Paws for Thought on Trains

the image shows a wet Fiji on the beach, with Lois kneeling beside her.

I don’t like trains.

I think train travel must be important, because I hear lots of trains whistling and screaming past my house from early morning to late at night.

Clearly lots of people travel on trains. Which means that some guide dogs must also go on them with their humans. But I don’t think I’d like to take Mom on a train unless I had no other choice.

I see trains often when Mom and I are walking on the road that is next to the trainline. To me, trains look like giant snake monsters that want to gobble me up. And they make a dreadful rumbling and moaning sound. They shake and shudder as they go from one place to another and their wheels scream and shriek as they go by. And their horrible unearthly whistles try to shatter my poor eardrums. Sometimes their doors whoosh open and sometimes they don’t, which is also intimidating. Is it any wonder trains make me a little nervous?

Admittedly I’ve only travelled by train once, back when I first met Mom and had to help teach her how to work with me. All of us guide dogs took our new humans to the train station and caught a train to Fish Hoek beach. While I loved having the chance to run, wrestle and play with my guide dog friends on the beach, while the trainers made sure our humans didn’t misbehave, I honestly would have preferred to travel there by car.

I know my guide dog sister-aunts Leila and Eccles used to take Mom to work on the train before I was her guide dog, so I know it must be possible for us to go on a train and not get gobbled up by the nasty snake monster-type thing. I’m sure I would probably also get used to it if I had no other choice. But I honestly think it would be far better to go by car or by Uber. Or simply to walk there, provided it’s not too far. But since Mom now works from home, it’s all hypothetical anyway.

So, while I know trains are good and are important to help humans and some guide dogs get to where they need to go, I’m just as happy that I don’t have to use them. Unless it’s the only way to travel to the beach. In which case I might be willing to consider taking Mom on a train again.

Progress on My Audio Book?

the image shows the cover of a book, showing Lois wearing a red dress and hugging Fiji, a pale yellow Labrador

It’s been forever since I last updated you on the progress of my project to publish an audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way. Admittedly, when I started the project, I imagined it would take me only a month or two to get it done. Which only goes to show how naïve I am at times. Because that was almost two years ago.

Here is an update on my progress so far.

My wonderful narrator, Julie Norman, has completed the audio files of the book. This was the first, and definitely biggest part of the project. I think Julie has done a marvelous job and has brought my words to life with her reading. Admittedly, it felt somewhat strange listening to someone else read the words that I had written, but I’m still glad I asked Julie to narrate the book.

I’m currently working with several beta readers to check the audio quality and consistency of the recordings. It’s hard for me to listen objectively, both because it is my own words that are being narrated, and because I know how much time and effort went into the recording of the text. Hopefully I will get a more honest opinion from my test readers.

Once I’m content that the recordings are good to go, I will then start the process of getting the book into the various audio book platforms like Audible. This would be easier if I lived in USA, Canada, UK or Ireland, as I could then simply upload them to Audible myself. Because I live outside those countries, I need to go through an external company to publish the books. Which, of course, means there is yet one more person nibbling away at my income from the book. But, at least the book will be available for people to read in audio.

I wish I could give you an estimate of the timeline from here. In reality, like most other parts of the writing and publishing industries, it is hard to know for sure and much depends on the focus I give the project. Since I’m also busy getting Fiji’s book ready to publish, I have to be careful about the decisions I make on prioritizing my time. But I will get the audio book of A Different Way of Seeing out as soon as I can, I promise. Likewise with Fiji’s book, “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”.

Phew, 2021 is turning into quite a busy ear for me when it comes to writing. Busy and exciting!

Interview on Eyes on Success Podcast

the image shows the covers of four children’s books, all with an illustrated mouse with a white cane

Here is another podcast interview I did recently, this time with the Eyes on Success podcast.
It’s not often that the interviews I give are based primarily on my illustrated children’s series, “The Adventures of Missy Mouse”. This was a refreshing topic for me to focus on, made even more fun by having the opportunity to answer a few questions put to me by two charming young boys, the grandsons of the podcast presenters.

You can hear the questions they asked, and my attempts to answer them in a way that would make sense to them, in the interview. You can also hear my thoughts on why it is important for persons with disabilities to be represented in literature of all kinds.

Listen to the interview: www.EyesOnSuccess.net/eos_2127_podcast.mp3

You can also find out more about The Missy Mouse books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/loisstrachan

Paws for Thought about Brothers

The image shows a dark brown dog smiling at the camera

Two months ago my doggy sisters and I got a new brother. Like my sister Allie, he is a rescue dog and his name is Onyx.

Naturally it took him time to settle in and get used to all us girls. It’s really only in the last few weeks that he’s started playing with us. Even now he plays mostly with Allie, while Emily and I bark encouragement from the sidelines.

When Onyx first came to live with us I noticed something a little strange. He would walk into things a lot more often than anyone else in the family, except for mom, who also has a tendency to walk into things. But not even mom walks into things as often as Onyx.

I also noticed that Onyx had an odd way of walking, almost as if he was feeling what was before him with his front paws, rather than just putting them down.

Eventually I asked mom if she knew why he did that. Mom told me that Onyx is partially sighted and sometimes he’s not able to see things. And suddenly it made sense to me.

Mom also told me that the visual impairment was the reason it had taken Onyx five years to find a forever home. The nice lady from DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) told her that several people had considered adopting him. But as soon as they heard he was partially sighted they decided to adopt a different dog instead. Which was why Onyx was there waiting for Dad and us to bring him home.

I’ve been giving my new brother’s sight impairment a lot of thought. I don’t know if he’d be able to get a guide dog to help him in the same way that I help mom. I’ve even wondered if he might find a white cane useful. Except I don’t know how Onyx would be able to hold it and swing it in front of him like mom does on the very rare occasions I let her use her white cane.

On reflection, I think I’m not giving Onyx enough credit. He’s learned to adapt incredibly well and is managing just fine without any assistance. He runs around the garden with us and almost never bumps into things at home. it’s really only when we go for a walk that he sometimes bumps things. And he certainly has no problems leaping onto the couch. Or knowing when one of us girls is sneaking up to try and steal his food – and he is quick to snap at us if we do.

So I don’t think mom needs to apply for him to get a guide dog of his own. Besides, that’s my job and I wouldn’t want any competition from another guide dog, even if it wasn’t there to help mom.
Anyway, all I really wanted to do was to introduce my new brother and welcome him to the family. I’m sure he is going to be very happy living here!

Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way, by Tony Giles

Book Cover

I’ve recently discovered a love of reading travel memoirs. While it in no way replaces the experience of exploring different countries and cultures, it does at least give me a taste of the travel I used to be able to do, and will hopefully be able to return to in time to come.
A travel memoir I read recently was Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way, by Tony Giles – aka Tony the Traveller. It is the story of a trip Tony took to several countries in Southern Africa in 2004 and 2005. During that time he visited South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
As a blind and hearing impaired traveller, Tony describes his travels through his other senses, much as I do when I travel. Having said that, Tony is far more adventurous than I am and is always ready to bungee jump, go white river rafting or seek out other adventure activities, which he also describes with his customary sense of humour

There were a couple of things I found fascinating about reading about Tony’s time in Southern Africa. First, unlike me, Tony is happy to head out and explore the world totally on his own, trusting he will be able to find assistance should he need it. And, from what I read in his book, mostly he manages to do so.
Secondly, I found it fascinating seeing cities and countries that I’ve visited through the eyes of a stranger, and a tourist. I often find that tourists see a different side to a city than we do as residents. I found this especially true while reading Tony’s book. I felt a similar thing when my brother and sister-in-law visited Cape Town a few years ago and Craig and I got to see Cape Town through their eyes.

So, if you’re interested in discovering how a blind and hearing impaired man travels through several Southern African countries on his own, and experience the wonderous world of travel through senses other than sight, or if you simply want to get a taste of travel while we are still not really free to explore new destinations due to the global pandemic, I’d highly recommend reading Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way by Tony Giles. And, if you enjoy it, you can try the other two books in the series so far: Seeing the World My Way and Seeing the Americas My way. I know I’ll be reading them in the near future when I have the urge to travel again, at least by book.

Speaking at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference

HerStory ONLINE SUMMIT Tag  Lois Strachan May 2021

Last month I was honoured to be a speaker at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference. The conference and the HerStory platform are the brainchild of Zimbabwean-born Getrude Matshe, who has been building the concept for the past few years, first as in-person conferences and currently as online summits.

My 15-minute presentation was on the topic of independence and it’s meaning for me as a blind person, touching on the need for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace.
You can watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqLQvX5vnMs

A Sneak Peek at Fiji’s Book

The image shows a book cover with the title Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide dog, and a yellow Labrador’s face

“I am named Fiji, and am a yellow Labrador cross Golden Retriever.
I have a very special job – I’m a guide dog for the blind. Being a guide dog takes discipline and focus, but it also means my life is full of excitement. I have had plenty of adventures with my mom, Lois Strachan, both as a guide and when my harness is released.
I have had a real dog’s life and boy, I have loved every bit of it. And I am here to share it with you in my own words.”

Fiji and I are over the moon to be able to share the first chapter of her book, Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog with you and anyone you know who loves dogs.

You can download the free chapter at https://www.loisstrachan.com/paws-for-thought/

And please share the link – the more people who read it, the better! Because we are so excited to be able to share my beautiful guide dog’s story with the world.
PS Keep watching the blog for updates on when the book will be published in its entirety – we’re working hard to get there!

Paws for Thought on Screen Time

Fiji sleeping

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

As I sit here happily remembering the run I had this morning with Dad and my doggy-sister Allie, I got to thinking about something that has been bothering me lately.
How much screen time should we dogs allow our humans?

Because both Mom and Dad seem to spend a whole lot of time sitting staring into a computer screen. Or talking into a computer screen. And I just can’t figure out why they do it.

I know Mom and Dad have lots to do that isn’t of interest to us dogs. Mom seems to love typing into the computer, as does Dad. At least sometimes I can understand when Mom does it, because she’s helping me with my book or with my blog posts, as she’s doing now. It really isn’t so easy for me to type so it makes much more sense for me to tell Mom what I want to say and for her to write it down for me.
But what about the rest of the time? Honestly, there are days when Mom and Dad spend literally hours at the computer. While us dogs find a comfy place to curl up and sleep.

I usually sleep on one of the warm dog beds in the bedroom, my doggy-sister Emily either sleeps on the blanket in the study with Mom or in the doorway so she can keep an eye on what Mom’s doing. My other doggy-sister Allie sometimes sits with Mom but most often curls up on the couch so she can keep an eye on Dad and also make sure no-one can sneak up on the house from outside. And my brand new doggy-brother Onyx usually joins her on the couch as well, so we are doubly safe now.

Maybe all this sounds perfectly normal to you. But to me it simply does not make sense.

Why spend hours and hours staring at a computer when you could be outside walking, running or playing with us dogs? Even though the weather is cooler now, it’s still warm enough to romp around in the garden, or to go for a glorious walkaround the neighbourhood. And if it’s raining, surely it makes far more sense to find a warm and comfy place to curl up and sleep?

Like I’ve said before, sometimes humans really don’t make sense to me!

Back to my original question. How much screen time do you think I should allow Mom and Dad? And how should I distract them from their computers? Any help will be gratefully wagged at.

My Thoughts on Why You Might Want to Listen to My Accessible Travel Podcast

Alt text: The image shows a styalised image of the African continent that resembles a bare foot

I’ve been hosting a podcast on accessible travel for 2 ½ years and have recently been thinking about why someone with no connection to disability might gain value from listening to it.
I believe one of the biggest barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace is a lack of understanding of how we (persons with disabilities) live our lives. Because people don’t understand how we do things, they usually default to imagining that those tasks are not possible for us.

I understand why that barrier exists. On a fundamental level, why should someone with no link to disability know how we operate? It’s rather like expecting everyone in the world to know how a nuclear power station operates, how an orthopedic surgeon does their work, or knowing the intricacies of a retail store stock management system. For the most part we do not need to know and, unless nuclear power stations, retail store stock management or orthopedic surgery impacts directly on our lives, we simply accept that it does what it needs to do. Without needing us to know anything more than that.
Sadly, since many people have no direct contact with a person with a disability, the same appears to hold true. Except that statistics tell us that around 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Which means that for every eight people we encounter, one will have a disability, whether visible or not.

In the past few years we have seen a growing awareness of the need to understand the realities of those whose experiences have been different from our own, to be more open to diversity of race, culture, gender, age. Yet somehow the question of ability seldom gets mentioned when the question of diversity is raised. I believe it should be part of that conversation as well.

Which brings us back to why someone with no contact with disability might gain value from listening to my podcast about accessible travel.

  • To learn a little about the barriers the world sets up for persons with disabilities,
  • To learn about the tools and techniques we have at our disposal that allow us to overcome the obstacles we face,
  • To see the strength, resilience, skills and talents that help us achieve what we are passionate about,
  • To understand that we are just the same as persons without disabilities in terms of what we love to do,
  • how we want to live our lives, and experience the world – it is just the way we may do it that may differ

I love having the opportunity of chatting to people about their travel experiences. I learn new things in every single episode. However, I believe the greatest take-away I have gained while interviewing people is the knowledge that, though we may do things in a different way, our experiences and our love for travel are exactly the same.

If you are someone who loves to travel to new places and experience different things, you may discover that the guests on my podcast have much in common with you as well.
Why not dip into the library of episodes of A Different Way of Travelling and see if I’m correct… You can find them at https://iono.fm/rss/chan/3715

Or on your usual podcast player.

Go on, give it a try!

An Interview on the PublishHer Podcast

Logo

Here is a recent interview I did on how I became a writer. If you are one of the people who would love to write a book but do not know where to start, the PublishHer Podcast might be a great starting point for you.

The PublishHer Podcast is the brainchild of Alexa Bigwarfe, who runs the Write_ Publish_ Sell and the Women in Publishing communities. I’ve learned so much about the publishing industry and marketing books from Alexa and her team and the resources they share. So I was excited when they offered me the opportunity to talk about my experiences as a writer.

Here’s my interview:
https://podcasts.bcast.fm/e/r87rzv6n

I hope you enjoy learning a little more about my writing and the publishing industry.

Email updates

Lois shares updates on her book, speaking and the reality of living with blindness. Find out what Lois is up to – subscribe here.

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