A Special Anniversary – and Words of Gratitude

A woman sitting on a black leather armchair. She is wearing a dark t-shirt with a graphic of a castle and red detail at the bottom. Her hair is pulled back, and she appears to be speaking. In front of her, lying on the wooden floor, is a light-colored Labrador dog looking directly at the camera with a calm expression.

I can hardly believe it! Eight years ago today I was introduced to my beloved guide dog, Fiji, who passed away last year. I still have so many wonderful memories of my beautiful girl, not least because I am constantly surrounded by memories of my time with her as I work on the update to her book, Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog.

I could honestly go on for hours regaling you with countless stories of how remarkable Fiji was, and what a profound difference she made in my life. But, for once, that’s not what I want to talk about, as I reflect on our time together.

Rather, I want to express my sincere appreciation for the work done by all those involved in rearing and training guide dogs. One of the distinctions about working with Fiji as opposed to my other guides, Leila and Eccles, was that I became more involved in the activities of the South African Guide-Dogs Association, especially here in Cape Town. And that introduced me to an amazing community of people – the guide dog trainers, the team from the Guide-Dogs Association and, not least, the volunteer puppy-raisers.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that it takes an entire village to raise a child. I personally think that it is true for raising a guide dog too. Because everyone involved in the process appears to be one huge, big family. And each one has a fundamental part to play.

I’ve had the opportunity of getting an insider’s view of exactly what goes into both puppy-raising and training, through interviews I’ve been conducting as part of revising Fiji’s book. I’m immensely grateful to guide dog trainer Cheryl, and puppy raisers, Tania and Wendy for sharing some of their experiences in encouraging a dog through the process of becoming the beautiful beings that we know as our guide dogs.

I enjoyed the conversations so much that not only will I include transcriptions in the Paws update, but am also considering releasing them as podcast episodes. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait and see on that since I’m trying to focus on just finishing the book right now and don’t have brainpower for that type of multitasking.

Today, on this special anniversary for me and Fiji, I want to extend gratitude too everyone around the world involved in giving us the awesome gifts of independence and companionship that are our guide dogs.

From my heart to yours – thank you!

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