Change 100

I’ve been keeping this under my hat for a while now, but some exciting things are soon ahead for Jazzy and I and I’m excited to share them here.

AS you might know, I graduated from University with a 1st in English Literature in 2016. Since then I stayed in the city I studied in, hoping to find work. I would like to work in Communications, doing things like writing press releases, managing social media platforms etc. I’ve had some experience working in the Corporate Communications team of my University while I was studying, but unfortunately haven’t been able to find work in the sector since graduating.

The process of looking and applying for work as someone with a disability is a topic I’ll expand on in another post, but for now I’ll share the fantastic news that I’ve finally gotten an internship for the summer which will hopefully go a long way to helping me into full time employment.

I’ve gained this internship through the Change 100 Programme, a scheme run by Leonard Cheshire Disability aiming to help disabled students and graduates into work by offering internship opportunities and mentorship. It’s a relatively new programme that is gaining success every year, this year partnering with organisations to offer 140 internships to disabled students and graduates around the country. Find out more information about the Change 100 Programme via this link:

https://www.leonardcheshire.org/support-and-information/life-and-work/skills-development/employment-programmes/change100

Undertaking the internship means relocating for Jazzy and I as we’ll be working in London. We’ll be living just outside the capital and commuting in every day, working five days a week for three months. Inevitably it’ll be a big change for both of us and though it sounds a little daunting I’m excited and confident we’ll both take it in our stride.

We’ve already taken steps to ensuring a smooth transition, having mobility and orientation in London and escalator training for Jazzy. It’s important to take my guide dog into account whenever big changes like this are on the horizon. Thankfully Jazzy is an adaptable and confident dog; she is very quick to learn new routes and enjoys doing it so I don’t foresee any problems where she is concerned.

I’ve also had my first experience of applying to Access To Work; a government funded scheme intended to level the playing field for disabled people in work by providing accessibility equipment and support for a disabled person so that they need not depend on their employer for those adaptions. Access to Work has a somewhat mixed reputation and from my experience with them so far, I’m not sure that reputation is unfounded, though my dealings with them are currently ongoing so I’ll update on my experience with them in a later post.

For now, I think that’s as much as I can say at this point. I start my internship in a couple of weeks so I’ll be sure to keep my readers updated with our progress adapting to working in the big city. Until then, wish me luck!

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