Paws for Thought

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Paws for Thought on Finally Writing My Book

Fiji guide dogDate: 2 February 2021

Hi everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

The most exciting thing is happening! After four years of procrastinating, mom and I have finally started writing my book. In fact, we’ve finished writing it and are just busy doing other, clearly less important, stuff like spell checking, editing, proof reading and formatting the book now. Even though mom keeps telling me that these are all very important parts of the writing process, I just can’t see it – surely writing my story is the important bit?

I guess mom and I will just have to disagree about that.

Anyway, while we’re busy with all the stuff that mom has to do on my behalf, we’re also busy with other things. We’re discussing the cover design, and are playing around with a number of different titles and sub-titles for the book.

I don’t exactly know how we’re going to distribute the book. We have a few ideas but nothing has been decided yet. I’m sure we’ll let you know as soon as we have all that in place.

In the meantime, just to whet your appetite, here’s a sneak peek into a bit of the story. Mom told me I ought to warn you that this hasn’t been edited yet, so it might change before the book is published.

“I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 30 August 2014, one of a litter of eight puppies. My mom is a Golden Retriever named Fiesta and my dad is a black Labrador named Jay. My dad lives in America –I still don’t know if I’m eligible for a Green Card because of that fact. I’m a bit confused about the whole process since I don’t think my dad came to South Africa to meet my mom. But I really don’t want to know about the details – there are just some things I don’t need to know.

Actually, I’m a bit confused about the whole mom and dad thing. Because I have had several moms and dads through my life – with my forever mom and dad being the humans I live with now. Especially mom, for whom I work as a guide.

But, if they are my forever mom and dad, does that mean the other people I thought of as mom and dad should have been called something else? Because there have been quite a few of them. First, as I said, there were Fiesta and Jay. And the human who is mom to Fiesta, too. Then I went to stay with Jenny and Mike in Johannesburg and they taught me lots of things, played with me, took me places and also took me to puppy school. They also gave me lots of toys – ropes which I chewed to pieces and a fluffy sheep toy that I didn’t, which was my favouritest toy when I was little.

I have lots of wonderful memories of the time they were my mom and dad – like playing in the garden and chewing my way through the stems of the strelitzia plants, grabbing the garden hose and pulling it through the house to put it in my bed with all my other toys, and going to wake mom up carrying my tennis ball in my mouth. I still do that sometimes, bringing my tennis ball with me when I want attention from my forever mom and dad.

This was also when I first started being called Fiji. Mom-Jenny and dad-Mike called me Fiji because they said my coat was the colour of the sand on the beaches of the volcanic island of Fiji. Though my forever mom also sometimes tells people that she believes it is because I have something of a volcanic personality.

I was very sad to say goodbye to mom-Jenny and dad-Mike and move to Cape Town for the next phase in my life. It all seemed very strange to me at first. But then I was introduced to my new mom and dad – Beata and Piotr, and I soon adjusted to my new place and my new routine.

That was when I started proper training to become a guide dog. I would go to school every day – well, every weekday – and Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Charne would teach me all sorts of exciting lessons I would need if I wanted to become a guide. I was surrounded by lots of other dogs who also wanted to become guides, as well as lots of friendly humans who worked with the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind, getting us ready for our exciting futures.”

So that’s a little of my story – you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more. After we’ve finished with all the bits we’re busy with. I promise either mom or I will let you know when it’s ready to go.
XXX

Paws for Thought on a Family Holiday

the image shows two blond Labrador Golden Retriever crosses, with Lois
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

A very happy New Year to you all – whether you’re my friend or my mom’s, I hope you have a wonderful 2021, filled with walks and lots of delicious food! And lots of play with your family. Because that’s what I hope is in store for me in the year to come.

Talking about family, I got to meet my doggy nephew during the holidays. Obi is my sister Faith’s pup and he and his human partner came to Cape Town over the holidays. So we got the chance to sniff noses and spend a bit of time together.

I heard mom and Anel – Obi’s mom – talking about us and comparing us. It certainly sounded like Obi and me have lots in common – we both get upset if someone else is sleeping in our bed, we both work well as guide dogs, neither of us suffers from significant dog distraction, and we look very similar, as you can probably see from the photograph included with this post. For ease of reference, I am the slightly bigger dog in the image. Obi is a very little dog, especially for a boy.

We also are different in many ways. Obi loves to sleep on the couch, which I only got to do after he had been to visit… and I wasn’t totally comfortable since I was sure mom or dad would tell me to get off. But they didn’t. But I’m still only going to jump on the couch when mom invites me to do so. Just in case.

Obi also got trapped under the dining room table, which has never happened to me. He just stood there and waited for someone to come and rescue him, where I would simply have pushed the chairs out of the way so I could escape. And Obi also doesn’t play with tug ropes – his brother Loonie does, though so we did get a chance to play with him.

I really hope I will get the chance to see my litter sister Faith sometime, so I can tell her all about how her pup is doing. I’m sure she will be very proud of the wonderful guide dog he’s become and how well he looks after Anel, his human partner. But, with all the strangeness still going on in the world, who knows when that might happen.

It was wonderful to meet Obi and Anel, and Gavin and Loonie, here in Cape Town. And it was a good end to 2020.

You know, I forgot to ask Obi what he thinks of squirrels… and if he’s even met a squirrel. But I’m sure he’ll share my aversion to the pesky things!

Paws for Thought on A Sneaky Trick

The image shows Fiji lying in her dog-bed

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

Today I want to tell you about a very clever and sneaky trick I played on my doggy sister, Allie. Well, to be honest, it’s a trick I think I’m going to have to play on her quite often.

It was time for me to go to sleep. I wandered over to my bed. And found my sister Allie already asleep – in my bed! What a cheek!

Okay, okay – I know my doggy sisters and I don’t actually have our own beds. We have three beds and we sleep wherever we choose to. But that’s hardly the point – Allie was asleep in my bed… or at least the bed that I wanted to sleep in right then.

I tried glaring at Allie, but she just ignored me and stayed in my bed.

I knew asking mom to get Allie to move wouldn’t work. I’ve tried that before and mom only pats me on the head and tells me to go and sleep on one of the other beds. That Allie got there first so she should be allowed to stay there.

So I knew I’d have to find another way to reclaim my bed.

I went over to mom and just stood there waiting. Eventually she looked up from the book she was reading and patted me. So I licked her hand, just as if I was asking her for water. She offered me water and I had a few licks to satisfy her. Then I followed mom back to the bedroom and continued just standing there and looking at her expectantly.

Mom asked me if I wanted to play and I wagged my tail enthusiastically. That was what I’d been trying to get her to do. But sometimes mom is a bit slow and doesn’t understand my very clear communication.

And, as soon as we started to play, allie jumped out of bed and came to join in with the game.

And I quickly jumped into my bed, snuggled up and went to sleep.

Mom told me I wasn’t very nice to Allie, but it’s not like I forced her to come and play – she did so entirely on her own. As I knew she would!

Don’t you think that was clever of me?

Paws for Thought on Birthdays

the image shows Fiji kissing Lois on the nose

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

I know it’s meant to be mom’s turn to write an article, but I thought I’d sneak in an extra post this week.

Because it’s soon going to be mom’s birthday. And it’s quite a significant one, or so I believe.

Human birthdays confuse me a little – mom says she’s getting old but, in my calculation, she’s only just over a year older than me. But she was already grown up when I met her 4 years ago. I was really only a puppy then and it feels like a very long time ago. So maybe mom just ages differently from me.

Anyway, I hope mom has a very happy birthday on Saturday and I hope she gives me a very special treat so I can also celebrate her special day with her. And I guess she’d better also give my doggy sisters a treat as well, or they’ll be sad. And I don’t want my doggy sisters to be sad.

Anyway, happy birthday from me, Emily and Allie, mom! And I hope we do lots of walks and go to lots of interesting places in the coming year – after all, this year has been a bit quiet…

Paws for Thought on Other Dogs

the image shows Lois and Fiji walking along a street

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with other dogs. On the one hand, there are my doggy sisters and other doggy friends. Then there are dogs I’ve never met and who I encounter when mom and I are out and about.

When it comes to my doggy sisters and other doggy friends I know I am allowed to be a dog. I can play fight with them, chase them around the garden and be chased in turn, or just snuggle up with them and sleep. And I love being able to do that – after all, it’s part and parcel of being part of a family of dogs.

But, when it comes to dogs mom and I encounter on a walk, well, that’s a little different. Because I know I’m working and need to focus on what I’m doing so mom and I can be safe. Sometimes those dogs try to distract me by barking or by trying to run up to me, even if they are on leash. And that’s okay. I know I just have to maintain my focus on what I’m doing and mom and I will soon be past them.

I wish it were as simple when it comes to squirrels. But somehow squirrels just engage my chase instinct and I have to struggle against the compulsion to abandon my guide dog training and just run after them. It’s really hard for me to fight that instinct and mom can obviously feel the battle that goes on in my body, making me shake with restrained excitement as we walk past.

Mom is very understanding when this happens. She ensures she has a firm hold of my harness and soothes me with gentle words. And that really helps me. But sometimes it feels like an eternity before we’ve walked past that squirrel.

So, basically I wish squirrels were just like other dogs so I could easily ignore them when we walk. And then get back to my doggy sisters so I can have a rowdy game!

Paws for Thought on Mom’s New Book

the image shows Fiji

Hello everyone! It’s me – Fiji!

Some of you already know that mom’s releasing her new book later this month. It’s full of stories about me and my doggy sisters… Well, it’s full of stories about mom and her life as a blind person as well. But I know the stories about me and all my doggy sisters are the best ones!

When mom’s back was turned I sneaked a look at the book and thought I’d share an extract with you – about me, of course. So, here it is…

“When my previous guide dog, Eccles, retired, I hesitated about applying for a new dog. I had just started working from home and wasn’t sure how much I’d be out and about or, in other words, how much I would need a guide dog.

When I was asked if I wanted my name to be added to the application list, I said no. The next few months proved what a bad decision that had been. So I added my name to the list. Or so I thought.

Then my niece Megan started raising funds for a guide dog as a school project. And when she and my sister-in-law, Sally, went to the training centre to meet some dogs in training, they asked how my application was going. The trainer was confused. Which resulted in a panicked phone call from me to the training centre.

Then Craig and I went to Greece and visited the ancient site of Delphi, where the Delphic oracle foretold the futures of many legendary ancient Greeks. As we wandered around the ruins, a stray dog ran up and started tugging at my white cane as if trying to steal it. I jokingly told Craig that maybe the Delphic Oracle was trying to tell me it was time to pack in my white cane because my new dog was on the way. We both laughed.

Imagine our surprise when I got a phone call shortly after we returned from Greece asking if I was available to train with my new dog?””

I especially love this story, because it sets the stage for the first meeting between me and mom. As you can imagine, I’m just about to enter the story – but you’ll need to buy the book to find out what happens next!

Paws for Thought on Winning

IMG 0702

Hi Everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

The most exciting thing happened to me last week – I won a competition!

Here’s what happened:

There was a competition at dad’s work, with prizes for the best face mask that people were wearing. And, without telling me, dad entered a picture of me wearing a mask.

Now, before you start questioning why I was wearing a mask, let me assure you that I know that dogs don’t have to wear masks when we go out. And I promise mom knows that as well. But mom asked me to put on a mask for a photograph a few months ago – I think she was trying to make a point on Facebook or something. And I was more than happy to oblige her… especially since I knew I’d get a tasty treat if I played along. And I’ll do almost anything for a treat!

Dad entered that photograph into his work competition. And I was one of the winners. Doesn’t that make you want to wag your tail with joy?

I admit that my prize is a bit odd. It’s a wine glass that looks like a face mask. I thought I might be able to use it as a water bowl when I go running with dad. But it’s made of glass and I wouldn’t want to break it. Besides, it might be difficult for me to drink from it considering its shape.

So maybe I should give it to mom. Maybe I can exchange it for more treats. What do you think?

Mom and dad found it very funny that one of the winners, Zinia, was a nice human lady wearing a dog mask. And another was a dog wearing a human mask – me, of course.

Zinia mask1

Maybe one day I’ll win a competition where the prize is dog treats. That would be wonderful!

Paws for Thought on My Very Favourite Thing

Hi everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

My very favouritist thing in the whole wide world is guide dogging for mom. And running with dad. And Breakfast. And supper. And playing with my doggy sisters. And… Hang on a minute, mom wants a word with me….

Mom just told me that I can only really have one favouritist thing in the world. But I don’t agree with her – I think I can have as many favouritist things as I want. Because they are all my favouritist when I’m doing them.

Anyway, my other favouritist thing in the whole wide world is crunchwater. Because it’s cold and it’s yummy.

Crunchwater comes out of magic boxes in the very coldest part of the fridge. Dad or mom makes crunchwater by filling the magic boxes. I don’t think it’s actually crunchwater at this stage because occasionally some slops over the edge of the magic box and it tastes just like ordinary old water when we lick it up. So there’s definitely something magical about the little boxes and what happens in the coldest part of the fridge –the bit that mom’s just told me is called a freezer.

My doggy sisters and I get crunchwater as a special treat. Dad takes a magic box out of the freezer, removes pieces of crunchwater and tosses them towards my doggy sisters and me. And we leap into the air trying to catch them. Well, I leap into the air and usually catch my piece because I’m a guide dog and I’m just clever that way. My sisters aren’t quite as good as me – Emily mostly catches her crunchwater, but Allie is a bit hit and miss. To tell you a secret, she’s more miss than hit. But we love her anyway.

Emily and I crunch away at our crunchwater and it’s gone in a flash. As I eat it, my mouth and teeth get all cold for a bit, which is one of the best things about it. But Allie kind of nibbles at hers – she bites off a slither at a time and it lasts much longer that way. Sometimes it even leaves little pools of liquid crunchwater on the floor.

Dad and mom sometimes also have crunchwater, but they don’t eat it right. For some strange reason they put it into a glass with other liquid. I can’t understand why they do that… what a waste of wonderful crunchwater! But, as I’ve said before, sometimes humans are just weird.

Note from Lois: Craig and I first saw the term crunchwater in a tweet by Thoughts of Dog – @Dog_feelings and it just worked for us. That
Twitter account has given me hours of laughter and amusement and is well worth visiting!

Paws for Thought on My Solo Adventure

The image shows a blonde Labrador

Before I tell you my story, I want to make sure you understand that I wasn’t trying to run away from home. I love mom and dad and my doggy sisters, Emily and Allie, and know I have everything I could ever need at home. Well, apart from lunch, which I still don’t get, despite having asked for it forever. But I have absolutely no reason to run away – home is simply the best place in the whole wide world!

But that didn’t stop me going on a solo adventure when I noticed the gate wasn’t closed properly. I looked around to check no-one was watching and then just quietly walked out, leaving my sisters waiting for mom to let them back inside. Then I trotted down the road and started sniffing around on the sidewalk.

A car pulled up beside me and a friendly human voice asked me if I was lost. I looked up and frowned at him – of course I wasn’t lost, I knew exactly where I was. At least I sort of did.

The friendly man encouraged me to jump in his car. Which of course I did because I love going places in cars.

After a sadly brief drive, the friendly man called someone and a different, but equally friendly man invited me to come into his house. So, I walked in and made myself comfortable.
To be honest, I thought the men looked familiar, so I was totally relaxed at being in a different place. Besides, mom and I travel to new places all the time. At least, we used to. Not so much at the moment, for some inexplicable reason.

A few minutes later, I heard dad’s voice calling me. After a quick sniff around the garden, which I hadn’t had a chance to explore yet, I hopped into dad’s car and we went home.

I could feel dad was upset about something but had no idea what – clearly one of my sisters had been naughty while I was on my solo adventure. And mom was in floods of tears when we arrived home, so it must have been something really naughty. But I ignored her because it had nothing to do with me. Or so I thought.

Mom hugged me and I wagged to show her that everything was okay. Through her tears she kept asking if I was okay, which startled me, because I was just fine. I tried to tell her all about my solo adventure and eventually I think she understood, because she stopped crying and hugged me again.

But, you know, I never did figure out what my sister had done. Or even which one had been naughty. Because neither of them seemed to be in trouble. I guess humans are just strange!

Lois’s Note: It turns out that Fiji was rescued by our local vet, who lives a few roads away. Throughout the experience Fiji seemed oblivious of the panic she created by wandering off. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life! Thank goodness for Andrew and Michael – the brothers who run our veterinary clinic. And, when all is said and done, I guess that all’s well that ends well.

Paws for Thought on Social Distancing

the image shows a grinning Fiji wearing her harness

Over the past few months I’ve become used to the strange things happening around me. I’m okay with mom wearing a face mask when we walk, even if the voice commands she gives me sound a bit muffled. I’m used to mom and me not going out to different places. I can accept that mom needs to spend most of the day working at the computer. I’m even used to dad being around all the time. But the one thing I just can’t figure out is social distancing.

Most of the reason I’m perplexed is that my guide dog training didn’t include a class on social distancing. Mom’s tried to explain it to me but I just don’t get it.

As a guide dog, I know I shouldn’t walk up to people and distract them. So that’s not the problem. But it doesn’t mean I’m trained to walk a specific distance away from them. Or that I’m comfortable walking far into the road if mom and I need to pass slower walkers – first and foremost I’m trained to keep mom out of danger, and I don’t think it’s safe walking into the road like that.

I’m really glad mom and I haven’t had to go to the shops, because I think it would be hard for me to remember to stop at the painted lines on the floor that keep people a safe distance from each other. But then, I’ve never been able to figure out why people stand in queues. Or how to do so – I’m trained to go straight to the counter. So shopping would be doubly stressful for me now.

At least mom is able to hear where other people are when we walk and take evasive action. Because it would be very confusing if my training told me to do one thing and social distancing told me to do something else. But, you know, even though I trust mom’s judgement, I’d still like to do something to help. Because I’m a guide dog. And that’s what I do.

If you have any clever suggestions on how I could help mom maintain social distancing when we’re out and about, I’d love to hear them.

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