Whoever said that you should never work with animals or children, obviously led a far too serious life. Avoiding these two groups of free spirited souls in your work takes the fun out of life. If you get the chance, work with both animals and children at the same time to maximise the element of surprise in your working day. I promise you, there will never be a dull moment.
Having worked with children for many years. I have yet to feel bored. From children talking about the talented farting habits of their proud fathers to drawing up plans together for a Theme Park for nasal secretions to play in, you always feel privileged to be allowed into the world of imagination of a child. Shame has yet to make an appearance in the world of the chatty child, so you get to hear and witness a lot of the innocent perspectives that they have on the world.
Working with animals holds the same feelings of needing to surrender to the challenges that you will be faced with. I can only talk from experience of working with Minster Munch, my Diva Guide Dog. I have learnt over these 17 months that my obedience to his commands needs working on. Following his directions, pulling him free from places he has wedged himself in and apologising for him licking some poor unsuspecting strangers food debris covered hand, just reminds me that his professionalism sometimes slips and lets his true colours shine.
Mix both child and animal together and be prepared for some wonderful life lessons. If you happen to be out with you Guide Dog and he leaves a little urine shrine in the middle of the bread aisle of Tesco for the first and last time ever, use your legs as a substutute A Frame Wet Floor Sign until a cleaner can be located. If a nearby child excitedly tells their parents that the dog with a funny thing on its back has peed on the floor and asks if they can do the same, try and cover up the inner giggle. As you help the parents to try to avoid a pee splash pad developing in the middle of the aisle, secretly feel proud that the momentary meeting of these two souls provides such a deep empathetic connection.
If you happen to find yourself in the middle of an empty staff room in school working with a child and your Guide Dog becomes their new best friend, expect some caring and sharing to happen. As you are blind and cannot see the “Please Help Yourself” sign that is propped up next to the plate on inviting cupcakes, thank the child for explaining to you what you can suddenly hear them munching on. Inwardly celebrate the fact that the child is following instructions by helping themselves to a cake and feeding a bit to the dog. The fact that you were previously told that this child does not like to comply and follow instructions is clearly not true as they happily read and obeyed the sign.
If you happen to find yourself calling the caretaker to remove a ball that has got stuck in an ancient light fitting, just breath and remain calm. Explaining that the incident happened after the ball bounced off your Guide Dogs nose or clients hand may bring about questions that you don’t really want to answer but do it anyway. Apologise profusely to the disgruntled caretaker who mutters under his breath as he leaves the room. With the slam of the door reassure the child and dog that these things happen but its lovely to see them playing together. For a child who finds it difficult to connect with others around them, explain to the child how they will always have a loyal friend in a non-human. Embrace the warm feeling that it gives you when they cuddle into each other and feel the unconditional love that they get for one another.
Children and animals may not ever do what you want them to do but maybe we should just stop and learn from these great teachers about the true meaning of life. The purity of the mind of the child and simplicity of the outlook on life that an animal has, can help us put our own lives in perspective. I dread the day when I stop working with my beautiful dog and the amazing children as I too may enter that serious world others are forced into. When work never feels like work, you know you are on your correct life path.