“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