Radio Interview

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“So, tell me, what was it like to write the book because it is a big thing to do”, the lovely hosts voice questioned. “Well, I only started off writing a few lines about what it was like when you can’t see and it’s kind of evolved into a book” I replied honestly.

There are people who spend years working on their book to get them to the level of perfection that they want them to be at and there is a sliding scale of authors who write their books as if by accident. I so admire authors who put their heart and soul into creating the beautiful masterpieces and go through the highs and lows of the emotional commitment that they make to their book and their readers by creating a true reflection of their awesomeness. I really admire every author that writes the books that their readers are waiting to devour and here I am still feeling like an imposter in the land of the established authors .

I was being pre-recorded for a radio show that will be aired in around ten weeks’ time to coincide with the books release and an hour earlier my narrator on my laptop was busy chatting away to me to remind me of what I had written about in the book. Was this how all authors were or was it just me? The thing is, since completing writing the book I have written another and am currently nearly half of the way through writing a novel, so I needed a little prompting about everything I had written. The only parts that I didn’t need reminding about was the mischievous antics of Munch and the utter unconditional love that he has brought into my life. Those are etched in my mind and heart for eternity.

Knowing that the book is being released in just ten weeks brings about a cocktail of emotions. The dreaded question that many authors feel of what people will they know will think about the book is mixed in with the happy feeling that people may want to know what sight loss and life with a guide dog is really like. The hope that this book will help people rethink how they feel about their own disabilies, health conditions and adversities in a more positive way is a reason why I am excited for its release. Whatever happens with the book, it has been fun writing it and Munch’s mischievous side will now be known to many.

Regarding the interview on the radio, it went relatively well despite a few hesitations, I hope most people will get what my common Welsh accent was trying to say. When the programme that was recorded for the RNIB Connect Read on Audiobook programme is aired I will try and share the link. The secret life of Munch that you all read about is not really mentioned on air, but I hope people will chuckle and play catch up with the stories of Munch that some of you already know when they read or listen to the book. Maybe I will have to write a sequel about his Lordships antics to keep readers entertained. Now where could I begin….

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Meet My Friend

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Hey, come and meet my new best friend! I heard the maid wrote a post about me a little while ago saying that it was taking me time to get used to Faith the tortoise. Well, let me tell you MY version of events before you make up your mind about who is right and which maid was wrong.

I have known Faith and Hero (her brother) for the last two years and I have often gone up to the vivarium that they were in or the run outside that they exercised in and graced them with seeing my handsome face. I knew that my face would brighten up anyone’s day as who could resist my Labradoodle good looks? I sometimes barked to ask them if they wanted to come and play but the spoil sports never did.They lived with my two legged less hairy grandparents so I knew them quite well and it was on top of their indoor home that my treats were kept so there will always be a special place in my heart for them ( I mean my treats but I suppose I also mean the tortoises) .

When Hero went missing a few weeks ago after they had both hatched an escape plan from their outdoor run, my grandparents felt like they needed to be somewhere where they had more freedom, so the maid offered to have them. Hero is still missing in action although we believe he is exploring the great outdoors of the lush Welsh land so will be fine and will not starve. Faith however has made herself comfy in MY home.

Apparently, my barking at her when she arrived and touching her with my paw and mouth was not acceptable, so the maid kept us apart for a while. I finally got around to train the maid to give me a treat for every time I was around Faith on my lead and didn’t bark. The next step I trained her in was when she allowed me to go near Faith without my lead on. I remained silent and had masses of fuss and a treat. This training process of my maid only took me a matter of four days which was impressive as it usually takes me longer to train her in other areas.

We have now got to the stage that I go and find Faith when the maid asks me too and sniff her out where I will stay with her until the maid comes over. As the maid cannot see, I am her eyes in looking after Faith and have gone to get her a few times when Faith gets stuck between two objects and needs rescuing.

Although I am still top dog in the family and the two legged less hairy race, Angus and Faith are below me, I am willing to admit that I like having all of these around. Faith and I will get on just fine I think as I admire her pace of life and her low maintenance ways doesn’t interfere with my high maintenance standards. I think we will soon become best of friends.

Bring on the next challenge of letting me train my maid and trick her into giving me treats to stop my”unacceptable “behaviour. I wonder when my next new best friend will arrive for some more delicious training treats?

Mirror, Mirror….

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

Well my dear you are. As well as the the other 7.7 billion people in the world you are among the fairest. Your strengths may be another’s weakness but their strengths may be the thing that one day saves your life. There is no one person that is really fairer than other, just faulty thinking that there is.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the most perfect of them all?

Well my dear, you are. As well as the other 7.7 billion people in the world you are perfect at being you. Your perfect life that you have worked so hard to achieve could not have been possible without the help of the perfect others that have been there for you. Perfection is a personal standard that lays on a sliding scale.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the most loving of them all?

Well my dear, you are. As well as the other 7.7 billion people in the world, everyone and everything that you love is enriched by you. Your ability to love another should not rely on the subject that is being loved but the openness of your heart to love all.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the brightest of them all?

Well my dear, you are. As well as the other 7.7 billion people in the world, you bring a certain something to the world that no other possesses. Intelligence is not something a test can determine but your reaction to a problem that no other can solve. Together, there is nothing that is impossible.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the happiest of them all?

Well my dear, you are. As well as the other 7.7 billion people in the world, your happiness zone is ever increasing as you find what make your smile. A shared smile can be more powerful than a smile that remains hidden for others to see. The simplicity in life can bring about the greatest happiness to all.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the most humble of them all?

Well my dear, sadly it is not you. As well as the other 7.7 billion people in the world, having your ego stroked by another should not be needed. Asking if you are better in any way than another will never give you the answer you need. Acknowledging we are all equal in our unique ways will help you find the humbleness that you are searching for.

Thank you mirror for showing us who we really are and what lays in one, also lays in another.

A Peaceful End To A Protest

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I wonder what his placard would have said if he had one.

I WANT FREEDOM. WHEN DO I WANT IT? NOW?

LABRADDODLES RULE.

1 HOUR WORKDAYS ARE TOO MUCH

YOU MUST OBEY THE KING

I BARK, YOU LISTEN

Many may have thought that this sit-down protest came out of nowhere but I, his maid, knew him well enough to know that I was obviously asking too much of him. I was asking him to pass a place of play that he loved to cause mischief in. His on-duty Harness wearing persona Minster was out doing his guide dog duties but his Munch like side was triggered by the sight of wide-open grass. What was a dog to do?

As his pace slowed down, I knew we were in trouble. His gentle leader clad head softly turned to his left as his heart began to long for some freedom. He wanted to bound around like a leaping lamb in the place where he has spent many a morning leading Elle the golden Labrador astray. A place where he has accidentally on purpose run off with a ball or two from some poor unsuspecting dog just for the banter. It is here that he has had many an unsuccessful attempt to jump up into the trees that may have a squirrel or two. Basically, this is one of the places that he can be free to be the clown that he was born to be.

The problem that I had on this day was that I did not have my cane with me or his bell collar that I use to hear where he is as opposed to seeing where he is so I could not really let him off his harness. He had already had a run in the morning and a 3 mile walk so was far from exercise deprived but his cold shoulder was telling me different. His sit down protest lasted a good 15 minutes and despite my reasoning with his rational side, he refused to budge. He was going in that field one way or another and I was just going to have to deal with it.

During our pointless one-way conversation, a person had passed by twice commenting “oh, you are still here then” on the way back. I really wanted to say “yes, my owner has decided he is not budging until he gets his own way” but I settled with the little fib of “Yes we are just having a rest in the fresh air”. Not wanting to be reported for loitering with intent (although I am not sure what harm a blind woman and a stubborn guide dog could be accused of), it was time to compromise. He would get his own way, but he would have to stay on the lead to help me avoid any trip hazards.

Slipping his harness off his body, I could sense his hopes getting up. When I failed to unclip his lead from his collar, I sensed his hopes fall. Not a good thing for this drama king to experience as I knew that although he thought had got what he wanted; he was not wholly free. His sulking shoulders were reluctant to move his legs at a quickened pace to begin with, but he soon warmed up to the compromise that we had come too with semi freedom being offered.

Over the last two and a half years, he has trained me very well. It was clear from the start that he was the one in relationship that called the shots and I was daft enough to obey. He works so hard for me and has allowed me to return to work and live independently again so it is only fair that there is a lot of give and take in the relationship. Learning to compromise in any relationship is essential to be able to hear each other’s needs be it a romantic relationship, family relationship, friendship or a relationship with animals.

If I had a guide dog that totally obeyed my every command out of fear of being disciplined, I would feel utterly heartbroken. He dedicates his life to helping me get around and fills the hearts of people that he meets with pure love and joy, so if he wants to have a little tantrum now and again so be it. We are equal beings with equal needs that need to be heard. If your animal is training you well too, be grateful that he/she feels comfortable enough to ask you. When we learn to listen and let go of control, we learn to love unconditionally.

Time Off For Good Behaviour

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Do you promise I only have a few more shifts to go until the holidays?

I know that is what he is thinking as I have been promising him this time off for a long time. The beauty of working in schools is that we have a lot of holidays which suits Munch just fine. He was put on this earth for many things such as giving and receiving an abundance of love, being a constant source of entertainment, training people to pander to his needs but work? ……not so much.

Most of his workday is spent laying around on his bed, client’s feet or in a corner in a huff. When he is not in his horizontal hibernation, he can be found playing with his toys, giving a client his paw to demand attention or doing the dying fly impersonation on the floor to centre all attention around his dramatic display. Keeping all of that in mind, I use the word work in the loosest of terms in relation to Munch.

He is even more excited this year as he has an extra week off than our usual 6 weeks so 7 weeks of off duty fun awaits him. When he will be running around freely on a field somewhere or swimming in a river, I will be slightly out of action with a healing knee after the upcoming operation that is happening in 2 weeks-time. I cannot wait to hear from his dog walkers what mischief he gets up to on his days out.

Everything is planned out to make sure that he has the most fun summer ever. A timetable of fun awaits him whilst I may be stuck indoors for a little while. I have a feeling that as he hangs up his harness for a few weeks he will have no regret, only happiness coursing through his body. I cannot wait to sense how happy he is each time he is brought home with a tired-out body and his bank of joy filled up.

Healing from the operation will be much easier if I know everyone is taken care of. The children are all sorted, and I know will be a great help. Angus and Faith will be happy doing their own cat and tortoise thing, but it is Munch who I have been most concerned about. Will he unlearn his guide dog commands when he is off? Will he have a tantrum when his harness goes back om him in a few weeks? Will he demand new working conditions when he returns to his role when I am more mobile?

I know that even when I am on crutches whilst wearing a Robocopesque leg brace, we will learn to listen to each other and work as partners in our own unique way. Munch is rather a fan of the slower pace of life, so I don’t think my new pace of walking will annoy him too much. A pocket full of treats and lots of fuss and praise may help soften his heart when he returns to a slower pace of work life.

I will keep you all posted on his summer escapades which will no doubt bring a smile or two to your face. The harness free pics will hopefully show his fun off duty summer that he deserves so much. Let the fun begin.

Every Little Helps

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How has it come to this? Is it really the responsibility of an 11-year-old girl to clean up what others have left behind?

The picnics enjoyed, but not cleaned up. Wrappers of long digested food dancing in the wind that leads the cheery colourful food huggers astray and into the river which was once pure. The thoughtless soul that evicted the mattress out of its carefree home and threw it down the bank to take up its new home in the water below. From free flow to dam like qualities in an instant, such alien objects in a tranquil scene can only cause harm to all.

As she scoops up things that she has never owned out of her friend, the home of the fish, she places it in the bag ready for the bin. This girl wise beyond her years knows deep down that even her best intentions to clean up the mess that she never made, may not make much of a difference. Her heart sinks as she knows that even when put in the recycling, it does not mean that she will really be making a difference as its outcome is out of her hands. Will it be turned into something new or will it end up in some other water hundreds of miles away?

With fingers crossed and a picture of a better future for all, she keeps doing things that others do not seem to care to do. Her heart you see, loves all living beings and she will do anything to protect the living beings that she feels so deeply connected to. Her weekly visit to this long stretch of river will never cease until she sees the difference that she is hoping for in the world. Ignoring the pleas of her friends to go for shopping and for pizza she tells them that she is busy with family because to her, the fish are as lovable as her own family.

Her secret clears ups are not for others to know. They are there for the water dwellers to experience and live freely because of her act. The images of sea life devasted by the effects of plastics in the oceans caused a hurt in her that she needs to heal. This is her way of doing whatever she can to help in her own hometown. The world is a big place to change on her own but her own world that exists is as changeable as she wants it to be.

When we do every little bit to help in any way we can, we help on a much larger scale that we will ever know. If every 7 million “we’s” in the world chose to help in their own way with passion, there may be far fewer problems to fix.

This post was written after speaking to a young girl who will be a future leader in change to life as we know it, I am sure of it. Her passion about creating change will always remain with me.

When The Mighty Fall

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She calls herself a dedicated maid who loves me so much but here I am having to rely on a supermarket toilet hand dryer to give me the blow dry that I should be receiving everyday as part of my grooming regime.

Do you think it is too late for me to request new staff members who treat me with more respect and appreciate my regal ways? Here she is bringing me to a common place and not even apologising. The untrained eye may see me as just a guide dog and not the King that I really am.

She makes me walk and refuses to carry me because apparently, I am too big. She refuses to give me all her food when I look at her in “that way” with my adorable eyes and only gives me bits whilst muttering “don’t tell anyone form guide dogs or the vet that I am giving you this”.

She makes me shower when I don’t want to. I will swim in rivers and the sea whenever I get a chance, yet she finds it puzzling that I will not walk in the rain. Apparently to the maid it is odd, but I think she is the odd one who expects me to be reasonable with her. I don’t do reason very well. I overheard her once laughing and saying to a friend that she doesn’t think I am trained when it is obvious that SHE is the one that is not trained. I have high standards that she clearly has trouble meeting such as now.

Here I am, King Munch having to rely on a hand dryer to get the blow dry I should be getting daily. Appearance is everything to a handsome fella like me so does she think that daily brushing is enough for the upkeep of my public persona? My telepathic pleas for a permenant personal poodle pamper staff member has fallen on an unreceptive brain so what is a dog to do? The only way to get through to her to demonstrate my needs is obviously to show her although she cannot see. By stepping between her and the hand dryer each time I am hoping that she will get the message that I should have a far more deluxe version at home for my personal usage which I will choose at my convenience.

Could you do me a favour please? If you ever see me lowering my standards and getting blow dried in public could you, please give my maid a nudge to tell her that she needs to install a full doggie grooming parlour in my residence please? Between us we will educate her on my needs as a regal being. Falling from my pedestal is never easy so please send loving thoughts my way until my correct positioning in the hierarchy in the family can commence. Much doggy love sent your way.

When Two Become One

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When a guide dog meets his/her new working partner, neither of their lives will ever be the same again.

After months of training to become super intelligent guide dogs that will give their time and love unconditionally to their new partners, they begin to weave their magic into the life of their new best friend. The blessed person with sight loss who has been awaiting this guide dog gift day for a long time can begin to attempt to return to some normality of life safe in the knowledge that they have a furry friend helping them. It will be the mix of both of their energies that will create a foundation for the most life changing bond that they will ever experience.

Matching guide dog to partner goes way beyond pairing up the first dog that is available. The needs of the guide dog partner are known and is key in choosing which dog will be suitable. Some matches will not work out and the partnership may be brief, whereas others will last for over 8 years and will create a bond that will never be forgotten. The guide dog will become part of the family, part of the community and most importantly part of the person that walks along their righthand side throughout life.

Guide dogs are far from over worked robots who do nothing but serve the person in their life. They are far more than a pet and far less than a slave. They go places that many animals never get to experience, and they get admired by the onlookers who see their beauty and their worth. They get to put smiles on the faces of people who live in loneliness and feel the love from strangers that surrounds them when they cross their paths. The extended family that the guide dog comes from with the old puppy walkers, trainers and guide dog staff have all had an essential role in helping the dog reach their full potential.

Since Munch came into my life the “I” has ceased and the “we” has begun. His needs are always top priority (along with the children) when I wake in the morning. Creating a happy life for him is key in us being able to work as a partnership throughout our life together. People always see us as a package now and where they see one of us, they expect to see the other. He plays more than he works, and he is pampered and never struggles. My love for him grows each day, and the mischievous imperfections that make him who he is, I hope will keep evolving.

The universe was in cahoots with our souls when it matched us together and for that I will be ever grateful. Being known as the one with “the unusual guide dog”, always makes me smile and my heart fills with joy. Becoming one with this drama loving, chilled out mischief maker means that I get to witness things that I never would have without him. I really hope that you get to become one with a furry or non-furry being in life and appreciate their quirky ways. Merged lives can expand the solitary life that will soon become a distant memory when we trust the oneness of all living beings.

A Meaningful Summer Solstice

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June 21st is a day that never goes ignored in my life.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice means even more this year as that is the time that my book is going to print so there will be a double celebration going on in the Munch household. It is even more symbolic as it is a year ago exactly to the day that I sent off the completed manuscript to the publishers. The Summer Solstice this year will be a great time to reflect on the past year and put my wishes out to the universe for the coming year.

With the “sun standing still” (the Latin meaning of solstice), this is the perfect time for you to celebrate anything to do with the sun and of light in general. The light within each of us and celebrating the potential in ourselves will never be more powerful than on this day. It is also a key time to stop and reflect on what the last year has gifted you. This is the perfect time to still the mind and search for the positives in even the darkest of memories.

Connecting with nature means more at this powerful time of the year than ever. Falling in love with the change of the season that is happening all around you, can be the best soul food that you ever will taste. This is a perfect time to step outside of your own life story and experience the beauty in the world that is all around you by immersing yourself in nature, any way you can.

There is never a better time than now to start a new project that allows you to turn your dreams into a reality and watch the miracles in life unfold. You will also be at the most energetic at this time of year so use this as a natural energy resource to help gain motivation and use your natural energy bank for success.

Fire, passion, will and drive are all associated with the summer solstice so choosing not to harness these is choosing to leave your dreams unfulfilled. Leaving go of things that do not work for you and trying out new things that do, can bring nothing but peace into your life.

There is no need to rush this process of creating as the Summer Solstice is a time to savour experiences that you are about to create. This midpoint of the year highlights the highest point of the sun, but it also is where the slow return to winter will begin, so taking in each and every step can help us appreciate the changes that we will see around us.

Savouring the polarities of the seasons helps us to connect to the leaving go and new creations in life that are omnipresent.
Whether or not you choose to celebrate this magical time of year, I really wish that the new beginnings that are about to come into your life fill you with joy. The you that is awaiting you at the next summer solstice cannot wait to celebrate with you the life that you chose to create so make the future you proud by living the fullest life possible this year and for each and every year to come.

A New Arrival

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This may take a while.

How hard can it be introducing a new pet into the family? The moment Munch stepped paw into the house two and a half years ago, he was confronted with Angus my adorable black rescue cat who wouldn’t say boo or meow to a goose. He did however want to say hiss to a great big oaf of a Labradoodle that came hurtling through his front door. A swift swipe of his outstretched paw told Munch that he was being met with a hostility stand off rather than a welcoming committee. That set the tone for the relationship that they have today. Sweet Angus still rules, and Munch just obeys which to be fair is shocking as Angus is the only non-staff members of Munch in the family.

Now we have a new animal on the block in the form of my parent’s adorable tortoise Faith, Her brother Hero is still missing in action having escaped from their garden three weeks ago. The plan is that if he returns form his little jaunt, then he will be coming to join his sister in his new habitat. Introducing Faith to Munch has not been as smoothly as we had imagined though as he is not sure what to make of this odd-looking walking shell. A sniff here and there has only added to his confusion to this non canine like creature.

We have been searching like mad for the best way to introduce a tortoise to mischievous Munch and we are still crossing our fingers that he will soon act nonchalant like he does to everyone else. Apart from squirrels, he never gets this excited over any living being so I am crossing every body part that I have, that his excited barks will soon ease off and be replaced by a silent glance over his shoulder as he watches Faith slowly walk past him on a lazy afternoon stroll. Surely her chilled out attitude in life will speak to his inner sloth and they can become the best of friends.

Until then short bursts of sniffing Faiths new home, alternating access to free runs in the garden and treats for every time he does not bark and try and scare sweet Faith may be the way forward. I am crossing my fingers that I will one day be able to take a picture of Munch, Angus and Faith all being friends as their beautiful soul’s merge into a trio of friends.