guide dogs

Guide Dogs, meeting my first dog

Happy Friday bookish people! I hope you are all having a good day today.

Today I am talking about the next step in the Guide Dog process where I finally got to walk with an actual dog.

It might sound silly, especially when I am talking about waiting for a guide dog, but I never particularly wanted a dog. I love animals of course but usually just to look at, dogs can be very quick and loud and unpredictable and having limited sight makes it a really difficult experience to be around dogs. So, honestly I was pretty worried about having to interact with an actual dog.

My first meeting was with a yellow Labrador called Jojo and she was a beautiful dog. She bounded into my house as soon as the door was open. It was an interesting experience because I wasn’t sure how I would react around the dog and her being in my house to start with, as this meeting also included answering questions although these were more like how do you think you will work with the dog and are there any barriers to you being able to look after the dog. While we were having our chat, Jojo was entertaining herself and sniffing around everywhere, giving my hands and legs a good lick where she could.

The next thing that happened was Jojo was put back in the car while the woman from Guide Dogs and I practiced a walk with her holding the harness to see if – relying only on what I could feel – I could follow the movement in the harness. So, she was holding the harness at the level that a dog would be at and while doing this she was teaching me the positions I would be using for my feet, hand gestures and the words I would say to the dog when we were walking. This actually didn’t feel as ridiculous as I thought it would, you become so focused on learning what they are teaching you, you forget that there’s no dog in the harness yet.

Then when we got back to my house it was time for me to walk with Jojo. I’ve had a cane for a couple of years now, long enough I don’t remember when I first got one, and it was strange to be going out without it. It’s almost like leaving my comfort behind. There’s really a lot to learn all at once, like how you have to hold the harness, feet positions, looking up but knowing to look out for signals from the dog as well. It was a lot. But what surprised me the most was the feeling that came over me during the walk. It was honestly like I had found something I had been missing for years. Like if they took the dog from me then in that moment I wouldn’t know how to go back to the cane again, it would be too uncomfortable. It was a really emotional experience to realize that this was exactly what I needed and there was no way for me to explain that to someone else unless they were going through the same experience I was, and I don’t know any other visually impaired people at the moment. It shocked me and after the dog had left for the day I missed it, I missed the feeling of protection and freedom it gave me. It felt right for me.

This decision went to panel the week after. It was terrifying waiting for those unknown people to again be deciding my future, especially because this time I knew what it felt like to have that help even if it was only for a short walk. Thankfully, they decided in my favour and I was officially put on the guide dog waiting list.

Where'd I Leave It Wednesday

The Stick in the Stall

Hello bookish people! Happy ‘where’d I leave it Wednesday’ I hope everyone is having a good day. My day consists of doing a load of work for one of the assessments on my Masters course and not being allowed to go into the kitchen all day. This isn’t just a weird thing with my family that on certain days we aren’t allowed in the kitchen – it’s my birthday tomorrow and always the day before my Mum and my Sister make me a birthday cake so I’m banned from going anywhere that I could get a sneak peek of it.

So for today’s post I’m going to be telling you about the time that I left my cane in a public bathroom stall.. the first time.

It was a Monday, yes I remember the day this was a very embarrassing moment, and it was in between my two University classes. Sometimes I get free time between my classes but it isn’t enough time to get on a bus and go home because by the time I got there I’d have to get on another bus to come back. So I would go into the shopping centre and just walk around (and buy books in Waterstones but we will just ignore that because I literally have no self control) and obviously at some point I would end up having to use the bathroom.

It was all fine until I exited the stall, another woman was waiting – fine, she rushed in before I’d properly been able to move out of her way – a bit rude but fine, I washed my hands and left the bathroom. It is really weird that I can’t safely walk around very well without my cane but it takes me a very long time to realise I don’t have my cane. Oh goodness I’ve just had a thought, I probably still hold my arm out and move it side to side in front of me as if I’m carrying my cane even at times that I’ve left it somewhere… okay, that’s very likely. And very embarrassing.

Going back to the embarrassing moment I was originally talking about – I left the bathroom and got a few steps before I remembered that I’d left my cane in the stall, I lean it in the corner where the door hinges are because my cane laid down on the floor tends to stick out under the stall door and people have fallen over it before.. so I had to go back for it. It is very awkward having to suddenly turn around and walk back into a bathroom you have just left, and it’s even more awkward when you have to bypass all the available, open, people free stalls, and knock on the shut door of the only stall that is currently occupied.

The woman who rushed past me earlier was still in there and we had a very short conversation. I knocked, she said hello, I said I’m sorry but I think I left my white cane in this stall and I need it back as soon as possible. She, thankfully, said okay and started trying to get my cane to fit under the door. The gap under the door is not big enough for my cane, that is currently unfolded and over a metre long of thick white fibreglass. There’s probably a permanent dent on the bottom of that door now… anyway, she couldn’t get it under the door that way so I had to tell her through the door that she needed to collapse the cane first.

Explaining to a stranger, who is currently still using the toilet, that they need to fold your cane into three parts, tie the string around it and over the top and then slide it across the floor to me is very difficult. The cane itself is really stiff to make the parts fold up and it meant that some interesting noises were exiting the stall while she did what I said. I have talked to friends through bathroom stalls before, and my family, but this was my first time talking to a stranger through a bathroom stall. Since then this has happened multiple times but let’s just pretend that it hasn’t. So she folded it up and slid it out to me and I practically ran from that bathroom. I later saw her again but we both made sure that we avoided eye contact.

And that’s my story for today! I hope you all enjoyed it! Has anything embarrassing or anything like this ever happened to anyone else before?