School Is Out For Summer.

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School holidays have officially begun! Time for some fun.

After the most bizarre year in education ever  where we have been in and out of school numerous times as schools have closed and reopened, we finally get to spend the summer at home. Munch will be completely off, whilst I will be providing emergency cover for phone counselling but from the comfort of our own home. Munch has many plans he has requested for our break and they go a little like this.

  1. Sleep . Nothing better than a summer snooze.
  2. Play. Play may be a little slower in the heat of summer when you are such a hairy bear, but he will no doubt be matching Faith the tortoise’s pace in the garden.
  3. Cause mischief wherever possible. There may be no pupils around to steal paninis out of their hands (still a cringe worthy memory when Panini Gate happened) but there will always be an option to create chaos in Munch’s eyes. Two days after end of term and he has only managed to devour some unattended party food and smash a plate and attempt to chase a  squirrel up a tree, but the holidays are still young. Plenty more time for the opportunist to strike.
  4. Swim in the sea, river, and lakes. This may not be possible to do all at the same time only due to the boring limitations of time and space (unless we enter the realms of co-existing multi universes), Munch has plans to tackle as much of these as possible. The Loch Ness Minster has been sighted in many local areas and has made many a friend with the water dwelling kind. He may even be able to succeed in his ultimate goal of  blending in with a family of ducks that he has attempted to do many a time. Public health alerts have already gone out to the surfing community  to warn them of the dangers of leaving unattended surf boards in the sea after the slight mishap a few years ago when Munch tried to jump aboard and surf off into the sunset.
  5. Meet up with friends. Meeting up with both hairy and not so hairy friends is on the to do list. Even though Munch does love to share a saliva sodden ball with another canine, he is more than willing to preform the same exchange with a human. If the thought of sloppy seconds smeared across a ball is not your idea of summer bliss, Munch will be quite happy to take you to the nearest lamppost to show you how to leave your scent. Failing that a good old cwtch (a warm cuddle for the non-Welsh) will more than do.
  6. Sleep some more. Coming a close second to his favourite past time of eating, sleeping recharges his battery of brilliance.
  7. Demand attention 24/7 to keep his Drama King title alive. He is royalty. He will be always treated as such. Anything short of utter worshiping will not be tolerated. Trust me, having the cold shoulders from Munch is NOT pleasant.
  8. Continuing his plan to be the biggest local ball thief for any unattended balls whilst out walking, whilst also avoiding a doggy ASBO.  Munch has quite a rep in the area for stealing  balls or as he sees in, helping any dog turn their game of solitary play into a game for two. Returning the balls can take a little persuasion but they are always returned almost always undamaged. I have had many a sit-down chat with the cheeky chappy that theft is a serious crime, but his eye rolls tell me that despite nearly five years together, he still does not care about my opinions. Thankfully, his angelic face has still not appeared on Crimewatch after the theft of a ball a few years ago in a city centre from one of four sports shops. In his defence, he may have picked it up from the floor outside as the balls in shops are usually sold in packs. Well, that is what he has tried to convince me is true and I do not have evidence to prove otherwise. If he does get an antisocial behaviour order due to being a ball thief, he  may have to change his name to protect his identity. I will let you know if this happens though if you promise to keep it a secret.
  9. Visit new places for new adventures. He loves sniffing out new places to visit. Many places are kind of off limits though due to his inability to walk past any body of water without whining to go in ( please see point 4 above). Walking past an unexplored inviting lake for example would be like a chocoholic working in a chocolate factory. Temptation is sometimes best avoided for all involved.
  10. Continuing to attempt to look angelic to get everything he wants whatever he wants whenever he wants. Looks are so deceiving and this summer will be no different. Who knows what he has planned for me this summer, but I know it won’t be boring.

 Munch will be turning seven this year so soon he will be plodding his way slowly to possible retirement in a couple of years where life will be a constant holiday. Until then, I will ensure that his time off from hoovering up dropped bacon rolls from school corridors across the county is always well spent. If you hear of a mayhem driven Labradoodle causing havoc in Carmarthenshire you know who it is. Sorry in advance.

Buddying Up

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Some decisions in life feel simple to make, whilst others are portals into a labyrinth of never-ending questions that can occur as new possibilities become open to you. Choosing to apply for a Guide Dog is no exception to this.

We have been recently counselling a client who is at this exact decision- making point in their lives. As Guide Dogs have recently extended their  services to include children and young people to offer the service of Buddy Dogs along with other fantastic services that they provide, young people now have an opportunity to experience what it is like to have a Buddy Dog that will expose them to what life would be like with a furry friend. These Buddy Dogs are not mobility aids as such as Guide Dogs are, but it is such an amazing way to have insight into what it is like to have someone by your side each and everyday who is there for you.

Working with my adolescent client brought back lots of feeling of what the application process brought up and questions that seem to be universal in the lead up to being gifted a dog. Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are not pets so applying for one goes beyond the ‘it will be amazing to have  a cute dog in the house’ train of thought. With such dogs coming already trained to a high standard, there will be no need for a puppy training class as they would have already been trained by dedicated individuals who work and volunteer for Guide Dogs. This life changing best friends that enter our lives are never just a dog.

On a personal level admitting that I needed a Guide Dog felt in a way, revoking the empowerment that I had felt throughout life when I was able to navigate the world alone without people knowing the severity of my sight loss. By admitting I needed help felt like going from independence to dependence on another to be able to get around. Non-Guide Dog users often think of Guide Dogs as allowing independence (which they certainly do), but initially the feelings can be quite the opposite. This is something that I talked to my client at great lengths about which seemed to help as he knew someone had been through the same thing that nobody else seemed to understand.

The magnetic draw of Munch’s pleading eyes and serene presence in the room helped for my client to experience what a real-life Guide Dog was like and he had  space to ask as many questions as possible. In these conversations we established that Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are all as unique as us humans, can be both mischievous and perfectly well behaved, can be ball thieves and avoid distractions and a million other things in-between. They will almost definitely deserve a birthday celebration to thank them for their service to us and gifts from family members will always appear each year under the Christmas tree. You will no longer be a sole entity but part of a partnership and expect people to greet your dog before they greet you.

These hairy soul mates of ours that appear in our lives can only arrive after the loving dedications of the people who have turned them into the characters that they are today. From people who donate to this fab charity, the puppy walkers who must have patience of saints and the Guide Dog staff who  deserve more praise than they ever get. We are matched with the dogs that the staff feel match us perfectly and work with us if there are teething problems. Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are only possible because of the beautiful creations of the bond between the animal and the human world.

When my client asked, ‘do you think I will have  a dog like Munch?’, I responded ‘you will have your own version of Munch’. I am crossing my fingers that his perfect Buddy Dog is getting ready to imprint their paws on the heart of their new best friend soon now that children and young people can feel the true power of these special souls

The Healer Returns

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Sorry I have been a bit absent recently. It is just that my furry presence has been needed elsewhere over the last few months, so I have not had time to instruct my maid to write any posts.

Seven weeks ago, my two-legged grandmother was taken to hospital and has been there ever since. She is doing okay but will be in for a few more weeks. I have only got to see her once, so I am missing her like mad. The beauty of my Guide Dog harness means that I can go into almost any place,  so I get to sashay my way into hospital and such. My two-legged grandmother was on a ward with three other patients, and I managed to sneak around to the other patients to give them some much needed pet therapy too. A quick lick of a hand here, and a snuggle into a lap there and the Munch Magic had been spread as wide as their growing smiles. A quick picture taken by a staff member or two and we had to leave. Healing through joy and pure unconditional love will reach places that no medicine ever can.

Three months ago, my two-legged brother also lost a loved one, so we have been helping to sort out their house. As the two-legged humans have been busy sorting through things, I have been laying down peacefully on the couch where the loved one once lay. I have walked around the garden that they enjoyed to be in. I have sniffed each piece of furniture that they had put together with patience and pride. Their feet may no longer walk around the place they were proud to call home, but my paws still feel the footprints that they have left in their home and in the hearts of many.

My fur has been washed with tears from the children in schools, as they have had nowhere else to leave them flow freely. My nose has been kissed by lips that used to kiss their own dogs’ noses whilst they still lived on this earth. A loving ear scratch from a passing teacher gives a blast of oxytocin which will help them get through the rest of the day in peace and love in their hearts. Our work in schools gives me much happiness, as my maids words and my tranquil way gives holistic healing to both clients and us equally.

I may not have been dictating my doggy thoughts much recently for my maid to write due to the chaos of life, but I have been thinking about you all. The maid and I wish you are all well and if not, we are sending you masses of hairy doggy and less hairy human hugs. As our summer break from schools comes closer, we will aim to blog more as catch up with what you have all been doing. Much love from me and the maid.

The Tour Guide Dog

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No matter how much I try to convince myself it will be a good idea, trying to sight see with little sight and blurry blobs surrounding me has not always been my idea of heaven. Going new places is far more about sensory overload and less about embracing the apparent sights that are supposedly around me. Munch on the other hand, would love to explore  a new place each day, possibly five. Finding the middle ground for a happy him and a happy me can sometimes be a battle of wills.

Some guide dogs take a while to learn a route whereas Munch knows the route inside out and back to front as soon as he has finished walking it for the first time. Munch loves exploring and sniffing a urine-soaked lamp post or two as his paws hit unchartered territory. His huge angel winged tail attached to his sashaying derriere that thuds against my leg, tells me that he is one happy chappy in the unknown. He wears his harness as a suit of armour as he sightsees with his not so sighted maid trailing behind him. He is the reason my unsteady feet become steady.

New places to me are like entering a rotating assault course whilst blindfolded and hoping for the best. Where are the steps? Where are the doors? Which are the female toilets? Which is the right route, and which leads to a dead end? Guide dogs are amazing, but they need instructions on where to take us too and unfortunately cannot read so there are limits to their capabilities. Without the strong partnership that we have that is built on trust, such outings would not be possible as Munch could not go where non guide dogs could go and I would not trust my white cane as much as I trust my hairy soul mate.

In the weird labyrinth of memories in my mind, I know  how many steps are on familiar routes and when to take bends. I can dance around my house without bumping into things as I know each space deeply.  I can hear when a wall by the side of me ends and the open space expands. I know the potholes and cracks that lead up to a flight of steps and where  the parked cars that are always obstructing the pavements live. The intensity of aromas wafting from air vents lets me know how close we are to Munch’s favourite food shops. It is through these sensory cues that my memory assures me that these assault courses are more stationary and more inviting than the rotating ones.

I love the inspiring blind individuals that climb mountains and travel the world with just their trusty cane. I am in awe of the sightless heroes that forget they are blind as they take on challenges that  many sighted would fear. The blind chefs who use their senses alone to create perfectly presented masterpieces could teach the most experiences in the field a thing or two. Vision Loss alone does not create barriers, but limited belief does.

Munch is the gap that links my belief that turns into trust. Together, he can see the sights and I can embrace the senses of the sights safe in the knowledge that I am safe. Having my own excited tour guide, taking me to new places has made sightseeing far more exciting that it used to be. Most of the time I havn’t got a clue what he is seeing in the distance to make him so happy but a happy Munch is a happy me. The gift of a guide dog changes us in ways we never thought possible. Let’s keep exploring as much as we can in whatever way possible ❤

The Windowsill Dwellers

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Windowsill dwellers are the keepers of secrets across the land.

Their paws and derrieres rest easy as the rest of them stays alert.

From cornea to retina, images to the sighted ready the brain for what will come next.

Their responses tell us with lost vision, about the unseen world.

The enlivened bark that emerges from slumber means only one thing.

 A loved one has pulled up outside to come and give a belly rub to the Lord of the house.

His helicopter tail tells of euphoria of the expected guest, not the invasion of a blowing plastic bag.

These security guards are never off duty from their five-foot glass view from their castle that they live in.

The raise of a twitching ear from your feline friend, may mean a less friendly welcome to the observed.

The swish of their aggravated tail sweeping across your arm could be avian related.

Keeping their bird free paws on the windowsill safely inside is probably best for all involved.

A chin rub to distract may leave you gift free from the cat, but that bird will fly safely home that day.

These lighthouse keepers of hearth and home, give insight for us who cannot see.

As beautiful gargoyles keep us safe and happy, we fall in love with them more and more.

These bridges of unconditional love between the sighted and sight loss world always support us.

Thank you, windowsill dwellers, for showing us a world that we cannot see.

Finding Your Floppy Tongued BFF’s

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This is Shadow. Shadow is my BFF. Shadow loves life. Be more like Shadow.

Shadow (slight name change to prevent friend request overload), has been my hairy best friend since I bumped into him on my regular patch for free running. The bumping into each other was literal as we jumped mid-air to retrieve a ball that belonged to neither of us. The fifth-hand saliva that lay coating the recently found ball was just too irresistible for us both to leave and thus cementing our friendship. As our own tennis balls lay unloved at our owner’s (sorry staff member’s)  feet, I knew that Shadow belonged to my mischief making tribe.

I cannot remember him in my litter when I was born but I am sure he is one of my lot. I hear the two legged less hairy people say we look totally different, but I cannot see how. Those humans are just so judgemental. We have the same number of legs, two eyes, two floppy ears, one nose and a mouth so how they can say we are different I do not know. Admittedly I may be a mm or two bigger than Shadow but other than that we are almost identical.

We both love to chase balls, retrieve abandoned balls,  chew sticks, chase each other, play fight in the most non play fighting ways, run alongside each other with no agenda, sniff anything we can find and pee on everything to stamp our existence on anything and everything. Ok there are some differences between us such as the fact the Shadow always listens to his two legged less hairy human, is fussy with food and has yet to get his human grandmother caught on his back as he goes between her legs to give a doggy cuddle, but apart from these, we kind of are the same. Oh yes and he is not a harness wearing  guide dog but apart from that we could be twins.

Our happy , tongue floppy smiles match the joy in our hearts when we get to play with each other. Our Lady and the Tramp daily re-enactment scene with a stick instead of a piece of spaghetti, shows the love of the same things as we munch away until we meet in the middle. Shadow and I dance the dance of play in our own unique way and I never want this to change. We live carefree in the moment which is always enough and more. We chose to love life and create our own bubble of happiness that nobody can ever burst.    

I hope you have your own version of Shadow in your life to chase balls and chew sticks with to make you happy. If not, I hope you find one soon to help find your floppy tongued smiling twin.

The Doggy Hall Of Shame

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Each year our canine cuties bring award winning achievements into our lives, which deserve honouring. From Gwyn the German Shepard rescuing it’s human family from burning buildings, to Bertha the Bichon Frise strutting her stuff on the Dog walk to win hair style of the year, each dog should be celebrated. There are of course exceptions to every rule. For there to be a top of the list hierarchy, there also needs to be well….bottom of the list too. Interestingly, there are some dogs that slide between top dog and mischief maker is milliseconds. The category that these furry fireballs belong too is “The Angelic Rogues”. For the sixth year running, Minster Cooper (a.k.a. Munch) has stolen the prize for his consistant and outstanding achievements in this area yet again.

Born to beautifully behaved nurturing mother Hettie (a black labrodor) and perfectly presented boffin dad Pringle (a handsome cream poodle), Munch first placed his paw prints on this world on 18th December 2014. Arguable, the naughtiest in the litter, Munch left a mark on people’s hearts (and patience levels) since day one. Never one to shy away from the limelight, Munch has always succeeded in being central to any drama that unfolds in his vicinity without fail. His expertise in deflection has always allowed him to use his innocent looks to throw any onlookers off the truth trail whilst they look elsewhere for the source of mischief.

Playing Tug of War with a fellow canine whilst using a net curtain instead of a rope, was an early sign of his creativity during his first few months of life. After getting off a flower bed after a row only to seconds later get on another flower bed (repeated multiple times) shows that Munch has wonderful decision making skills that are malleable to any situation. From these examples of creativity and decision making skills it is clear to see why Munch was destined to be …..a Guide Dog. I mean, with such a personality what could possibly go wrong?

Taking Guide Dog training all in his huge stride, Munch passed with flying colours. Obedience training must have been…interesting. With the determined poodle streak shining out for multiple galaxies to see, Munch learnt how to use his ‘On-duty angel, off-duty rascal’ sides of his personality to the max. A straight A student on harness in work mode, he learnt how to build up enough good boy points to transfer them to his time off tantrums so that he would not get in trouble. Acquired knowledge has been key in the career path of this Angelic Rogue.

After being placed with his ‘owner’ four years ago (ha ha, as if anyone could ever own him), he turned the tables pretty quick by demonstrating his world class Leadership skills. After the very first meeting, he manageaged to single pawedly turn her into his maid. Always out front in or out of harness, Munch has led her along many paths whether she wanted to go there or not. He even got her to write a book about him and how talented he was. As What You See When You Can’t See flew off the shelves in 2019, he was perplexed to why it had taken this long for anyone to say how amazing he was. He knew that not only was he the best Labradoodle in the world but arguable the best dog in the universe. It was just a shame that the maid kept bringing up some mishaps that had occurred along the way.

Admittedly, there was that incident that got his human grandmother stuck on his back after a funeral, as he attempted to take his 32 Inch high body under her 25 Inch legs, but that was just a case of a mathematical miscalculation. The wanted posters for the worlds’ biggest ball thief that just happens to resemble him is not him he assures everyone, just a wannabe. A swift investigation of an alleged pasty thieving incident from the hands of a 3 year old was quickly quashed as Munch argued she was holding it out for him to eat. Panini Gate, where Munch upped his stakes from pasty to panini from the outstretched hand of a pupil, was happily settled out of court with the gift of a replacement panini and box of chocolates. Up until now, Munch has kept his good reputation. Things did change however earlier this week.

Trotting along on his free run, he came across one of his favourite things. A stick. Unfortunately, said stick was being held in the hands of a young boy which meant only one thing to Munch. Playtime. As Munch gently attached himself to the other end of the stick and happily pranced alongside the chatty boy, a friendship was made. Unfortunately, the friendship was short lived when the boy threw the stick for Munch to fetch and Munch brought back half the stick a few minutes later. The little boys dream of fighting dragons with his once powerful stick was now shattered as he had to set his sights on fighting ants instead. Apologies were made and another stick found but it wasn’t quite the same as the dragon fighting weapon he once knew.

Stern words have been had with Munch about taking sticks off children which is just as bad as stealing sweets from them. His eye rolls and sights say it all really, the Angelic Rogue doesn’t see the fuss. He believes munching on sticks is his God given right as a dog. It has been a hard decision but it is only fair that he will be placed in the Doggy Hall of Shame until he feels remorse for his actions. The only thing is, he sees it as another badge of honour as he sits under the Mischief Maker of the Month category. He has his eyes set on the Mayor of Mayhem award which we will keep you updated on. There is always one and it’s always him!

The Spoken Unsaid

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I have often wondered how they learn to do it. Turn taking to them seems so natural, with no need to second guess their place in the sequence that runs so smoothly.  Is it an innate gift that they are born with or do they have to learn by observing through body language? The invite of a smile or the slight nod of the head must give them the nudge to become the one who now captures the gaze of others. Could it be a metaphorical pass of the baton between the speaker and recipients’ hand that keeps the spoken marathon alive? It may even be the fraught expression in the eyes of the speaker that alerts the rescuer that they need to take over speaking to help save the awkwardness drowning in silence. Nobody ever tells you how to do it in conversations, turn take that is. They seem to be experts in a field that feels magical to me.

Listening intently for the emotion in the intake of breath, my ears try to decipher if it is inviting me to join in and respond, or are they just taking a breath in silence.  Does the break in the conversation mean they are adjusting their body to deliver the punchline that expands on the unsaid? In the fraction of a second that dual loaded noise leaves their lips, my brain leaps into action to decrypt if the noise will lead to laughter or cries. Are they looking towards  me for my views about the subject or are they looking into the distance to have time alone with their thoughts? Their eyes must be the lighthouses towards the cues in others,  that scans for safety as well as the perils in the dance of the spoken world.

This confusion is always colossal in face-to-face situations, but even more so online where the mute button silences the rare cues that can help. The unhomely Zoom room that help many feel closer, distances many of us that are left guessing on what is connecting the avid participants. Maybe they are seeing something that aligns their minds but remains  invisible to ours. The genius invention of connecting multiple people together at the same place and time regardless of where they are in the world can create unity and solitude in the same moment.   The ‘us and them’ may always exist in every part of society regardless of how we try and change this. Diversity should be more about recognition than segregation as we learn to understand from a different perspective.

Being blind does not mean that my sight needs to be fixed, but it does mean that my world view can be changed from learning from the sighted. I will never pretend that I know what facial expressions mean in the context of a conversation as that is something I have never seen but I do know that a sighted person may explain to me something that I have missed. If I jump into a conversation halfway through a pause of  someone speaking, I am crossing my fingers that they will understand that I did not know and was not doing it to be rude.  When people use visual language in front of me and feel bad when they realize I cannot see, I take that as a complement not an insult as I feel included.

The basics of conversation may not seem like a barrier between the sighted and sight loss community, but it can be greater than you think. The life gains I feel sight loss brings does not extend to every part of life. Hiccups happen and misunderstandings are inevitable when we bring alternative knowledge into a world that we all share. Life would be boring if we all lived alike and never had another viewpoint. Being the blind one in a conversation with a sighted person, enlightens me to see the unseen which holds such beauty.

Mother’s Day Gratitude

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Mothers create more than just a physical child. When a mother gives birth, she gifts the world with another piece of love that will fill the hearts of others as much as her own. She will nurture a fully functioning being that will in turn nurture other living beings. She births the professional that may go on to save your life and the lives of many others. Clearing the path for her child to freely explore the world to become the person that they really want to be, shows that a mother is happy to be led by their teacher.

The beauty of a mother is that on the surface no two will ever appear the same. The helicopter mother who wants to protect their child is no more of a mother than the permissive mother who allows their child to learn from their mistakes. The perfectionist mother is no happier than the go with the flow mother who gets it done in the end. High achieving mothers may have different goals that the mediating mother has, but both achieve in their own way. There is no perfect way to mother, there is just your way.

Whether babies are human or of the furry kind, adopted or metaphorical,  they will always remain a baby in the eyes of a mother. That empty nest syndrome that drains the hearts of mothers worldwide is the universal mother language of a living loss that takes time to adjust to. Where once she wished for peace and quiet, she now craves the chaos that once was in the home they built together. As the curl from the first haircut lays safe in the draw, their grandchild sits in the hairdressing seat awaiting the same to happen to their own curls.

The one thing, that we all have in common is that we would not be here had it not been for our mothers. However, you celebrate this Mother’s Day may it be full of love, appreciation and forever memories. Happy Mother’s Day to all the miracle makers that have created us as there would be no world without them.

Loving Yourself Like A Five-Year Old

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What does my Five-year old granddaughter love about herself?

“I love my hands as they help give things to people. They can also do sign language to people who cannot hear.

I love my eyes as they can help see things for people who cannot see, just like you Mam.

I love my ears as they can listen out to help people who are deaf.

I love my mouth as I can talk to people who need to chat”.

I have always known that she was a beautiful soul, but I never realized just how bright her light within was constantly alight until I asked her this simple question. This glimpse into the mind of an innocent five-year-old who has yet to query her worth in life, took me to a place that I wish we could all live. These ideas have not been forced into her mind in any way, they have just emerged from her authentic perception of what it is really like to live in a world  with others with needs that are sometimes greater than her own.

She was just nine months old when Munch my adorable Guide Dog came to live with us so she cannot remember a time where Munch was not a permanent fixture by my left-hand side on days out. She has always been my eyes. When I drop something, she picks it up without being asked.  She holds things close to my face so that I can get a better view of the blurry object and she mastered using my white cane as soon as she could walk, just because she felt like it. To her sight loss is no big thing, it just is part of her grandmother’s life.

Munch to her is not a Guide Dog, he is just family.  I was told once by her teacher when I picked her up from school, that they had asked that morning what the name of my dog was. She looked puzzled at them and asked what dog ? With Munch weighing six stone and his head measuring thirty-three inches from the floor clad in a bright yellow and white harness, she thought they were talking about some other dog.  She told them he was not a dog; he was just Munch.

When children grow up with disabilities and other differences around them, they can only see normality. They accept the whole of a person as they are and know no different. Children who grow up alongside difference see an expanded version of the limited world other’s live in. They learn that for every problem there are a multitude of different solutions and they learn to love unconditionally and never with condition. They are the teachers that speak with the wisdom that we never thought we would here.

When a five-year old talks of including those in society that are often left feeling excluded, they will never be alone. It is this type of child who accepts without effort or limit and sees beyond barriers that need never exist. Kindness can only come from a place that it organically exists if it is to be omnipresent in every situation in life. When we are choosing to be kind in life, we are choosing to live an enriched path that will never see us alone.

What do I love most about my granddaughter? Her pure existence and everything that it entails.