My shadow that I have, never lets me feel alone. Solitude is a far distant memory as my shadow is omnipresent and never leaves my side. Day and night, throughout the seasons my shadow comes with me to places that other shadows are rarely allowed to go. My shadow never goes unnoticed by others, as it refuses to blend in and demands to stand out. My funny little shadow knows how to work it for the crowds.The hair of my shadow never looks pristine but takes on a more natural untamed look. It likes to move freely without any restrictions as the free spirit moves merrily through life. The shadow side steps a mundane way of life to search out a more mischievous way of being.You will always find my shadow going a different way than others, as predictability shrivels up the passion that lies within.The thing is, my shadow has more legs than me and a tail whilst I have none. My shadow is a he whist I am a she. I am only bilingual whereas he is trilingual and understands both human and non-human speech. My shadow sleeps whilst I am awake, but we can both come together to have some fun. He craves the attention wherever he goes whereas I love to just people watch even though I cannot see.Munch, my favourite shadow is always by my side and it feels like we have been in each other’s lives forever and not just the three short years since we were paired together. Wherever I turn he is there and feels like my guiding shadow who is never far away. His infectious loving ways means that there is never a moment to feel alone even when we step into the sighted world where I sometimes feel like an outsider.Guide dogs are more than just practical help in life, as they guide us to places within ourselves that we never knew existed. He makes the unpredictable sighted world more predictable as he leads me safely to places that I never would have found without him.With only the requirement of food and non-stop fuss, my shadow gives back the pure unconditional love that would make anyone feel blessed.Wherever you find your guiding shadow, remember to tell it how amazing it really is as without it, you wouldn’t be the person that you are today.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a Munch.
Maybe it was the stolen ham sandwiches that had lay in his reach, that made his body resemble a peach.
All round and hairy he lay in the way and was too full to even attempt to play.
Until that was, his best friend came along and started to sing him an encouraging song.
His ears pricked up and he gazed at her face, wanting her to come and rest in his space.
A bond like this, warms even the coldest of hearts, especially when their mischievous adventure starts.
Mix the energy of a three-year-old child and a labradoodle together and there is one thing that you will never hear and that is peace and quiet. Their mischievous footsteps that fail to tiptoe through the house means that they are in pursuit of happiness. A thrown ball here and a shared pack of crisps there, makes two beautiful souls come together and fill each other with joy.
My beautiful granddaughter was only nine months old when our almost Shetland pony sized Munch became part of our family and I wondered how they would get on. I need not have worried as it is as if their silent glances to one another communicated that they saw the world in the same mesmerising way. They loved people, loved affection and were rather partial to food. Isn’t that the bases of any good friendship? To them, it was.
The old souls that lived within each of them felt like they have lived before alongside each other in a previous life as they knew each other so well. As Munch lay stretching his long body out on the floor, my granddaughter would crawl with maturely around him not wanting to disturb him. From the first stroke that she gave him with her cute dimpled hand, she was soft and lovingly gentle and never rough. Munch in return was the gentlest of giants with her.
He always greeted her with kisses and would follow her around like a shadow. If she cried, he ran to her to see how he could help and did not leave her side until she was better. He climbed onto the bottom of the bed where she slept when she was older and remained there with Angus the cat to be the pair of bodyguards that every girl needed. The sound of her voice on the phone would set his helicopter tail off wagging in excitement as he heard his best friend. This was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Fast forward three years on and their friendship is unbreakable. She calls him her baby boy and ensures that he has everything that he needs. On Christmas Eve she tucked him in and told him to go to sleep early ready for Santa to bring him his present. As she placed his heart pillow underneath his heavy head, she whispered “I love you so much Munch”, to which he gave her a doggy kiss in return. There may never be much peace and quiet with these two around when they are together but there is always peace and love in their own shared world. What else could I ever wish for on Earth?
However, you spent your holidays, I hope that you found your own version of peace somewhere. Love and blessings.
Minster may be his official name as he was kindly sponsored by Lincoln Minster Prep School but deep down, he will always be my little Munch.
Nicknames are funny little things that usually have stories behind them that only those close to them know the reasoning behind them. The nickname Munch came about after his trainer spoke of his love for anything edible (and non-edible) and it’s kind of became a gateway into other nicknames that have stuck. Here is a brief list of some of the other nicknames that Munch goes by…
1. Angel Delight (because he is when he is sleeping).
2. Baby cakes (he will always be my baby).
3. Beyoncé (as he struts around like her).
4. Chihuahua wannabe (when he is acting like lap dog).
5. Clown (as if he wasn’t a guide dog, he would be entertaining crowds in a circus).
6. Drama king (Just stating the obvious).
7. Einstein (due to his lookalike eyebrows and his intelligence).
8. Fluffy face (when he needs a haircut).
9. Great oaf (due to his clumsiness).
10. Guru (he teaches me new life lessons each day).
11. Hairy bear (self-explanatory).
12. King Munch (let’s be fair, he is).
13. Lord and Master (quite rightly so).
14. Lazy Bones (he cat naps more than Angus who is a cat).
15. Mischief maker (the best around).
16. Monster Munch (if he was a pack of crisps, he would be cute scary ones).
17. Munch Bunch (tasty like a yoghurt).
18. Munchkins (his child like nature).
19. Munchkin Mop tops (thanks to his mop of hair).
20. My owner (I know my place in the relationship).
21. Precious (due to his delicate nature).
22. Rebel (he doesn’t do rules).
23. Sloth (which is like his usual pace in life).
24. Smelly Bear (from his awful anal exhales).
25. Sugar cube (due to his sweet nature).
May I just add, I always give him a kiss and a belly rub when I am calling his these as not to offend him and most of the time say it in my head not to create a show down where no doubt he will win. I know he must have a few nicknames for me but many may be unprintable as I am sure I can hear them slip out when he is rolling his eyes at me and sighing at me to tell me exactly what he thinks of me asking him to move his body into an upright position.
If I ever confuse you by referring to him by different names I do apologize. Everything I call him always comes from a place of unconditional love that I have for him and his quirky ways. I feel blessed to have met all these sides to him and I know I will continue to meet more as time goes on and I cannot wait.
To all the mothers who have birthed perfection, thank you for gifting the world true beauty that radiates from the inside out. Your perfect creation is exactly what the world needs to help others see how one person can change the lives of many. Implanting your inner beauty into the soul of your child is a gift that will always keep on giving.
To all the mothers who have nurtured those who they have not birthed, thank you for stepping in as a leading light. Selflessly giving to a soul in need helps in ways that you may never get to know about but will always be present. Maternal love does not have to lie in matched DNA but will always lie in matched hearts.
To all the mothers who have babies with four paws and fur or two feet and feathers, thank you for being the connection between the human and animal world. The unconditional love that is shared between you should be bottled and distributed for love starved situations. Children come in all versions and hairiness, but unconditional love only comes in the one form that you are.
To all the mothers who feel like they are failing at motherhood, thank you for keeping going. Your child will not remember your messy hair, piles of ironing or tired body but they will remember the comfort in your arms. You are the anchor that your child needs in choppy times so knowing that you are their stability can help them keep afloat with the lifeline of love that you give them.
To all the mothers who have children with additional needs, thank you for being their voice. When some may see additional needs, you see additional opportunities to help them live their life to the maximum. Fighting for equality and compassion is the super power that you have discovered since you met the centre of your world so embrace this super power with pride.
To all the mothers to be, enjoy the wait for your beautiful child, your pregnancy is unique to you alone and never let another taint your version of bliss. As soon as your baby will be birthed out of the security of your womb and into the big wide world, smile in the knowledge that you are giving your child the best start in life. Beginnings are the scaffolding of life.
To all the mothers that have lost their child, please take care of your broken heart. When your angel left your life, they remain forever yours. Time may never heal the void in your heart but may act as a marker of everlasting love. The glow in your heart when your angels name is spoken will always stay ignited and will never be dimmed.
To all the mothers that never were, thank you for wanting to be. The physical form of your child may never have appeared but in your mind, they were always there. The love that you have showered upon children you have nurtured, sponsored and been present for will always be remembered. Your beautiful mothering nature always let the child know that mothers don’t have to be biological.
To all the mothers that come in different forms, thank you for being you.
“I demand you get back in here NOW”.
How dare he come into my lake (okay my pond but my home so I will call it what I want) and leave without permission. Does he not realize how magnificent Swans such as I are, and that we decide who we welcome or reject in our home? I knew straight away that he was one that could be easily manipulated. He was as threatening as a leaf as he gently tip toed into my territory. I could sense straight away that he wasn’t one of those small yappy dogs that wanted to fight everything including its shadow. He was a big softy.
Led by his mischief, he come close enough to say hello but far enough away not to get pecked. I am glad he knew the rules that he must abide by with me from the word go. Having a quick gander around I could see most of the other swans and ducks were elsewhere so I thought I may as well have some entertainment with my new hairy friend.
As the featherless and relatively hairless two legged being that was with this dog chatted away to others of the similar species, I heard him say that the dog was not his, but he was a friend of the owners. How ridiculous the two-legged species can be believing that they own a dog. Try owning a swan and see how far they get.
Apparently, my new play mate was called Munch. I instructed Munch that we would be playing chase around the pond and he seemed fine with it. Obviously, I was the leader and he trailed behind me like an after-thought. Okay well, he was quite a cute after thought but I didn’t want to tell him that and inflate his ego as I didn’t want him thinking he was equal to a swan. Gliding off gracefully in my regular haunt, I could hear him panting heavily behind me as he doggy paddled at speed to keep up. It was so much fun circling back around him and chasing him back.
The laughter I heard coming from the banks from the two-legged kind made us put on more of a show. Is it that bizarre for a swan and a dog to be play mates? I heard the man that Munch was with saying that he had taken pictures to show his owner (pfft, Munch told me he calls her his maid). My heart sank a little when I saw him heading for the bank for the last time. He woofed that he will be back soon for another play date. He seems to respect my pond (which I told him was really the best lake in the world and he believed me), so he is welcome to come back for a game of chase whenever he wants.
Until we meet again Munch, keep being the gentle soul that you are.
With birthday wishes flying at him from all directions, he wore his birthday badge with pride. A “Happy Birthday dog” here and a “Aw, he is 4 today” there, he pranced down the corridor in work loving attention that he was drawing to himself. I may have had a little bit of an input into his badge wearing today but he wore it with pride. When he came into this world 4 years ago today it seems he was destined for the limelight.
In Astrology, those born on December 18th are “friendly and charming with a deep sense of kindness, perceptiveness and compassion. Moralistic yet forgiving outlook on life is another feature of those born on this day. Assertiveness, alertness and intense curiosity is one way to describe these individuals the temper tantrums, moodiness, rebelliousness and frustrated behaviour are also mixed in with these charming souls”. Spot on universe, spot on.
This is his third birthday that he has spent with us and each year he gets more and more spoilt. This year he had lots of presents from family members and friends, a doggy cake and doggy beer which he chose not to consume. As our celebrations went on through the night, my appreciation for my little Minster Munch grew by the minute. He has certainly made his mark in this world over the last four years.
December 18th evokes a mixture of emotions for me, as although it is my furry soul mate’s birthday another two events happened on this day. Eight years ago today, my beautiful grandmother passed away. She was the sweetest person that I had ever known and only ever spoke kindly of people. As unconditional love oozed out of her, you could never feel anything but pure bliss in her presence. After a short illness, she passed away peacefully which was her constant state of being whilst alive. The candle that I light in memory for her every year, helps remind me of the warmth that she always showed to those around her.
Not only does this day symbolize the birth and death of loved ones but it also reminds me of transition. Four years ago to this day, I worked my last day in my current job after handing my notice in. As my eye sight deteriorated, I got to a point that I could no longer get around independently. What I was unaware of was when I was leaving my job with gritted teeth was that Munch was celebrating his first birthday. A mere eleven months later and our worlds met and became one. Divine right timing made our paths cross at exactly the right time of me needing a guide dog and him being ready to guide.
The variety that this day holds will always mean so much to me. The joy of birth, the loss of an earth angel and the transition between the dependant and independent world, all hold different meanings. The universal meaning of them all however, is about the meaning of life. Birth, death and anything in between will provide you with any meaning that you want to seek out. For me, the birth of Munch, my pause in my work life and the physical death of my much-loved grandmother meant that I learnt to value each moment in life. Each moment can be the moment that things can change. so live with no regrets, just with blessings of the guaranteed now that we always have.
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.
Maybe we are doing it all wrong.
What if we chose to see others as mirrors of ourselves and only spoke words to them that we would want to hear ourselves. If we realized that we were not more or less important than anyone else and just equal to them, then maybe we would learn to see each other fairly. Would we not live in a more positive world if we chose to be more positive to others and received back what we gave out?
What if we chose to speak with kind words or not at all, to those that pass through our lives each day. If we realized that people’s mistakes were part of them being human and not what defines them, would we not encourage people to try again and not feel like failures? Would we not feel empowered by helping others find the power in their own lives instead of taking it away from them?
What if we chose to encourage children to help one another whenever they needed it and helped them build their own community where nothing but support existed. If we explained to children about the power of their words, they would have the knowledge to transform life for themselves and another in such beautiful ways. Would they not feel anything but love from then on?
What if we chose to not judge on appearance but on the authenticity of the person that will never fade with age. If we learnt that our opinions were not the only ones in the world and others are just as valid, we would learn to live alongside not against another. Would we not feel happier in a world that encouraged alternative voices instead of trying to silence them?
What if we chose to see the beauty in difference and not feel threatened enough to attack it. If we stopped our adoration of superficial beauty and learnt to love natural beauty, would we not find more smiles on real faces? Would we not feel more comfortable in a world that appreciated something out of the ordinary that could teach us about things that we may never have known?
What if we chose to be the kindest version of ourselves and nothing else. If we learnt to see the perfection in everyone that we met, we would learn that our perfection is no different just equal. Would we not feel that our lives were full of miracles if we chose to transform the emptiness by filling it with our own version of bliss?
Maybe we could start doing it right.
The day was over. I could tell that he was relieved to be on the way home after a long week of guiding me around new places. Directions had never been my strong point but since loosing even more sight it had got worse. On duty Minster guided me away from the wrong turning yet again and led us into the right corridor. To the pattern loving sighted person, identical looking corridors must be ideal but to me it was a living nightmare. With no breaks in the monotonous blurry coloured walls from any shadowy landmarks, the labyrinth of alien newness seemed to continue for miles. Lucky for me Minster’s good memory kept us from getting lost.
This week, we had worked in three different secondary schools with a total of over 2,000 pupils. Finding my way to the schools was difficult enough with different routes and different modes of transport each day due to their locations. Walks, buses, taxis and trains all got us to where we needed to be. For a six-hour working day, we are out of the house for an average of eleven hours, but we have no choice as going directly by a unicorn is just not available to us unfortunately. Getting there is just the start of our day of moving around in hopeful bliss.
When off duty Munch becomes on duty Minster, he becomes the brains in our partnership. When we are shown the way through the school to our room he will remember it next time around with no hesitation. He then puts up with my dithering as I am convinced we need to go the wrong way but he stands his ground and leads us the proper way. He dodges the hazy mass of pupil traffic speeding towards us and leads me safely to the place that I would never be able to find alone. When on duty, he works so hard and never complains, he really is the magical reason that I can continue to work.
Hoovering up the dropped bits of food along the way and adoration from his surrounding fans tends to be the motivation that he needs to get him through the marathon of his working week. When his harness is slipped off when we enter our room, his Munch like qualities spring to life as he actively seeks mischief to cause. Greeting our clients with open paws and a toy to play with, he shakes off his professional persona and gets ready for some fun. Having a dog in the school has such a positive effect on the pupils and teachers alike as they gently stream in for a bit of the Minster Munch magic.
Each day when we leave work, I look forward to getting in so that Minster can transform into the Munch that we all know and love. Within minutes of entering the house I know he will be winding Angus the cat up, stealing my gorgeous granddaughter’s toys and running off with shoes. I really don’t mind one bit as he deserves to have downtime just like any one of us. After his funny five minutes hurtling around the house he will settle down for a cuddle. I hope that the thank you that I whisper into his ears each night, conveys how much I appreciate him. He is the guide of my life that I will always love unconditionally and will never stop appreciating.
Ah, it’s you!! I have missed you so much. The last time I saw you I licked your tears from your hands that had fallen from your face. They tasted of sadness, but I happily took them away from you as you sat there crying. As I placed my paw onto your leg I wanted you to know that I would use these paws to walk with you wherever you wanted to go so that you would not be alone. We may not be of the same species, but our love is of the same thing.
Underneath all the clean smells that you humans have, I can smell your unique scent that makes you who you are. I know where you have been over the last few days and hoped that you enjoyed every moment of it. I can smell what has been cooked around you from the smell on your clothes and I am jealous to say the least. I cannot smell what has made you cry. Is this a place that does not exist in my doggy world?
You have been to different places and eaten different things so what could be making you so sad? Is this what the human world calls problems? I know you are still a small human and not entered into the big human life yet, so things will get better soon. As my Guide Dog maid sits and talks to you we will both help you in whichever way we can, but I think my doggy advice is better than hers. Do you know what will bring happiness back into your life? This is what you need to do.
Forget you are you just for a moment. Forget you have things to do. Forget that thoughts tumble from your head and into words from your mouth. Forget that you have rules to follow and people to please. Forget what happened yesterday and forget to plan for tomorrow. Forget what or who made you cry and forget why. What you need to do is to remember my rules in life and your tears will turn to joy.
My rules are simple.
Make a choice to be happy and see the good in life.
Wag your tail over the simplest of things.
Sniff out new routes in life that you have never been before and start the adventure.
If somethings scare you or makes you sad simply walk away.
Make friends with everyone you meet as we all need company along the way.
Play at any given opportunity as life is too short for work alone.
Love everyone as you want to be loved yourself.
If you live by my rules I hope that next time I see you there will be no tears to lick from your hand unless they are tears of joy. If you ever need me to show you how I do it just let me know. Just bring a ball to a field with an open mind and watch how the simplest of things in life can bring you the most happiness. This is my idea of bliss and it will soon be yours so come and give it a go.