It’s been six months now since the whirlwind that was my second guide dog Fizz retired. She is living her best life, enjoying her retirement and even living with another black lab who is also retired; but much younger than her called Ashby. So you could even say she has found herself a toy boy!
I have been missing her terribly in all honesty.
Not just as my guide dog, but as my companion.
The house seems too quiet when the kids aren’t home.
However a friends suggestion of a weighted blanket on my bed has certainly helped. Especially because in the last few years I had allowed Fizz to slip into the habit of sleeping on my bed. The extra weight on the covers really does help.
I could have used the excuse of reverting back to ‘Candy’ (my cane has red stripes to symbolise that I am deaf blind, thus picking up the nick-name candy the cane) as a way to shut off the outside world and limit (or restrict) my independence. Especially over the winter months when the darkness was greater.
But I didn’t …
I set myself the challenge of walking each day, some days this has been the 4 mile round trip to grab a coffee from Nero. (Other coffee houses are available)
When I am on a route I know well and is fairly quiet; like the route to town. I can feel quite free, quite confident and faster in my walking pace.
However, as I approach the shops, the busier areas and the unpredictability of people I can feel quite weak. I liken it to feeling like a small child. And I get even smaller when I come across the unexpected; such as building works, market stalls or additional outside seating for cafes etc.
However, I am stubborn. I refuse to let this weaken me. I just wished that my cane had sort of robotic system in it that I could say “let’s go to the bank” and it would navigate me there avoiding all the obstacles?
Oh wait … That’s a guide dog!
What I really REALLY really need is for “That Call” to say a possible match has been found.
I am (one of) the highest priories on the Guide Dog waiting list. However, as I have explained before. They look to match the personality and lifestyle of the person to the personality and workability of the dog. Along with looking at other things such as walking speed, the persons height and workload for the dog. Which all means that there may still be some time to wait for a dog that matches my needs.
So, for now it’s back ti my love-hate relationship with Candy and asking friends for a little more support.
And trying not to cause any more bruises from the regular stomach jabs or arm jars in the process.
Take today as an example, today it popped up in my memories that it was seven years ago today that my first guide dog Vicky did her last school run. And my GDMI (Guide Dog Mobility Instructor) took her harness and sash, signifying the start of her retirement.
And this day seven years ago is the very same day I started my training with my second guide dog Fizz.
So, why today is this (usually joyous) memory upsetting?
Because yesterday is 2 months since I did my last working walk with Fizz. Before she retired and was rehomed via Guide Dogs.
Sadly, Fizz retired before a third dog has been found for me; what with a global pandemic, delays have been incurred and I continue to wait for ‘The Call’.
I have returned to using my cane, who has aptly gained the nickname ‘Candy’ because of her red and white stripes. (which are the universal symbol of a person with both sight and hearing loss)
And it is bit of a love – hate relationship at times, being totally honest. I am grateful it is a skill that I have maintained as I am able to keep my independence. However the regular cane jabs and bumps are something I would happily live without.
Fizz retired at the grand age of ten and half, she had worked with me for just under 7 years and it was time for her to be able to put her paws up, not have to concentrate on keeping me safe and sniff all those smells she usually has to ignore while in harness.
The Guide Dogs charity have been an amazing support to us both during her working life and this has continued in her retirement. They supported me and found Fizz her retirement home.
Fizz has also stayed within the Guide Dog Family, so her new owner has been keeping me updated on how she has settled, on her new canine companions and I have even been fortunate to receive regular photographs with the updates.
It was the right time for Fizz to hang up her harness. This however doesn’t stop me being upset that she has gone. Knowing she is working those puppy eyes and wrapping her new owner around her paws is a great comfort though. She is a very emotionally sensitive dog and it will still be taking her time to adjust to.
Although I am sure not having to guide in wind and rain is surely helping with that.
There are lots of changes happening here for me too, but that’s another post or three! Lets just say, I haven’t been sitting still.
Spring is in full flow; with frosty mornings and the lighter evenings it is as if there are more hours in the day; or rather it is the illusion that more daylight creates. It is wonderful for lifting the mood after what felt like an even longer than usual winter considering much of it was spent in lockdown or local restrictions because of the continuing covid pandemic.
Spring and summer evenings extend the opportunity for me to get out for a walk. Recently I have deliberately headed out as the sun has begin to set to experience the lowering light levels; ensuring I am home before it actually gets dark as this is when my sight changes dramatically.
Part of my sight condition is ‘night blindness’ which for me means that any lights that are on are glaring and sometimes even painful to look at. While the light they cast is actually totally lost on me as I would be lucky to see my own hand in front of my face. It is a time when Fizz really has to work; which over the years together she has learnt to do. She will even pause on the step up a curb when its dark as apposed to daylight when she will just step straight up. (which has on more recent occasions seen me trip) yet in the dark, she does this without being asked.
Today, due to circumstance I found myself heading out for our evening walk AFTER the sun had gone down, it wasn’t really dark, but dark enough for the street lights to be on. Having been a beautifully sunny day I found myself with my sunglasses sat on the top of my head; so took the opportunity to test something out.
I have previously sat in a friends car (when we could do that sort of thing) and put my sunglasses on to help reduce the ‘dazzle’ I was getting from oncoming cars when it was dark, although I was sat still and didn’t need to actually concentrate on my surroundings. Tonight however was different, I was walking with Fizz, all be it on a route we both know well. It may sound silly, but I felt nervous, anxious even.
But it was just a pair of sunglasses, I could always take them off again, only (other than to capture this photo) I didn’t. The reduction in ‘dazzle’ from oncoming cars was AMAZING and it wasn’t just cars that I found it worked with; the reduction in glare from the street lights was also really good.
The reduction in what I could see was affected, however only in the way that I had lost the shadow definition, however with Fizz guiding me I felt comfortable with it all. Fizz quickly picked up that I was being more vocal with my commands and as we walked further she adjusted to the change in light levels too.
So, from now on it will be sunglasses after sunset as well as before.
With covid cases again on the increase and new strains popping up it is no real surprise that as a Country, most of England has entered into stronger restrictions as of December 26th.
For me, I wanted to ensure I didn’t repeat some of the ‘blind fails’ that I incurred during both the first Lockdown and Lockdown 2.0. While being able to increase my walking, for both fitness and stamina.
So, my Christmas present to myself was two new cane tips. Sadly one won’t actually arrive until January, however I am off to a great start with the first.
I introduce you to my Ambutech High Milage Rolling Ball Tip.
Measuring 5.1cm it is significantly larger than my previous tip as well as feeling much heavier. My cane is a slimline graphite long cane which gives it more ‘bouncy’ and initially on adding the tip felt like it was ‘dragging’ but as I have got used to and learned to release my grip on my cane handle it has got easier.
As for tip itself ….. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G !!! A long 2mi walk and not a single ‘cane jab’ or it catching on anything. I deliberately walked a route where the paving slabs are cracked, the path has roots in it and where I have previously experienced many a ‘cane jab’ or catch.
So, as the title suggest. “Nope, no tears even though we are in tiers.”
As my youngest has recently celebrated turning 10, it makes me aware that the next birthday is our family is mine.
My birthday has often been a Love-Hate subject for me, being at the beginning of January it’s always been pretty rubbish timing. (Better than it could have been, I believe my due date was December 21st)
As a child I often got money for my birthday, which mixed with what were True-January sales I got so much more for my money. However since adulthood as much as I would love to celebrate and socialise with friends I am acutely aware that January is a VERY long month.
Many often joke that January is actually much longer than its 31 days, which in reference to paydays is certainly true; as it can be as much as Seven weeks rather than Five.
However, a real plus for me is that restaurants and pubs are generally much quieter for these exact same reasons! Meaning that I can enjoy myself without the worry of additional difficulties because of noise, crowds and party-type lighting. (Hence the Love-Hate)
Having my youngest 10 years ago meant that I was a very tired newish mum for my thirtieth as it was a very different experience to when I had my eldest because of the changes in my sight.
Lots of people have started asking what I want to do the celebrate.
And honestly, with the world still in the middle of these ‘unprecedented times’ and with so many restrictions in place, there is a distinct possibly that even if I started RIGHT NOW….. I would not achieve what I want to by the end my thirties with a ‘Forty things before I am Forty Bucket list’
So, the question is; do I make it ‘Forty things to do as I turn Forty’?
Or as one friend suggested….. “Celebrating beginning my Naughty Forties in Style”
And if that is the case, What do I do?
I do have a pretty big ‘challenge’ planned for 2021, which is currently being tweaked and trained for. Which, linking to my previous challenges (Gherkin 2014, Cheesegrater 2017 and my Tube Challenge 2019) will be following the London theme.
This Challenge will most certainly help me to achieve my fundraising target to name a guide dog pup and future life-changer. Which would be an AMAZING way to celebrate starting my “Naughty-Forties.”
With the exception of this year (thanks lockdown!) I have in recent years taken to a solo travel adventure, so it is only fitting that that would be included. But I would also like to do something with my children, with friends and with those I now come to call family.
I do also like the idea of celebrating in several different ways. I’m not thinking of a big party; actually I can’t think of anything worse! Rather many smaller and different experiences that will be much easier to adapt to include my different circles of friends and family.
It goes without saying there will be Climbing, Hiking, Tandem Riding, London, Trains, Beaches, Cocktails and Cake …. Plenty of Cake!
But as for particulars….. This is where you my reader comes in. What would you do if you were me?
Please comment below and help me make this an amazing and incredible year to look forward to.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the use of face masks has increased. It has been compulsory for most ‘front-line staff’ from the very beginning.
Then government officials suggested members of the public wear face coverings or masks when going into enclosed spaces where social distancing may be difficult, such as supermarkets, garden centres and medical appointments.
And I will admit, when this recommendation came in I also took this to mean to wear a face mask or face covering when using the bus. Whixh as of tomorrow 15th June it will be compulsory to wear a face covering on all public transport. (Unless young, have certain health conditions and certain disabilities)
so, one afternoon earlier this week I thought I would road-test my floral cotton facemask for the bus journey and while I did some essential shopping.
Having not been on a bus for about Eight weeks I was initially a bit concerned about my journey, but the bus driver soon put me at ease. Our local buses have had clear screens to protect the drivers for many years, so this was nothing new, however implementing social distancing on a bus was definitely something I was uncertain of.
The driver explained to me that each of the seats in the aisle were taped off with yellow tape, as were both of the seats in every other row to enable passengers to sit two metres apart beside, in-front and behind.
For me, my sight enables me to see the bright yellow tape on the grey seats, however not to read the words. So the drivers instructions were very clear and descriptive; as you can see from this photograph that I took once I sat down.
The bus seemed fairly empty and as I went to get off at the bus station, the bus driver again explained that social distancing was implemented inside the station. If I am honest, my guide dog was a little hesitant when we got into the station, but I gave her the command to turn left and out the station and she soon found her feet and walked with confidence.
As i have said previously, I have found it easier to shop for many of my essentials from my local Wilko and Poundland stores as they are smaller and generally have been quieter.
So, on this visit off to Wilko we went. I tried to scan for a queue outside the store and as I couldn’t I approached the door and asked the staff member if there was a queue to join, when she explained there was no-one else waiting so I could come straight in. She explained where the freshly wiped down baskets were and off I went to get what was on my list.
I walked down one aisle and at the end it appeared that they had put extra shelving in, so the pathway around to the next aisle was rather tight for manoeuvring me, Fizz my guide dog and the basket that was sat i the crook of my arm.
Shopping picked and off to the till. Here we hit a slight snag.
The store layout had altered. The additional shelving at the end of the aisles were actually there as the store had implemented a system similar to Tesco where you had to wait while socially distancing at one point before moving forward to the next available till. Which a kind shopper explained to me from the other side of the shelving.
So, after a bit of trial and error, we found the queue. With a light floor colour and the dark red Wilko signs marking each 2m space I was able to ensure I kept my distance. Then it was our turn to be at the front of the queue.
Again another snag…….
With no member of staff on queue control I patiently waited to hear a clue as to when it was my turn to go to a till. However the queue placement meant that we were at the customer service end of the tills with maybe five or six tills off in-front of us. When a couple walked very close beside me on my right, huffing as they did.
Another kind shopper who was now behind me (at a social distance) apologised as the couple that went passed me had got fed up of waiting as a till had become clear and I had not seen it; even though from their position this couple who jumped the queue did have a very clear view of my guide dog by y side. Thankfully at the next till to become free, the staff member had called out to me.
After hitting my basket off of the clear screen that had been put in place the staff member was kind and clear with her explanation and she even took my bag to pack my shopping for me.
Shopping done, back to the bus station, here is where I discovered the social distance implementations. I just want to add at this point, I am in full support of social distancing and of businesses and service providers who are taking care to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.
Fizz appeared to be walking right up against the metal benches, a place I try to move her away from as this is often where food has been discarded. Yet when I asked her to move in and walk more within the centre of the path she refused. I count in the large boards to get us to our stand. And then gave the command to find a seat. Fizz did this time move me to the right and to a seat by our bus stand. It was when I sat that I could then ‘see’ the issues that had caused Fizz to struggle; both when we left the station and as we returned.
There is a gap between the tape to enable people to get to the right bus stand, there also appears to be a yellow line on the floor, but as can be seen the space on each side of the tape is not very large and is why Fizz had found it a struggle both when leaving the bus station and when we returned.
Sadly, after the ordeal of our shopping trip a bus driver explained that I had over an hour to wait for the next bus. (As they are running a very different service, which is understandable) So I gave fizz the command to leave, and I decided we would just walk home, as that would take us about 40 minutes.
This whole experience had exhausted me mentally and I just wanted to get away from it all. My shopping was (if I am honest) a little too heavy for walking home; however I felt vulnerable. My confidence was thrown, especially as I was in what I would consider ‘familiar territory’, although with all the additional safety measures the whole thing felt alien to both me and Fizz.
So, tomorrow as more stores open I think I will actually be less likely to be visiting my local town. Because with these additional MUCH NEEDED safety measures I don’t feel that the routes and places that were so familiar to me prior to the Covid-19 will remain as such until social distancing is a distant memory…. Which I am well aware is not going to be the case anytime soon.
So for me, as the world re-opens I feel it is much less accessible for me.
And I am pretty sure that I am not the only one. I would love to hear your views and experiences. Please comment below.
Over the last week to ten-days there has been a real shift in how we all behave; And rightly so. Covid-19 is no joke and not something we should take lightly.
This is a strange time, unlike any other I have ever faced in my lifetime and actually many people have never faced since WW2.
It is a time when the vulnerable are simply facing greater vulnerability..
The simple things that many people (vulnerable or not) take for granted, like having your supermarket shop delivered to your door; even being able to buy toilet roll because your on your last roll.
For me, this time has been one of increased anxiety, and I would put much of that down to my disabilities.
My disabilities don’t place me in the group of ‘at risk’ thankfully, however many of the measures in place are much more difficult for me.
When at home, washing my hands and cleaning are easy for me. However when out and about, not so much.
In the last day or two WHO (World Health Organisation) have recommended social distancing. And this has been a major issue for me.
Made even more difficult because I have an incredibly sociable guide dog !!
Keeping a significant distance of two meters when you have no depth perception and a visual impairment that means if you put your arm out in-front of you, you can’t see your own hand; How do you actually know how close to someone you are standing?
All of my many volunteer roles have been put on hold. My social life (aka my coffee habit) has significantly decreased. However my walking and ‘escaping to the great outdoors’ has increased.
The biggest challenge for me at this time of uncertainty the most difficult thing for me is asking for help or accepting help when it is offered.
I am stubbornly independent, however I had a moment early this week when I had to swallow my pride and ask a friend to take me food shopping. Because no amount of independence would have made it possible for me to do a ‘usual’ fortnightly shop in person because no deliveries were available. That very same friend has been absolutely amazing in ensuring that both my physical and mental health are not being affected by all of this.
Thankfully social distancing doesn’t have to be a adhered to when working my guide dog. She is and can continue to be my left hand lady. Our walks have been very different, but with more time for her to run around and she hasn’t seemed to mind too much.
My message to you all is to stay home, to stay safe and more importantly share with those who are not as fortunate as yourself. However if you do catch the Coronavirus, isolate, order in, and ASK FOR HELP.
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