A Peaceful End To A Protest

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I wonder what his placard would have said if he had one.

I WANT FREEDOM. WHEN DO I WANT IT? NOW?

LABRADDODLES RULE.

1 HOUR WORKDAYS ARE TOO MUCH

YOU MUST OBEY THE KING

I BARK, YOU LISTEN

Many may have thought that this sit-down protest came out of nowhere but I, his maid, knew him well enough to know that I was obviously asking too much of him. I was asking him to pass a place of play that he loved to cause mischief in. His on-duty Harness wearing persona Minster was out doing his guide dog duties but his Munch like side was triggered by the sight of wide-open grass. What was a dog to do?

As his pace slowed down, I knew we were in trouble. His gentle leader clad head softly turned to his left as his heart began to long for some freedom. He wanted to bound around like a leaping lamb in the place where he has spent many a morning leading Elle the golden Labrador astray. A place where he has accidentally on purpose run off with a ball or two from some poor unsuspecting dog just for the banter. It is here that he has had many an unsuccessful attempt to jump up into the trees that may have a squirrel or two. Basically, this is one of the places that he can be free to be the clown that he was born to be.

The problem that I had on this day was that I did not have my cane with me or his bell collar that I use to hear where he is as opposed to seeing where he is so I could not really let him off his harness. He had already had a run in the morning and a 3 mile walk so was far from exercise deprived but his cold shoulder was telling me different. His sit down protest lasted a good 15 minutes and despite my reasoning with his rational side, he refused to budge. He was going in that field one way or another and I was just going to have to deal with it.

During our pointless one-way conversation, a person had passed by twice commenting “oh, you are still here then” on the way back. I really wanted to say “yes, my owner has decided he is not budging until he gets his own way” but I settled with the little fib of “Yes we are just having a rest in the fresh air”. Not wanting to be reported for loitering with intent (although I am not sure what harm a blind woman and a stubborn guide dog could be accused of), it was time to compromise. He would get his own way, but he would have to stay on the lead to help me avoid any trip hazards.

Slipping his harness off his body, I could sense his hopes getting up. When I failed to unclip his lead from his collar, I sensed his hopes fall. Not a good thing for this drama king to experience as I knew that although he thought had got what he wanted; he was not wholly free. His sulking shoulders were reluctant to move his legs at a quickened pace to begin with, but he soon warmed up to the compromise that we had come too with semi freedom being offered.

Over the last two and a half years, he has trained me very well. It was clear from the start that he was the one in relationship that called the shots and I was daft enough to obey. He works so hard for me and has allowed me to return to work and live independently again so it is only fair that there is a lot of give and take in the relationship. Learning to compromise in any relationship is essential to be able to hear each other’s needs be it a romantic relationship, family relationship, friendship or a relationship with animals.

If I had a guide dog that totally obeyed my every command out of fear of being disciplined, I would feel utterly heartbroken. He dedicates his life to helping me get around and fills the hearts of people that he meets with pure love and joy, so if he wants to have a little tantrum now and again so be it. We are equal beings with equal needs that need to be heard. If your animal is training you well too, be grateful that he/she feels comfortable enough to ask you. When we learn to listen and let go of control, we learn to love unconditionally.

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Time Off For Good Behaviour

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Do you promise I only have a few more shifts to go until the holidays?

I know that is what he is thinking as I have been promising him this time off for a long time. The beauty of working in schools is that we have a lot of holidays which suits Munch just fine. He was put on this earth for many things such as giving and receiving an abundance of love, being a constant source of entertainment, training people to pander to his needs but work? ……not so much.

Most of his workday is spent laying around on his bed, client’s feet or in a corner in a huff. When he is not in his horizontal hibernation, he can be found playing with his toys, giving a client his paw to demand attention or doing the dying fly impersonation on the floor to centre all attention around his dramatic display. Keeping all of that in mind, I use the word work in the loosest of terms in relation to Munch.

He is even more excited this year as he has an extra week off than our usual 6 weeks so 7 weeks of off duty fun awaits him. When he will be running around freely on a field somewhere or swimming in a river, I will be slightly out of action with a healing knee after the upcoming operation that is happening in 2 weeks-time. I cannot wait to hear from his dog walkers what mischief he gets up to on his days out.

Everything is planned out to make sure that he has the most fun summer ever. A timetable of fun awaits him whilst I may be stuck indoors for a little while. I have a feeling that as he hangs up his harness for a few weeks he will have no regret, only happiness coursing through his body. I cannot wait to sense how happy he is each time he is brought home with a tired-out body and his bank of joy filled up.

Healing from the operation will be much easier if I know everyone is taken care of. The children are all sorted, and I know will be a great help. Angus and Faith will be happy doing their own cat and tortoise thing, but it is Munch who I have been most concerned about. Will he unlearn his guide dog commands when he is off? Will he have a tantrum when his harness goes back om him in a few weeks? Will he demand new working conditions when he returns to his role when I am more mobile?

I know that even when I am on crutches whilst wearing a Robocopesque leg brace, we will learn to listen to each other and work as partners in our own unique way. Munch is rather a fan of the slower pace of life, so I don’t think my new pace of walking will annoy him too much. A pocket full of treats and lots of fuss and praise may help soften his heart when he returns to a slower pace of work life.

I will keep you all posted on his summer escapades which will no doubt bring a smile or two to your face. The harness free pics will hopefully show his fun off duty summer that he deserves so much. Let the fun begin.

Every Little Helps

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How has it come to this? Is it really the responsibility of an 11-year-old girl to clean up what others have left behind?

The picnics enjoyed, but not cleaned up. Wrappers of long digested food dancing in the wind that leads the cheery colourful food huggers astray and into the river which was once pure. The thoughtless soul that evicted the mattress out of its carefree home and threw it down the bank to take up its new home in the water below. From free flow to dam like qualities in an instant, such alien objects in a tranquil scene can only cause harm to all.

As she scoops up things that she has never owned out of her friend, the home of the fish, she places it in the bag ready for the bin. This girl wise beyond her years knows deep down that even her best intentions to clean up the mess that she never made, may not make much of a difference. Her heart sinks as she knows that even when put in the recycling, it does not mean that she will really be making a difference as its outcome is out of her hands. Will it be turned into something new or will it end up in some other water hundreds of miles away?

With fingers crossed and a picture of a better future for all, she keeps doing things that others do not seem to care to do. Her heart you see, loves all living beings and she will do anything to protect the living beings that she feels so deeply connected to. Her weekly visit to this long stretch of river will never cease until she sees the difference that she is hoping for in the world. Ignoring the pleas of her friends to go for shopping and for pizza she tells them that she is busy with family because to her, the fish are as lovable as her own family.

Her secret clears ups are not for others to know. They are there for the water dwellers to experience and live freely because of her act. The images of sea life devasted by the effects of plastics in the oceans caused a hurt in her that she needs to heal. This is her way of doing whatever she can to help in her own hometown. The world is a big place to change on her own but her own world that exists is as changeable as she wants it to be.

When we do every little bit to help in any way we can, we help on a much larger scale that we will ever know. If every 7 million “we’s” in the world chose to help in their own way with passion, there may be far fewer problems to fix.

This post was written after speaking to a young girl who will be a future leader in change to life as we know it, I am sure of it. Her passion about creating change will always remain with me.

When The Mighty Fall

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She calls herself a dedicated maid who loves me so much but here I am having to rely on a supermarket toilet hand dryer to give me the blow dry that I should be receiving everyday as part of my grooming regime.

Do you think it is too late for me to request new staff members who treat me with more respect and appreciate my regal ways? Here she is bringing me to a common place and not even apologising. The untrained eye may see me as just a guide dog and not the King that I really am.

She makes me walk and refuses to carry me because apparently, I am too big. She refuses to give me all her food when I look at her in “that way” with my adorable eyes and only gives me bits whilst muttering “don’t tell anyone form guide dogs or the vet that I am giving you this”.

She makes me shower when I don’t want to. I will swim in rivers and the sea whenever I get a chance, yet she finds it puzzling that I will not walk in the rain. Apparently to the maid it is odd, but I think she is the odd one who expects me to be reasonable with her. I don’t do reason very well. I overheard her once laughing and saying to a friend that she doesn’t think I am trained when it is obvious that SHE is the one that is not trained. I have high standards that she clearly has trouble meeting such as now.

Here I am, King Munch having to rely on a hand dryer to get the blow dry I should be getting daily. Appearance is everything to a handsome fella like me so does she think that daily brushing is enough for the upkeep of my public persona? My telepathic pleas for a permenant personal poodle pamper staff member has fallen on an unreceptive brain so what is a dog to do? The only way to get through to her to demonstrate my needs is obviously to show her although she cannot see. By stepping between her and the hand dryer each time I am hoping that she will get the message that I should have a far more deluxe version at home for my personal usage which I will choose at my convenience.

Could you do me a favour please? If you ever see me lowering my standards and getting blow dried in public could you, please give my maid a nudge to tell her that she needs to install a full doggie grooming parlour in my residence please? Between us we will educate her on my needs as a regal being. Falling from my pedestal is never easy so please send loving thoughts my way until my correct positioning in the hierarchy in the family can commence. Much doggy love sent your way.

When Two Become One

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When a guide dog meets his/her new working partner, neither of their lives will ever be the same again.

After months of training to become super intelligent guide dogs that will give their time and love unconditionally to their new partners, they begin to weave their magic into the life of their new best friend. The blessed person with sight loss who has been awaiting this guide dog gift day for a long time can begin to attempt to return to some normality of life safe in the knowledge that they have a furry friend helping them. It will be the mix of both of their energies that will create a foundation for the most life changing bond that they will ever experience.

Matching guide dog to partner goes way beyond pairing up the first dog that is available. The needs of the guide dog partner are known and is key in choosing which dog will be suitable. Some matches will not work out and the partnership may be brief, whereas others will last for over 8 years and will create a bond that will never be forgotten. The guide dog will become part of the family, part of the community and most importantly part of the person that walks along their righthand side throughout life.

Guide dogs are far from over worked robots who do nothing but serve the person in their life. They are far more than a pet and far less than a slave. They go places that many animals never get to experience, and they get admired by the onlookers who see their beauty and their worth. They get to put smiles on the faces of people who live in loneliness and feel the love from strangers that surrounds them when they cross their paths. The extended family that the guide dog comes from with the old puppy walkers, trainers and guide dog staff have all had an essential role in helping the dog reach their full potential.

Since Munch came into my life the “I” has ceased and the “we” has begun. His needs are always top priority (along with the children) when I wake in the morning. Creating a happy life for him is key in us being able to work as a partnership throughout our life together. People always see us as a package now and where they see one of us, they expect to see the other. He plays more than he works, and he is pampered and never struggles. My love for him grows each day, and the mischievous imperfections that make him who he is, I hope will keep evolving.

The universe was in cahoots with our souls when it matched us together and for that I will be ever grateful. Being known as the one with “the unusual guide dog”, always makes me smile and my heart fills with joy. Becoming one with this drama loving, chilled out mischief maker means that I get to witness things that I never would have without him. I really hope that you get to become one with a furry or non-furry being in life and appreciate their quirky ways. Merged lives can expand the solitary life that will soon become a distant memory when we trust the oneness of all living beings.

A Meaningful Summer Solstice

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June 21st is a day that never goes ignored in my life.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice means even more this year as that is the time that my book is going to print so there will be a double celebration going on in the Munch household. It is even more symbolic as it is a year ago exactly to the day that I sent off the completed manuscript to the publishers. The Summer Solstice this year will be a great time to reflect on the past year and put my wishes out to the universe for the coming year.

With the “sun standing still” (the Latin meaning of solstice), this is the perfect time for you to celebrate anything to do with the sun and of light in general. The light within each of us and celebrating the potential in ourselves will never be more powerful than on this day. It is also a key time to stop and reflect on what the last year has gifted you. This is the perfect time to still the mind and search for the positives in even the darkest of memories.

Connecting with nature means more at this powerful time of the year than ever. Falling in love with the change of the season that is happening all around you, can be the best soul food that you ever will taste. This is a perfect time to step outside of your own life story and experience the beauty in the world that is all around you by immersing yourself in nature, any way you can.

There is never a better time than now to start a new project that allows you to turn your dreams into a reality and watch the miracles in life unfold. You will also be at the most energetic at this time of year so use this as a natural energy resource to help gain motivation and use your natural energy bank for success.

Fire, passion, will and drive are all associated with the summer solstice so choosing not to harness these is choosing to leave your dreams unfulfilled. Leaving go of things that do not work for you and trying out new things that do, can bring nothing but peace into your life.

There is no need to rush this process of creating as the Summer Solstice is a time to savour experiences that you are about to create. This midpoint of the year highlights the highest point of the sun, but it also is where the slow return to winter will begin, so taking in each and every step can help us appreciate the changes that we will see around us.

Savouring the polarities of the seasons helps us to connect to the leaving go and new creations in life that are omnipresent.
Whether or not you choose to celebrate this magical time of year, I really wish that the new beginnings that are about to come into your life fill you with joy. The you that is awaiting you at the next summer solstice cannot wait to celebrate with you the life that you chose to create so make the future you proud by living the fullest life possible this year and for each and every year to come.

A New Arrival

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This may take a while.

How hard can it be introducing a new pet into the family? The moment Munch stepped paw into the house two and a half years ago, he was confronted with Angus my adorable black rescue cat who wouldn’t say boo or meow to a goose. He did however want to say hiss to a great big oaf of a Labradoodle that came hurtling through his front door. A swift swipe of his outstretched paw told Munch that he was being met with a hostility stand off rather than a welcoming committee. That set the tone for the relationship that they have today. Sweet Angus still rules, and Munch just obeys which to be fair is shocking as Angus is the only non-staff members of Munch in the family.

Now we have a new animal on the block in the form of my parent’s adorable tortoise Faith, Her brother Hero is still missing in action having escaped from their garden three weeks ago. The plan is that if he returns form his little jaunt, then he will be coming to join his sister in his new habitat. Introducing Faith to Munch has not been as smoothly as we had imagined though as he is not sure what to make of this odd-looking walking shell. A sniff here and there has only added to his confusion to this non canine like creature.

We have been searching like mad for the best way to introduce a tortoise to mischievous Munch and we are still crossing our fingers that he will soon act nonchalant like he does to everyone else. Apart from squirrels, he never gets this excited over any living being so I am crossing every body part that I have, that his excited barks will soon ease off and be replaced by a silent glance over his shoulder as he watches Faith slowly walk past him on a lazy afternoon stroll. Surely her chilled out attitude in life will speak to his inner sloth and they can become the best of friends.

Until then short bursts of sniffing Faiths new home, alternating access to free runs in the garden and treats for every time he does not bark and try and scare sweet Faith may be the way forward. I am crossing my fingers that I will one day be able to take a picture of Munch, Angus and Faith all being friends as their beautiful soul’s merge into a trio of friends.

A Panini Thief? Where?

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“Well, his official name is Minster as he was sponsored by Lincoln Minster Prep school, but I have nicknamed him Munch”, joked the trainer that had brought this beautiful hairy soul into my life. It wasn’t long before I knew why his nickname had come about.

Led by a typical Labrador stomach, Munch cruised through life hoovering up unwanted food debris with utter dedication to this life path that he had chosen. One of the advantages of being a guide dog was that he could go places that other dogs were not allowed. Working alongside his maid in different schools around the area meant that he had a lot of ground to selflessly cover in relation to removal of food waste. Not a break or dinner time went past that this hard-working soul was not on high alert for removing any food-based slip hazards that the two legged less hairy race could slip on. No corner remained unexplored on his shift.

Just the other day he was faced with preventing an urgent food spillage that was about to happen right before his eyes. As his maid was taking him through the reception area of a school, he spotted a potential health and safety hazard about to occur on his patch. Being the ever-vigilant hero that he is, he knew he had little time and had to act fast. Prevention was always better than cure, so he stepped up to the mark without a second thought for his safety. There in front of him dangling at face height was a chicken tikka panini in a careless hand. Knowing the damage that such a spillage could cause on the carpeted floor he sprang into action and put his own safety on the line. Saving the school cleaner a messy clean-up, he did what any decent citizen would have done and went in for the chomp.

Rescuing the whole panini in his mouth, he stood with pride showing off his heroic skills. The gasps of the astonished people all around him was obviously a shared appreciation of his bravery wasn’t it? As he stood with half of the panini poking lengthways out of his mouth, he pondered how he was going to get the whole lot in his mouth at record speed. It was in that moment that everything changed. Out of nowhere, the cruel hand of the maid came around to remove the mid-air panini part out of his mouth for some strange reason. There he stood, the top food spillage preventor around, being relieved of his duties. How could this be happening?

As he quickly ate the remaining of the chicken tikka panini that was safe in his mouth, he heard a lot of commotion from the two legged less hairy race. The maid was saying sorry a million times for some strange reason and there was a lot of giggling going on around him. As the maid offered to buy the pupil a new panini, he stood in utter amazement that nobody had stopped to thank him. After all those years of perfecting his cleaning up skills, nobody could see that he was just being of service the best he could. What had the world come too when a top dog is no longer celebrated? The mind boggles.

Entering the office in reception a few moments later, he received the standing ovation that he rightly deserved as the three receptionists laughed at his little show. With his helicopter like tail rotating in excitement, he allowed the ladies to come and stroke him. The maid was still rambling on about some “little monkey” that she knew but he did not know what she meant. A quick sniff in the bin under one of the receptionist’s desks gave the ladies in the office the all clear from any potential food disasters. Regardless of the maid carrying on about being embarrassed by that little monkey that she kept harping on about, he went straight back into his professional role. He was not a quitter.

Arriving back in their counselling room with a full belly and job satisfaction, he drank two bowls full of water and settled down for the afternoon. The lack of appreciation from the maid filled him with disappointment. He decided to put her in the doghouse and give her the cold shoulder for the remainder of the day. Withdrawing his love for her he made her beg for his forgiveness to get back in his good books. He is sure he heard her saying something about there being a panini thief around, but he couldn’t be sure. He needed a rest before he had to go and tackle any more crime and prevention.

If you ever need a food spillage expert to come to your area for a major clean-up operation, just give Munch a call. He knows you will appreciate him more than his maid does.

Sorry, Was That Your…..?

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Have you ever seen something that was not there? A shadow in the corner of your eye, an outline of a face in a piece of toast or a word on a page that only existed in your mind? Me too. It happens quite a bit with sight loss, like missing objects and only seeing space or vice versa when you see objects instead of space. Well, your mind convinces you that you are seeing something that is not there. With sight loss a lot of the time you see things with a combination of your brain working out what it could be through method of deduction and pure and utter guess work.

Occasionally, this combination can get you into trouble in which I am an expert in. Take the following incident for example.

I was out one night with some university friends (pre-Munch days). After falling off stage in epic style (joys of a black stage raised on a black floor and very little vison), we checked for btoken bones then chatted away and tried to find a seat. There were none available, so we loitered with intent near some tables and chairs that were apparently there (I could not see) and waited for people to leave. As I finished my drink I wondered where I may put my empty glass. My friend told me where to find an empty table so off I went in what I thought was the right direction. All I could see what a pair of white legs flopped either side of a table (at least, that’s what my mind told me). This same conniving brain told me that the positioning of the flopped legs either side meant that there was a table in between these legs, and that this was the table that my friend had described. As I lowered my glass onto this imagined table, I saw the white lines growing closer together until they became a unified white line. It was only as my glass gently touched down on the crotch of a poor terrified man that I realized that there was no table and he had just been sitting with his legs akimbo. The panicky apology that I shouted at him over the blaring music felt a little too late. I really hoped that the CCTV cameras were not working that night.

For me, these incidents are more the norm than a rarity. I still think back to such incidents with a bowed head and chuckling heart to all the mistakes I have made in life. Being led astray by lack of vision and a comedic brain never lets life get boring or stale. Being a little daft is just part of my genetic make up and anything normal just wouldn’t be me. Blundering through life always keeps things lively and guessing if someone has a table between their legs on a night out will never get boring.

The above excerpt was taken from my upcoming book What You See When You Can’t See. If you want to read more cringe worthy tales, the book is full of them, so you won’t be disappointed.

No Need To Judge

“So, you are looking after your granddaughter and there is nobody there to help you?” the patronizing voice quizzed.
“No, not at the moment but it’s fine” I chirped back through gritted teeth.
“And tell me, how exactly are you going to bring her in for an appointment then?” the growingly grumpy voice growled.
“It’s fine I won’t be driving” I joked and was met with silence. “Someone will bring us down” she really was a tough crowd.

Calling for an out of hours Doctors appointment for my lovely granddaughter should have been plain sailing but it was more choppy water treading than anything. My granddaughter had slept over the night before and had been up nearly all night in pain with an earache. She had been in so much pain bless her so she desperately needed to see a doctor and a swift phone call in the morning I thought would get it sorted. I didn’t bank on a grizzly voice at the end of the phone being a little offish.
The doctor agreed that she needed to be seen and that wasn’t the issue. The issue seemed to be with me being blind.

The chat with the doctor was going smoothly until I mentioned that I could not see if her ear was red with her because I was blind and could not see detail like that. I was mid-way through telling her that there appeared to be no discharge from her ear as I could not feel anything when she stopped me mid-sentence. “Hang on, you are blind and looking after her?”. I have a face that doesn’t lie and if she had seen my face over the phone, she would have seen my perplexed expression answering her. “Um, yes” was my querying response back. It was clear that this woman did not think much outside of the box.
Now I get why she may have been a little concerned about my capabilities of giving visible feedback about how my granddaughter was, but I did not get her questioning of my caring abilities. My rebellious side in me wanted to question her training in diversity but I remained silent. How I would have loved to hear her pre-conceived ideas on what she though people with sight loss were capable of doing. My bluntness was bubbling to the surface to query her queries, but I kept them cool and let her judge away.

Her tone of voice and belittling phrases could have been her having an off day, but I wish that she knew how sight loss can make someone know more that people think. I would have loved to have told her how I can smell when someone is ill as there is a unique smell that radiated from them. I could have told her that even the slightest change in an ill person’s voice can tell me that they are not themselves. Intuition tells me that the feeling that I have in my stomach reflects the unwell feeling that the person is experiencing. The low energy that an ill person emits from their being, confirms their need to rest. None of these may be written in a medical book but they are real to those who see with more than their eyes,

Bringing up four children (most of the time being a single parent) whilst not having functional vision has given me masses of knowledge and alterative ways of dealing with things. I really wish that this highly trained and skilled lady could have understood that before jumping to conclusions. It wasn’t the time or the place to educate her, but I do hope that one day she will understand that people with sight loss are more capable than she may think.

A course of antibiotics later and my gorgeous granddaughter is back to her bright and adorable self and that is the most important thing. I hope as she grows up, her mind is kept open to seeing past people’s adversity and sees the ability in disability.