Birthday Boy

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Munch has just turned Seven.

The Birthday Boy celebrated by coming out for some delicious lunch, opened some tasty treats and had some Christmas themed toys. A good free run later,  and he went back to his 100 mph couch potato mode! All in all,  a perfect day for a perfect dog.

To celebrate his birthday, here are seven of my favourite photos that capture his unique style of being

Here Munch can be seen smiling away in bliss as he settles down for a nap. He is the happiest when he is spreading his love strewn hair in every place it is not meant to be. Clean bedding and recently hoovered sofas are his favourite place to settle down for an afternoon snooze.

With his Lord and Master standing above us mere souls, I am are reminded that the poodle part of him will always demand superiority. I, a mere maid, needs to remember her placing in our partnership as  I attend to whatever he needs.

My best meditation buddy is never far from my side. The blessing of living with a Guide Dog is that we are always together day and night and he never has to be left alone. My hobbies by default become his hobbies. My friends become his friends. There is no longer a “me” but always a “we”.

My bilingual hairy bear understands both Welsh and English commands with ease. Over the last five years being with me working in Welsh schools, he has picked up the lingo very well and has a speciality in understanding food in Welsh. Strange that!

Our little Minster Munch is rather partial to a bit of drama. Not one to stiffle his frustration with putting up with me, he owns his sighs with pride allowing them to flow fluidly throughout the day. The master of eye rolls, Munch is far from shy in showing his disapproval with his dancing eye muscles.

Munch has been mistaken for a lot in his last seven years of life. From an Irish Wolfhound to a Shetland pony, many have been understandable. With the paw prints the size of a yeti’s and the resemblance of the Loch Ness Monster whilst swimming, he loves to keep people guessing what he actually is.

Being chosen to take part in the 12 Guide Dogs of Christmas has to be one of his highlights of his seven years of life. Showing the public his unconventional Guide Dog look will hopefully go along way in helping the charity to raise enough money to fund 12 New Guide Dogs. To find out more please visit.

https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/12-dogs-of-christmas/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=organicsocial&utm_campaign=12Dogs&utm_content=MarComm

Looking forward to many more years with such a beautiful soul.

The Sniff Of Approval

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Going to counselling for the very first time can create a mixture of feelings. From nervousness to relief, most people will feel something about what lies behind the counselling door. Most people however, will not expect to be sniffed and may be a little perplexed when they are met with a friendly dog who has no personal space boundaries and happily sniffs them to analyse their whole entire life.

Munch’s initial sniff of approval will first tell him if of course they are “one of his people”. If said person enters the room with a hint of Suzi the Schnauzer scent on them, he knows they will be best friends forever. Anyone who loves dogs in his eyes, is a trustworthy person. To be fair, he accepts cat people too but may not go and get his toy to offer them a game of fetch as he knows that feline friendliness operates on a totally different level.

A quick sniff of their bag, will determine whether there is a chance they can bond over the love of food. The beauty of working in schools means that lots of young people carry food with them and therefore the cupboard love will begin from the first nostril full of beef crisps. In all honestly, he is a little more partial to the meat eater clients taste palate as he gets far too bored with his maid’s vegan one. Chicken will always be preferred over cucumber. He has tried to convince her to bring a far more exciting lunch to work each day but she stubbornly refuses. Sigh, you just can’t get the staff these days.

The mud lovers in life also come top in his favourite type of people as they are seen as the fun ones who would play with him outdoors. A sniff of a sweaty sports kits tells him that these are good friends to go on free runs with. They may not want to chase squirrels up trees with him but at least they would be more energetic than his maid he is stuck with. Despite the fact they are there for counselling, he will have ideas in his head that they have come to pick him up for a play date.

When tears begin to fall from their eyes, he is the first one there to catch them as they fall. He gives his doggy kisses to shaking hands and a gentle paw in their hand to know they are not alone. He smells unhappiness and won’t leave their side until they want him to as he snuggles in beside them. He sniffs cut knees through their trousers and unless stopped will try to lick them until they heal. He sniffs out emotions along with everything else , to tell him what is really going on with the clients.

He may not be a trained therapy dog but he is therapeutically active in each session. Guide Dogs chose him to become a Guide Dog due to his loving and clever temperament which has in turn given him the opportunity to meet people who need him in their lives. This friendly scruffy face they meet each week, always accepts them and has been there for them since they received his sniff of approval. Luckily they are all pre warned that there is a dog in the room before they come , to give them the option of having a dog free counsellor if they wish.

The sniff test is not part of the assessment for counselling don’t worry. The patient clients who choose to work with an over friendly dog who is best friends with everyone, are so lovely. They allow him to be Munchlike in the room and still accept him just the same. The sniff of approval does go a little unbalanced however when he gets a little over excited and let’s out a rather noxious anal exhale and fills the room with green smog. The clients are so brave to come back into the room a week after such events but they do.

Dogs always know far more about a person upon meeting them then other humans ever will.

The 12 Guide Dogs of Christmas

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And number 8 of the Guide Dogs of Christmas is…. Minster Munch. I mean he was going for number 1 but he was happy for number 8 after I explained to him that number 8 symbolises infinite so that was good enough for the Lord and Master.

Guide Dogs are using these images as a fundraising tool that can be used in schools and such places where a treasure hunt of the 12 Guide Dogs of Christmas can be found dotted around a place  by children. They may also be used in some social media.  They asked if they could use an image of Minster Munch to show all the different types of Guide Dogs that they use. The typical labradors and the more unusual Munch types.

If Munch was asked to come up with his own version of the 12 Days of Christmas , it may go a little like this….

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

12 Balls Bouncing

11 Reindeers Raced

10 Snowmen Scattered

9 Dinners Dropping

8 Presents Pinched

7 Tasty Treats

6 Bells Boken

5 Gourmet Meals

4 Nose Kisses

3 Brand new Toys

2 Festive outfits

And a world that just loves me…

Each year that he is with me, I feel he deserves more and more good things in return. Santa and I have an arrangement to turn a blind eye (or in my case just my eye🙂) when he slips over to the naughty list and praise him when he returns to the good list.

It is so lovely to have Munch’s handsome face as one of the 12 Guide Dogs of Christmas as a resource raising funds for such a fab charity. This little showman makes everyday feel like Christmas.

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes…

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“Do you have eyes?” has got to be the best question  that I have ever heard when it comes to asking why I have a Guide Dog. I was asked this amusing question by my son in laws beautiful and sweet niece over the phone. I mean to an inquisitive 4-year-olds brain it totally makes sense to ask this question. She heard her family around her speaking that Munch was my eyes as I could not see, which was a fantastic  child friendly way to explain why people with sight loss need Guide Dogs to help them get around. After answering this sweet girl’s question that yes, I do have eyes, but they did not work very well, I went on to explain that it is a bit like physically having ears but covering them with your hands and not being able to properly hear. Just to ensure that I was’t  telling her lies she asked to video call me and  Munch to firstly see if I had eyes and what Munch looked like which was one of my favourite and funny  video chats ever. The total innocence in such curious minds will always make my heart swell with love.

As the universe was doing well to carrying on this inquisitive streak that week, only four days later I had another encounter with a child who wanted to know what sight loss really meant. Again, his version of what he had heard about sight loss and Guide Dogs was an alternative one which also held a lot of humour. Whilst walking through a corridor, a boy who sounded aged around 11-12 stopped us for a chat. His amusing greeting went a little like this “I feel really sorry for Guide Dogs as you have to help them around the place all of the time.” Now I am the first to admit that I trail behind my Lord and Master Minster Munch, and I am his mere maid but I was struggling to know how this boy knew this. As the conversation progressed it turned out that he was under the impression that “Blind Dogs” meant that the Guide Dog was blind and that the people walking alongside them (the owners, or staff members in Munch’s case),  were guiding them. He was amazed to find out that  it was the other way around and that these heroic dogs helped us. His reaction was so heart-warming to witness as he had learnt something new that day.

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words and this is especially true with children. In a counselling session the same week as the other two endearing moments, a young boy acted out his inquiring mind in the room. His interest lay in how blind people could work and get around in life without having adequate sight. My explanation of us using our memory skills and other senses meant nothing to  this little scientist so experimenting was the only way. His constant questions of “what am I doing now then” needed physical actions on his part he felt, so the fun and games began. When I told him he was wearing boots, not shoes as not only could I hear zips on his boots but also, I could hear more material than shoes he was stunned. Unfortunately, I could not tell him the colour, so I lost points on the superpower scale. Being accurate on what side he was leaning towards on a chair was 100% accurate as I told him I could hear the pendant on  a chain he was wearing sliding across links, made him up the stakes. He was gutted when his attempt to hold the pendant in place was not enough to throw me off the scent as I continued to say which side he was leaning towards from the creak of the chair. As I passed more tests from him, he finally gave up when I told him that he had just drawn a circle as “it sounded round as he drew” as his pen never left the page and moved in a smooth sounding way. He was not doing these tests to be disrespectful; he was doing it to see what life was like through my eyes and to also build on the therapeutic relationship.

I love it when people and especially children and young people ask about sight loss as how else are they meant to know what it is like otherwise? I love it when I hear parents explaining to children in supermarkets why I am allowed to take my dog into the shop when they cannot. Children and young people have ‘play doh’ like brains that shape and mould to create ideas from the world that they experience to help concrete ideas to form that they will use throughout life. Unless they ask, they shall never know so I hope these questions keep coming our way so that we can be part of their future world. Never be afraid to ask questions that you do not know as these are the questions that many are afraid to ask

90 Years of Guide Dogs

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90 years ago, the lives of people with sight loss was very different. Support was sometimes  non existent or at the very best limited. Children’s futures were restricted by what society thought a child or young person was capable of in relation to their sight. Society in general was more discriminative than inclusive as education around sight loss was still very patchy. In short, life plateaued for the majority of people with sight loss at a certain age and stage in life as potential remained a secret treasure that was rarely found. 90 years ago, life was very different for us all but  thanks to many movements to support people with sight loss, positive changes were essential in helping us live the enhanced lives we do today.

Arguably, Louis Braille started the ball rolling in 1824 as he developed Braille as a way to help himself enter into the sighted world of reading and communicating which has gone on to help an enormous amount of people with sight loss have equal access to the written word. The Blind Person’s Act in 1920  deepened the rights and welfare  of people with sight loss to be  protected    which was a huge step forward. It was the introduction of Guide Dogs in October 1931 however that really created change in the lives of individuals with sight loss the most.

Since the first partnership  90 years ago between the canine and human world, things have developed massively. 90 years on, the charity is now also helping children with sight loss as well as adults and does more than just train dogs for partnership. They educate, raise public awareness about sight loss, campaign and do so much more to help the lives of people with sight loss become enriched and limit free. The  Guide Dogs charity allows hope where there once was none and help bridge the gap between the sighted and sight loss world which is huge. They help nurture and train  these beautiful dogs that become our true best friends.

Life before Munch was tough. Living 39 years of my life with secret sight loss I learnt ways of keeping it hidden from people but it took a lot of time and energy. When you have never seen a face , just a blur and have never seen what is across the room from you, that is just life. How can you miss a picture on a wall that you do not know is there?   When that life became a little dangerous from all the falls, breaks, dislocations and many other injuries, it was time to admit I needed help. The help that I got was Minster who affectionately became known as Munch.

It has been nearly five years since I was partnered up with my hairy soul mate Minster Munch and there has never been a dull moment. Munch has been more than just practical help, he has become my matching odd sock. The Drama King that he is,  has almost made me forget I have sight loss as that part of me  now has a bouncer. I can stand down from my past  relentless reliance on memory that got me from a to b as I remembered each route in my head with a combination of muscle memory, counting and taking information from overloaded senses. He does all that now and more. Admittedly, on a rare occasion a passing squirrel may make his attention go elsewhere for a nanosecond but in general, he is now my lighthouse keeper to steer me away from danger.

Munch is my hairy little (ok more Shetland Pony sized ) soul mate who just happens to be a Guide Dog on the side. He deserves the best in life as he has changed my life and the life of my family forever. Guide Dogs are never just dogs, they are the special beings that complete us. Training more Minster Munch like heroes is costly and that is why around the country, there are numerous fundraising events during this month. If you would like to make a different, please visit http://www.guidedogs.org.uk to see how you can help. Thanks from the hairy and not so hairy partners across the land

Two Year Bookaversary

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It’s been a blink of an eye kind of two years since our book was published. Luckily, it was published in Sept 2019 well before life changed for everyone during the Pandemic. It was much easier to publish and promote a book back in the ‘Old Pre-Covid World’ where travel, interviews, signings and everything else that comes with publishing was far easier and more natural. Munch was a far happier dog when he could sashay freely in the world meeting, greeting and making people fall in love with him.

Since then, life has been a little busy with other adventures but I still love to write when I get a spare moment. An increase in working hours, completing a course plus becoming a supervisor in work has meant that these spare moments are few and far between. Adding into the mix a gorgeous new grandson has meant an ever increasing family which has been so amazing, yet my writing is feeling a little neglected.

My writing fits into the category of hobby  rather than a profession but who knows maybe one day that will change. With spontaneity more appealing than discipline, I may need to quite down my search for new adventures long enough to create an opportunity to write as an author instead of a Literature Dabbler. As a young child, it did cross my mind that I would love to be an author due to the  love and escapism books bring to their readers. I did however want to be a Firefighter, a Pilot and a Detective although maybe none of those were the easiest of choices for a blind person but it’s always important to reach for the stars and keep your dreams alive!

Munch has however telepathically dictated a self help book that I….sorry we…. have finished writing and are  nearing the end of a light hearted novel which has been so fun to write. We have a rough draft of a more academically geared book that is threatening to be released into the Laptop very soon after being approached by someone to write one, so there is no rest for the wicked. Whether we choose to publish these or just keep writing for fun, who knows. As long as we keep having fun writing,  that is all that matters.

Fear not, Munch’s addiction to showing his face in photos is still being fed as he has been asked if Guide Dogs can use his face for some learning resources in schools which I think is fab idea. Raising awareness about how these magical beings help the lives of people with sight loss is crucial so we are always up for that. I am glad Minster (Munch’s professional Guide Dog name) and his antics will have a chance to always be remembered in our book and beyond. I whole heartedly wish that for the next two years and beyond, we can keep spreading Minster Munch’s antics far and wide. Thanks Munch for being the best co-author ever.

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We were asked by one of the schools that we work in to do a quick spot of filming for a brief chat with Dr Alex George on the importance of raising Mental Health awareness for young people.  We weren’t told many details like who it was for and whether it would be live. So, we rocked up to work to be told it was going to be on the Lorraine show in an hour’s time. With me who tends to put her size 8 foot in things ALL the time and Munch who has a little tendency to draw attention to himself for all the wrong reasons whilst being in such situations, I was waiting for our usual calamities to begin. Bearing in mind that an interview had to be previous  halted due to the laughter and search for clean air after Munch left out one of his noxious anal exhales whilst being interviewed a couple of years ago for our book, and when he showed his ‘physical excitement’ proudly in a Newspaper article, I wasn’t too hopeful that he would behave but I was totally surprised when he did.   Despite Munch showing a less than enthusiastic approach to filming as he turned his back to the camera and slouched to the floor for a sulk after they made him wait far too long for filming, all went smoothly.

Dr Alex George is doing an amazing job at raising awareness of the impact of Mental Health on young people and what help is available after sadly losing his own brother to battles with Mental Health.  Having worked in many areas of Mental Health over the last 26 years, I have seen many things change and many things that have stayed stationary in the field but luckily one thing to change is the attitude people have towards it. Stigma has been replaced by compassionate awareness and people feel more able to support their own version of their Mental Health stories that strike a chord with multiple others who would feel alone without this connection. Having worked so long in  Mental Health services, it is very rare to find a unique case that does not have shared roots in so many other people’s stories but to that person, their relationship with their own Mental Health is unique. Validating their thoughts and feelings is crucial and means the difference between healing or fading away into a very lonely existence. When we were asked how important counselling services are by Dr George, I gave a brief answer that they are an essential safe space for young people but on reflection, they are so much more than that. Here are a few  ways in which I think counselling services help to boost Mental Health in general..

A space like no other

We are not family; we are not friends. We are not prescriptive; we are not authoritative. We are this blank canvas space that  people can come to throw all the messes, struggles and strains from the last week over.

A place to be yourself

When you come through the door, we don’t expect you to be anyone apart from yourself. We want you to get to know the parts of you that you hide to the rest of the world from fear of being judged. There is no wrong way to be in the counselling room if you are being yourself and telling us your real thoughts and feelings.

A place for growth

If you come in wanting change in your life, that is what you will get if you find a way that works for you. If you come in wanting a space to feel at peace with your current situation, then that is what we will work on. Your growth will be whatever you want it to be in a safe environment with your counsellor as your cheerleader.

A Place to be heard

Your opinions won’t be shot down or your feelings silenced, we will listen to the passion and hurt in your voice as you tell us the words that have never been voiced until now. We listen not because we must, but because we want to. We hear the breaks in your voice and when you skirt around subjects that you really want to feel confident enough to speak about. We hear you even when you aren’t speaking.

A place to discard fiction

We like real, we are not the biggest fans of a fictional reality of your world that you have been forced to believe in. We will help you discover your version of a happy life that suits you and makes you happy. We can help take away the ‘Should’ and ‘ Cannot’ and help you find your own ‘wants’ and ‘cans’.

A place to unlock levels

You may have a friendly challenge to help you get rid of faulty thinking if that is what you want but you should never have hostility. You will find parts of yourself that you never knew existed and these are the parts that hold all your answers to a better Mentally Healthy life.

A place where your new life begins

When you begin to bring your hidden truths to the surface, you are committing to a new way of life. Some sessions may feel more draining than a marathon , whilst others will give you a new lease of life, but all will change you in one way or another.

I am not saying that counselling is a miracle cure for all, and you must find the right counsellor that works for you, but I am saying it is always worth a try. Wales has led the way in the UK in counselling in all secondary schools and increasingly more in primary schools so watching the impact  that this has on the lives of children and young people has been amazing. We are here to stay for all the young people that will need us for whatever reason.

The Hairy PT

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Looking to start a new fitness regime or enhance the one you are current following? Look no further than Munch, the hairy Personal Trainer. Here is a testimonial from one of his previous clients.

” I started working out with Munch around 5 years ago and since then I have never been the same. My fitness regime had become a little stale so I thought I would take the lead from an expert squirrel chaser, ball retriever, Doglympian swimmer and earth moving sprinter. My experience with him has been a little…… interesting.

We began with some routines at the gym as he could enter any gym wearing his Guide Dog Harness (his part time  job on the side). I began on the bike and he avoided chasing the non existent wheels which was a positive. His appalled expression on his face at my attempt on the cross trainer shamed me into working more on my form and his sighs motivated me to splutter on to carry on as his eye rolls told me I shouldn’t really have been such a sticky mess only 2 minutes in.

It was the classes however that he helped me the most. One of his favourite ones was the kettlebell class. As the instructor blew his whistle to tell us it was time to switch exercises, he would shoot up to attention next to me from his laying down position which meant I had to take a few extra steps to go over to settle him back down. In yoga , he drew attention to himself by showing everyone how a Downward Facing Dog was REALLY done. It was only boxfit however that he didn’t want me to partake in. Each time I would punch a pad or boxing bag in front of me, he would try and stop me with a bark and a paw. He is a lover not a fighter. Admittedly, I decided to go to the classes from then on with my white cane instead of Munch to avoid upsetting him. Sorry Munch only now you are finding out where I used to sneak too on a Friday night whilst I left you with a babysitter.

Due to constant knee injuries and the sight I have left deteriorating, I gave up the gym and began working out at home. After a successful knee operation 2 years ago and slowely building up a home gym, my workouts now are done at home. The bonus of this is that as I have a live in hairy PT who can slump out of bed and  straight onto the floor to  help me, my PT is never far way. Well, I say bonus but it may not always feel like this. Munch can sometimes be a little ……distracting in the home environment.

When I am on the exercise bike he runs off to the garden to get one of his toys for me to throw for him. When I am on the boxing bag he jumps up to lick me all over  to prevent me hurting the bag. He runs off with my skipping rope although this may  be his way to help me practice my sprints. As soon as I get my mat out for yoga he lays either on part or all of it but thinking of it, maybe it is his way of helping me develop a more contortionist approach to yoga. Bless him.

If you are looking for an alternative PT for your exercise regime, look no further. His unique approach has done wonders for my negotiating techniques,  patience levels and all around resilience although maybe not so much for my fitness but surely a more holistic approach to exercise is okay”,

Munch’s going rate for his expertise is a) a handful of treats, the bigger the better b) a fun off lead run c) a swim in the sea or lake d) a full body and ego massage. What are you waiting for? Book today.

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