Some decisions in life feel simple to make, whilst others are portals into a labyrinth of never-ending questions that can occur as new possibilities become open to you. Choosing to apply for a Guide Dog is no exception to this.
We have been recently counselling a client who is at this exact decision- making point in their lives. As Guide Dogs have recently extended their services to include children and young people to offer the service of Buddy Dogs along with other fantastic services that they provide, young people now have an opportunity to experience what it is like to have a Buddy Dog that will expose them to what life would be like with a furry friend. These Buddy Dogs are not mobility aids as such as Guide Dogs are, but it is such an amazing way to have insight into what it is like to have someone by your side each and everyday who is there for you.
Working with my adolescent client brought back lots of feeling of what the application process brought up and questions that seem to be universal in the lead up to being gifted a dog. Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are not pets so applying for one goes beyond the ‘it will be amazing to have a cute dog in the house’ train of thought. With such dogs coming already trained to a high standard, there will be no need for a puppy training class as they would have already been trained by dedicated individuals who work and volunteer for Guide Dogs. This life changing best friends that enter our lives are never just a dog.
On a personal level admitting that I needed a Guide Dog felt in a way, revoking the empowerment that I had felt throughout life when I was able to navigate the world alone without people knowing the severity of my sight loss. By admitting I needed help felt like going from independence to dependence on another to be able to get around. Non-Guide Dog users often think of Guide Dogs as allowing independence (which they certainly do), but initially the feelings can be quite the opposite. This is something that I talked to my client at great lengths about which seemed to help as he knew someone had been through the same thing that nobody else seemed to understand.
The magnetic draw of Munch’s pleading eyes and serene presence in the room helped for my client to experience what a real-life Guide Dog was like and he had space to ask as many questions as possible. In these conversations we established that Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are all as unique as us humans, can be both mischievous and perfectly well behaved, can be ball thieves and avoid distractions and a million other things in-between. They will almost definitely deserve a birthday celebration to thank them for their service to us and gifts from family members will always appear each year under the Christmas tree. You will no longer be a sole entity but part of a partnership and expect people to greet your dog before they greet you.
These hairy soul mates of ours that appear in our lives can only arrive after the loving dedications of the people who have turned them into the characters that they are today. From people who donate to this fab charity, the puppy walkers who must have patience of saints and the Guide Dog staff who deserve more praise than they ever get. We are matched with the dogs that the staff feel match us perfectly and work with us if there are teething problems. Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are only possible because of the beautiful creations of the bond between the animal and the human world.
When my client asked, ‘do you think I will have a dog like Munch?’, I responded ‘you will have your own version of Munch’. I am crossing my fingers that his perfect Buddy Dog is getting ready to imprint their paws on the heart of their new best friend soon now that children and young people can feel the true power of these special souls
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.
What has it been like counselling young people during a Pandemic? Pretty s**t to be honest.
The young people themselves have been inspirational to say the least but hearing the impact this pandemic has had on their lives has been soul destroying. If you think we have it hard as adults, you can almost guarantee that there are some aspect of life adaptations that have been twice as hard for young people. Securely formed relationships, experiences of critical thinking , resilience building skills and a lifetime of coping strategies in our toolboxes of life gives us the ability to think outside the box of the global pandemic that we find ourselves in yet, we are still struggling. These character-building qualities that we have gone through as adults are areas that have yet to be gifted upon the young which makes their life that much more difficult.
Adding to that, many have laid blame at the feet of young people through the narrative in the media that they are ‘super spreaders and a breeding ground for the virus’, has not helped protect the mental health of young people at all. From listening to young people speak for the last ten months about how they have felt about being seen like this by many, they are whole heartedly doing everything that can to avoid being the super spreaders that they are called. They want to avoid contact with their vulnerable relatives and do whatever they can to keep their loved ones safe, but this is one thing we rarely hear of in the media where the blame game is very much alive.
Babies born during or just before Lockdown are growing up in a world that is strange to say the least and has the potential to have a negative impact on their development in many ways. Being born into a family with highly anxious parents is less than ideal but is a reality for many babies. Parents losing jobs, financial insecurity, concerns of health risks and deteriorating mental health will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on children’s development through no fault of anyone involved. Early year settings have seen an increase in delayed early development milestone such as toilet training and feeding skills such as use of cutlery, due to many childcare facility provisions being restricted and families being overwhelmed with life demands leaving them less time to dedicate to these nurturing skills. Again, nobody is to blame, it is a biproduct of where we all are collectively.
Families that are living in fear and doing their best to protect their loved ones from getting ill or passing anything on, are in turn isolating themselves from the support networks that were once part of their children’s everyday life. As the child’s world gets smaller and smaller with schools closing and family gatherings a distant memory, the only place that they can begin to heal is at home unless of course home is not a safe space. With domestic abuse incidents ever increasing and welfare checks from closed schools being ever more difficult, children need support now more than ever.
Being in lockdown has not only held negativity but it has also brought about its bonuses. From learning new skills to working from home in our pyjamas, if we look hard enough, we can find as many positives as negatives. Working with young people is no different and school related issues have become less of an issue for some as young people are forced to work from home. For children suffering issues such as bullying, and social anxiety for example have reported an increase in happiness due to school closures. Children with disabilities who find school unbearable at the best of times, are happier in their own secure surroundings where they are understood and accepted for who they are.
How can we help to enhance the lives of the children and young people in our lives? It may be easier than you think? Spending hundreds of hours listening to what young people really want during a pandemic has taught me a lot about the value of simplicity and acceptance. Treating a young person with equality should not be just an ideal that is hard to put into everyday practice as we navigate our way through parenting a teen, but is a basic human right for them just as it is for us. Intergenerational voices work best when in harmony so what can we do to help? Here are a few tips that can help both you and the young person in your life live a happier life.
1.Allow them the right amount of space
Too much nor too little will work, but somewhere in between is ideal. When a young person who retreats into the safety of their less than hygienic bedroom, they are doing so because they need too. It is nothing personal, but they need space . Laying in their beds for most of the day is just part of the evolving teenage brain so why try and change the inevitable. Us lounging on the sofa after either a hard day at work or a boring day of doing nothing tires us out as it does to them too.
It is also as important to connect to prevent feelings of isolations creeping in so scheduling in suitable time for family activities that you all agree on is important. Rediscover the fun you used to have when the children were younger and get the Play Dough out. Choose something that reminds you all of happier times and decide as a family what the right amount of space works for everyone.
2. Relax the routines.
The brain loves a bit of pattern and predictability but being a slave to tightly scheduled days can be as detrimental as having no routine at all. Routines work best when no changes ever happen in life but if there is one thing that we have all learnt during the pandemic is that change in life is inevitable. Children brought up with an extremely strict daily routine can have their worlds turned upside down when they are forced into a situation they have never been in before. Anxieties, uncertainty, lower adaptive skills, and impaired decision-making skills can all result when things are the opposite of having nothing but structure in a day.
We know that the world of play needs unstructured play along with structured play to allow the imagination to grow and life is no different than that. Questioning whether the family routine suits you alone, as opposed to the needs of the whole family can help. Exposing children and young people to change and decision making is helping them build cooperative skills for the relationship now and in the future.
3. Sleeping patterns are individual.
A new-born baby can sleep an average of 17 hours a day, a 5-year-old up to 10 hours a day and 8-year-old 7 hours a day. When it comes to teenagers just scrap all that. As the teenage brain parties on until 4am and sleeps in until noon at the earliest, we need to make exceptions. They are not purposely annoying you when you can hear them up and about in their bedroom , they are just doing what the brain is meant to do. Asking a 14-year-old to be sleeping by 9pm is like asking you to stay awake until 4am. Unrealistic and never going to happen.
Sleep for most people has changed during the pandemic and many of us have been invited back into the world of the teenage brain as thoughts and worries keep us awake at night. Try and help them develop a good sleep hygiene plan that helps them sleep for a length of time that suits them, not necessarily you. If it does not work, be patient as this stage in their life will not last forever. Giving them a hard time about not being able to sleep will not help but understanding will. If they need a mid afternoon nap so be it.
4. Listen to what they are not saying
If you see a change in your young person, ask them about it and really listen to what they have to say, if they do not want to talk to you, make sure they are talking to someone. Do not be offended if you are not the one that they want to confide in, see it as a compliment. It is so hard to talk openly about emotional issues with those closest to us as we do not want to hurt them. Whether it is a family bereavement or an issue with identity, they sometimes need to speak to someone who is that one step removed from them to be able to open freely without feeling judged or hurting a loved one.
If you notice a change in behaviour such as severe withdraw or being stuck in one emotion (anger, sadness etc) start the conversation. Offer them unconditional love and support and if that fails, research with them to identify a place that they can talk whether it be with another family member or with a counsellor or online charity. Reassuring them that you are there when they need to talk is all that is needed sometimes to help them feel safe to open up
5. Show gratitude more than regret.
You are the best teacher that they will ever meet so use it wisely. If you are always complaining about everything that is wrong in life, they will see a life full of disappointment. If talk about a life full of fear, then you are teaching your child that the world is an unsafe place. You cannot expect your child to find the happiness in life if you have never showed them where to look. When your child catches you smiling at your playful kitten, they will learn to love cats. When you show them that they are loved no matter what, they will learn to love the flaws in others. as much as their strengths.
Explore together situations in life that bring both good and bad reactions. Be grateful that they got the motivation to sign into half their online lessons and not focus on the missed ones. Be thankful that you have had more time together as a family at home and not on an expensive holiday. Thank them for helping in what they do and not highlight everything they do not do around the house. They are doing their best so acknowledge this.
Life will not be like this forever, but it is like this for now so let us learn to embrace more and judge less. The mask you are wearing that shows the world that you are holding everything together , could be the same mask that your child is wearing too so unsubscribe to the masquerade in life and choose a different way to connect with your mini me in life.
Our Christmas celebration for 2020 has begun on 26th October.
My gorgeous Grandson Corey-Taylor was born at 5.32pm on 26.10.20, a shocking 9 weeks early. Waiting until the 23rd December didn’t suit him, so he decided to arrive in his perfect 3lbs 4oz cute body via C-Section after his beautiful mother Rasheena developed preeclampsia. Thankfully, his tiny cry alerted all in Theatre that he was fine and ready to put his stamp on the world.
Both mother and baby are doing amazing. Despite being on oxygen for the first 24 hours to prevent lung collapse, he has needed no help at all. Obviously he has needed to keep them on their toes in SCBU, so he has pulled out his feeding tube on occasion but apart from that, there have been no problems. He is one tough little cookie who is getting stronger each day.
Being born during a Pandemic and National Lockdown in Wales, may not have been the ideal time for us to welcome this handsome soul into the world but it will all turn out fine. Having clothes shops and supermarkets banned from selling clothes and certain baby equipment, has made shopping for a premature baby less than ideal but online shops have been a blessing. With his big sister nor family members not being able to visit him in SCBU due to covid restrictions, it has been tough but Facetime and pictures have come to the rescue. These inconveniences are only today’s hiccups and will not really matter as he strengthens day by day.
Corey’s arrival has overwhelmed me with love and happiness and hope for the rest of the year. I cannot wait until the end of 2020 so that he will be strong enough to be home with the family. 2020 has not been ideal for anyone, but it is times like this that important things are put into perspective. This perfect precious little soul has come at exactly the right time for everyone.
Babies born during this year may not see their extended family but I hope they can feel their presence. They may not get to see facemask covered smiles, but I hope they can feel the happiness that they bring. Cwtches (or cuddles to the non-Welsh) may not be felt in person by these special babies but I hope they can feel the love wrapped all around them. These special babies are here to remind us what is really essential in life. Thank you babies of 2020, you are pure love.
P.s. Corey-Taylor. Munch, your big sister Arna-Rae and myself have all been planning on lots of adventures and mischief we can get up to in the future so keep getting stronger each day so the fun times can begin ❤
I was sure that was his ear that I was lovingly gazing at. Just to make sure I gently traced my finger along his tiny head that lay in the crook of my arm and felt where his baby soft hair ended and his tiny ear began. I wasn’t far off where I thought where his ear was. My double vision of this beautiful blur had led me slightly off course but what did it matter anyway? The miracle of life that had still been inside me just 13 hours before was now being fed in my arms as I stood in my dining room with my other hand resting on his brothers highchair. This feeling of unconditional love that swept through me was not new as I had experienced it three other times over the last six years when my other children were born but it was slightly different. Just hours earlier a lovely student midwife had asked me if there was anything that I needed help with because of my eyesight and that was totally new.
Over the years I had never been asked that question by anyone. Had she not discussed my medical notes with me and enquired with her fresh new mind about what issues Marfan Syndrome gave me I would not have told her my eyes were “not the best”. It was so lovely to see the eagerness of the student to drink in all the information that she knew would help her on her placement. As soon as the caring questions left her lips, I began to think if there was any help that I needed? I had never thought of this before as I had always got on with motherhood in my own way and loved all its challenges. If you know no other way of life, then there is nothing that can ever really be missing from it.
I really wanted to tell this sweet young girl that if I had fully functioning vision I probably would need help to learn to parent all over again but I didn’t as it would sound bizarre. The thing was. It was because I couldn’t see that I found motherhood so smooth. I tuned into my children at such a deep level that I could sense everything about them. My touch told me how they were in themselves, my hearing let me know what their cries needed, and my gut told me if there was anything to fear in the silence. My logical brain told me everything I needed to know to keep them safe and therefore if all of these senses that had kept them happy and safe for the last six years were dampened down and I was given fully functioning vision instead, I would have to unlearn all that I had learnt.
I knew each of their personalised footsteps as they raced around the house and listened for the different materials of their coats rubbing as their arms propelled them forward whilst running outdoors to know that they were safe. Their whispering sleep filled breath that fell on my ears at night assured me that they were happily dreaming away nicely. The freshly smelling bathed baby soft bodies let me know that they were clean in their fragrant newly washed clothes. Most of all however it was their giggles that let me know that even though their mother could not see as well as most, they were doing okay. I am not sure therefore if I ever did need any additional help as I felt that however we all worked together as a team, it worked. My four beautiful children were the best teachers I have ever had in my blurry. “not the best” visioned world.
Thinking back to 16 years ago to this scene of me standing with my son (who is now 6ft 4) in my arms, makes me grateful for my sight loss as it made me fall in love with my children and life in a different way. My beautiful eldest daughter is now an amazing mother to her own sweet daughter and are both a ray of sunshine wherever they go. My second daughter who is only 11 months younger has turned out to be the most thoughtful and caring person you can ask for and is herself a student midwife asking similar important questions to help new mothers in any way she can. My adorably quirky oldest son has achieved things that nobody expected him to achieve and overcome barriers that would have stopped most yet his determination is omnipresent. My youngest charismatic mischief making son, is led by his old soul in connecting lovingly to people he meets and makes them feel valued. They have turned out perfect in every way.
So, when people ask me why I didn’t tell people I could not see or ask for help when I brought up these amazing people, I didn’t feel like I needed to. Maybe the whole story will appear in another book someday but until then I will just say that I wouldn’t have changed anything as these perfect not so little people showed me a different kind of magical life that I am blessed to have lived with them.
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.
I only stumbled down a couple of steps once. What a result.
Being in a monotone room may sound like paradise for many, but if you have any type of sight loss, when the seats, carpets, steps, bar and doors are all varying shades of brown, it is not the ideal, but it is just how some rugby clubs are. Luckily my son and daughter were in front of me to stop me falling too far and injuring any of the excited souls that were running around.
It was my granddaughters 3rd Birthday party and there were squeals of delight coming from all directions. I just love the sound of happy children.
Munch had temporarily left the building and gone for his second walk of the party. He had just done a two mile walk with my lovely father who adored him and now his chief dog walker had arrived to take him for a play on the field, so he was one happy dog.
Around me, family and friends were my eyes and confirmed in my ear who was standing in front of me talking to me. Due to their sweet helpfulness I could imagine what was going on around me even if I couldn’t see. Only once I went to pick up the wrong child for a cuddle thinking it was my granddaughter. Oops. Lucky the parents understood.
With the sound of the fan keeping the bouncy castle up and small bare feet hitting it, I knew that the children were having a fun time. Listening to multiple conversations going on all around me, it was clear that it was a nice time for friends and family to catch up as the children played. The enticing smell of the lovely food that my son-in-law had prepared quietened the groans of rumbling stomachs and made them content. The room went from cold to warm as energetic bodies zoomed around in true child bliss.
Sensing all this excitement made me so happy knowing that everyone had a great time. One of the best moments was when my granddaughter had come to me for a loving cuddle and Munch arrived back in the building and she went over to give him the biggest hug ever and said “I love you so much Munch. Thank you for coming”, which he answered to with a kiss. They have been best pals since she met him when he came to us when she was nine months old. His love for her goes way beyond her food dropping habits and her love for him goes way beyond showing up at her parties.
Their sweet loving souls are reflected in each other and they accept one other just as they are. Friends come in all shapes, sizes and hairiness and each one brings us something different. These two sweet mischievous souls will celebrate many more birthdays together which fills me with so much joy.
True friendship is a meeting of connected souls regardless of our species. Keep smiling through life my beautiful angels, I love you always.
Inhaling the heat on the skin and the unwanted scent of illness in the small body, you can use more than eyes to observe illness in a child. The activated response to a smell of a dry nappy becoming wet, alerts you to the need for a swift change. Opening the door to smell if there is petrichor in the air before it starts to rain, lets you know if the children will need coats to keep them dry. When a sudden whiff of Sudocrem joins you in the kitchen, you know you need to follow the trail to confiscate the pot and start the clean up operation on everywhere that you cherub has covered with this villain.
When silence falls in a chatty house, you need to peek to see who’s turn it is being the ringleader in the mischief being caused. When your child’s jangling zip on their boot gets further away from you in the playground, you need to follow the sound to keep them safely in ear shot. When you hear your child’s favourite toy fall, you pinpoint the exact location to reach your hand out to reunite it with its joyful owner. When you hear the whizz of the bike wheels coming towards you, you remind your child that you must always be aware of all oncoming dangers and wait to cross safely. As you hear the squeal of joy escape from their perfectly formed lips, you join their celebration despite not being able to see what is exciting them.
Remembering the different feel of each of their coats, you help put them on the right child for them to go and warmly explore the great outdoors. Differentiating between the pristine feeling lunchbox of one and the scuffed one of the other, you pack their lunchboxes with their personal choices. Touching the top of your child’s head and feeling their unique hair type, you can tell the difference between your children of similar height. Cutting toe nails by touch, you learn to trust your judgement to do what others do by sight. Picking up toys with fingers on high alert, allows you to keep their favourite games together for the next time they want to play.
Knowing that they are going to fall before they do, allows you to be there to catch them. Tuning into the energy of their friends to know which will always make them happy, you are alert to those who will upset them and prepare youself to be there for them when they do. Knowing that you will not make the meeting as you need to be prepared, you are able to act calmly when the phone call from school comes when they have had an injury. Being assertive enough to tell doctors that they are wrong about it being a stomach bug and telling them it is actual a ruptured appendix, you don’t get shocked when they rush your child to theatre as you are just glad they caught it in time.
Memories of raising four beautiful children under the age of six, fills me with love and joy. These wildly different souls who are now adorable young adults, mesmerised me with their abilities as they grew. I may not have been able to see their expression filled faces or the true sweet mischief that they caused but I always saw their unique selves. Eyes only allow us to see what we want to see but other senses allow us to know on a deeper level. Maybe if I was gifted with sight from birth, I may not have known my children as I know them today. As my little cluster of beautiful being’s glide through life in whichever direction they want to take, I hope I can still learn from them each and everyday and see them exactly as they are.
In Quantum Science, there is a theory that if an “observer” watches an event happening, then they can affect the observed reality in front of them. It is believed that particles act as waves and pass through a barrier and meet at the other end through a process called ‘interference’. I may not be a Quantum Scientist (although it is on my bucket list) I believe that this is the universal law that keeps happening to Munch and I in our daily life. Left observation free, our lives could be pretty normal, but it is fact the observation of others on our seemingly odd behaviours that implants shocked expressions on peoples face.
Let me give you an example. One day in work last week, I was minding my own business using a chair to support my sideward star shaped body, when I was interrupted by a member of staff bringing in a pupil to see me. Admittedly, he was faced with my outstretched foot at his chest level as I was just finishing off my yoga pose but was that enough of a reason for his fear-stricken voice to tremble with concern. The “Sorry I was just moving the chair” excuse did not seem to convince him that I was less ninja like and more therapist like.
The original reason why I had been doing this back-stretching exercise was that my back was aching and I needed to move. My scoliosis plays up now and again and sends the surrounding muscles into meltdown, so I tend to use yoga to stretch them back into their happy place and today I needed yoga 101 to help with the pain. When I was lying on the office floor during my lunch hour, doing some gentle butterfly kicks to ease my lower back, Munch grew concerned. He intuitively knew that exercise is crueller than kind to me, so he smothered me with sloppy kisses as he tried to help me regain my normal state of breathing. Right on cue, another member of staff knocked on the door and seemed relieved when I got up to answer the door to them. They thought that Munch was licking me to bring me around from some sort of injury! Glass panelled doors have a lot to answer for.
For the third time that day, a person on the other side of the door was observing something that wasn’t what it seemed. When a client was late for their appointment, I rang the member of staff that deals with appointments. Her amused voice told me that she had spent the last five minutes reassuring the client that there wasn’t a bear in my room with me, that it was actually a dog. It was Munch and I playing catch and Munch was jumping up high to catch the ball, the client looked in to see what looked like a hairy bear on its hind legs. Had the client looked in a fraction of a second earlier or later they would have realized it was a large dog jumping up. We apologised for scaring her and normality was resumed.
Not only do things always happen in threes to us but we always get caught doing the most bizarre things at the most awkward times. I blame the law of interference for our mis-fortunes. I think the observers must be controlling our behaviour and if left unobserved we may actually be what others call normal.
With tiny soft fingers brushing my extra long ones, we walked side by side as we were led around the aisles. Avoiding customers and cages of goods ready for the shelves, on duty Munch made shopping possible. Taking us to our usual products in the shop, he waited patiently as my beautiful granddaughter’s little legs caught up with us. Here stood, the novice, competent and expert in the guide dog world.
Learning about animals is one thing that a child can never learn too early. It not only helps a child learn about empathy and how to care for another but along with many other benefits, it also taches them to have respect for all living things. She was introduced to Munch when she was 9 months old and he was nearly 2 and their love and respect for each other has blossomed into beauty. As she gently cuddles her gentle giant, they melt into each other with unconditional love.
When I was first introduced to Munch, I never thought that I would get the hang of not only the taking care of a dog but also the numerous commands and body positionings that you need to know for work with a guide dog. Reaching the competent stage of being confident enough to work with Munch anywhere has taken quite a while. We are blessed that our oddness in life is the common theme that has united us as one and helped us keep our oddness alive.
The expert in this new world is Munch himself who I am sure has lived many lifetimes and brought with him wisdom from each one. I joke that he was not put on this earth to work with his entitled view of where he fits in the world, but I cannot imagine him being anything else. He loves it when we are out meeting people and guiding me in an experienced manner that comes to him with ease. He could never be a stay at home dog. This wise old sage knows life lessons that many have yet to discover.
Learning from such cute wise experts helps to satisfy the inquiring mind. As the “why’s” fall out of my granddaughter’s sweet mouth, I feel blessed that we have Munch as an example of the answers to give. Why I need a guide dog, why he needs a harness, why we need to show him so much love and why he is such an important part of the family are the why’s in life that I never tire of answering. I have a sneaky feeling that Munch never minds teaching either as he leads us through life, leaving the trail of Munch magic behind him.