dogs are trained.

    Sue introduced Kes, who is an 11 month old yellow Labrador puppy. Sue started training 5 years ago with her first dog “Emma”. She usually took responsibility for training when the puppy was 7 weeks old and kept it for about 15 months before it would be handed over to a Blind person. She said that this was always the hardest part of what she did but within the week another puppy would arrive for her to start all over again.

    Before she began puppy walking, Sue said she had been a bit shy but since she began this part of the training her confidence has grown. Her first dog Ember initially tried to eat her furniture, dado rails, clothes etc. After one of the regular visits from her area supervisor it was suggested she tried coating places with clove oil or olbus oil. Neither treatment stopped the chewing but the use of chilli pepper finally stopped the puppy’s habit.

    The dogs are trained to understand basic commands such as “sit”, “stand”, “up stand” and “wait”. This last command is the most important as the dog must never leave the blind person’s side when in harness. None of the puppies Sue trains are ever considered to be pets. They are not allowed to sit on the furniture or on a lap, nor are they allowed to go upstairs in the house as they could accidentally trip a blind person on the stairs. They are also not allowed to play ball games. If a puppy brings a ball to a trainer it is never thrown for the dog to retrieve as this could cause a problem if, for example, the dog was with a blind person at something like a tennis match where the ball would be going backwards and forwards.

    After Sue provides the basic training for a puppy, it is taken to Redbridge Training Centre for 16 weeks of training and matching to a potential blind person for the rest of that dog’s working life. Redbridge trains the dogs to find items or places such as a chair, a bus stop etc.

    Since Ember, was allocated to a blind owner, Sue still keeps in touch and from time to time visits for a chat.

    Sue’s next puppy was Meadow. After initial training it was decided her temperament and intelligence made her an ideal dog from which to breed further guide dogs. So far Meadow has had 9 puppies one of which is Kes, who all during the talk was happily chewing an enormous bone.

    The next puppy Sue trained was Sparky, who, she said was appropriately named because he was sparky by both name and nature. At one point while at a railway station Sparky fell into the gap between the train and the platform. That was somewhat alarming but, following the Redbridge training period Sparky was allocated to a blind person in January this year.

    Kes is her fourth puppy and was given to her in May. He is the calmest by far of all the dogs she has so far trained. All potential guide dogs have to get used to other animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, cats etc all of which she has in her house. They must also get used to different smells. At certain points during training, a Supervisor will take the dog on a walk to see if it is behaving correctly. Sue is allowed to discretely watch, but if the dog sees her it could run towards her rather than stay with the person it should be guiding.

    From time to time she takes other guide dog puppies into her home so that their trainers can go on holiday. They can never be left in kennels or be left on their own. Sue said that from birth to retirement a guide dog costs approximately £55,000 in training, vet bills, food etc. She is looking forward to getting her next dog after Kes, goes to Redbridge and will continue her work both in training the dogs and fundraising for the Association.

    Sue and Kes were warmly applauded at the end of the talk, after which the usual tea, coffee and biscuits were served.

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    Next Meeting

    The Annual General Meeting of 2019 will take place on Tuesday 9th April at the Community Centre, Stocking Fen Road, Ramsey, starting at 2.00pm.

    Other News

    Celebrating 50 Years – Tea and cakes and raffle in aid of Thomas A Becket Flower Festival at Ramsey Community Hall on Wednesday May 1st 2019, starting at 2.00pm. The price will be £4.50. Please call Pam on 01487 813686 or Pauline on 01487 711913 for tickets. Donations towards the raffle etc will be welcomed

    And Finally


    Car Parking – Please remember to park your car considerately and use car sharing, if you are able.


    My friend sent an email;- “Your lovely”

    Me, replied;- “YOU’RE LOVELY”

    Friend;- “Your too kind but no need to shout ”

    Thanks to Dave Gilbert-Hill for supplying the notes for 12th March meeting.

    Mike Lewis