My Furry Healer

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Peering lovingly down at my furry footwarmer, I should have guessed something was up. On numerous occasions over the years, Munch and my sweet rescue cat Angus have laid across different parts of my body healing me where I didn’t even know I needed it. I love how animals can sense things in the human body before even the human can. Four years ago, before I was hospitalized with pneumonia, Angus and his brother Arnold took it in turns to lay by my feet and head and act as a healing channel even before I knew that I was ill. They had never done it before and never did it afterwards,
This time it was Munch’s turn to take on the role of healer. Throughout the day in work he lay on my foot back and forth and in the night, he came to bed and lay his head on my knee. It was a little odd for him as usually he expects me to do the running when it comes to showing affection. The following day, when sorting out the mountain of laundry, I walked into the side of an armchair and my patella began sliding out of its comfy place like a safety chain on a door lock. Luckily, I realized what was happening and straightened my leg to prevent yet another dislocation. Seven times on one joint was enough and I was willing to do anything to avoid the eighth.

If you have had a dislocation in the past, you will know how painful they can be. I have had numerous breaks, fractures, ligament damage soft tissue damage and most other things in the past but the numerous dislocations that have graced my body are probably the most painful. The joys of Marfan Syndrome are that the unexpected always seems to be the host of surprise parties when it comes to your body. When the Fibrillin 1 throughout your body decides that it fancies mixing it up a bit, guaranteed a hospital visit will be on the cards. Some Marfan patients are luckier than others but clumsy ones like me always seem to draw the comical short straw.

One of the worse things about a quick trip to the A&E department I have found is the explaining to hospital staff how it happened which can be more painful than the actual injury. Regarding my frequent patella dislocations, I have had to explain many scenarios from how I slipped in the shower (washing off dog poo that I had just slipped in whilst out walking), to dislocating it after playing keepy uppies with a balloon in work, to falling over a chair whilst demonstrating laughter yoga to 35 teenagers. The other times in between you really don’t want to know. Telling the hospital staff that I put it back into place myself and do not need any pain relief as I am doing breathing techniques and unicorn meditations, only adds to the oddity of these visits.

Luckily this time however, I managed to keep my patella secure as it is currently being supported by my one of many knee braces which range from Rococopesque to a more discreet version. Bizarrely, the day after this happened, I had a letter from the hospital offering me an appointment for my pre-assessment for my knee reconstruction early next year. I had already cancelled it once as I stupidly thought that my patella had become quite comfy where it was meant to reside but the soft tissue around it that is currently having a pity party and has tantrums when I weight bare, has different ideas. It looks like I may have to go ahead with it and add to my collection of Marfan Syndrome related operations.
This sounds like a start of a classic joke though as I wonder how the heck I am going to get around.

I have been in a full leg case three times and got it stuck between the passenger seats of a car twice and between my bed and the wall to name but a few examples. Clumsy is my natural mode to operate in so I am not sure how this operation malarkey will pan out. Apparently, I will be back walking in two weeks but will remain in a leg brace for three months due to the unpredictability of the Marfan’s make-up and my previous history. I have a sneaky feeling that when I am back in work and in the swing of everyday life, a boisterous guide dog, crutches, a leg brace and numerous bags for work may end up like a game of Buckaroo, where my pantomime like donkey grace will provide hours of entertainment.

Let’s hope my furry healing footwarmer and his co-worker Angus are on hand for the after affects of my comedy show. I think I may need them.

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The One With The Dog

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“They have asked to see the one with the dog” he chuckled. Now, many people may take offence to the fact that everyone knew the dog, but nobody really knew me. For me however, I loved it. Pre-Munch life, I was recognized by “so and so’s mother”,but these days my identity had also grown to include the owner…sorry… maid to the unusual guide dog that everyone knows and loves. Not only in my personal life but now my work life, I was recognised by my furry soul mate that led me through the day.

Being 1 of the 4 school counsellors in a school that we worked in, means that we share a case load, but pupils could request to see a specific one if there was availability and many had asked for the “one with the dog”. I was under no illusion that this was because of me as a person but I knew that my better half of our partnership was what they wanted to see. My early fears of not wanting to draw attention to my public display of blindness had long gone out of the window as I settled into the synched-up life that Munch brought with him.

Throughout our two years together, I have heard many words innocently leaving people’s mouths as we pass. From “it’s that blind woman again” to “that blind dog is there” comments tend to follow us around wherever we go. What I love about working with children is that they say the most innocent things such as “how does she know what seeing is if she can’t see?” and “do you think she can see us?” which makes my internal giggle bubble up. I would prefer this though to the silence that sometimes surrounds us when we encounter people for the first time.

Silence to me is a far scarier sound to hear. It is the unsaid words in the silence that creates the uncertainty that is present in the atmosphere that creates the unease. Hearing what is on someone’s mind makes me smile whether it is politically correct or not. Even the most hurtful of comments can come from a place of curiosity and not hate. The comments that we hear are always received with love and amusement. Being known as the one with the dog is totally fine with me. I could be known as far worse.

Our Extra Special Party

Panic over! He behaved himself. More surprisingly, so did I!

Bow tie on, hair brushed and some doggy aftershave applied he was ready for his big entrance. Being the only dog at the party in the posh part of London, I wanted to make sure that he made the right impression and did not go into full Munch mode. I was lucky as he remained in level headed Minster mode and acted like a professional. Well, that is until his harness came off.

Walking into the publishing party was a wish come true and I totally forgot Munch was with me. I don’t mean that in a harsh way but over the last two years we have kind of morphed into one and I forget where he ends and I begin. With friendly familiar voices greeting us. we stepped into the places where the voices behind best selling books transformed into human form. This was my version of heaven.

Prancing in with attitude, Munch led us to a corner which he claimed as his own for the rest of the night. Whether it was intuition that led him there or an inviting smell, it was the perfect place for his presence to be noticed. As the night went on, more and more new fans came up and fell head over heels in love with him. Many took pictures with him, some rolled on the floor playing with him whilst others gazed down at his sweet inviting face. He was certainly noticed for all the right reasons.

At one point even the angelic sounding singer came off the stage to meet him and spend some time kneeling in front of him showering him with love whilst he repaid the attention with a multitude of sloppy kisses. From authors to office staff, press to waiting staff, a conveyor belt of the purest people ever past and took time to welcome Munch and I. As his ego grew slightly bigger, my heart grew with pure love and gratitude.

Here we were standing in a room full of people that I had always admired but never thought I would meet especially all at once. Some of the best authors in the field of spirituality and self-help were introducing themselves to us. How did this happen? The dedicated staff at the publishing house that turned author’s manuscripts into best-selling books were here. How did we end up being in the same room as such beautiful inspiring souls? I felt like the luckiest person alive.

I spoke to authors that I had always admired and lovingly followed their work over the years. Many were new authors that I had not read the work of but have since downloaded their audiobooks and I am so glad I have found their work. Everyone that we met was so welcoming and had the warmest of energy about them. It may sound like a cliche but it really did feel like we were being welcomed into the most loving family that you could ever wish for. There was one life changing sentence that was spoken that night that helped me believe that I am now an author just like them.

When I heard the words “Zena hi. How are you? I absolutely love your book”, come out of my favourite authors mouth I could not find the words to equate my disbelief. Dr David Hamilton who I have read and listened to all of his books and been to many of his talks, stood in front of me telling me that he was a quarter of the way through reading my book and was preparing to write a forward to it. I was in a pure state of bliss.

When we make life happen for us and not to us, dreams can become a reality. If I had not lost even more of my sight and been gifted the most unique special guide dog ever, I would not have thought about writing a book. If I had not have attended a Hay House Writers workshop and listen to my inner critic saying my writing wasn’t good enough, I would not have put together a book proposal to the publisher that I had admired for years. I would not have heard these life changing words from my favourite author had I not had a go.

Whatever you want to happen in your life, start making the steps to meet it half way. Guaranteed, whatever you are waiting for is also waiting for you. You can create whatever you want in life and more if you let yourself.

Everyday Earth Angels

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The phone call that every parent dread arrived. “We are just waiting for the ambulance and he has been immobilized on the field as a precaution” his father calmly said. My son had a neck and back injury in rugby and they had stopped play. My accident-prone youngest son was no stranger to injuries and had called hospital his second home throughout his 15 years. This however sounded more serious than his usual mishaps.
Luckily a friend of mine was able to take me straight up to the rugby pitch 15 minutes away and I crossed my fingers that we would arrive in time for the ambulance. As soon as we arrived his father sent one of the players over to Munch and me to guide us to where he was on the field. We found my blurry outline of a son lying stretched out on the floor with the team’s physio holding his neck still to avoid further injury. Surrounding him was the coaches, some team mates and some concerned parents who had waited with him as they were concerned. The positive about having rugby loving people around you are that there will never be a dull moment as the banter keeps everyone’s spirits high, including my son’s. Nobody feels down on a rugby-players watch.

Attempting to make out which end was his head, and which was his feet, I finally found where his voice was coming from and kneeled beside him. Munch began whimpering and whining as he sensed something was wrong. As he attempted to go over to my son and lick him to health, his held him back and took him for a little walk as I stayed with my chilled-out son. Not even the pouring rain seemed to be bothering my son let alone the fact that pins and needles were spreading across his body. As everyone around him got more concerned during the 2 and a half hours the ambulance took to get to him, my son grew even more chilled out.

The kindness of those around him was so beautiful to witness as they brought him umbrellas to cover him, coats, a sleeping bag, hot water bottles and even a gazebo to put up over him. The physio from the opposing team stayed with him throughout and helped and took over from the team’s physio when she needed a break. Not once did anyone show anything but sheer compassion for my son and genuine concern for his well-being. If angels walked among us, this is what they would be like. The calmness and high spirits that passed between these kind souls kept my son in the belief that everything would be just fine. And it was.
After a neck brace and slide board transported my son by ambulance to the nearest hospital, all x rays showed that there were no fractures despite what was originally thought, luckily just soft tissue and muscular damage was caused alongside a slight knock in confidence on the field. As he waddled out of the hospital later that evening in pain, we all felt blessed that he was okay in comparison to how it could have turned out and feeling truly blessed that he has so many kind people around him that care for him.
Instead of going home for a Sunday roast or sneaking off for a quick pint, they choose to wait with him until the ambulance arrived and did not once moan.

Kindness is not something that has to be planned but something that happens naturally in times when nothing else would work. May each of these earth angels be blessed with nothing but kindness in their own lives as the world mirrors back what they give out. These true Earth Angels are the best.

My Unicorn Meets Your Ass

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Picture this.

You are in an exotic magical forest that turns your dreams into a reality.
You have been gifted a beautiful unicorn that allows you to travel far and wide. You are in your happy bubble when suddenly you feel an uneasy presence around you. You look to your right and see someone standing next to you that you really don’t want to see. This person is being dragged down by heavy baggage and is someone in your life that really pushes your buttons and ignites all the negative emotions that lie deep within. You know the one.

Which of the following do you wish to gift upon your uninvited intruder? Pick whichever comes into your mind first.
1) An invisible cloak so you don’t have to see them.
2) A sink hole that they can disappear into.
3) A unicorn as equally as beautiful as yours to help them get to their destination and relieve them of their heavy baggage.
4) A decrepit old ass that can help them along the way but will remain miles behind you so that you won’t have to see them again.

Don’t fret, the bizarre nature of this question may make you wonder what realm of madness you have entered and may make you question my sanity even more than usual, but just stay with me.
When bitterness finds its way into your life, it does not always want to leave quietly and may need a severe eviction notice to let forgiveness in. The wounded part within us will often find it more beneficial to hang on to the wrong doings of others to keep wounds open, we need to keep the hurt alive. When we choose to forgive and close the wound, we are letting go of part of us that has been the breeding ground for negative attachments in life. If we actively choose to heal the wound, then we are free to focus on the parts of us that make us feel healthy and happy and able to move on with our own lives.

When we carry around hostility for another, they will be totally oblivious to it and carry on with their own lives regardless. Wishing bad thoughts onto another will drain you before it will drain them, so what can be done to move on alongside the other and leave you both free?

Wishing for others what we wish for ourselves allows us to cut ties to hostility and bitterness so why not give it a go? Even if you can only wish the decrepit old ass on a person who has wronged you, wish them something positive. You never know when you will want someone to wish you the same one day.

Caught In The Act

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In Quantum Science, there is a theory that if an “observer” watches an event happening, then they can affect the observed reality in front of them. It is believed that particles act as waves and pass through a barrier and meet at the other end through a process called ‘interference’. I may not be a Quantum Scientist (although it is on my bucket list) I believe that this is the universal law that keeps happening to Munch and I in our daily life. Left observation free, our lives could be pretty normal, but it is fact the observation of others on our seemingly odd behaviours that implants shocked expressions on peoples face.
Let me give you an example. One day in work last week, I was minding my own business using a chair to support my sideward star shaped body, when I was interrupted by a member of staff bringing in a pupil to see me. Admittedly, he was faced with my outstretched foot at his chest level as I was just finishing off my yoga pose but was that enough of a reason for his fear-stricken voice to tremble with concern. The “Sorry I was just moving the chair” excuse did not seem to convince him that I was less ninja like and more therapist like.
The original reason why I had been doing this back-stretching exercise was that my back was aching and I needed to move. My scoliosis plays up now and again and sends the surrounding muscles into meltdown, so I tend to use yoga to stretch them back into their happy place and today I needed yoga 101 to help with the pain. When I was lying on the office floor during my lunch hour, doing some gentle butterfly kicks to ease my lower back, Munch grew concerned. He intuitively knew that exercise is crueller than kind to me, so he smothered me with sloppy kisses as he tried to help me regain my normal state of breathing. Right on cue, another member of staff knocked on the door and seemed relieved when I got up to answer the door to them. They thought that Munch was licking me to bring me around from some sort of injury! Glass panelled doors have a lot to answer for.
For the third time that day, a person on the other side of the door was observing something that wasn’t what it seemed. When a client was late for their appointment, I rang the member of staff that deals with appointments. Her amused voice told me that she had spent the last five minutes reassuring the client that there wasn’t a bear in my room with me, that it was actually a dog. It was Munch and I playing catch and Munch was jumping up high to catch the ball, the client looked in to see what looked like a hairy bear on its hind legs. Had the client looked in a fraction of a second earlier or later they would have realized it was a large dog jumping up. We apologised for scaring her and normality was resumed.
Not only do things always happen in threes to us but we always get caught doing the most bizarre things at the most awkward times. I blame the law of interference for our mis-fortunes. I think the observers must be controlling our behaviour and if left unobserved we may actually be what others call normal.

The Invite

His haircut has been booked. New parts of his harness have been ordered to make him look his best. I am undecided whether to get him a doggie bow tie, or would that be a little bit too over the top? An invite to a posh publishing party brings about lots of preparation for his lordship before he attends. With his sense of entitlement entering the room before he does, I can only imagine what his thoughts will be as he enters the party.

I am sure that when he sees fireworks, he thinks that they are put on for his pleasure alone, so I dread to think what will be racing through his mind when we enter a lively room full of people in pre-Christmas spirit. I have a feeling that he will think this has been put on for him. With subtlety being an alien concept to this regal being, I think this showman will put on a show.

I am trying to cover all the basis to avoid his ‘in your face behaviour’ causing a stir. Here is a list of things I have thought of so far that I may need to have a plan for. They are –
– If he begins sniffing a passing waiters derriere too closely, I will throw a treat in the opposite direction for him to run after and I will duck and hide.
– If he decided to do his doggy version of cuddling and shoots between someone’s legs, we will fib and say he is in therapy as he thinks he is a race horse and sees the inner jockey in us all.
– If the rancid smell of his anal exhales triggers the gag response in myself and others, we will just apologise and say that he only does this in front of new people that he adores and is nervous in front of. It may buy us some time before getting chucked out.
– If he gently steals some posh canapes from a dangling hand, we will use the excuse that he was a taste tester for the royal family before he came to us to avoid any poisonous food entering their mouths. They should take it as a complement that in his eyes, he thinks that they are on par with royalty.
– If he tries to do the magic tablecloth trick (like he has before. Don’t ask!), and tries to remove it from under dishes, I will just fib and tell people that he moonlights as a magician when he is off duty from being a guide dog and is just practicing.

I think that it is more likely that a mix of these and other things will happen and he will be as Munch like as ever. This should be fun. Anyone fancy going instead of me?

Second Year Anniversary

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With a tongue kissing my nostril and 6 stone of sheer love squashing into my body, I awoke to the sweetest feeling imaginable. Gazing into Munch’s blurry figure in front of me, I returned his affectionate wake-up call and cuddled him back. My “Happy Anniversary” wish to him was answered with some more sloppy kisses being planted all over my face. It was officially two years ago today that I had received the first sloppy kiss from my beautiful soul mate and I had loved every single one of them.
The day that Munch came hurtling into the house like a loose cannon, was the day that everything changed. As the universe had decided to gift me the least subtle symbol of blindness, I had no choice but to learn to wear my blindness on my sleeve after keeping it hidden for years. The beauty of meeting such a mesmerising soul was that as I was so busy falling deeper and deeper in love with my quirky new friend, I had no time to care what others may think of my new permanent accessory. Being led around by this majestic looking soul on the first day we met, I knew that our future together would be so much fun.
Throughout our two years together I have met people that I never would have without him and heard stories that I never knew existed. We have been shown compassion from the most beautiful loving souls as they are intrigued by the world of sight loss and guide dogs. We have been places that I would never have been confident enough to go alone and had avoided most of my life. Life changing opportunities have been given to me that would never have appeared without Munch in my life. This blog never would have been started without having such an entertaining soul to write about.
To anyone who supports guide dogs in any way, THANK YOU. Without the generosity of such kind-hearted people and the passion and dedication from the staff of guide dogs, such partnerships would not be possible. Without meeting Munch my life would have got smaller as time went on as I would not be able do a fraction of the things that I am able to do today. These dogs are more than just for work. They are the reason that people with sight loss can continue to live independently in a sight rich world. These are our key to successfully living.
If I had to tell you how I feel about you Munch, I don’t think the words exist. I hope each kiss I place upon your nose, lets you know how truly loved you are. I hope each time I massage your hard- working body, you understand the thanks I give for your guidance. With each new toy that you are bought, I want to reward you for your dedication. Here is to celebrate lots more anniversaries with you my furry hero. I feel like the luckiest person alive. Thank you Munch.

My Guide Dog Owner

Owning a guide dog is unethical. That’s what some believe anyway.

I heard the end of this debate on a news feed today and it stopped me in my tracks. The words that were bitterly leaving the animal activists mouth, hit a chord with me in some respects, Or rather, it did in relation to the old me. The debate was about how unethical it was that dogs work without giving their consent and the fact that they are given away when they retire were factors in her strong opinion that she was sharing. Having not eaten any animal or fish products for over 25 years and choosing cruelty free products, I was reluctant to apply for a guide dog due to not wanting a dog to work for me. Things changed however when I started thinking about it in a whole different light.
Having suffered many dislocations, breaks and injuries from falls over the years I knew that I needed help to get around if I wanted to keep my independence as my sight deteriorated. A guide dog was my last resort as I didn’t know if it would be fair to ask a dog to take on such a responsibility of keeping me safe. My doubts and feelings of guilt were there right up until the moment that Munch stepped through the door. As soon as we met, I began to realize that I had been thinking about this in totally the wrong way. As this wise old sage stepped into my life and heart, I realized that you can never exploit anything that is nothing but equal to you.

As we approach our 2-year Anniversary, I have learnt to open my mind to the reality of what it is like to have a guide dog partner in your life. Munch is the driving force in our partnership and I always let him know that. If he doesn’t want to walk somewhere he takes me to a bus stop to catch a bus, we catch a bus. If he wants to spend hours playing, then we play. If he doesn’t feel like socialising, he doesn’t. If he wants to smother people in kisses even whilst in harness, he does. If he wants to rest we stop, and he rests. If he wants to share my food, he does. If he wants the adoration of his ever-ready fans, he gets it. His consent is paramount in our relationship, always has been and always will be.

Within the family Munch is not thought of as a dog, but an equal to us. He is included in everything we do, and everyone expects him to be at family occasions and wouldn’t ever leave him out. The thought therefore that he will be placed with another family in his retirement is not even an option. For many guide dog owners with retired dogs, they have no choice but to allow them to go to loving retirement homes where they will get spoilt with love and attention. They also have an option to go to family or friends that have built up many years of friendship with them and will be given a loving home. Within the first few weeks of Munch being with us, it was already decided that Munch would remain with us in retirement as he is such a key member of the family that everyone fell in love with at first sight.
Munch is more than just a dog to me. He is the reason that I have such a wonderful life. He is the reason that oxytocin rushes through the body of everyone he meets. He is the proof that equality does exist between the human and the animals in the world. He is the tonic that everyone wants around when they need some happiness. He is the one that owns the hearts of many and can never be owned. He is the one that I will always listen to and be led by whatever his needs are. He will remain with me when he retires and will be given the love and respect that he rightfully deserves. He is a fluffball of love that will always be cherished by myself and many others.

When I learnt to open my narrow mind, I began to think a different way.

Owning a guide dog is impossible. Well that’s what many think anyway.

This guide dog is my owner and I totally give my consent.

The Stages Of Learning

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With tiny soft fingers brushing my extra long ones, we walked side by side as we were led around the aisles. Avoiding customers and cages of goods ready for the shelves, on duty Munch made shopping possible. Taking us to our usual products in the shop, he waited patiently as my beautiful granddaughter’s little legs caught up with us. Here stood, the novice, competent and expert in the guide dog world.

Learning about animals is one thing that a child can never learn too early. It not only helps a child learn about empathy and how to care for another but along with many other benefits, it also taches them to have respect for all living things. She was introduced to Munch when she was 9 months old and he was nearly 2 and their love and respect for each other has blossomed into beauty. As she gently cuddles her gentle giant, they melt into each other with unconditional love.

When I was first introduced to Munch, I never thought that I would get the hang of not only the taking care of a dog but also the numerous commands and body positionings that you need to know for work with a guide dog. Reaching the competent stage of being confident enough to work with Munch anywhere has taken quite a while. We are blessed that our oddness in life is the common theme that has united us as one and helped us keep our oddness alive.

The expert in this new world is Munch himself who I am sure has lived many lifetimes and brought with him wisdom from each one. I joke that he was not put on this earth to work with his entitled view of where he fits in the world, but I cannot imagine him being anything else. He loves it when we are out meeting people and guiding me in an experienced manner that comes to him with ease. He could never be a stay at home dog. This wise old sage knows life lessons that many have yet to discover.
Learning from such cute wise experts helps to satisfy the inquiring mind. As the “why’s” fall out of my granddaughter’s sweet mouth, I feel blessed that we have Munch as an example of the answers to give. Why I need a guide dog, why he needs a harness, why we need to show him so much love and why he is such an important part of the family are the why’s in life that I never tire of answering. I have a sneaky feeling that Munch never minds teaching either as he leads us through life, leaving the trail of Munch magic behind him.