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There are certain dates of our life events that will forever stick in our minds. We will always remember what we were doing, who we were with, what we were wearing or a certain heightened sense that lays dormant in our memory when a key moment in time happened. For me, when I have just finished playing peek-a-boo (which I don’t do enough of) wearing a dress covered in yoghurt and Wotsit crisp crumbs curtesy of my gorgeous granddaughter, in the house full of my noisy family chattering away loudly, I remember the time the phone rang. Here was the change that I had been dreading and eagerly awaiting in equal measures. Guide Dogs had matched a suitable dog for me and wanted to arrange to meet up. Seventeen months of waiting was over. My “unusual” guide dog was ready to change my life forever.

I still remember that uneasy feeling in my stomach after putting the phone down. We had arranged to meet sweet Minster a few days later but I was unsure if I was ready to let the world know that I had a sight problem. When you keep the severity of your disability hidden away from loved ones for so long, the reaction from others is always a fear. What if they do not believe you? Worse still, what if they pity you? What if I did not connect with the dog? What if the dog did not like me? All these fears were just imagined problems that never cropped up anywhere in life, only in my head. The truth was, life was going to change forever, but in the most positively magical way possible.

When Minster (or Munch as he has become affectionately known as) came bounding through the door on November 17th, 2016, he had decided that this partnership was going to work. He would be the boss from day 1 (apart for in Angus the cat’s world, where Angus remains King) and our training together would go fine. He would make himself at home on whichever soft furniture took his fancy (shhh, don’t tell his trainers), he would command affection by the Royal wave of his paw, create hilarious drama at every opportunity and project his adorable personality to loved ones and strangers alike. He was here to stay and be the neon sign to the hidden disability that I had kept to myself for 38 years. Subtlety has never been his strong point, but authenticity has.

This 100mph couch-potato is the gift that keeps on giving. Giving me immense independence to carry on working and living a full life, seems just a tiny part of this gift. The partnership we have developed has allowed us to go places I would never have gone alone. He enabled me to win Bronze for Wales in VI Bowls, which was only possible after he gave me the confidence to admit that I had a VI in the first place. His extroverted charm enabled us to meet people who I never would have met without this secret weapon to everyone’s soul. He helped me write an award-winning book that would never have been written had my disability remained hidden. To sum up what mind-blowing ways Guide Dogs help their owners (or their maids like in our relationship), is not an easy task but what I would say is this. They are portals into lives that we never would have lived without them.

4 years on and Munch still bounds though life in his puppy like ways, causing mischief and mayhem wherever he goes. Whilst on harness however, he is the perfect poster boy for Guide Dogs, taking his work life serious as he sashays with pride in harness. He has prevented my previous frequent falls and injuries, stayed by my side in hospital after surgery and healed many a broken heart in work and not once has he stopped being a natural born healer. The beauty in his sweet nature is that his loyalty belongs to whoever needs it at that moment in time. It seems that his Guide Dog duties are just one of his life purposes as he glides through life being of services whatever way he can. He is the best teacher that anyone can be blessed to live with in everyday life.

So, thank you Munch for deciding that our partnership would work from day one. You have given so much to me, family, friends, our clients, and strangers alike by never being anything but unconditional love. We still have a few years left of a working partnership and I promise when you do retire you will be even more spoilt than you are today. The doggy kisses and love that you dish out freely will return to you in abundance as your Karmic bank account grows day by day. I promise to up my daily worshipping rituals to you each day and keep telling the world about the superpowers of you and your hero Guide Dog colleagues. Thank you for the eternal gift of being you.