Tag Archive for GD

Fun with Fizz

Today we (me & Fizz) found ourselves faced with a very different challenge.

Our local coop currently has one of its outer shutters down, so we have a slightly odd turn at the top of the steps by the door.  The door is set at a 45* degree angle to the corner of the building, meaning that when both shutters are down, the building looks square, yet with them both open, you can access from either side through the same entrance. (With one down, we have to walk around to the other, which isn’t at all an issue of difficult to do)

So, we did the turn & Fizz stopped dead and sat down.  This is a very odd thing for her to do.

She doesn’t just sit down like this if there is an obstacle, if there were an obstacle she would remain standing and then guide me around.  If she couldn’t guide me around it, she would turn me around to indicate the way was blocked.

Today she just sat, nothing would move her!

I focused in on a bull dog type dog sat by the railings a little way up, it’s tail was wagging and it wasn’t barking.

This is normally all the invitation Fizz would need to rush me over to say hello; yet she still sat.  So it wasn’t the dog!
Maybe it was a bike laid on the ground, I scanned but saw nothing….

A man came out the shop but before I could ask him, he rushed past and away.

Curious !!
Then out came a lady with a trolley and my mystery was solved

sorry dear, my cat has come out for a walk with me and my dog, he is sitting between you and the door.

So I scanned, I was able to work out another animal, about the same size as the bull dog and also similar colouring.

It was a cat!

It was a very HUGE cat, and he was happily sitting licking his paw with his tail wagging, just like the dog !!
Knowing now the situation I asked Fizz to walk on; nothing!

She did move eventually, but only then cower behind me until the cat had walked past !!

My clever.  Highly trained.  Intelligent. Problem solving guide dog is officially a WIMP.

Madness of Muse

19.30 ….. The time has come, the big event of my year is just one sleep away.

Tomorrow sees me return to the London O2 in North Greenwich, this time to see a very different performance in the act Muse.

I am currently laid on the bed in my hotel room, with a view (via the zoom view on my camera) of the O2 just across the river.  And the excitement is building….. Especially as when the traffic noise dies down; I can hear the sound check!

This is set to be a very ‘visual’ gig.  So I have my faithful friend and PA Simon with me to support me.  Unlike my trip to see Adele, this time I have bought my guiding girl Fizz with me, as I am away for a few days I wanted to be able to feel confident and comfortable while we are out tomorrow before the gig.

So, I have arranged with the accessibility team at the O2 to ensure that she will be well looked after.  This is the bit I am nervous about, how do they ‘look after’ her?

But for now off to sleep so we can enjoy a full day out tomorrow.

07.00….. Awake a breakfast eaten, I am thinking I am maybe just a little bit excited !!!

First, we are off to Stratford for the day, last night we grabbed the tube and went for a walk around the Olympic Park, but Sam hoping to go back today to ‘see’ it in daylight.  Simon was very fortunate to be one of the volunteers involved with the opening ceremony for the Olympics I’m 2012…. So, who better to be my guide?

The weather was interesting…. Bright blue sky, that thick black clouds. Here is the photo of what things looked like when we arrived it Stratford, we then went into the shopping centre and when we came out again, the sun was shining, yet the ground was soaked.

I had chosen the hotel for the ease of travelling to the O2, it was just one tube journey away.  After our day out, we got ready and left early to get to there with plenty of time.  As the tube got closer, more and more people joined the train and the buzz was so calm and yet exciting.  Fizz was calm and happy with the added attention she was getting each time someone got on or off.

I have previously visited the O2 (for dinner) with Fizz in the past, so she knew the route and remembered it well.  She was a star, the crowds were large, however she took it all in her stride and expertly Weaved her way through, I think even Simon was amazed by her work.  She was amazing and her skills were being put to good use, making it a much calmer experience for me.  And most of all, she was also enjoying the challenge.

The O2 isn’t just s concert venue, it’s a centre of entertainment, there are masses of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, a bowling alley and even a multi-screen cinema!  So, on entering we went for a drink, it was very busy, but not manic and we had kind of expected it.  Once the doors opened to the arena.  I had been advised that I needed to take Mizz Fizz to the customer service desk, where we would find assistance.  This was when we found our ‘ANGEL’ literally, it was a friendly member of the O2 staff, who had huge beautiful white wings made of feathers on her back.  She showed us which entrance that we were needing to go in to get to our seats, before taking us to the customer team, she introduced me to the senior member of staff, who had been expecting Fizz.  She took my contact details and introduced me to the male member of staff who would be Fizz’s guardian while we enjoyed the concert.  He would be taking her to a carpeted sound proofed room above the arena, she would be offered water and he would take her out for a short walk to enable her to go to the toilet.  I had bought w toy and treats with us, so that she would enjoy her experience.

Then information the staff gave me was a complete surprise and not something that I had thought of, but clearly it was a point that the staff were aware of, it wasn’t anything bad or of a concern, it was actually a great benefit.

Towards the end of the gig, a member of staff would walk Fizz to the entrance to the arena that we would be leaving by, this was so that we would be able to leave straight away, without having to battle amongst the crowds.

So, with fizz taken care of, Simon guided me to our seats and we were ready for the show!

Photo shows view from out seats, it shows the central stage with large lled lit balls attached to drone..... The title of the Touri could easily fill this post with photos of the show, I could bore you all with the enjoyment of the show….. I won’t, I will just say that I was amazed at how visual and precise the lighting was I was able to enjoy myself, the sound quality was spot on, I could clearly hear each word, for everything else I was able to use my phone to view, photograph and film.  For my own enjoyment later, not for sharing around.  So I have just end added one.

It all ended too quickly, it felt like we had been in there only an hour, rather than nearer three.

Muse had left the stage, the lights went on and all of a sudden I was aware of the sniff of Fizz behind me…. She had dragged her handler in through the doors as soon as they were open.  She, never being there before, came straight to us.  This was brilliant, as I had her harness with me, we were ready to leave.

…… Filled with memories that will never leave, even if my sight does.

 

 

Way back when I wrote for Guide Dogs….

Tee stood in Cascade Shopping Centre on the campaign day with Fizz laid on the floor at my feet.

My whole reason for writing this blog is to raise awareness, share some of the crazy hiccups that occur along the way on my journey in a world of sight loss.

I enjoy campaigning about issues that I found myself affected by.  So, way back in September I supported Guide Dogs on a campaign day collecting signatures for a petition to ‘The Big 5.’  For which I wrote a one off blog for guidedog.org.uk, which is linked below.

Pavement Parking causing headaches.

Celebrating 2015 with a Fizz

Just before Christmas I had a call from guide dogs. The one I havd been waiting for for over a year.

“We think we have a match for you”

Excitment, hope, fear and absolute dread were some of the emotions that were stirred up.  An appointment was made and Fizz was due to come out to meet me with Jo the GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor)

Fabulius Fizz……

A beautiful black lab, crossed with a golden retriever…. With the shiniest smoothest coat I have ever known.

She is a speedy little lady, that took my breathe away for the first five minutes of our matching walk, but actually, she wasn’t walking any faster than I used to walk with Vicky five year as ago.  She was very easy to handle and we seemed to soon find a pace that worked well.  She was a little cheeky, paying too much attention to the area where we walked (but only as it was all new to her)

Jo walked behind us with a second lead so that she could take control of needed, but after 15 minutes she removed it, she kept us walking for a further 15 minutes.

Jo thought we were a good match.  Fizz is currently boarding (a foster home for guide dogs) with a family that are manic and the children are around the same age as my pair, she has settled well there having previously worked for a short time with a partner that decided for whatever reason, they didn’t wish to continue with Fizz.

Eek….. I felt the walk went really well, but was on tender hooks waiting for Jo to tell me what she thought.

Then it came….

“I think you worked beautifully together, if you agree (as I get to give my opinion too) I think this is the match for you and we should look at training dates and what the girls (Vicky & Fizz) think of each other”

So, a second meeting was arranged.  Where Vicky met Fizz up the road, they had a good ‘doggy’ sniff of each other.  Then Jo followed us home.

The girls got on like a house on fire.  They had a good romp around with school other.  Fizz took out each toy and several bones from the toy box, which Vicky didn’t bother with.  After this they both calmed down and laid together on the rug without a fuss.

 

So….. We are to train together, from home, not in a group class.

And we are due to start on Monday 19th January.

This is when Vicky will return her harness and be able to rest her paws and enjoy her time to stay home.

Which having worked with her over the Christmas period and since doing the walk with Fizz, I have realised just how much she has slowed and just how much she has had enough now.

 

So, in just over one week…… LET THE FUN BEGIN !!!

 

 

 

The Awards

Today is the day when Adrian Chiles, Joey Essex & many more British celebs get to meet with my gorgeous guiding girl Vicky Osborne. Tonight we join other wonderful guide dog partnerships, volunteers and staff to celebrate their achievements. In addition to the achievement that all 45,000 partnerships & 4,000 pups in training will have. To some, “they are just dogs” but to me and other GDO’s they are our independence, our guides, our eyes.

I for one as a VIP, would not even consider the train & tube journey to London today. But as a team, together, me & Vicky will fathom out Victoria station some how. And regardless of the results of tonight’s awards, she is my guiding girl, without whom I wouldn’t be half the gal I am today.

10.39

Warm, almost empty train… And off we go!!!
Whether it is a blind persons thing or any traveller. My bag has been checked, checked and checked again for travel cards, purse, headphones and phone….. Then the case, for dog food, bed, bowl and finally phone charger!

So, one final check for my travel card & off we go…… Eek !!!

12.45

I haven’t travelled to London Victoria train station since I was a very small child, it seems just as big and scary a place now as it did then. I have the time of the next tube to get me to Kings Cross, but as the tubes run every few minutes and I am in now hurry. I set Vicky out to “find coffee”. Where she weaves me through crowds and shoppers to Starbucks. Such a refreshing break and decent coffee to plan how and what to do next.

First order on the agenda, loo for me, grass for Vicky!

Then off to Victoria Underground we go.

With the help of the underground staff and a turned off escalator we made it to our tube and along to Kings Cross.

Vicky was in her element with the crowds, tourists not knowing where they were or where they were going, she guided like a dream.

If only she could read street signs and it would have been an easy trip from the underground to the hotel.

As I have said before, I rely on maps on my phone, 3G signal was good, head phones were in one ear and I was ready to go….. GPS however had other ideas.

London Kings Cross area is surrounded in its fair share of tall buildings. St Pancras International being one, The British Library, then there is the clock tower at Kings Cross, the office buildings, the hotels and the apartments.

It was at this point I discovered that high/tall buildings and GPS don’t mix!

But then, one thing you can be almost certain of in London is a police man or 3… All of whom were willing to walk me the 5 minutes to the hotel. They appeared most put out when I said directions would do! So a quick ruffle of Vicky’s head and off we went.

The directions were spot on, but the guide dog sense was even better…. The arrival of not 1 but 7 guide dog puppies as we were on the approach to the hotel symbolised that we were in the right place, and Miss Vicky’s wage to revert to her (never-forgotten) puppy years was growing by the second.

The hotel was simple, clean and absolutely perfect for a vip like me, no fuss, no frills and no silly unnecessarily placed furniture. We checked in, put the tele on promptly fell asleep !!

Eek….. Waking with just an hour to go before set off for the dinner, I laid out my clothes. Only to discover that I had not packed my tights….. Double eek.

So, on went the harness and off we rushed back down the road to Kings Cross to find a chemist, easy enough surely? Ummm Nope!!

We made it to the chemist, we located the assistant and got the tights. Then upon leaving, the reality of it hit me. The light was going down, I was in London, not entirely sure of which street I had to take for the hotel and I only had 45 minutes to get back, shower and change before te coach left.

This was where Vicky came into her own. She seems to know what I wanted and where it was. So with a great tension on the harness I let her lead the way, through the crowds rushing in and out of the tube station, patiently waiting for the beep of the crossing despite others rushing through the traffic built up. We were off and in less than 8 minutes we were back at the hotel.

Quickest shower, hair dry and dress I have ever performed.

Quick brush of Vicky….. And we were ready !!

The only bonus of this mad panic was that the nerves I had been feeling all day had gone, I didn’t have the time to remember them. Thank goodness!

5.25pm

The coach is heading through bright coloured streets, flashes of Christmas decorations, The London Eye (I overheard someone say behind me say). Then we were at the Hilton. THE HILTON. The Christmas tree in reception was huge, thinking colours and lights. Guests were wandering around. People crowded around people asking for photos and autographs, while I found myself amongst the crowd, feeling the loneliest I have felt in a very long time. Oh, so very very alone.

A member of the guide dog team came into me, introduced themselves and offered me their arm. I was guided to the lift, up several floors and into an area with a coat check. Coat checked in, then the arm was offers again and I was walked into a large ball room, handed a glass of fizz and introduced to people who’s names I didn’t recognise and faces I couldn’t see.

It was a whirlwind of introductions, explanations of why I was there, what type of dog Vicky was and warm wishes of ‘good luck’ before being walked through to the main event. The stage was set with bright white Christmas trees, the room had a blue ice illumination to it and the tables were set with far too much cutlery and a very heavy, thick white table cloth.

The feeling of loneliness and dread filled me again, I felt myself beginning to feel anxious and clammy. That was when I found a trustee for guide dogs by my side pouring me a glass of water and reassuring me that they were there to help, with anything I should need.

I welcomed the water, quenching a thirst I wasn’t even aware of and then he offered to pour me a wine, white or red? Or both? I said I would never be able to see the white, so best make it a red.

And the rest of the evening was a whirlwind of fundraising, silly entertainment, singers and then …. The awards.

The first award was for an individual or group that had supported guide dogs, I don’t remember the name of the award. Because it was the moment I realised that Vicky wasn’t the winner of her category.

How did I know you ask?

It was simple, the winner of the first award had a short video all about what they’d had done.

I hadn’t done any video recordings.

I was gutted, so very very gutted.

Fabulous Five Years

An image of Tee and Vicky (Tees Guide Dog)

Today marks Five Fabulous Years since I was signed off as having qualified with Vicky, my guide dog.  In that time, she has given me so very much, at a time of sadness, sorrow and increasing darkness, she has given me love, support, companionship and above all else….. Independance.

Without her guid are readding ing me, protecting me, showing me the way, I honestly feel that the darkness would have taken over, and it is propable that I may not even be here today to tell you these tales.

I know you, you are reading this thinking “she has sightloss, its not terminal.”  Which yes is true, but with my sightloss, came depression.  And if not treated, it can become all consuming and that can be a terminal illness.

I’m not here to talk of that though, I am here to talk about how much I have gotten from my gorgeous guiding girl.

She is a dog, YES.  But actually, she is a walking, breathing, living mobility aid.

Without her by my side, I wouldn’t be leaving the house.  I wuldn’t be able to take the kids to the park, I most deinately wouldn’t be contemplating returning to Uni next year.

As my guideing star, a friend has nominated Vicky for an award with Guide Dogs.  She is in the final 3 for the ‘life changing award’ to be decided at the annal Guide Dog Gala Dinner, to be held in December in London.

Me and Vicky have been invited to the awards ceremony, which if she wins her catagory, she will also be put forward to be crowed as Guide Dog of the Year.

I am very excited, to win this award wold be fabulous recognition of all that she has done for me.  I already know all of this, so if the judges don’t pick her, it won’t change my ove for her and my appreciation for having her by my side for the past five years.

Not such a relaxing coffee

It has taken me some time to sit down and write this post, (nearly 5 months in fact) as it is hard for me to recall the events without sadness and upset, rather than anger and bitterness.

I am a very easy going kinda gal, I do not see myself as someone who carries a chip on my shoulder because I have an eye condition. I also feel that I am open to alternative perceptions and don’t make the automatic assumption that every person that I come into contact with is aware of sight loss or how to interact with a guide dog. After all, why would they?

I have been into places where the staff or members of the public are not aware of the regulations regarding a guide dog, I am more than happy in such situations to calmly and politely explain the law regarding working dogs.

Just because a member of staff is unaware of the regulations is not their fault, the staff in question are usually very willing to listen to my explanation and then help me with my requirements.

There have been occasions where staff are not aware of the regulations and are not prepared to listen, in these instances (thankfully few and far between) I make contact with my local guide dog office, who are more than happy to contact the staff and explain things to them.

However, the incident in question was not one of lack of awareness, it was one of personal attitude coming forward into a professional role. Something that having worked within retail for most of my career is a major ‘no no’

And for that reason, I hope that you understand why this has caused me such upset.

Having spent the morning doing some shopping in my local town, both me and the pooch were tired out and in need of refreshment. So I stopped at a coffee shop, where I could feed my caffeine addiction and allow my guide dog to rest her paws with a nice bowl of water.

Upon entering the cafe, a member of staff approached me and showed me to a table right by the door. I thought nothing of this as the interior of the cafe was quite dark in comparison to the bright sunshine of outside, so it gave me time to settle myslef and allow my eye’s to adjust to the difference in light levels.

Although a bright day, it was very chilly and on removing my coat I realised that the table was in a direct draught from the door, so having adjusted to the light levels I got up to move to a table further within the cafe, as there were several empty tables dotted around.

On moving to a different table, a member of staff came upto me and told me to stay where he had seated me and he would come to me, so I explained that I was moving out of the draught. This was when the ‘politeness’ ended.

He said that I needed to sit where he had put me because of my dog, so I calmly explained that she was a working dong and allowed. I explained that I didn’t wish to sit in the draught, so he said that I could sit at a table at the very back of the cafe. When I asked him why I couldn’t sit at the table I thought was more than suitable, as it had ample room underneath for my guide dog. The member of staff then explained that he did not want my dog to bite or upset the other customers.

Again, calmly I explained that she was a working dog and as such would sit quietly under the table away from anyone else.

That was when the member of staff told me that he was aware of the rules regarding “my dog” but if I wanted to be in the cafe then I would sit where he put me.

At this point, I was struggling to contain my upset and explained that I would not be placed where he saw fit, I explained that as a visually impaired person, my guide dog was my mobility aid and that I felt that he was discriminating against me because of her. He told me that me insisting on having my dog in the cafe was causing great upset to the other customers, who he felt would leave were I to stay and continue to cause a ‘scene’.

I informed him that because of his attitude I would not be staying in the cafe and that he had lost potential business. I bit back the tears as I spoke. As I felt humiliated and forced to leave through no fault of my own.

At this point a man who had witnessed the events stood up and offered to take me to the near by Costa, as he and his family were disgusted by the way in which I had been treated and would no longer stay in the cafe.

I had heard several other murmurs as I was leaving. I did not take the man and his family up on their offer, I just wanted to get away. So I walked for a little while before contacting my local guide dog team and explaining the situation to them.

The member of staff I spoke with in the office was very kind and understood my upset and was able to understand what I was saying despite my sobs on the telephone. She assured me that she would pass the matter on to the public relations officer and that she would be in contact with me.

My local guide dog team were fabulous and got in contact with the cafe in question straight away, but not before they had received two further phone calls by concerned members of the public that had witnessed my ordeal.

After writing a very strong worded letter, the guide dog team received no reply or comment from the cafe.

It was over a month later when two friends, along with their guide dogs went into the cafe for a spot of lunch, that they were privy to wonderful service and staff that were more than helpful to each of their needs.

So, I took it that the cafe or in particular the member of staff that I had encountered had learnt from the letter they had received. That I bit the bullet and went back in, this time I couldn’t face going alone, so took a friend and my son.

The service was fabulous, but I could not relax, I found myself listening to each of the staff members to hear if I could recognise the member of staff that I had previously had the misfortune of speaking with.

I was not relaxed, nor did I feel that I was being fair on my son or friend as I was ‘on edge’ so we drank our drinks and left.

I do not feel that I will be able to return to the cafe in question again.

The silly little things

We are having some beautiful sunny hot weather here on the south coast at the moment. So having taken my beautiful black long haired guide dog out for a good walk earlier this morning before the heat picked up, I needed to pop into town.

So out came the good olde faithful cane….. And off I went.

I have to alter how I use my cane in some shops in town, with their lovely smooth floors no-one can hear me if I use the roller tip and glide it along. So I need to go back to the basic ‘tap tap’ figure of eight so I can be heard and noticed.

Having done my shopping in the store with the big W on the front! I was walking to the exit when a kind gentleman asked if I needed assistance locating the lift, as the store is set into a hill at the back.

I thanked him for his offer, but asked if he could he so kind as to navigate me towards the escalator instead.

He sounded surprise at my request! And was concerned for my safety, so offered to come down with me. I did explain this was not necessary, but he insisted.

So down the escalator we went together (it’s on about half a flight of stairs long)

When we reached the bottom I thanked him, he then went to go back up the escalator to continue his shopping (as I hadn’t realised he wasn’t actually leaving!) So I politely and quietly followed him back up to the store.

When at the top, he asked if I was ok? So I explained that I was perfectly fine.

I went on to explain that as a guide dog user, I was unable to use escalators when working with her, so in a ‘kid in a sweet shop’ kind of excitement I was making the most of the experience !!

It sent him away with a smile on his face and me with a lovely piece of advice from him,

“Take time to do the ‘silly little things’ in life, because they often sculpt you into the sensible person you become”

So yes, I was the grown woman who rose the escalators today. But it is a little thing that I miss, that many take for granted. So I made the most of it and enjoyed myself.

I can’t see if people where looking at me, and as such I no longer worry about what they are thinking !!

When the guide dog became the attraction at the zoo


My guide dog is often admired when we are out and about.  Many people are surprised when they see a dog in an inside environment, such as a shopping centre or cinema.  But people appear much more surprised when they meet us at somewhere like a theme park.

As it’s the Easter weekend I got the opportunity to go to Drayton Manor to visit Thomas Land with my little boy.  We had a fabulous time in the park, lots of rides and my GD Vicky enjoyed all the fussing she was getting while we waited in line for our turn.

She didn’t go on any of the rides with us, she stayed with one of our party so that I had her to guide me, but didn’t have to miss out on the fun and thrills of the rides.

Drayton Manor have their own zoo with a collection of owls, monkeys and a black leopard.

Having phoned ahead of our visit, I had spoken with one of the keepers and they were happy for my GD to go into the zoo area, with the provision that if she of the animals appearedto be distressed I was to walk away.

There were numerous zoo staff around the zoo who were very happy to see us and help explain what was in the enclosures.

The monkeys were the first to spot Vicky.

They were very interested and intreaged by her.  They came up to the bars on their cage to see her.

Photo 19-04-2014 13 48 51

Photo 19-04-2014 14 02 43Photo 19-04-2014 14 02 43Then there was black leopard, she came right up to see Vicky, yet she wasn’t stressed or showing any aggression, just interest.

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And then there was the gibbons, they wanted to play, they were chatting away to Vicky and she in return was making noises to them too.  But again, with a zoo keeper on hand, I was reassured that this was friendly chatter that they often sharedamongst themselves during play times.

image

Photo 19-04-2014 14 02 43I was able to get some lovely pictures of the animals in the zoo, so once home I could actually sit down and look through the pictures with my son and he was telling me about what he thought of when he had seen the animals.  For me, seeing animals when visiting the zoo with my children is not something that I get to do very often.

It is only in more recent years that zoo’s have allowed guide dogs and other assistance dogs into the grounds, with many restrictions for the safety of the animals and the dogs.  With Vicky by my side, both me and my son were able to have a much closer encounter to the animals than we had ever thought possible.

Blind Fail !!

Tonight while walking home from a meeting I had one of my ‘blind fails’, this one is also a bit of a blonde moment too.

I love walking, day or evening, rain or shine. Admittedly I prefer walking in nicer weather! I am happy walking in my local area, as I know the area well and with my guide dog by my side I feel safer as a single girl walking than if I were fully alone.

I am very aware of my surroundings, both from a VI point of view and a street sense way.

So tonight while walking home I thought I was being followed. I could hear someone very close to me, when I slowed down, so did they. When I sped up, they too sped up. When I stopped completely, they too stopped completely. I crossed the road three times and so did they!

Yet every time I looked around, I couldn’t see anyone.

It was at that point that I walking into a shop, with it’s good lighting and staff members I was beginning to feel safer and relaxed, when I realised that the person following me was still with me.

How though?

And that was when I found out the truth.

I wasn’t being followed at all…. I was in fact spooking myself with my own bag!

Several weeks ago I bought a new backpack from ‘Kipling’ a beautiful pink backpack, with it’s own little monkey keychain. That I discovered tonight swings when I walk!

Despite having the bag for several weeks, tonight is the first time I have not had my bag full.

So for the first time since buying my bag, I could actually hear the cheeky little monkey hitting my bag !!

So, as the title suggests…. A blind fail !!

Or should that read …. A blonde fail ??

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