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Why fat guide dogs can be taken away

When Damon's guide dog DeeBee visits the vet for a check-up, there are some unforeseen consequences.

With Damon Rose, Niamh Hughes and Beth Rose.

When Damon's guide dog DeeBee visits the vet for a check-up there is some unexpected news.

He is weighed and found to be 5kg overweight - that's slightly more than your average cat.

Damon must get DeeBee back to a healthy weight or risk having him temporarily taken away while he is slimmed down.

So what can you do when your guide dog gets out of shape?

Find out in the latest edition of Ouch - the irreverent disability talk podcast from BBC News.

With Damon Rose, Niamh Hughes and Beth Rose.

Listen to Ouch regularly on BBC Sounds or tell your smart speaker: "Ask the BBC for Ouch".

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21 minutes

Full transcript: Why fat guide dogs can be taken away

 This is a full transcript of Why fat guide dogs can be taken away as first broadcast on 2 October 2019, presented by Damon Rose, Niamh Hughes and Beth Rose.
JINGLE - BBC Sounds: music, radio, podcasts.
DAMON - There are probably a number of things that you don't think about when you think about guide dogs and their owners and the kind of day-to-day care and routine that you have to go through. 
BETH - Maybe.
NIAMH - I don't know. I don't have a guide dog.
DAMON - Today we're going to be talking about that. We have Niamh Hughes.
NIAMH - Hey.
DAMON - Beth Rose.
BETH - Hello.
DAMON - And myself Damon Rose. And we're not related are we, Beth?
BETH - We're not. We've got into some trouble lately.
DAMON - Even though that guy wrote in recently and thought we were married. 
BETH - Not my highlight.
DAMON - One of many. We just have the same name, that's all, that's all.
NIAMH - Damon and I are related though.
BETH - Don't say that or there'll be all these articles about nepotism in the BBC. They're not really related.
DAMON - So, there's a big guide dog issue that has come up for me recently. It's come up a few times in my, what you call it, guide dog career. Career?
BETH - Yeah.
DAMON - I've been a guide dog owner now since 1991. And that was after leaving senior school and going to university. Right in the middle of the holidays there I got myself a guide dog for the first time. And weight is a problem, always has been a problem. These dogs that they give you, lovely though they are, extremely helpful, there's this one thing that Labradors and Retrievers love and that's to munch. That's how you were going to put it as well, isn't it?
NIAMH - Yeah. On what?
BETH - Everything. 
NIAMH - Everything!DAMON - And my latest dog, DeeBee, who's dog number five, we went to the guide dog vet and I think I was being told off actually. I discovered that he's significantly overweight. 
BETH - Obese I think, wasn't it?
DAMON - Obese. And it's happened quite quickly. He's 5kg overweight. He's supposed to be 28kg, he's nearly 34kg.
NIAMH - I never thought you could gain that much weight with carrots. [Laughs]
DAMON - No, he doesn't just eat carrots. That's all you see in the office.
NIAMH - Carrots and apple cores is what we see in the office. 
DAMON - Yeah, people come up to me…
NIAMH - Anybody else would be, wow look at my figure, amazing, I've never looked better. Right?
DAMON - Because people want to feed him, and we've kind of got it down to carrots and apple cores.
BETH - Well, there's a whole story behind the apple core, isn't there? 
DAMON - What?
BETH - Famously in the office me and DeeBee we're like mates and pals and we've got each other's backs.
DAMON - Oh, that's a paranoia thing. 
BETH - We weren't the best of pals…
DAMON - That's your paranoia thing. 
BETH - …until we started sharing. I'd eat the apple flesh, he'd eat the apple core, and since then our relationship has blossomed. 
DAMON - So, now you like to slip him the odd apple core.
BETH - Well, I've stopped.
 DAMON - Are you blaming yourself for his weight?
BETH - No, I'm not. I've been very good actually. Many of your other colleagues are less good.
DAMON - Now, the big issue of course about him putting on weight is that it's considered cruel, understandably so, for a working dog. It's not good for their heart and their lungs and also their joints. They can get arthritis a lot earlier. Working dogs should not be overweight. Bad, bad idea, bad Damon, haven't been weighing the dog quite as often as I should have been. 
NIAMH - You're a disgrace, Damon. 
DAMON - It's just crept on, in the same way that his fur and newly installed little rolls of doggy flab are creeping over the edge of his harness now.
NIAMH - Ah!
BETH - Could you tell from the harness? Was it getting a bit harder to do up?
DAMON - What are guide dog boobs?
NIAMH - Doobs.

BETH - He doesn't look porky.
NIAMH - No.BETH - He doesn't look too porky.
NIAMH - Yeah.
BETH - When you think about it you could see more definition a few months back. But he doesn't look like he's hideously obese as they're saying. 
NIAMH - No. 
BETH - Or waddling down the aisle.
DAMON - Good. Because do the maths. Can we do the maths?
BETH - I can't do it in imperial measures. 
DAMON - 28 and he's 34, 34…he's overweight. More overweight than he should be. So, I'm cruel basically. 
BETH - Yeah. 
NIAMH - Uh-huh.
DAMON - And the next step is that we go onto a kind of guide dog weight control regime thing. And this is difficult. 
NIAMH - What is the guide dog weight regime? What does that entail?
DAMON - So, we talked about it. Now, at 5kg overweight he's actually just at the point where they could well have taken him away from me, because that's what they do.
BETH - Completely?
DAMON - Take him away, give him to a boarder who would then slim him down and give him back to me.
BETH - So, a fat camp.
DAMON - Fat sort of fat camp.
BETH - Fat camp for dogs.NIAMH - Is that televised?
BETH - That would be so popular. [Laughter]
DAMON - Guide dog fat camp.
BETH - We need to make that. 
DAMON - Hello, hello, is that ITV? [Laughter]
 BETH - It's a bit more Channel 5.
NIAMH - Oh 100%.DAMON - I was thinking Paul what's-his-name?
NIAMH - Oh I know, McKenna.
DAMON - No, Paul McKenna? No, he's a hypnotist.
NIAMH - Yeah, but he does those kind of dietary things.
DAMON - Paul O'Grady I was thinking of.
NIAMH - Paul O'Grady is the guy…
DAMON - With the dogs.
NIAMH - No, that's the dogs that need homes, not overweight dogs. They're malnourished.
DAMON - Yeah, but guide dogs, anything cute about dogs.
NIAMH - They turned sideways you can't see them. 
DAMON - Okay. 
NIAMH - Because they're that thin.
DAMON - Oh yeah, but you think ITV you think dogs, you think Paul O'Grady.
BETH - Yeah, I'm with you Damon, because this is a new marketplace we can go into.
NIAMH - No, it's definitely Channel 5. They really want to vamp up the fat shaming.
DAMON - Me and Beth are going to go out and set up our own production company.
BETH - I think it would be better though Damon if you did the journey with him, one man and his dog.
DAMON - What? I should lose the weight as well? Now we're getting sensitive!
BETH - Don't put this down onto me. Every week you come into work and you're like oh, I've put on some weight.
DAMON - Yeah. 
NIAMH - Yeah, and you're telling me, oh so what motivates you to go to the gym. I'm like, do you know what, I just do it. I can't give you a reason. You're always coming up to me asking me for tips on motivating yourself, always.
DAMON - That's the leadership course I'm on at the moment, you've got to learn through growth.
NIAMH - How's that going?DAMON - You don't just sit back and let… It's going well.
BETH - Back to the fat shaming the dogs. What happens at these fat camps?
DAMON - The guide dog boarders then will help the dog to lose weight and then it gets given back to you. But if it happens again that's probably it; you lose your dog. Essentially you can't look after a dog, you can't be trusted to look after a dog. It's not good, is it?
BETH - What's the threshold? And how often does this happen, do you think? 
DAMON - How often does it happen?
BETH - Anecdotally. DAMON - In reality I don't think I've ever known anyone that this has happened to. But of course I guess it's there always as a threat and a reminder that this is not good; you don't just sit there and feed your dog pretend chocolate and all those kinds of things. I remember when I first got my dog, just before university, that was my first dog Anton. [Laughter] Oh come on!
NIAMH - No, we have to take a second. Anton is an amazing name for a dog or a cat. Honestly, the more…
DAMON - Luckily.
NIAMH - No, no, but just generally for pets, I think human names on pets are the funniest thing in the world. But anyway carry on. 
DAMON - Where was I?
NIAMH - Anton. 
DAMON - Oh yeah. So, I had this idea, me and Ant…
NIAMH - Oh god!
DAMON - I used to call him Ant for short.
NIAMH - Were you Dec?
DAMON - No, Ant and Dec were still PJ and Duncan at that stage.
NIAMH - Oh okay. 
DAMON - Who'd have thought that a disability podcast would be getting on to talking about that? I wasn't expecting that one.
NIAMH - Well, ironically.
BETH - Well, actually yeah, it's quite apt considering what happened to PJ and/or Duncan.
 NIAMH - I think it was PJ
.BETH - In Byker Grove.
DAMON - One of them went blind?
BETH - Yeah. 
NIAMH - Yeah, Ant went blind. 
BETH - From was it paintballing? 
NIAMH - Something like that. 
DAMON - That's right. And there was that rubbish scene where he was just floundering around with his arms in front of him just going oh, oh, argh!
NIAMH - I cannae see. That was more Scottish, but okay.
DAMON - Yeah, he's a Geordie.
BETH - Geordie, yeah. 
NIAMH - Yeah, and I can't do Geordie or Brummie. 
DAMON - I can do Brummie
.NIAMH - Yeah, we know you can. 
DAMON - I'm not going to though.
NIAMH - Please don't.
DAMON - Where were we? Backtracking Ant and Dec and…
NIAMH - Yeah, a dog called Ant.
DAMON - Dog called Ant, university, oh yeah. So, I imagined that at night times probably I would pick up the phone, order a pizza for us both, and I would sit there eating a few slices and put the rest of the box down  on the floor with the dog just munching up the pizza. And I was thinking, oh that would be cute, two mates together.  
BETH - This is what you actually thought?
DAMON - Sort of. I don't know. I had these slightly random romantic thoughts - not romantic thoughts about a guide dog. [Laughter] You know what I mean, these romanticised ideas about living in a tiny little room with a guide dog in halls at university. 
NIAMH - Tell me, Damon, did you have many friends at university? 
DAMON - I had Anton. 
NIAMH - You had Anton. 
DAMON - And a few others. My mate Warren. 
NIAMH - Oh god Warren. Is he the one in the Parka?
DAMON - And my mate Nathan. There's my mate…who's the guy who lived in the room next to me?
BETH - Did you just get a normal room?
DAMON - Rob. Yeah, I did get like a normal room.
BETH - You don't get like an extra sized because there was you and a dog?
DAMON - No. I had the tiniest room. It was awful.
NIAMH - Was it on the ground floor at least?
DAMON - Yeah, it was near the door in fact. Back in those days there was no en-suite or anything. I just had a sink in the room and a desk.
BETH - And a dog.
DAMON - And a dog. 
BETH - How did you do that?
DAMON - The dog took up all of the floor space virtually. 
NIAMH - How big was he?
DAMON - He was huge! Anton the dog was massive. They make them smaller these days. 
NIAMH - Ah yeah.
DAMON - No, they actually do.
NIAMH - No, I know. 
DAMON - At least I think they do.
BETH - Did the university not give any provision for the fact that it was you and a dog in a room? I can't get over this. Did you tell them or did you just turn up?
DAMON - No, I did tell them. They were going to stick me in a block with loads of other disabled people in it and I went, 'no, don't do that, I don't want to be associated with them, that's disgusting!' And they said, 'oh it's a good job you called up, Damon, because we were just about to allocate all the rooms. We'll put you in another block'. So, thankfully I was well away from all those disabled people. 
BETH - You'd have had a much nicer room. It would have been much bigger. 
DAMON - I don't know what I imagined all these disabled people were like. Yeah, I may have had a nicer bigger room with roll-in showers and things. That would have been quite cool, wouldn't it?
NIAMH - Yeah. BETH - So, now fast forward whatever, 20 years since you left uni, and you've now got a fat dog on your hands. 
DAMON - So, they're saying it's going to take about three months to get him down to about 30kg I think. 
NIAMH - Okay.BETH - Which is a huge amount. That's a lot of weight for a human to lose in that time, let alone a dog. Isn't it more than a cat?
DAMON - Yeah. Your average cat, I heard the other day, is 5kg. 
NIAMH - So, he's got to lose an entire cat.
DAMON - Yeah, the dog's got to lose a cat.
NIAMH - Just give birth to a cat. Sorry. 
BETH - I notice you've started dressing him in neckerchiefs, is that to distract us from his hips?
DAMON - Eloise, she's through the window there, give us a wave Eloise. I've no idea if she's waving or not.
BETH - She is.
NIAMH - She is.
DAMON - Oh is she. Jump up and down a bit Eloise.
BETH - She's not doing that. 
DAMON - Go on Eloise, jump up and down.
BETH - Yeah, she's doing it now.
DAMON - She's jumping up and down, is she?
NIAMH - Yeah.
DAMON - Okay, we'll come back to Eloise.NIAMH - The enthusiasm is almost palpable.
DAMON - What were we talking about?
BETH - Well, the neckerchief.
DAMON - Oh yeah.
BETH - You've recently gone for a more jazzy design which really does distract the eye from the extra weight.
DAMON - Eloise, through the glass over there, wave your arms a bit Eloise - is she?
NIAMH - Yeah.
DAMON - She bought me the first bandana for DeeBee. It was a nice colour, well it's your favourite colour, teal.
BETH - It was more turquoise to be honest. 
DAMON - Tealy turquoise, which don't get me going on that, I have no idea. 
BETH - Colours have changed, haven't they?
DAMON - Teal yeah, it winds me up. Winds me up.
BETH - This was more just turquoise or light blue actually.
NIAMH - Yeah, I didn't really think…
DAMON - Every time I ask my mum, 'what colour's this?' she says, 'blue'. I say, 'what kind of blue?' she goes, 'hm, petrol blue'. I'm thinking well, petrol's not blue.
BETH - It's the shimmer on top. Can you remember when the light hits it?
DAMON - Yeah, but is that what she meant or did she mean like the falcon petrol, are they blue?
BETH - I don't know what you're talking about. 
DAMON - I don't think my mum's a birdwatcher. 
BETH - Oh, you're talking about… No, she means the petrol, the blue in the petrol when it reflects, doesn't she?
NIAMH - Yeah, that's what I thought. 
DAMON - But to me petrol it goes a funny colour. It's hard to pin down exactly what colour petrol is, isn't it?
NIAMH - Hm. Anyway so the bandana was blue. 
DAMON - And now we've got a sort of red bandana.
BETH - Check, it's kind of plaid.
DAMON - Red checked bandana. So, what it's a bit cowboy, is it?
BETH - No, it's more of a Scottish influence I would say.
NIAMH - He's more of a lumberjack dog.
BETH - Yeah. But it distracts the eye so he looks slimmer. The next one you should get is stripes because they really slim down if you wear them the right way round. 
NIAMH - Yeah. 
BETH - You need them to go around the neck rather than down. If it goes down it will emphasise the size; if they go around it will slim them down. 
NIAMH - You've really thought about this, Beth, haven't you? 
DAMON - Is that with humans?
BETH - I'm wearing stripes today. They go round.
NIAMH - You are to be fair. 
DAMON - You've got round your body stripes, have you? 
BETH - They make you looking slimmer. Whereas you've got stripes going straight down your body which emphasise the curves.
DAMON - Me?
BETH - Yeah.
NIAMH - Work it honey!
BETH - We're both wearing stripes.
DAMON - I would have thought that stripes that go round you made you look fatter? 
BETH - This is an old thing. No, they realised it doesn't because…
DAMON - What do you mean they realised it didn't?!
BETH - Because…
DAMON - You know, looking at it, they don't.
BETH - Because they're continuous the eye doesn't see the size; whereas the lines going down they kind of like follow the shape of what's underneath. 
NIAMH - Yeah. 
DAMON - But they also make you look thinner; it follows you down surely? The logic's all there, it's all there. 
BETH - No, I think…
NIAMH - I don't…
DAMON - The lines that go down, straight, thin, lovely thin...
BETH - You're getting quite panicky now.
DAMON - …lines make you look thin.
BETH - It's not the same anymore.
DAMON - How could that have changed? I haven't been able to see since I was 13, by the way, so I have this problem when things apparently change, like ambulances - I think we talked about this before.
BETH - Yeah.
DAMON - Once upon a time they were white, they were white, and then last year I discovered they had turned yellow and no one had told me. 
BETH - Wasn't it your mum in fact who broke the revelation by accident? 
DAMON - Yeah. That's why these kinds of things bother me, visual things that change.
BETH - I mean if you'd watched Gok Wan you'd probably have known. 
NIAMH - Yeah. 
DAMON - I hear the world's more colourful now.
 BETH - Yeah. 
DAMON - And I can't even get my head around that. 
BETH - It's more technicolour, so more versions of primary colours. 
DAMON - Yeah, but in the 70s we had the Multi-coloured Swap Shop.
BETH - I mean, that looks fairly basic colour wise now.
NIAMH - Yeah. They're all slightly muted colours. A lot of brown as well. Not a great time, not a great decade for colour I think the 70s.
DAMON - Okay.
NIAMH - The 80s on the other hand, aha! No, but there was a lot of brown I remember from the 70s, like wallpapers and stuff. 
BETH - You remember the 70s?
DAMON - Oranges.
NIAMH - No, because my gran's house just wasn't redecorated from about 1971 so it was like going through a time capsule, so that was my only window into it. Plus I'm a time traveller. [Laughter]
DAMON - Yeah.
BETH - We still haven't got to the bottom of what we're going to do about this fat dog. We need to get to the root of it. What happens? 
DAMON - So, what happens next is he goes on some food, some special food that they're going to send through in a great big sack load. Guide Dogs pay for the food.
NIAMH - [Laughing] With what? You said they pay for it, with what? Sorry, you said the guide dogs paid for it.
DAMON - With their lives.
NIAMH - Oh wow, okay, that's escalated quickly.
DAMON - Is that what you meant?
NIAMH - Yeah. 
DAMON - No, they pay for it with money. I think it's called Weight Healthcare Food or something. But in the old days, a couple of years ago, when I had another dog and he needed to lose a bit of weight it had a different name. And it was always very embarrassing calling up in the office and asking for it, 'can I have a sack full of Obesity Food please?' And I'm glad that I…I think I know why they changed the name. 
BETH - You did have a similar conversation though the other day when you were trying to order the food.
DAMON - Hm.
BETH - Because you kept saying, 'oh yeah, um, overweight, obese' and obviously no one knew you were talking about the dog. 
DAMON - The just looked at me.
BETH - Yeah. 
DAMON - And it felt right that I'd be talking about that kind of thing. [Laughter] 
BETH - Obviously fat shaming has been in the news; James Cordon was saying it doesn't work. Do you reckon fat shaming might work with the porky chino?
DAMON - I don't know what James Cordon has been up to. I haven't caught that story.
NIAMH - I thought you did. 
BETH - Yeah, I think you did a few weeks ago.
DAMON - Did I?
BETH - Basically one of his colleagues on his programme was saying, we should bring back fat shaming because of the obesity crisis. He was saying, why would you do that, it obviously doesn't work and also it just makes people more upset.
NIAMH - And when they're upset they eat.
BETH - Yeah, there was a study by University College London which found that if you're fat shamed you're more likely to put weight on. But with a dog it may be different. Is it something that we should be, as your colleagues, and DeeBee's peers of a sort, should be doing? 
NIAMH - Minus the language barrier do you reckon it would work? 
DAMON - You want to fat shame DeeBee when we walk in in the mornings? I mean, you did fat shame him this morning, Beth.
BETH - I did. Is that an elephant I can hear? Oh, it's DeeBee.
DAMON - Poor old DeeBee, he doesn't even know what you're saying. 
BETH - I know, he thinks I'm having a good old time with him. He always looks really cheerful when I fat shame him.
DAMON - He's thinking there's an apple core coming. 
BETH - Probably. I do have an apple in my bag.
DAMON - Nope.
NIAMH - Oh, the plot thickens.
DAMON - No, no, he can't have them anymore.
BETH - No, I know. Our relationship is going to end pretty soon. 
DAMON - So, that's pretty much the story of guide dogs and weight and fat. You have to be really careful.
BETH - It's not a story, Damon.
NIAMH - No.
BETH - This is just the very beginning of the story. We need to track your progress and see how sensible you are.
NIAMH - Yeah. This needs to be a massive Ouch project: how's DeeBee doing? Weekly updates, pupdates.
BETH - Yeah, pupdates. And also you've got two children as well which is pretty tricky; not managing their weight, but stopping them giving the dog treats and stuff like that. 
DAMON - They do like to feed him while they're sitting at the dining room table yeah, reaching down, giving the dog a bit of food. It's just a little bit too easy. So, I don't know how much food DeeBee gets from the kids because obviously I can't see them. They could well be contributing to a lot of this weight gain. Who knows? So, there's another big question we haven't gone into really which is: how is he putting on all this weight? And I don't really know. Maybe I've been accidentally putting a little bit too much extra food into the measuring cup thing that I put into his bowl. Maybe the kids have been feeding him. Maybe people at work have been coming up and tipping packets of crisps in his mouth. I don't know. 
BETH - Well, luckily you've got a plethora of colleagues who all seem to want to take him out, so he has a lot of walkers.
 DAMON - Yeah. Shall we end? Thank you Niamh, thank you Beth, thank you me.
BETH - Thank you Damon.
DAMON - Thank you DeeBee on the floor, DeeBee dog.
BETH - Yes, and we should keep everyone up to date on how DeeBee progresses. 
NIAMH - Pup to date.DAMON - Yeah, I'm sure everyone will want to know.
BETH - Yeah. 
DAMON - If you want to listen to the podcast we're on every week or so. And you can go to BBC Sounds, download that app and look for Ouch. Or say to your smart speaker, 'ask the BBC for Ouch'. Thanks for listening. 
BETH - Bye.

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