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.
There are certain dates of our life events that will forever stick in our minds. We will always remember what we were doing, who we were with, what we were wearing or a certain heightened sense that lays dormant in our memory when a key moment in time happened. For me, when I have just finished playing peek-a-boo (which I don’t do enough of) wearing a dress covered in yoghurt and Wotsit crisp crumbs curtesy of my gorgeous granddaughter, in the house full of my noisy family chattering away loudly, I remember the time the phone rang. Here was the change that I had been dreading and eagerly awaiting in equal measures. Guide Dogs had matched a suitable dog for me and wanted to arrange to meet up. Seventeen months of waiting was over. My “unusual” guide dog was ready to change my life forever.
I still remember that uneasy feeling in my stomach after putting the phone down. We had arranged to meet sweet Minster a few days later but I was unsure if I was ready to let the world know that I had a sight problem. When you keep the severity of your disability hidden away from loved ones for so long, the reaction from others is always a fear. What if they do not believe you? Worse still, what if they pity you? What if I did not connect with the dog? What if the dog did not like me? All these fears were just imagined problems that never cropped up anywhere in life, only in my head. The truth was, life was going to change forever, but in the most positively magical way possible.
When Minster (or Munch as he has become affectionately known as) came bounding through the door on November 17th, 2016, he had decided that this partnership was going to work. He would be the boss from day 1 (apart for in Angus the cat’s world, where Angus remains King) and our training together would go fine. He would make himself at home on whichever soft furniture took his fancy (shhh, don’t tell his trainers), he would command affection by the Royal wave of his paw, create hilarious drama at every opportunity and project his adorable personality to loved ones and strangers alike. He was here to stay and be the neon sign to the hidden disability that I had kept to myself for 38 years. Subtlety has never been his strong point, but authenticity has.
This 100mph couch-potato is the gift that keeps on giving. Giving me immense independence to carry on working and living a full life, seems just a tiny part of this gift. The partnership we have developed has allowed us to go places I would never have gone alone. He enabled me to win Bronze for Wales in VI Bowls, which was only possible after he gave me the confidence to admit that I had a VI in the first place. His extroverted charm enabled us to meet people who I never would have met without this secret weapon to everyone’s soul. He helped me write an award-winning book that would never have been written had my disability remained hidden. To sum up what mind-blowing ways Guide Dogs help their owners (or their maids like in our relationship), is not an easy task but what I would say is this. They are portals into lives that we never would have lived without them.
4 years on and Munch still bounds though life in his puppy like ways, causing mischief and mayhem wherever he goes. Whilst on harness however, he is the perfect poster boy for Guide Dogs, taking his work life serious as he sashays with pride in harness. He has prevented my previous frequent falls and injuries, stayed by my side in hospital after surgery and healed many a broken heart in work and not once has he stopped being a natural born healer. The beauty in his sweet nature is that his loyalty belongs to whoever needs it at that moment in time. It seems that his Guide Dog duties are just one of his life purposes as he glides through life being of services whatever way he can. He is the best teacher that anyone can be blessed to live with in everyday life.
So, thank you Munch for deciding that our partnership would work from day one. You have given so much to me, family, friends, our clients, and strangers alike by never being anything but unconditional love. We still have a few years left of a working partnership and I promise when you do retire you will be even more spoilt than you are today. The doggy kisses and love that you dish out freely will return to you in abundance as your Karmic bank account grows day by day. I promise to up my daily worshipping rituals to you each day and keep telling the world about the superpowers of you and your hero Guide Dog colleagues. Thank you for the eternal gift of being you.
Reaching out to someone or something is second nature to Munch even when he is asleep.
Give him a broken heart and he will give you the glue to fix it back together. Show him your hatred and he will show you what it is like to experience love again. Let your sadness seep out and he will perform his magic for you to absorb pure joy again. Animals have a way of reminding us that we are all in this world together and nobody is ever truly alone.
When wounded souls pass through our counselling room, Munch acts like a prompt to remind them about life outside of their own world. Connecting and grounding them to the present moment as he sits by their feet and gives them his paw, he puts pause to their pain and love and acceptance back into their soul. What a simple act to do.
To be there for another need not take a lot. We do not need degrees, money, witnesses or masses of time to make a difference in our own special way to a life. When two souls pause themselves long enough to notice life outside themselves, they begin to play a different role in life which leaves the “me” and enters tte “we”.
“We” are stronger as a collective than a lonely “me” can ever be. People need people, animals and hope to live a life outside of ourselves and experience other possibilities. Reaching out to others who reach back out to us is where healing really begins to happen. Do you do enough of that in life?
Are you the first to help or do you wait to be helped first? Do you help set up connections or do you shy away from others in case you get hurt again? Does your pause button get paused enough in life to look outside yourself, or does your life play button play non stop just to torture you? Do you normalise your own problems in life as just being hiccups in humanity, or do you personalise everything in life? How much “we” do you really see?
Life is better when we reach out to others and realized that we are never truly alone. It is far more healthy to chose to connect to another, than to retreat into a world that accepts no visitors. We are the author in our own book of life that either contains us as the sole character, or a mass of colourful characters that have yet to be met. There are many hairy paws that are eagerly awaiting to meet you so pause yourself long enough to reach out to meet and greet your new best friends.
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.
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.
Whatever the question is, the answer is always play.
It’s been a weird few week with the two legged less hairy race home more. I have joined the common four-legged hairy canine, feline and other species who remain home day in, day out which is strange for a working dog like me. My guide dog skills aren’t needed as much these days by my maid as we are now part of the “working from home” force which is a little disappointing if I am being honest.
At home, I no longer get the “oh look, there is a dog in school” coo’s or the chance to help the cleaning staff out by hoovering up the dropped food from the corridors as we move through the school on our daily journeys. I don’t get to take my bed and toys to work with me and steal my maid’s lunch from her bag when she is busy working now either. I must admit though that it is the children I am missing the most.
The children always want to play with me when I am in school. As she counsels them, I bring them one of my toys to play catch. As they cry into my fur, I lick their tears clean with my tender kisses. As they lay on the floor with me, we pause and reset, ready to emerge from the room to continue life as best they can. You see, it is the children that have the best way of being in the world and that is what I am missing being part of the most.
Children love without condition in a world that they want to see equality which disappears more each day. They are our teachers who show us that when all else gets too much, the answer to anything we are ever going through is play. It is in the land of play that worries are forgotten, imagination sparks into life and connections are made to people, objects and nature alike.Here in the land of play where hearts heal when the worries stop, people rediscover who they really are and who they can potentially become.
Happiness is the default setting for all when they return to the powerful first language of play. This is the universal language that unites humans and animals and is a bubble of bliss that brings them together more than anything else in the world.Over the last three weeks of being home, we have played more than usual which has made me one happy dog. Play is the anthem of my heart that I want to share with everyone around me anyway I can.
If you are finding yourself lost in a world that no longer makes sense, the answer to it all lays in play. Gift yourself with the simplest medicine that you will ever need. Play and let your tail wag with pride and joy and let the love pour in. By the way, “Tag, you’re on”!!!
Mother’s Day has taken on a new kind of twist this year that makes no sense to anyone.
Generations of mothers can expect a lot this year for their annual day of worship, but not everything will be a gift. Their children will be desperate to make their mother smile and show them how much they love them but this year they will be more creative in how they do it. Elderly mothers and mothers who are ill will be on their own this year and will long to see their children who are staying away to save their own mother because they care so deeply.
The pane of glass that separates mother and child on this special day, will not be there next year but for today it is there to keep both safe. Seeing one another on a screen will be the new face to face for a time to come, but they will soon reunite in the physical form and plant kisses on each other’s cheeks. It is the delivery drivers this year that will be leaving the flower outside of doors, instead of a child giving them in person. This year is just so different.
With so little time to plan, mothers everywhere have been so busy planning how to keep their children safe that many will have forgotten it is Mother’s Day for them today. Building a fort of love around their own family and reaching out to other families in whatever way they can, the only gift that they will really want to receive this year is for loved ones and strangers alike to be safe and well. A mother’s heart expands well beyond her own life as she feels for more children than she actually birthed.
Who would have guessed that a virus that is spreading across the globe devastating whole communities would be the glue that unites nations and brings people together? Mothers are no exception. Mamma bears everywhere today will be doing what they can to connect to whoever they can and keep everyone safe and uplifted as possible. Mothers that know best are there for one and all.
However you get to celebrate Mother’s Day today whether with your own children, mother, fur baby or in loving memory of a mother who has passed, make sure you celebrate in style as we honour the ones who make life possible. This year may be a tough one for most across the world but maybe this is meant to show us that there is a different way of life that the biggest mother of all is showing us. Mother Nature has our backs and is here to teach us lessons we all need to learn.
Happy Mother’s Day one and all wherever you may be.
Here we go again. Is it unreasonable to ask for some peace and quiet just for one day?It is bad enough that the two legged less hairy race that others call humans must walk around my home acting like they own the place. They may pay the bills and do work around the home, but they all know deep down that this was a far less important place before I got here. Before the Munch reign, they just had themselves to talk amongst and Angus the cat to communicate with. Now they have been introduced to what life with a real star is like as I took over the reign here from day one.Undeterred by Angus’s hostile swipe that greeted me as I first walked through the door, I knew that he would soon back down and be putty in my paws. With every surface that I bless with my hair with around the place (which to be fair is most surfaces), I am claiming the whole estate as my own. The indents on pillows from my sleepy head means that I, King Munch, allow the staff members to know that their spaces are all mine too.This makes my regal labradoodle heart sing out with joy as I know that my staff here love me as one of their own. I don’t like to remind them that they are lowly staff members and I am above them in importance as that would just be too harsh. What I do like to remind them of however is that Angus and Faith the tortoise are not always welcome in the same room as I as they only try and compete for attention which clearly, they are not entitled too.Admittedly Angus was here first but when it comes to cats versus dogs, we should always be respected.I for one have never killed another small bird or animals like Angus has done and brought it home for the maid. How dull is he? Does he really think that a dead mouse or bird on the floor is really a gift for squeamish vegan? I think not. I am sure she has not truly forgiven him for when the maid left an Imprint of her heel on the body of a dead rat he had brought into the house a couple of years ago. At least us guide dogs know never to leave objects in the way of a blind person. My toys are a different matter as she will soon her them squeak if she stands on them.As for Faith, she really does think that she is the new kid on the block. As not every household has a tortoise, but most have a cat or a dog, she loves all the attention that she gets from others. Playing the “I am slow and innocent” really doesn’t fool me as she is soon fast enough to clamber over my tail as I innocently sit at my maid’s feet patiently waiting for my share of the food on the maid’s plate. A tortoise can be more diva like than you think and there is not room for two of us diva’s in this family.On reflection though, I suppose being surrounded by the two legged less hairy race, Angus and Faith does mean that I will never be alone as that would break my heart. We all need others around us and although I know that I, King Munch, will always rule this place I cannot imagine life without them. Being part of a loving network of odd people and animals is better than being alone. Whoever and however you connect with others, keep making sure you do connect. Your funny tribe of souls that you find yourself surrounded by are really just perfect as they are.
Munch has adapted well to this funny little country of ours fair play to him.
Being of Canadian/English descent, I don’t really think he was prepared to come and live in Wales where to any outsiders seems a little odd. As his head tilts increased to try and understand what my funny little accent was telling him, it was clear to see that he was a patient dog. Within a matter of six months he had learnt his normal guide dog commands all in Welsh due to my total inability to stick to one language which any bilingual person would understand. I am sure he has even learnt to understand our daily nonsensical phrases such as “I’ll be there in a minute now” that echoes all around him.
The lush greenery and land that covers the beautiful countryside that we are surrounded by, may be one of the most alluring bonuses of the move for Munch as he bounds around in newly discovered areas which never fails to impress him. He has made friends with sheep on mountains and cows in the fields who are always unfazed by this playful tornado that breaks the monotony of their days. Swimming with swans may not be for the faint hearted but here, he has made many a friend with these bevy of beauties who call him back into the pond to play. He is the social butterfly amongst the species in a place that they all call home.
Sashaying through towns where everyone stops to talk, he luxuriates in the love showered upon him by strangers who become friends. The Welsh hospitality is what this regal dog was made for as he meets and greets people every day and entices them to love him for who he is. Gifts from random strangers are far from a rarity as communities accept all members of your family (hairy or non-hairy) as their own. Munch’s name is known in places where everyone knowns one another in some way or another and they all know his mischievous ways which makes him even more memorable.
Not one to turn his nose up to food, he rarely says no to some traditional Welsh food if it is offered to him as he does not like to offend. Cawl (a Welsh soup or broth) bread and cheese will always be accepted without fail, as are plain Welsh cakes, Welsh meat and welsh rarebit all adjusted to be dog friendly. As eating is such a social event that Welsh mothers insist upon others, it would be so unkind to leave him out so sharing however small in this case is always caring.
He has fitted in so well in Wales over the last three years that it is only fair that this honorary Welshman joins in with our Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St David’s Day) celebrations. However, you may or may not be celebrating this day, Munch would like to wish you a good one full of love and contentment for ever more. There is always a welcome in the hillside for you where we will welcome you with open arms and paws.