Skiing with DSUK

I first tried my hand at skiing when I was 17. I went on a school trip with New College Worcester, The residential school for the blind I was studying my A-levels at. That trip stands out in my memory as the first time I experienced true freedom, and I’ve never forgotten it. The second time I got to ski on real snow didn’t disappoint. I hoped that it would be like riding a bike, and thankfully it was. By my second session with my instructor I was automatically snow plowing without thinking about it.

I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie; I love rollercoasters, have always wanted to skydive and generally enjoy throwing myself into anything new and dangerous. So it’s probably no surprise that skiing is right up my street. But I’m sure many of my readers are probably wondering, how exactly can you ski when you can’t see?

The answer is very simple… Just like everyone else. I keep an upright posture, my arms extended and slightly bent at the elbows; I snow plow to stop and push down hard on my big toe to turn. Oh yeah, and I’ve got someone shouting directions skiing behind me.

What I will say is that it requires lots and lots of trust. My safety when skiing independently depends on my guide being my eyes at all times; being clear and loud with their instructions and confident in their directions. I’ve been very lucky to have fantastic instructors on both skiing trips I’ve attended.
My boyfriend and I attended a Disability Snow sports UK (DSUK) trip toNeiderau, Austria earlier this month. DSUK are a national charity that organise several skiing trips a year in Europe and the USA which are open to anyone with a disability. No previous skiing experience is required, obviously I had skied before but my boyfriend had no more experience than an hours session at the Chillfactore in Manchester. This made absolutely no difference to our enjoyment of the trip however. By the end of the week both of us were skiing at a similar skill level and we’d barely landed back in Gatwick when we were already planning our next trip.
The activity week was attended by 10 people with disabilities, five qualified instructors and a handful of volunteer helpers. We stayed in a four-star hotel for seven nights and had six half days of skiing with a one-to-one instructor each. The atmosphere of the whole trip was incredible. Everyone got along brilliantly, there was a real range of characters and several unforgettable moments. My personal highlights include A quiz night that had me almost crying with laughter, attaching ski poles together with masking tape so that my instructor could hold one end and I could hold on to the other as he guided me faster down the slope than I could have imagined, and “borrowing” The witches hats and broomsticks spotted earlier in the week being used by a ski school of toddlers to play some snow Quidditch. 
I would definitely recommend skiing, and DSUK to everyone. I love skiing so much because I spend so much of my time being physically guided by others, human or canine, that being able to move through space at a considerable speed entirely independently gives me a sense of freedom like nothing else does. DSUK are a fantastic charity with a wonderful ethos that made the trip relaxed, memorable and most of all fun.
DSUK are based in the Cairngorms in Scotland and also have instructors dotted around the country at various indoor ski slope’s including Manchester, Hemel Hempstead and Tamworth. These experienced instructors can teach you to ski or snowboard whether you need shouted directions or a tethered sit-ski. One of our group is visually impaired and has Limited mobility, so he used a headset and a sit-ski to fly down the black slopes. Hopefully that will be me one day!
Find out more about DSUK here: http://www.disabilitysnowsport.org.uk/

Advertisements

An open thank you letter

To The counsellor I went to speak to in March 2014,
You may never see this letter, you may not even remember me. But make no mistake that I remember you.

In my first year of university, when life was unbearable and I had nothing left to give, I went to you for help. I gathered the last vestiges of my resolve and forced myself out of the bed I hadn’t left for six days to attend the appointment I’d already rearranged with you twice. 
I remember sitting on the chair in your office, my cane in one hand and a box of tissues you’d handed me in the other, feeling empty; feeling dead; feeling black. I remember the nervousness with which you guided me to my chair and your uncomfortable laugh when I explained that you would need to complete your survey with me as I wouldn’t be able to write my answers myself. 
You asked me to wrate my feelings on a scale, zero being not at all and 10 being all the time. I remember being surprised at my own answers when I responded to statements such as, “I feel hopeless or worthless” never scoring less than 7. 
I knew I was in trouble, that’s why I went to you. I knew that staying in bed for over a week was not normal. I knew that missing countless lectures and cancelling numerous appointments for fear of leaving my room was not normal. I knew that ignoring phone calls and messages from concerned loved ones to avoid admitting what I was doing was not normal. I knew that a black cloud had gripped me, and I went to you to give it a name.
When you ask me why I was there, I told you everything. In a monotone voice and divoid of emotion. Continuous obstacles and injustices had warned me down to the point that the only thing left was anger, and as I told you what had happened during the last few months and how it had made me feel I think you saw how much that anger was consuming me.
I told you how the support I had expected had not been delivered. I told you that I felt isolated and unable to identify with my peers. I told you how, despite feeling unable to leave my room for the last 10 days because of the anxiety that gripped me at the thought of interacting with people, I didn’t want to give in. I told you that I wanted to be there. I told you that I wanted a degree. I told you that I wanted to prove myself, to myself and to the world. 
I wanted you to offer me support, to tell me that it was normal for me to feel this way and that the way I had been treated was unacceptable. I wanted you to tell me that my feelings were justified and that it wasn’t my fault. I wanted you to reassure me that you understood, that I hadn’t failed. But you didn’t.
Instead you told me that “maybe University might not be the right place for me”. You suggested that perhaps I should consider dropping out of my degree, as I had confided in you that I was so close to doing. You admitted that maybe I would be better off going home and giving up.
Thank God I ignored you.
You telling me that I shouldn’t be at university only rekindled the determination in me that had been stamped out by repeated disappointment. Your words rang in my ears and reverberated around my head for months, years afterwards. Your pitty and doubts in my ability became the fuel that only drove me to push myself harder; to get myself better; to believe in my self because you didn’t.
You are not alone in thinking that people like me are not worthy or not capable of achieving. The cane in my hand predisposed you to judge me before I had even started speaking, as it does for so many people in society. Those of us living with disabilities continuously face the misconceptions and misunderstandings of those who do not live with our challenges. But this attitude extends wider than just speaking to my friend rather than me when we are out, or ignoring my refusal of the help you have offered. This attitude leads to systematic failures that put barriers in the path of people like me from living normal lives and achieving our goals. 
Every time you take me by the arm and lead me somewhere I don’t want to go without my consent, you undermine my autonomy and disrespect my personal space; every time you fail to provide me with material in an accessible format, you reinforced the feeling that I and my needs are an afterthought; every time you tell me, that because of the adaptions I need, I am being difficult and giving you more work than you already have, you are reiterating the message that I am not welcome. I am not worthy of the time and effort it would require you to include me. I am an inconvenience that should be reprimanded for having the audacity to expect to be given the same opportunities as those who don’t need The adaptions necessary for me.
You epitomised this attitude for me, and as a result you made me stronger. Your ignorance reawakened and the stubbornness that defines so much of my character, not because it is part of my nature, but because it has to be. Your audacity to suggest that I would be better off giving up on my dream, despite me specifically explaining to you that this wasn’t what I wanted, thickened my skin and hard and my resolve to prove you wrong.
For so long your words were my motivation, though a part of me still believed you. So when, in my third and final year, everything again became too much and I threatened to crumble beneath the pressure to disprove your assumptions, your words again reverberated in my head and convinced me of their truth. 
But you didn’t win. I did. This time when I asked for help I received the reassurance and support you denied me. With that support I was able to again pull myself out of the darkness and overcome the final hurdle that would get me to my goal.
I am graduating with a first class honours, because of you. Whether it was your intention or not, your words have gotten me through the last three years and helped me achieve what I always hoped I could do but often thought was impossible. So I want to thank you for meeting me that day and for judging me as so many others do, because in doing so you gave me a reason to make myself and everyone around me proud. You forced me to find the self belief and self-worth I had lost, you shocked me out of my depression and inspired me to be the person I knew I was, but that you were too blind to see. 
Thank you for giving me the strength to prove my capabilities to anyone who doubts me. Thank you for motivating me to do my absolute best to show exactly what I can do. Thank you for reminding me that I alone can determine my worth. Thank you for having such low expectations of me and challenging me to exceed them. Thank you for inspiring me to continue facing my challenges head on and reminding me why I thrive on doing so. Thank you for teaching me that my disability doesn’t define me, and that it is my responsibility to demonstrate this to anyone who thinks otherwise. Thank you for reminding me why I wanted a degree in the first place. Thank you for driving me to work so hard that I not only exceeded your expectations, but also exceeded my own. 
Thank you, in short, for ignoring my own words and deciding my capabilities based on your judgement of my disability. Because in doing so, you’ve reminded me that nobody has the right to decide my limitations but me.

#HowISee

93% of people registered blind or partially sighted can see something, meaning that only a very small percentage of visually impaired people are completely blind. The RNIB’s #HowISee campaign aims to raise awareness of this fact and dispel the misconceptions that surround visual impairments such as using a guide dog or white cane means that you are totally blind, or that not using a mobility aid means that you are fully sighted.
Watch the #HowISee video here

 

I am one of the 93%. I have been registered blind since I was seven years old, but I have a limited amount of residual vision which I used to its full advantage.

 

I have a condition called Lebers Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) which means that my retinas don’t function properly causing my Visual impairment. I also have Nystagmas meaning an involuntary movement of the eyes as they try to focus.

 

My condition has meant that I have never been fully sighted, but when I was a child I did have a considerable amount of residual vision which meant that I could read, see colour and use magnification for a time.

 

The nature of my condition however means that my site has been gradually deteriorating since birth, culminating in a sudden deterioration in my teens. This left me with light perception in my right eye and a small amount of residual peripheral vision in my left. My site has stabilised since, though there is the possibility that it could deteriorate again.

 

I try to use my remaining vision as much as I possibly can, which is something I have had to learn to do. It was only when I received mobility training from a rehab worker who is actually also visually impaired herself two years ago that I was able to teach myself to utilise the remaining vision that I have.

 

With the peripheral vision in my left I, I can distinguish contrast and rarely I can make out a bright colour. This doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised how useful even that is in daily life. It means that I can follow a building line by distinguishing a white building from a darker one; I can see distinctive road markings such as a zebra crossing; I can find the counter in a Starbucks by spotting the bright lights. All these things help immensely in my orientation and are things I use on a daily basis when getting around independently.

 

This is my experience of visual impairment, my experience of LCA. But that is not to mean that everyone’s experience is the same. Out of all the visually impaired people I know I don’t think I know two people who see the same thing. Not even people with the same condition as me. I know others with LCA who have enough residual vision to read print and yet others who are totally blind.

 

I am often asked if I am my guide dogs trainer because I apparently “don’t look blind”. I’m not entirely certain if this is because of how are use my residual vision to get around, or just because I am a reasonably confident young woman who doesn’t fit into the traditional stereotype of a plain old blind man with a white cane. Either way this always feels like a bit of a backhanded compliment to me, because besides the fact that I’m not totally blind so why would I look as such, what does blind look like anyway?

 

I have mentioned previously on this blog that the spectrum of visual impairment is huge, as is is the spectrum of ways that people live with their visual impairment. This is why it’s problematic to put people in boxes such as guide dog user must be totally blind, or symbol cane user must be able to read small print.

 

The important message that the #HowISee campaign is trying to convey is not to judge a book by its cover, or a blind person by their mobility aid (or lack there of). Everyone is an individual, even blind people 😉

 

Join in the campaign by explaining how you see the world and sharing your own stories of any awkward moments or misconceptions you’ve experienced using the #HowISee hashtag throughout August.

Through Scarlett’s Eyes guest post

I recently wrote a blog about the importance of allowing visually impaired children the freedom to learn from their mistakes which was published on Through Scarlett’s Eyes as part of their young persons voice month.

 

Through Scarlets Eyes is a blog dedicated to supporting the parents and families of visually impaired children.

 

Charlotte, mum of Scarlett Who is registered blind, created her blog to share her story of raising her blind daughter. Her blog provides support, information and resources for parents in a similar position to herself.

 

Charlotte is an amazing woman and a fantastic writer. Her blog is an invaluable space for parents of visually impaired children to share their thoughts and help each other as well as being a great resource for anyone seeking information about living with and raising a visually impaired child.

 

Check out the link to my guest post here and while you’re there why not take a look at some of the other posts written by Charlotte and the other contributors.
Until next time 🙂

Blind fire walk for Guide Dogs!

I completed a sponsored fire walk for Guide Dogs… Twice!

 

When my mum and sister describe the size of the flames to me as we arrived at the Guide Dogs Liverpool training centre yesterday morning, they both had some trepidation in their voices. It still didn’t feel very real to me though. I could vaguely smell the fire but I couldn’t hear it or feel the heat so it still felt distant.

 

Whenever anyone had asked me if I felt nervous about the fire walk during this past week I had answered no, because honestly I wasn’t. I was more focused on fundraising than what I would be actually doing at the end of it. Admittedly, all of my fundraising was done online. But I was determined to reach my target and probably annoyed all of my Facebook Friends to death with my repeated posts about my crazy stunt.

 

It wasn’t until I was sat in the middle of the health and safety briefing that it really started to hit home what I was about to do. The fire was blazing outside and the instructor told us that the optimum heat for firewalking is 400°C. He explained that we would in fact be walking over the hot embers of the fire and that as long as we walked normally and at a good pace, it would be extremely safe. Still, this is when it finally started to feel real to me and I suddenly became very, very nervous.

 

There was a group of around 15 fire walkers in all, only myself and another lady were visually impaired so we waited at the back of the line to be guided safely by the instructors over the walkway. I was glad for this. The instructor counted the paces of the person firewalking, which usually was between three and six steps, so I could gauge the distance of the walkway and how long it took to walk across it.

 

When it finally got to my turn, I was really scared. I stood on the edge of the fire walk, an instructor either side of me holding my hands, and really really wanted to run away. For a second I was really afraid that I would disappoint myself and everyone else by chickening out.

 

I was scared because I was stepping into the unknown. Yes, people had described it to me, I’d heard others do it before me and I had a rough idea of what I was in for. But I’ve never done anything like this before; I had nothing to compare it to so I couldn’t really imagine it. I couldn’t see what was in front of me and I couldn’t picture it in my head. But that’s also what made me do it.

 

The instructor had told us that if we were nervous, to think of the reasons why we were doing the fire walk. So I thought of myself two years ago; how back then I was so afraid of the unknown that I barely left my room. I thought about what a difference having a guide dog has made to my quality of life, my confidence and my independence. I thought about how, with Jazzy with me, I never feel like I’m stepping into the unknown because I don’t feel vulnerable. So that’s why I walked.

 

it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done!

 

Strangely it wasn’t that hot. To be fair, it was over so quickly to begin with I barely registered what I’d done until I was safely on the other side with my feet in buckets of cold water. And once I did realise what I’d just done, I got right back in line to do it again!

 

It basically felt like walking over warm soil, until you got right to the end when it started to feel a bit more… burny. I’d expected to be able to feel the heat and smell the burning wood, but honestly I was so focused on walking in a straight line and not dying a fiery death I didn’t stop to smell the embers.

 

I want to say an absolutely gargantuan thank you to everyone who sponsored me to do this ridiculous thing. I set out with a target of £100. I cleared that within 24 hours of setting up my JustGiving page! So I set myself a new target of £500.

 

Having not planned any kind of fundraising events and hoping to rely entirely on the kindness of the people of the Internet, I hoped I could achieve something big and make a notable contribution to the charity that is so close to my heart.

 

After much tweeting, and somewhat desperate Facebook statuses, I did the fire walk having raised a total of £630 on my JustGiving page. This is absolutely phenomenal and I can’t explain how humbled and grateful I am to everyone who read my story and thought it would be worthy enough to warrant their hard earned cash. I promise you, your money is going to a very worthy cause.

 

You can watch me do the first fire walk here

and you can watch me going back a second time, this time being guided by my mum, here.

 

Click here to be taken to my JustGiving page.

 

As ever, thank you for reading 🙂

Deferring my dissertation

10 May has been a date branded onto my memory for months now. Why? Because it is the deadline date for my dissertation. Or at least, it was.

When I started my third and final year of university, I made a promise to myself that this year it would be different. That I would get organised, manage my time brilliantly, get all my work done on time and meet all my deadlines. When I came back in September I felt wildly optimistic that I would power through the year and emerge on the other end with a first class degree. 

I say wildly optimistic because my time at university hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride. My struggle in Higher Education isn’t really something I have gone into great detail about on this blog. I intend to, one day, after I’ve finished my degree. But for now, those of you who don’t know me personally need to understand that it has not been easy. I’ve struggled socially, mentally and emotionally and I’ve been so tempted to drop out on numerous occasions.

I think the only reason I haven’t dropped out is because I’m stubborn. I have a fierce desire to prove people wrong; to show that I am just as capable as anybody else of doing everything, even getting a degree, despite my Visual impairment. In fact, this often leads to me wanting to overachieve, not just to do as well but to do better than everyone else to prove that I can. What this means is that I end up putting a enormous amount of pressure on myself. Worse, because I feel as if I need to be able to do everything on my own, because nobody expects me to be able to, I used to feel unable to ask for help for fear of being labelled incapable. Thankfully this has gotten much better recently, proven by my action of requesting a deferral for my dissertation.

In September 2015 I felt like requesting a deferral would make me a failure. I thought that getting extensions would make me a failure. I thought that coming out with anything less than a first class degree, would make me a failure. I want to stress again that nobody explicitly said this to me. It was all me, all these expectations and ambitions were in my head. 

I can think of a few reasons why I feel like this, one being that being undermined and degraded on a daily basis because of an impairment that has nothing to do with my intelligence or mental capability makes me feel so patronised that it drives me to want to prove myself. 

I’m not someone who lets been disabled get them down often. I’ve said before on this blog that I feel 100% content with who I am, blindness and all. The main thing that I struggle with is societies attitude and treatment of me because of my Visual impairment. This is why I’ve think I’ve developed this instinctual determination to exceed expectations. Because if you’re treated and meant to feel inferior for 90% of your life, then if you don’t have some kind of drive and faith in yourself, you will start to think of yourself as inferior.

Anyway, back to the point. It was this attitude that make me so reluctant and somewhat frightened of the possibility of requesting extensions. I’m not going to lie, third year terrified me. The pressure and stress I put on myself to be the best in everything often makes it hard for me to fulfil my potential. In first and second year I had been forced to request extensions usually because of institutional failings. With third-year being such an important year, I was determined that I would need to be on the top of my game to make sure that all of my materials were accessible, that all of my note takers were arranged, that I would have a suitable place to study and that everything I would need academically would be put in place. This did happen; ironically, and terms of accessibility my third year has been the easiest of my whole degree. 
What I didn’t count on was me sabotaging myself and my own ability.

 I spent so long focusing on how I could make sure that nothing to do with my visual impairment would get in the way of me meeting all my deadlines, I didn’t stop to think about what I could put in place to ensure that my mental health would not impact on my work either. So that’s what happened. I became ill, I eventually sort help and I was granted a deferral for my dissertation until August.

It was a very hard thing to be for me to accept, because when you’re so used to dealing with a physical disability, a mental illness is a completely different ballgame. One thing I’ve always prided myself on is the fact that in spite of how people treat me, my intelligence and mentality is not compromised by my disability. I have a visual impairment, this is what I tell people; my eyes don’t work, it has nothing to do with my brain. So just because I can’t see you standing in front of me doesn’t mean that I can’t hold a conversation, alright an essay. So, to then be dealing with a mental illness that does impact on that element of myself that I had always depended on being so stable was very disconcerting.

I definitely think a part of the reason I struggled to understand and accept my mental illness is also because of the stigma that surrounds mental health. Even me, as someone who lives with a sensory impairment and therefore nose in some ways what it feels like to be treated differently because of something that is out of your control, still subconsciously harboured these fears and misconceptions of mental illness.

I am however pleased to say that I feel much better. Even though my year didn’t go to plan and I ended up doing the thing that I dreaded most, I’m now quite proud of the fact that I have asked for a deferral. It doesn’t make me less capable, it doesn’t make me less of a person and it doesn’t make me a failure. I think it makes me someone who understands themselves, someone who is self-aware and better for it. 

So even though the 10th of May is almost been and gone, I will carry on chipping away at the D-Word, I will feel proud of the achievement of just completing a dissertation never mind what grade I get, and I will take the obligatory submition selfie in August 😉

A huge congratulations to everyone who has submitted their dissertation so far, everyone on my course who submitted their dissertations today and everyone who will be submitting in the next few weeks. Be proud of yourselves! You did it!

Walking through fire for guide dogs!

Hello readers, today I come to you asking for your help.

 

On Saturday, 21 May I will be completing a sponsored walk to raise money for guide dogs. Being only about 5m long, you may think that this sponsored walk is a bit of a cop out… But there is a twist! I will in fact be walking through fire!

 

The sponsored walk will take place at the guide dogs Liverpool fun day, held at their centre on Youens way, Knotty Ash, Liverpool, L14 2EB.

 

Fire walking refers to the activity of walking over hot embers of up to 1200F without burning the soles of your feet. I will attend a health and safety seminar before embarking on this challenge.

 

I’ve decided to complete the sponsored fire walk not only to raise money for this charity that is very close to my heart, and the fact that I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but also because it strikes me as an appropriate way to mark how Jazzy has changed my life.

 

Two years ago, when I decided to apply for a guide dog, I was not in a good place. I was isolated and felt very restricted by my visual impairment. Getting around independently was only an option if I use my white cane, which was a source of great anxiety and was to be avoided if at all possible. This meant that I rarely went anywhere on my own and was completely reliant on other people to get out and about. When I think back to how I felt two years ago, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come. Now I often feel like I have to pinch myself, because two years ago I honestly would have regarded a five minute walk to the shops on my own as daunting of a prospect as walking through fire.

 

The freedom, confidence and independence Jazzy gives me is indescribable. It may seem like nothing to anybody else, but just the fact that I was able to pop into the city centre the other day to pick up a few things from the shops without a second thought is such a massive difference from two years ago, and I have guide dogs to thank for that.

 

It might sound melodramatic to some, but I struggled to describe the fear and anxiety I felt just thinking about getting around on my own. Looking back, I think it was a combination of low self esteem and lack of confidence that restricted me to depending on others all the time. Something that in itself becomes a source of guilt, because nobody wants to feel like a burden. So eventually it meant that I often wouldn’t get out, for fear of doing it on my own and fear of being a burden on others if relying on a sighted guide.

 

It was meeting Lynette Who now works as an engagement Officer at guide dogs Liverpool, and her guide dog Pippa that initially convinced me to apply for a guide dog back in May 2014.

 

Meeting them and seeing how their partnership worked up close made me realise how much I long for that kind of freedom. After my mobility assessment and initial discussions with a guide dogs mobility instructor, I was put on the waiting list. This is what motivated me to get myself back on track; to let people know how I was feeling and how I was struggling, and to make more of an effort with my mobility lessons so that I would achieve the necessary confidence using the white cane which is required before training with a guide dog.

 

I was matched with Jazzy in November, we trained after Christmas and were qualified by the end of January. Since then we have had highs, lows, laughter and tears which has all lead to a phenomenal partnership that I can’t express how grateful I am for.

 

This is why I want to give something back to Guide Dogs, because in giving me Jazzy they change my life for the better. This is why am asking for your help, please sponsor me so that guide dogs can continue their life changing work.

 

I’m hoping to make a small contribution to Guide Dogs by raising £100. You can sponsor me and support guide dogs by visiting my Justgiving page here.
As ever, thank you for reading , keep your eyes peeled for my updates regarding the sponsored fire walk and wish me luck!

#GuideDogTag #InternationalGuideDogDay 

Today is International Guide Dog Day!

 

To celebrate, I have completed the Guide Dog Tag recently created by Emily on Fashioneyesta.com and which I’ve been tagged to complete by Holly from Catch These Words.

 

1. What is your guide dogs name?

 

My guide dog’s name is Jazzy AKA Jaz, Jazzy-wazz and J Dawg.

 

2. What is the breed of your guide dog?

 

Jazzy is a black Labrador golden Retriever cross. She looks much more labby in appearance with short hair and quite a square face, though with a fluffy Retriever tail!
3. How old is your guide dog?

 

Jazzy celebrated her 3rd (in human years) and 21st (in doggy years) birthday last week on the 21st of April. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this royal highness celebrates her B-Day the same time as the Queen.

 

4. Where was your guide dog trained?

 

Jazzy was puppy-walked in Manchester. Her puppy-walkers fostered her for a year, teaching her basic obedience and socialising her.

She then receibed advanced guide dog training at a guide dogs training center, before she was part of a trial Guide Dogs Liverpool were conducting that has dogs receive one-to-one training with a trainer for about 3 months before being matched.

 

5. When did you qualify with your guide dog?

 

Jazzy and I qualified on the 26th of February 2015. In guide dog terms, we are a relatively new partnership.

 

6. Is he or she your first guide dog?

 

Yes

 

7. Summarise your guide dogs personality in five words?

 

Sensitive, loving, endearing, cheeky, protective.

 

8. What is the best thing about your guide dog?

 

The best thing about Jazzy is her brilliant memory. She has astounded me more than once after we’ve been to a café/shop/restaurant once, and the next time we go passed it she indicates that place to me again. She continues to do this whenever we pass that place from then on, so that after I’ve been somewhere once I can be pretty sure that Jazzy would find it for me next time.

 

9. What is the funniest thing your guide dog has ever done?

 

Jazzy makes me laugh every day because she’s such a funny character. I think one of the funniest things she’s ever done happened when I was at the cinema with my family.

Jazzy licked the ear of the man sat in front of my mum, but he failed to see the pitch black culpret in the dark theater, so when he turned around he gave my mum a very dirty look. Jazzy had immediately hidden under my chair as if she knew exactly what she was doing!

 

10. Has your guide dog ever gotten you into any embarrassing situations?

 

Not long after we qualified, Jazzy initiated herself as a true student by scoffing someone’s discarded kebab from the floor and reproducing it later on in the middle of my lecture. Such a fresher!

 

11. What is your guide dog like on harness?

 

Jazzy is quite sensitive so she needs a lot of encouragement on harness. She is a brilliant worker and her distraction levels are reasonably low. Like I mensioned she has a fantastic memory and I know she loves her job because her tail is always wagging.

 

12. What are some of your guide dogs quirks?

 

Jazzy acts as my personal alarm by shaking her whole body repeatedly until the bell on her play collar wakes me up. She never sleeps when we’re out, she’s always people watching and will make sure to position herself with a good view. She has a habit of rubbing herself on your legs, a lot like a cat. If you sit on the floor, she will definitely try to sit on you. She is very interested by anyone putting on socks or shoes and will have her face right beside your feet, watching closely. When I let her off for a free run she jumps and prances like a lamb, before rolling like a mad thing in the long grass.

That’s just to name but a few!

 

13. Where does your guide dog seem to work the best?

 

Jazzy can get bored quite easily so I definitely think she works best on new routes, whether that be in the middle of the city or a quiet neighbourhood. She’s a very inquisitive dog.

 

14. What is your guide dogs favourite thing to do when off harness?

 

Playing tug of war, eating carrots, sitting on my lap or running wild.

 

15. Has your guide dog ever done anything that goes beyond the call of duty?

 

I’ve recently realised that Jazzy is very atune to my emotions. I think she goes beyond the call of duty every time she nudges my hand when I’m feeling anxious and every time she plonks herself in my lap when I’m upset. She’s my calming influence and my comfort blanket.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my beautiful life changer on #InternationalGuideDogDay and please check out my Dog Blogs for an insite into Jazzy’s world.

 

If you’re a guide dog owner, why not complete the guide dog tag about your own furry friend.

 

I nominate The Upside Down Chronicles to complete this tag

Dog Blog: catching up and celebrations!

Hello! Jazzy here again after quite a long leave of absence. 
I’ve been as unhappy about this lack of Dog Blogs as I’m sure you have, but the only poor excuse the boss has to offer is that final year uni stresses have unfortunately put my posts on the backburner recently. I’m not sure I buy that. I think she’s just jealous of how much more popular my posts are than hers! But never mind, let me catch you up. 
Back in September we returned to Uni for our final year. I’ve come to think of the library as something of a second home and have decided on my favourite spot to sleep under the radiator, graciously accepting any pets or fusses I might receive by passers-by. 
But don’t worry, we’ve done a lot of fun things too. It feels like a long time ago now when the boss and I spent a weekend sightseeing in London with the boss’s family. I think I love the big smoke as much as she does! We did lots of strange but interesting things like go on a Duck Tour, where we sat in a vehicle which one minute was whizzing around the streets of London and the next was cruising along the Thames! 
We visited this bizarre place where there were lots of very still and strange smelling people, the boss and the fam seemed to very much enjoy posing with. I got in a couple of these photos too, naturally. We also spent a lot of time in the air, which I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of. We went on this great wheel thing that hung in the air and moved! I did not appreciate seeing the ground so far below and stayed well away from the strange glass walls. As I also did when we visited the tallest building I think I’ve ever seen, though I did concede long enough to pose for another picture. I swear more time was spent posing that weekend than anything else!
Not long after, we visited the boss’s sister in another lovely city called Cardiff. I very much liked this place because of the spectacular park I got to run wild in! My boss’s sister is at Uni there, like the boss and I are in Chester. But I much prefer our digs to hers, it was little bigger than a box!
After lots of time in the library again, I got to spend my first Christmas with the boss and her family. This was an absolutely brilliant time! I had the company of my best friend Bella for three weeks, the boss’s baby brothers have even more energy than I do, and oh the food! The boss even had a miniature version of me put in pride of place on the Christmas tree.
The 6th of January was the anniversary of the day I came to live with the boss. We travelled back to Uni and prepared to face more quality library time. The boss was quite concerned for me that month because I’d put on a little holiday weight and I’d acquired a funny lump below my chin. When we visited the vets the boss was told that it could be a tumour, benign or otherwise and had to wait a whole worrisome weekend for the test results. Thankfully the lump turned out to be a benign growth and after a few weeks of steroid cream treatment it disappeared. 
After that, it was back to yet more chilling in the library. All the stresses of Uni work was taking its toll on the boss, but what she didn’t realise was that it was affecting me too. Humans are far less intelligent creatures than we canines, which is why I’m sure it took several weeks for the boss to figure out that the reason I didn’t seem to be myself, not enjoying my work so much and not wanting to play, is because trying to remain up-beat and happy when your boss is so down in the dumps is very hard work. When she finally came to this realisation though I think it might have been the push she needed to talk to someone about how she was feeling. So of course I accompanied her to lots of meetings and appointments where I did my best to make things easier by resting my head on her knee and letting her play with my ears while she talked.
I am pleased to say that the boss now seems to be feeling much better, which of course means that I am happier too. People had told her that I would be very sensitive to her emotions but I don’t think she had fully grasped this until she realised the difference in my demeanour and work when she was feeling low, compared with when she feels happier. She now understands that it is much easier for me to go about my work with my tail wagging when the boss has a smile on her face too. Fortunately I think the experience has brought us closer as a team and the boss tells everyone that she is more pleased with my work than ever. Humans eh?
A few weeks ago the boss and I spent the weekend in Derby with friends and were on our way to go home when we entered into an unfortunate altercation with a taxi driver. It seemed that this driver didn’t want me in his car! Can you believe that? Who could refuse this face?! The boss wrote about our experience so I won’t bore you with the details again. If you’re interested check out her post here:

https://elinangharadwilliams.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/access-refusal-being-refused-by-a-taxi-driver-because-of-my-guide-dog-accessallareas/
And that brings us to today, which I’m sure all of you know is a very special day. It is a very important someone’s birthday. She is charming, beautiful, is highly intelligent and is widely adored. That’s right, it’s me! Even better, it’s a rather important birthday too. Today I am turning three in human years, but to me and all my four-legged friends I am turning 21! The boss celebrated her 21st last month, but I’m not sure I want to celebrate the way she did. I was not impressed to find her returning at the early hours of the morning, smelling quite strange and falling about all over the place (more than usual)! How very undignified. I have celebrated my birthday for my graciously with a trip to town this morning, a visit to the vets to get my nails done in the afternoon followed by a lovely run in the park. What more could a girl want?
So I think that’s you well and truly caught up on what’s gone on since my last post. It’s a very busy time for us right now; the boss is powering through her last few months of Uni while also trying to find us a new place to live. As usual, it’s my job to be her guide, companion and furry comfort blanket so I’m sure you’ll understand that with my paws full already it might be some time before my next Dog Blog. But I do hope you’ll subscribe so that my next update will go straight into your inbox!
Until then, chow for now!
J xx

I’m tired

This is a bit of a different post from the type that are usually right. This is a one off, right it all in one go, let it all out and get it over with kind of post.
Basically, I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting all the time. To be treated with respect, to be viewed as an equal, to have even the basic things like having somewhere to live and being able to ride in a taxi. I’m exhausted by feeling like every decision I make is bigger than it needs to be because of all the possible repercussions and consequences. 

I’m tired of having to worry about whether I tell potential landlords that I have a guide dog or not before or after I view a property. Because if I tell them before, then it gives them the opportunity to pawn me off with some excuse. If I don’t, it gives them the opportunity to discriminate against me to my face. 
I’m tired of being paranoid everytime I book a taxi that I might be faced withconfrontation again, because if I don’t tell them about my guide dog the driver might refuse me. But even if I do tell them, that still might happen. When all I want to do is get from A to B. 
I’m bored of asking people to talk to me, about me, instead of to my friend/family/whoever happens to be with me. Because apparently the fact that I can’t see very well also means that I can’t speak for myself. Or maybe it just means that blindness comes with deafness as well and the problem is that I can’t actually hear what they’re saying?
I’m exasperated by well-meaning members of the public who take it upon themselves to decide what help I need and that they will provide this help, without even asking me first. So that when someone grabs my arm and starts taking me across the road, where I didn’t even want to go in the first place, I then look like the ungrateful bad guy when I try to explain that I was perfectly fine without them.
I’m sick of feeling like every day is a battle; of having to plaster on that polite smile when someone tries to feed/ped/distract my working dog; of walking that fine line between assertive and aggressive when all I’m trying to do is make my voice heard.
Somebody recently asked me if I think I have excepted my disability. I can 100% say that I am perfectly happy and content with who I am, disability and all. What I struggle with is the way that I am treated because of my disability by other people on a daily basis. This isn’t to undermine those wonderful gems who’s help and understanding I truly value. I just hope that, whoever you are reading this, you understand that I’m human and I get tired too.