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.
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.
If looks could kill, I think my maid may have been a new arrival in the morgue in this sterile smelling building. I may be the only dog in this waiting room, but all menacing eyes are all on her as she sits there without a mask on. It seems rather pointless though as she cannot even see them looking at her and if it were not for the friend that we brought with us telling her that she is under surveillance, she would not have known. Being exempt from wearing a mask on medical and disability grounds obviously means only one thing to these not so friendly bunch. Unapologetic judgment has clearly replaced the kindness movement from only a few months ago. Humans eh? Go figure.
My rather fragrant anal exhale which only seems to rile them up even more in hindsight may not have helped matters. The puffing out of their masked mouths alerts me that I have now entered their bad books too. I am not sure if this hospital visit can get any worse. Sitting in the corner away from everyone, I think the plan of the maid and our masked friend we had with us was that we would not be in anyone’s way. I think however that this Feng Shui faux pas meant that we were in the direct line of sighted people’s vision. From the tutting sounds around, this may not have been the Feng Shui love corner. The maskless maid however was totally oblivious of this as she chatted away to me and our third Musketeer.
As I sashayed my curvaceous body towards the nurses’ room with the maid in tow, I crossed my padded paws that things would get a little friendlier in there. Escorting the maid to her chair, we sat together and waited for the nurse to begin the consultation. She was far less frosty and even complemented me on my good looks and melting puppy dog eyes. One of the perks of being a guide dog is that you never really go long without someone falling in love with you at the most random of places. All was going well until a face shield wearing, masked plastic covered less hairy two-legged race (a.k.a human) came in. That is where I lost my bottle and went to cower behind the maid’s battered chair.
You see, I have not mentioned up until now that masks really scare me. Not just me but many of my canine colleagues. We know you all must wear them due to Government guidelines but that does not make it any less scary. We are getting used to it slowly but please be patient with us. The thing is, we love looking at your fascinating faces. We learn to read your cues and emotions as much as you learn to read ours. Eye to eye contact alone can be scary for us. Most dogs may only see their owners or people on their walks in masks but us working dogs go into ever imaginable public place and it is taking us a little time to adjust.
I wish I could have communicated this to the slightly stroppy newly arrived nurse in the room who barked at me that “I will have to get used to the look” when she queried why I had gone to cower behind my maid. I was surprised that the maid only rolled her eyes and managed to bite her tongue and not reply to her. We need voices to speak on our behalf, but I trust the maid to fight the battles that need to be fought and leave others go unchallenged. The slammng of the door behind her was a welcomed sound as we carried on the consultation with the nice one.
It is not just us dogs that are having a hard time with this new mask wearing community that we find ourselves in. We have a family friend with an Autistic child who is petrified of going out at present due to fearing all these new changes they are encountering. I think I may currently be this child’s safety blanket as I am still the same maskless dog as I have always been which is helping the transition process of helping the child get used to the new normal. A deaf friend of my maid’s is also having a hard time of things as lip reading others is impossible now due to being in a world that she can no longer communicate in. Not all people not wearing masks are doing it to cause conflict.
If I could give you less hairy two-legged race humans some advice at this moment in time it would be…
The person you see Infront of you without a mask is still a person with feelings. Barking out insults to them says far more about you than it does about them.
I know social distancing rules don’t at the moment allow you all to go and sniff each other’s body parts to find out where you have been (you really don’t know what you are missing), but you can still talk to one another and communicate safely.
You only know your own life story, do not let your ego trick you into thinking that you know theirs. Meet each new person with a waggy tail regardless of if they have a face covering or not.
Give gratitude that despite not wanting to really wear a mask, that you can. Not everyone is blessed with the level of health and physical ability that you have. We as dogs see you all as equal so try and do the same to each other.
You do you and let others do themselves. What Missy the Labrador or Eric the Terrier does is their business, what I do as the best Labradoodle I can be is my own business. We can still be friends and respect each other even if we act differently.
Just a quick heads up, if I see you with a mask or face shield on and cower away from you, I am not doing it to offend you, I am just adjusting to all the changes that we are all going through at this tough time. We are all the same people that we were before the pandemic and after all of this is over we will fall out less, love more and have more compassionate get togethers to pick up where we left off and pee on lamp posts in unity. Okay maybe you less hairy two-legged race want to skip the last part, but we are all in this together.
I cannot wait to see the whole of those beautiful faces again soon to cover with my doggy kisses.
If I had stayed in fear, I may never have a chance to kiss this gorgeous velvety nose.
Dogs were never really my thing. I never really ‘oohed and aahed’ over cute little puppies running around. This was partly because I could not really see them but also partly because I never really trusted them. I did not have full blown Cynophobia, but they were not my favourite animals to be honest. I was never bitten by a dog growing up or was scared in anyway by any, but I always had a healthy respect for the fact that they could turn if they felt threatened.
We had a cross Collie whilst growing up called Cindy who was with us for ten years until she passed when I was around fourteen. She was more human than dog so I kind of forgot that she belonged to the canine kind as she would come with my brothers, friends and I as we played Fox and Hounds and football. I was surprised that she was never scouted for a top team as she scored more goals than any of us put together. Cindy was one of us, other dogs were not.
I had a healthy respect for the ability of dogs to turn if they were threatened and therefore kept away from them. This was one of the stumbling blocks that I was hanging onto when I decided to apply for a guide dog. The main excuse I gave myself from applying for a guide dog was that maybe people I knew would question why I suddenly turned up with a guide dog when the majority of them never knew I had been registered as severely sight impaired (previously known as registered blind) for a number of years. The other main reason was however that I was not sure if life with a dog was really for me.
What would happen if I did not learn to read the dog’s signs of distress or if they were too hot and frustrated? What if I could not pick up on the cues that they needed something that I did not know about? What if the dog did not like me? What if the dog did not like coming into schools with me for me to carry out my job? The negative ‘what if’s’ snowballed more than the positive ‘what if’s’ until I got over myself and started turning the scenarios on their head and saw love instead of fear.
What if I tuned into the dog’s happiness as soon as I met him/her? What if I used my knowledge of their dislikes to arrange our lives to avoid them? What if our intuition synched so that we naturally picked up on each other’s needs? What if the unconditional love between our both species had no limit? What if the dog became part of the staff at the schools that we worked in and had his/her own fan club? My natural positivity trait began to chase away this alien negative frame of mind that had invaded my life. How would I know what life would be like with a guide dog if I was not going to try?
Three and a half years on, it is easy to look back and laugh at the imagined fear that nearly kept us apart. This face that lights up the life of many may have rested upon another sofa if I had not opened my mind beyond the sticky pit of fear. His strands of hair that lay across the house may have had to be vacuumed up by another hoover and his muddy paw prints would have to be mopped up into another bucket. Most devastating however may have been that his big squishy velvety nose may have been kissed by another pair of lips.
Facing you fears and doing it anyway will always bring about the unexpected and for me, it was magical. This mischief maker was worth the gamble. Turning fear into love may not be that hard after all.
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.
I forget people can see me rolling my eyes. To be honest, I forget people can see.
When you have never seen a face clearly before as everyone is just a blur, you kind of forget that the sighted world sees everything. They especially see the things that you really don’t want them to see, such as eye rolling that I am rather partial too. Ooooops.
With a face that just cannot lie, I let my eyes roll upwards and to the side to try and search for a polite answer to the snappy sounding store assistant that stood before me. I am usually far more patient, but I had just experienced this London Bus Syndrome senario where for the third time in less than twenty minutes those dreaded four words were directed at me. To others, the words “you don’t look blind” may seem like a compliment and it is in a way but when it is said in an accusing tone, it really isn’t a compliment. It was this third London Bus that day that had come along after a drought of these well-meaning buses that had triggered the lively eyes rolling in my head.
Maybe my reaction was slightly more emphasised after she had said that she had “seen a lot of blind people in this shop and you don’t look like them”. A spluttered giggle remained inside of me. A colourful phrase stayed inside my head and did not escape my lips. What was more surprising was, I even managed to not bite back to her curt accusing tone with a crocodile snap of my own. The other two previous people who had stopped to cheery chat and said I didn’t look blind meant it in a positive light but this lady was different. She was like many we had come across in the past, which were the worst kind. The Sceptic.
Walking around with a physical disability feels like you sometimes need to carry medical evidence around with you to thrust in somebody’s face to validate yourself and prove their ignorance wrong. I understand that the primary source of information that many in the sighted world use to make decisions is their vision, but I sometimes wish it wasn’t as looks can be so deceiving. Having a unusual looking striking guide dog does not help with the stereotyping of what a blind person or a guide dog should look like either which she also picked up on. This apparent expert on not only what “blind people look like” but also an expert in the field of guide dogs as her next door neighbours aunt had one, thought that a Labradoodle like Munch was not a guide dog. The ignorance of others can really make your mind boggle. It does make me thankful that I do not use my eyes alone to make judgements on people that I know nothing about. Now that would be living with true blindness.
I really hope that my parting words to her would help her to broaden her narrow outlook on life, but I somehow doubt it. Cheerily uttering the words “we don’t all look the same” filled the silence between us with no reply from her as we bid her goodbye. Whether or not this planted seed will grow a more open way for her to see the world or not, I feel like I did my bit. I am still working on my poker face whilst persuading my overtly rolling eyes to calm down whilst in such situations, so maybe I will get there someday. Until then I will continue to clench my teeth and smile sweetly in my non blind looking way.
Judging will always say more about the person judging than the one being judged.
My life before Munch was a little….different. Walking around with sight loss made it feel like I was an undercover alien in a world full of normality. The superhuman sighted could do things that I could only dream of. Like tell the difference between a person and a bin. I know, amazing right?
One day, in the land of triple vision hazy fog (my equivalent of 20/20 vision), I found myself standing in a rainy pre-historic, dimly lit train station in the Welsh town that I lived in. With only five trains passing through each day (public transport haven I know), I knew that there was no chance of me getting on the wrong train as the next one was two and a half hours away. I was busy attempting to dodge the icy rain drops that was cleansing the shelter free station when a faint pair of footsteps approached. Minutes later, a deep heavy voice paired up with the boot sounding feet and grunted out a groggy hello.
A fellow passenger awaiting to board the train was a rarity on such early mornings in this sleepy town. Chirping a hello back in the direction that I thought he was in; I went straight into my acting mode. Rummaging in my bag for my phone to attempt to check the blurry time, the echoing voice progressed from grunting to audible two words sentences in a nanosecond. I answered politely to each thing he said although I still could not see him.
I was well into my slow-motion owl impression, turning my head in all angles in a scanning mode, when I thought I spotted where he was standing. About six feet away from me I saw something which resembled a person so decided to direct most of the rest of the conversation in that direction. The darkness of the early morning seemed to embrace the blurry figure lovingly as the figure and background merged into one. At least I was now looking at the person, or so I thought.
Over the next ten minutes before the train came, we talked about the weather, lack of public transport to take us into civilisation, how chocolate Wagon Wheels have got smaller over the years and migrating birds. The usual morning chit chat on a cold winter morning. Feeling proud that I was looking in the right direction of the man although I could not see him, I heard the distant approach of the train. I was so thankful of my hearing, Until I heard the footsteps of the man walk slowly in front of me to walk up the platform for the approaching train.
It was at that moment that I realized that I had all along been facing and chatting to the bin on a post all along. I should have remembered that bin as I had walked into it a couple of times in past. As there was such an echo in the train station, it was difficult to pin-point where exactly the centre of the echo was to try and figure out the exact location of the man. Trying to fit into a world with people with superhuman powers of sight, seemed impossible as I blundered through life. Keeping sight loss hidden from others I had down to a fine art, except for in situations such as this.
Talking to rubbish bins instead of people, walking into benches that blend in with the colour of the floor, sitting on coffee tables instead of the same height chairs in waiting rooms are all perils of living in the sighted world with sight loss. Noticing a guide dog or white cane with a person makes more sense for such odd behaviours and a little more understanding happens. I am blessed that the universe gave me such a “in your face” guide dog that screams sight loss and for that I will be eternally grateful. At least now if I talk to a bin, people will know there is a reason in my madness.
There are times that I sit and wonder what planet I am from, as I really don’t understand some humans. One of these times of contemplation happened a few days ago whilst I was day dreaming, standing inside a shop doorway waiting for my friend to get served. An older sounding lady come up to me and said “Oh what a sweet dog, here you are love. Where is your bucket?”. “Sorry“ I replied. Had she mistaken me for a blind cleaner with a Guide Dog as part of a job share? “I thought you lot were always in blue?” the lovely lady continued. I racked my brains to what “us lot” she meant. I have always been rather partial to dressing up for nights out with the girls, but I could not recall dressing as a Smurf ever, so I was a little mystified to what lot she meant. “Guide dog staff usually wear blue, don’t they? I want to donate as they are such an amazing charity”. My meandering mind caught up with her words and I realized that she thought I was fundraising. “Oh no sorry, he is my Guide Dog” I politely explained. “Oh. Why do you need a Guide Dog if you are not blind though as you don’t look blind”? Boom there it was, another judgemental remark to add to my collection.
It wasn’t the first time that I had been mistaken for not looking blind. A few months previously, on duty Minster and I were working in a school when we passed a group of boys around 15-16 years old. One of them thought he was a police dog and asked why we were in school. Not one to miss out on an opportunity to wind someone up, I told him that we were there to ensure nothing dodgy was brought into the school. A sudden hesitant silence engulfed the group of boys. After a few seconds of silence, I helped them out of their panic pit and said he was my Guide Dog and was greeted with a dozen questions. These ranged from “what, do you mean you can’t see” to “how can you work here if you can’t read anything”. To be fair they were genuinely intrigued and not being insulting so I spent a while with them answering questions whilst they fed Minster some of their lunch whilst he was in his Please Do Not Feed Me harness. They soon became his favourite group of treat giving friends over the next few months.
I have been told I look too young to be blind as one person thought only older people turned blind. Instead of loosing faith in humanity at that point, I kindly explained to them that babies can be born blind. When out with another person, I sometimes get ignored when people ask my friend/family member about my Guide Dog as obviously blind people can’t answer for themselves can they! I often get asked why I don’t wear dark glasses as apparently that is the official sign of Blindness. I have been asked why I have a television if I cannot see it. I get asked a lot of questions yet only rarely do they come from the right place of compassionate intrigue.
I could have answered the woman’s question of where my bucket was with a multitude of alternative answers, some of which would not be printable. I choose however, to see it as a compliment as my “not looking blind” matches my “not feeling blind” attitude. Ever the rebel, a label does not define me, so I will not allow an uneducated judgement to offend me. I believe that we are a true reflection of the way we perceive the world so when I am mistaken for being a trainer, volunteer or a fundraiser for Guide Dogs I feel blessed that I am perceived as fully sighted. The world exists beyond our immediate visual field, so I feel I see more than a fully functioning set of eyes would ever allow me to see. Being form such an imaginary planet can be the most blissful place ever.
Imagine going to work everyday not knowing if you will be safe from a violent attack or threatening behaviour. Everyday you put your uniform on knowing that whilst walking along minding your own business, you are likely to get confronted by an aggressor and there is absolutely nothing you can do to defend yourself. Work becomes a thing of dread instead of a thing of love that you once felt. Nobody intervenes when you are attacked and no apologise are ever given as the person with the aggressor sees this as normal behaviour and does not see your shrinking confidence as anything to worry about. The aggressor knows no different so will not change his/her ways, so walks away oblivious to the hurt that they have caused.
There are laws and advertising campaigns in place to try and prevent this appalling behaviour from happening to Emergency Service Workers and others who work with the public, after suffering years of unprovoked abuse from aggressors. Did you know that the there is law in place to protect working dogs from such attacks also? It is estimated that there are on average 11 dog attacks per months on Guide Dogs with around 55% of these occurring whilst the dog is in Harness. Some dogs are withdrawn from service after such traumatic attacks. Current UK law states that if your dog attacks a Guide Dog, then the owner has committed an offence and can be liable for prosecution and up to three years in prison. The impact on a working Guide Dog from a dog attack is immense and can change the outlook on life for both the Guide Dog and his/her owner.
Whilst out working in his harness, Minster Munch got attacked last year by a loose dog. He was left needing veterinary treatment and was left feeling anxious whilst out working. We were lucky that he was able to ease back into work gently after his injuries had healed and he felt more confident in himself. Whilst out working we have had issues with dogs both on and off lead. There have been numerous occasions where dogs on leads have gone to lunge at him, nip him, snarl and act aggressively in a totally unprovoked manner. Some owners are great and control their dogs and apologise, whist others carry on regardless. Some find it amusing that their little dogs go for such a big dog and laugh it off whilst others are kind enough to tell us they are there with their dog and wait for us to pass safely. Regardless if you have Cookie the Chihuahua or Goliath the Great Dane, your dog’s aggression towards any dog especially a Guide Dog has a much greater implication on the dog and its owner than you may think. As you boldly walk off and continue with your day, your dog’s aggression could have chipped away at the already fragile confidence of the innocent dog and its owner.
Any responsible dog owner would never want their dog to cause harm to another dog or person. Sighted people can see Guide Dogs approaching, yet visually impaired people do not have the same ability. There are some things that you can do to help a Guide Dog carry on doing their job peacefully if you are out walking with your dog whilst on or off lead.
If you see a Guide Dog walking with its owner, if possible stop where you are and bring your dog close to you if they are known to be dog aggressive.
Tell the Guide Dog owner that you have a dog with you and tell them you will wait there until they pass.
If you know your dog is dog aggressive or will distract the Guide Dog, if possible and applicable, maybe cross the road or somehow create the space the situation needs.
If it is a new behaviour of your dog becoming aggressive, get it checked out. It could be due to an undiagnosed illness, stress or something that needs investigating.
Teach by example. Shouting and being aggressive to your dog to stop being aggressive may not be as effective as remaining calm and dealing with the situation calmly.
You know your own dog and know what works best for him /her. Do whatever you can to avoid dog to dog aggression. Allowing you dog to show aggression or attack a Guide Dog can lead to prosecution and even a prison sentence so do whatever you can to keep on the right side of the prison wall.
Any loving and responsible dog owner wants to give their dog the best life possible. True dog lovers will also want this quality of life for other dogs. Don’t let your dog be the reason that a Guide Dog puts on its harness for the last time and has to stop working. With thanks and much doggy love from Minster Munch and his fellow four legged heroes.
There are some people who seem to fill up a room with charisma as soon as they step foot inside. You must have met the type. You know, the ones with a booming voice, a radiant smile or just a magnetic energy about them. Well, Munch has that effect on a lot of people he meets but I often wonder if it is for the right reason. From having a random Selfie with a group of young girls in a lift, to causing a trolley traffic jam in a local supermarket from his admirers, he rarely enters a place discreetly. His ingrained sense of entitlement comes from not only his Poodle like traits, but I am sure he has a past life memory of being a king and therefore requires everyone to be upstanding for him upon entering a place. I, just a mere maid to his regal ways just hang my head in shame.
As we got on a bus a few days ago, he began gliding down the aisle with the grace of a model. As the “Ooohs” and the “Aaahs” began coming from all directions from the eager spectators, he slowed down for the odd pat from all directions whilst being in model harness clad Guide Dog mode. A new-found fan offered to give up a seat in the front for us to sit down but as he is so big it is easier for us to go in the back, so he can trip up less people. As I thanked the kind lady for the offer but declined, I was about to set off to the back when I realized Munch had sat down in front of this lady and was cuddling in for some fuss. After some persuasion I managed to move him on from this heartbroken fan to find a more spacious seat for us. The same thing happened a few rows back when a lovely man offered to move seats as there was more leg room in his. As the man patted the seat he was on when offering to move, Munch took this as a sign to jump up on the seat to sit next to the man and dive in for a sloppy kiss. As some laughter erupted from some passengers, Munch span his head around to look at his audience and played along even more as I stood holding his harness and lead. Just to clarify, normal Guide Dogs don’t do that as they know they are meant to remain on the floor, but Munch was in full acting mode that day.
After finally getting the Pampered Pooch to get off the mans seat, we made it to the back of the bus and found a suitable place for his to be able to lie down and stretch out. Despite me spending quite a few minutes gently explaining to him he is not allowed on seats and why we needed to come up the back, it was obvious he was still not going to pardon me for not letting him choose his own throne. In the end, when I removed his harness he ended up stretching out on the floor from our seat, across the aisle and onto the feet of a generous man who had given him a bit of chicken so was now his best friend. Such a regal being should have the pick of his thrones, I will have to learn to treat him better.