And number 8 of the Guide Dogs of Christmas is…. Minster Munch. I mean he was going for number 1 but he was happy for number 8 after I explained to him that number 8 symbolises infinite so that was good enough for the Lord and Master.
Guide Dogs are using these images as a fundraising tool that can be used in schools and such places where a treasure hunt of the 12 Guide Dogs of Christmas can be found dotted around a place by children. They may also be used in some social media. They asked if they could use an image of Minster Munch to show all the different types of Guide Dogs that they use. The typical labradors and the more unusual Munch types.
If Munch was asked to come up with his own version of the 12 Days of Christmas , it may go a little like this….
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
12 Balls Bouncing
11 Reindeers Raced
10 Snowmen Scattered
9 Dinners Dropping
8 Presents Pinched
7 Tasty Treats
6 Bells Boken
5 Gourmet Meals
4 Nose Kisses
3 Brand new Toys
2 Festive outfits
And a world that just loves me…
Each year that he is with me, I feel he deserves more and more good things in return. Santa and I have an arrangement to turn a blind eye (or in my case just my eye🙂) when he slips over to the naughty list and praise him when he returns to the good list.
It is so lovely to have Munch’s handsome face as one of the 12 Guide Dogs of Christmas as a resource raising funds for such a fab charity. This little showman makes everyday feel like Christmas.
It’s been a blink of an eye kind of two years since our book was published. Luckily, it was published in Sept 2019 well before life changed for everyone during the Pandemic. It was much easier to publish and promote a book back in the ‘Old Pre-Covid World’ where travel, interviews, signings and everything else that comes with publishing was far easier and more natural. Munch was a far happier dog when he could sashay freely in the world meeting, greeting and making people fall in love with him.
Since then, life has been a little busy with other adventures but I still love to write when I get a spare moment. An increase in working hours, completing a course plus becoming a supervisor in work has meant that these spare moments are few and far between. Adding into the mix a gorgeous new grandson has meant an ever increasing family which has been so amazing, yet my writing is feeling a little neglected.
My writing fits into the category of hobby rather than a profession but who knows maybe one day that will change. With spontaneity more appealing than discipline, I may need to quite down my search for new adventures long enough to create an opportunity to write as an author instead of a Literature Dabbler. As a young child, it did cross my mind that I would love to be an author due to the love and escapism books bring to their readers. I did however want to be a Firefighter, a Pilot and a Detective although maybe none of those were the easiest of choices for a blind person but it’s always important to reach for the stars and keep your dreams alive!
Munch has however telepathically dictated a self help book that I….sorry we…. have finished writing and are nearing the end of a light hearted novel which has been so fun to write. We have a rough draft of a more academically geared book that is threatening to be released into the Laptop very soon after being approached by someone to write one, so there is no rest for the wicked. Whether we choose to publish these or just keep writing for fun, who knows. As long as we keep having fun writing, that is all that matters.
Fear not, Munch’s addiction to showing his face in photos is still being fed as he has been asked if Guide Dogs can use his face for some learning resources in schools which I think is fab idea. Raising awareness about how these magical beings help the lives of people with sight loss is crucial so we are always up for that. I am glad Minster (Munch’s professional Guide Dog name) and his antics will have a chance to always be remembered in our book and beyond. I whole heartedly wish that for the next two years and beyond, we can keep spreading Minster Munch’s antics far and wide. Thanks Munch for being the best co-author ever.
Sorry I have been a bit absent recently. It is just that my furry presence has been needed elsewhere over the last few months, so I have not had time to instruct my maid to write any posts.
Seven weeks ago, my two-legged grandmother was taken to hospital and has been there ever since. She is doing okay but will be in for a few more weeks. I have only got to see her once, so I am missing her like mad. The beauty of my Guide Dog harness means that I can go into almost any place, so I get to sashay my way into hospital and such. My two-legged grandmother was on a ward with three other patients, and I managed to sneak around to the other patients to give them some much needed pet therapy too. A quick lick of a hand here, and a snuggle into a lap there and the Munch Magic had been spread as wide as their growing smiles. A quick picture taken by a staff member or two and we had to leave. Healing through joy and pure unconditional love will reach places that no medicine ever can.
Three months ago, my two-legged brother also lost a loved one, so we have been helping to sort out their house. As the two-legged humans have been busy sorting through things, I have been laying down peacefully on the couch where the loved one once lay. I have walked around the garden that they enjoyed to be in. I have sniffed each piece of furniture that they had put together with patience and pride. Their feet may no longer walk around the place they were proud to call home, but my paws still feel the footprints that they have left in their home and in the hearts of many.
My fur has been washed with tears from the children in schools, as they have had nowhere else to leave them flow freely. My nose has been kissed by lips that used to kiss their own dogs’ noses whilst they still lived on this earth. A loving ear scratch from a passing teacher gives a blast of oxytocin which will help them get through the rest of the day in peace and love in their hearts. Our work in schools gives me much happiness, as my maids words and my tranquil way gives holistic healing to both clients and us equally.
I may not have been dictating my doggy thoughts much recently for my maid to write due to the chaos of life, but I have been thinking about you all. The maid and I wish you are all well and if not, we are sending you masses of hairy doggy and less hairy human hugs. As our summer break from schools comes closer, we will aim to blog more as catch up with what you have all been doing. Much love from me and the maid.
Mothers create more than just a physical child. When a mother gives birth, she gifts the world with another piece of love that will fill the hearts of others as much as her own. She will nurture a fully functioning being that will in turn nurture other living beings. She births the professional that may go on to save your life and the lives of many others. Clearing the path for her child to freely explore the world to become the person that they really want to be, shows that a mother is happy to be led by their teacher.
The beauty of a mother is that on the surface no two will ever appear the same. The helicopter mother who wants to protect their child is no more of a mother than the permissive mother who allows their child to learn from their mistakes. The perfectionist mother is no happier than the go with the flow mother who gets it done in the end. High achieving mothers may have different goals that the mediating mother has, but both achieve in their own way. There is no perfect way to mother, there is just your way.
Whether babies are human or of the furry kind, adopted or metaphorical, they will always remain a baby in the eyes of a mother. That empty nest syndrome that drains the hearts of mothers worldwide is the universal mother language of a living loss that takes time to adjust to. Where once she wished for peace and quiet, she now craves the chaos that once was in the home they built together. As the curl from the first haircut lays safe in the draw, their grandchild sits in the hairdressing seat awaiting the same to happen to their own curls.
The one thing, that we all have in common is that we would not be here had it not been for our mothers. However, you celebrate this Mother’s Day may it be full of love, appreciation and forever memories. Happy Mother’s Day to all the miracle makers that have created us as there would be no world without them.
What does my Five-year old granddaughter love about herself?
“I love my hands as they help give things to people. They can also do sign language to people who cannot hear.
I love my eyes as they can help see things for people who cannot see, just like you Mam.
I love my ears as they can listen out to help people who are deaf.
I love my mouth as I can talk to people who need to chat”.
I have always known that she was a beautiful soul, but I never realized just how bright her light within was constantly alight until I asked her this simple question. This glimpse into the mind of an innocent five-year-old who has yet to query her worth in life, took me to a place that I wish we could all live. These ideas have not been forced into her mind in any way, they have just emerged from her authentic perception of what it is really like to live in a world with others with needs that are sometimes greater than her own.
She was just nine months old when Munch my adorable Guide Dog came to live with us so she cannot remember a time where Munch was not a permanent fixture by my left-hand side on days out. She has always been my eyes. When I drop something, she picks it up without being asked. She holds things close to my face so that I can get a better view of the blurry object and she mastered using my white cane as soon as she could walk, just because she felt like it. To her sight loss is no big thing, it just is part of her grandmother’s life.
Munch to her is not a Guide Dog, he is just family. I was told once by her teacher when I picked her up from school, that they had asked that morning what the name of my dog was. She looked puzzled at them and asked what dog ? With Munch weighing six stone and his head measuring thirty-three inches from the floor clad in a bright yellow and white harness, she thought they were talking about some other dog. She told them he was not a dog; he was just Munch.
When children grow up with disabilities and other differences around them, they can only see normality. They accept the whole of a person as they are and know no different. Children who grow up alongside difference see an expanded version of the limited world other’s live in. They learn that for every problem there are a multitude of different solutions and they learn to love unconditionally and never with condition. They are the teachers that speak with the wisdom that we never thought we would here.
When a five-year old talks of including those in society that are often left feeling excluded, they will never be alone. It is this type of child who accepts without effort or limit and sees beyond barriers that need never exist. Kindness can only come from a place that it organically exists if it is to be omnipresent in every situation in life. When we are choosing to be kind in life, we are choosing to live an enriched path that will never see us alone.
What do I love most about my granddaughter? Her pure existence and everything that it entails.
That’s what we do each year. Walk into the New Year not knowing what will happen.
Will we change a little of ourselves in an intentional way, or will change occur naturally as we evolve in our own unique lifetime ? Will we create into reality what was once a dream, or will we stick to the safety of the known and do what we have always done? Will this year finally be the year that we stick to the ‘New Year, New Me’ motto that universally fizzles out by the start of Sping, or will we just learn to present our true selves to the world that will love us in any way we are?
Does this year promise to hold more magic than any other year has for us, or will we believe that magic only exists in fairytales? Does our success this year depend on our Midas touch from our build up good Karma, or will the Tainted Touch of others halt us in our tracks? Does the thought of plans make you feel secure, or do you like that life is fluid and changes happen?
In 2020, we walked in blindly believing that our way of life was controlled by us. We believed that our family life was unchangeable, our jobs were ours, the education system was working and our futures would never have to be put on hold. That year would be like any other with only a few minor tweaks. Not many could have predicted the extent of how 2020 would leave footprints in history in the way that it did.
We stopped, we paused, we grieved, we raged, we rebelled, we cried, we laughed, we shared, we regrouped, we changed, we gave, we took, we started, we were stopped, and then we repeated. This was not the first year any of us had experienced these emotions but maybe it was the first year we had experienced them collectively. 2020 gave us the gift of unity in adversity.
The beauty of being led blindly into the unknown is that change has no option but to appear. Each new step we make on the path of discovery, creates opportunities to grow into someone you never imagined you could become. Stepping into the new, is as exciting or dreadful as you make it so choose your intentions carefully.
Whatever 2021 brings you, Munch and I wish you happiness, health, unconditional love and abundance in every way possible as you walk blindly into the new.
Nothing feels the same anymore for anyone. Wishes for a normal Christmas may not be granted in memorable 2020, but many new wishes may well come true.
For us, I am expecting less footsteps to walk through the door as mixing with loved ones is discouraged by those in power. The chaos of the usual Christmas cheer that comes with a large family, may be quieter than any other year. Recycling bags full of wrapping paper may be overfilled on another living room floor from our gifts that get opened elsewhere. The shelves in the fridge may groan with less food as family members eat in their own homes over the festive period. Christmas Eve may lose its magical powers when no cookies or milk are left out here for Santa, but I am sure he will not starve. These changes may not be ideal, but they also need not be devastating.
We will soon mix again with the army of family that we are blessed to be born into and seek out a rare spare chair in a room full of people. Four different conversations between loved ones will at some point fill each of the four corners of the room as people catch up with each other. The desire for giving presents may be replaced by the gratitude of the pure presence of loved ones alone. Food will once again taste better when sneakily shared from a friend’s plate when social distancing is a thing of the past. Santa’s best fan’s will at some point leave him goodies in front of equally excited friends and family just before the little footsteps make their way to bed. The new normal button will be pressed again after this seemingly long pause.
With a new baby Grandson bringing hope and joy back into the family, Christmas is far from spoilt this year. It may be different, but different can be a refreshing place to be in as change is sometimes as good as a rest. As with most, 2020 has made me stop and re-evaluate life from a different perspective. We can either choose to battle the unfairness, pain, and hurt of this year or we can choose to celebrate what we have been left with. Either way, we are going to create more of what we feel and think about. Admitting to ourselves that our version of life is just one way of seeing things and acknowledging that there are more positive ways of seeing things can sometimes be the most bitter pill to swallow in life. We are not always right; we are sometimes wrong.
For the first year ever, my four children will not all be here on Christmas Morning. My eldest may be with her partner and my two beautiful Grandchildren whilst my other daughter will be doing her midwifery duties of helping to deliver babies on Christmas Day. The house will still be full of my two son’s mischief and beauty as they play with Munch and Angus the cat, so half of Christmas will remain the same. It may be a different Christmas, but it does not mean it will be a less special one for everyone in different ways.
However, your new version of Christmas goes, I hope you find peace and beauty in places that you may have forgotten existed after living in this year of change. New traditions need to start somewhere.
I know what you are thinking. It is a Yeti croissant but no, you would be wrong!
That is the thing with assuming with our eyes, we never really get it right no matter how hard we try. We can never utterly understand what our eyes are tricking us into believing, as we only really see one perspective of an object that fits in with our world belief. Being led around by my hairy soul mate Munch lets people think that he is working for me, whereas anyone who knows him will know that I really work for him. Leading me to a place we need to go, results in a treat or two being eagerly hoovered up and me giving him at least a ten-minute worshipping ritual, telling him how he is the best living being ever in the world. We have found our power balance in our relationship and let us just say it is far from equal. Anyone with a Labradoodle knows that the power always lays with them and never with us.
The deception of looks alone has led us to many a faux pas in our four years together. From being mistaken as Munch’s trainer as I “didn’t look blind enough to have a Guide Dog” (???) to being asked where my collection bucket was for the imaginary fundraising collection someone though I was doing as a fully sighted person with a Guide Dog, assumptions can be wrong. Assuming Munch’s innocent face is incapable of being one of the world’s most notorious ball thief, is also another misconception. Maybe now is not the time to go into his known alias of “Good Boy” that everyone calls him when really, one of my friends knows him as the Pasty Thief that gently and lovingly alighted a pasty from her three year old daughters hand just as it was about to be transported to her mouth. A swift pasty replacement later and all was forgiven but the name has still stuck.
For me, one of the most infuriating misconceptions in the world today is when people criticize the “youth of today” from the narrative of the media alone without enough experience to make up their own minds about judging a whole section of society. Admittedly, I am slightly biased having worked with children and young people for the last twenty-six years on and off, but at least I have a privileged insight into their world. Working in schools with a Guide Dog brings with it many comments being directly and indirectly aimed at me. Some are hilarious, some are tactful, whilst others are said filter free but I for one love variety, so all are welcomed. There are times however that are heart melting such as the one that happened last week.
Asking Munch to “find the steps” for us to lead us to our room, he quickened the pace before stopping at the end of the steps for my foot to find our starting point. Having the fuzzy triple visioned blurry light colour ahead of us seemingly reaching up to the heavens (which the sighted call stairs), we began climbing. I was aware of two pairs of footsteps ahead of me going in the same direction and held back a little for us not to get in their way. Mid climb, one pair of light footsteps stopped and began coming back down. Just as we were about to move to the side to let the lively feet and attached body to pass us, they stopped just in front of us. A sweet-sounding teenage boy seemed to lean towards us and ask, “Excuse me, do you need any help at all?”
It took me a while to wonder why he would ask if I needed help? I began to wonder if I was walking in the wrong direction into a forbidden part of the school or if something horrible had attached to me on our way up the stairs when I remembered I couldn’t see and had a Guide Dog with me. I know it sounds weird but if you have never been able to see clearly from birth and everything is always a blur, you know no different and it is never really an issue. This is my world where I forget I cannot see as I have never know any different. It is when I am totally oblivious to the fact that it is a disability, there is always a gentle reminder that appears to remind me that it is. When I walk with Munch by my left hand side, I totally forget he is a Guide Dog as I chatter away to him asking him to turn left or right or find doors and objects whilst praising him as we go. The problem when you have sight loss living in a sighted world is that you sometimes forget that people can see.
When my brain finally caught up with what the sweet boy meant, my heart melted. He must have seen someone with an obvious disability (even though I was too away with the fairies to remember I had one myself) and took time out of his day to ask if there was anyway he could help. He did it so discreetly, lowering his tone not to draw attention which in itself showed what kind hearted soul he really was. I thanked him a lot for stopping to ask but said we were fine. As he went on his way he told me to take care which I wished him back as my smile widened. There are more Earth Angels around us than we realized. This seemingly small interaction between a teenager from the Sighted world and a grandmother from the Sight Loss world spoke volumes about the world we live it.
To him, his kindness was a natural part of his being . To me, his kindness was a gift that will get him so far in life that I hope his Karmic bank overflows. He saw me with a disability where I may have needed a bit of assistance. Whereas I saw myself as fully able bodied . We were both 100 % right in that situation in our own ways. I hope that he always has someone around to help him if he ever needs it.
So, our much-awaited Christmas present for 2020 is going to be a new baby in the family. What a perfect way to end a less than perfect year.
My second grandchild is due on 23rd December which is something the whole family is excited for. How do I think Munch will react? Well if his relationship with Arna-Rae (my first born granddaughter) is anything to go by, I think they will be best friends.
Munch came into our lives when Arna-Rae was just nine months old and they hit it off straight away. He went to sniff her when they first met and the fact that she had some crumbs on her tights meant that this was going to be a match made in heaven. A new playmate and a food dropper all rolled into one was Munch’s idea of heaven. She was as gentle with him as he was with her as they played alongside one another stealing each other’s toys.
Arna-Rae started taking her sweet first steps as Munch walked alongside her and when out and about, she would hold onto his Guide Dog harness whilst out on their adventures. He was there for some of her firsts and is still there alongside her as she grows into the beautiful little girl that she has become. As she tries to dodge his sloppy morning kisses, she cradles his head so sweetly in her loving arms that have held him a multitude of times.
She says Mam (shortened version of Mamgu which is Welsh for grandmother) and Munch and not just Mam as she knows we come as a pair. She has only really known me with Munch as my Guide Dog and never on my own so to her, we are one. His happy helicopter tail rotates with delight as she comes crashing through the door as he knows his food dropping playmate has arrived for some fun. They know and love each other deeply.
When Arna-Rae’s brother or sister arrives and grows with the family, the only problems that I can see occurring are as follows-
Who will be the first to snuggle up to him?
Who will have the most fun toys to play with?
Who will be most generous with food?
Who can throw the ball the furthest?
Who will be most likely to go on mischievous adventures with him?
Who will be most likely to find his stinky anal exhales funny and not run away from him?
Who will be most likely to run the fastest with him whilst out on free runs?
Who will take up less room on the couch with him as he stretches out?
Who will give the best belly rubs and nose kisses?
Who will love him even when he is being a monster?
The truth is they will both be there each of these times as he will be there for them. The beauty of animals is that they are only capable of unconditional love. One may give him the most food or throw the ball the furthest, but he will love them both equally as will I.
The last four years as a grandmother has been the best. Getting to witness Arna-Rae grow form a tiny 4lb 12oz newborn into a beautiful, loving, kind four year old who has a wonderful sense of self has been magical and I am so excited to see what her enchanting sibling will also bring into life. This Christmas will certainly be a perfect ending to a less than perfect year.
Fifteen weeks on and we were back in the shop like nothing had happened. To us, not much had changed. Blurs (or people, as the sighted like to call them), sauntered around on their own missions to get out of this supposedly germ infested place as we were guided by our friend’s voice to watch out for people and objects. Having been blessed to have friends, family and online shopping services do our shopping for us over the last fifteen weeks, we had not stepped foot into a shop, so I was unsure what to expect. Munch had not been in full work mode for a while, only slipping on his harness for short walks around our home area. I was a little apprehensive of how he would feel going back into full work mode, but he amazed me on how eager he was to get back.
Practically yanking me into the place that he once resisted going, I guessed this shopping trip would be easier than I had thought. The history of Munch and shopping has not always been a positive one but clearly this break has made him re -evaluate his acceptance of the place that fills his belly with love from all the edible goodies all around. As we swiftly passed the clothes section that he has never been a fan of, his prancing pace quickened, avoiding the two-legged race with perfection. A quick sniff out of his favourite vegan cheese that he is rather partial too and we were well on the way to the second aisle. All the fears I had of not being able to see to social distance was gone as my harness wearing hero worked in partnership with my vocal coaching friend as they helped avoid upsetting anyone by walking into them. Munch was back on top form.
I swallowed the guilt of the questioning thoughts that I had been having of Munch becoming deskilled with his time off from proper work as he proved me wrong. With ever prancing paws he placed on the shiny supermarket floor, he was obviously on a mission. As we glided through the scent of celery, cotton fresh candles and freshly baked products from the bakery that alerted my olfactory gland to where we were in the supermarket, I knew that Munch had this all in hand (or his yeti like paws more like). The calling of the third aisle became too much for Munch as he quickened his Olympian worthy pace as we rounded the corner resembling a pair of pivoting ice skaters. It was only when the stench of dried meaty canine bliss and cat nip covered treats intruded my nostrils that I realized what Munch’s hurry had been all along. He had finally come home to the aisle where his heart was. The pet food aisle.
His longing to return to this sense filled sanctuary was plain for all to see. His excited panting echoed along the tins and boxes that lined the shelves of his favourite thirty plus foot space EVER. The smell of new tennis balls wafting from their net packaging alerted me that we had reached his favourite toy section. For some strange reason, he took his time to put his best paw forward in this part of the shop and was in no hurry to leave. It was only after a pack of treats and new toy later, that I knew he would be ready to sashay through the rest of the shop. We remained here for some time for him to savour the moment and reconnect to what his food driven soul had been missing. His return to normality had begun.
If there is one thing that Munch has taught me during our time together is that appreciating the simple things in life is all that matters. Following this helicopter tailed happy chappie throughout the rest of shop I realized that witnessing his happiness and the happiness in others is what life is all about. The simplicity of the effects of a smell, the feeling of returning to contentment and focussing on the basics in life is all that is needed to return to happiness. I knew that when his sloppy kisses covered my face when he leapt into the car after the shopping trip, he was thanking me for taking him back into bliss. The return to happiness is sometimes simpler than we think.