Celebrating Four Years

A dark-haired woman sitting on the floor with a blond labrador

Today is a special day – Fiji and I met for the very first time exactly four years ago, on 28 February 2016. I can hardly believe my beautiful guide dog and I have been working for that long. In many ways it feels like it was only yesterday that we met. Yet I can’t deny that our bond has grown much stronger over that time.

I thought it might be fun for Fiji and I to reminisce on that meeting. Here’s a transcription of our conversation.

Lois: I wasn’t certain what to expect when we first met. And I was a little nervous because I could still remember how dismissive my previous guide dog, your sister, Eccles, had been when she and I met.

Fiji: Well, mom, I was also a bit nervous – at least you’d had a guide dog before so you kind of knew what to expect. For me it was all brand new. So, when Cheryl brought me into the room, I looked at you and didn’t know what to think. Especially when you sat on the floor and watched me sniff my way around the room. I really didn’t know what you expected of me. So I eventually wandered over, as if by accident, and sat down hear you. But not too near, just in case.

Lois: I remember that. I was curious to see what you’d do. And I was glad you decided to curl up close enough that I could reach out and pat you.

Fiji: Oh come on, did you really think I’d pass up the opportunity of getting patted? You know how much I love it!

Lois: Fair enough. But I didn’t know that back then. I also remember that the first time you made me laugh was later that night, when Cheryl and I came into the room and found you curled up on my bed, with your head on my pillow. It was just so cute! So completely naughty. But so cute!

Fiji: Would you believe me if I said I was actually just trying to warm the bed up for you, Mom? Besides, it’s not like you were using it right then.

Lois: True. I really shouldn’t have left you in the room when I went to chat to Cheryl. No wonder you decided to try your luck.

Fiji: Exactly (Fiji wags her tail)

Lois: After that we got on fairly well. And we seemed to work well together.

Fiji: Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that you were already quite well trained and that I’d just need to work on a few small things to get you back into top form. Even though you did seem a bit nervous at first. So I think I managed to train you quite fast, with the help of Cheryl and Joel.

Lois: Do you remember when I went home to visit your doggy sisters during training?

Fiji: Of course I remember. I was very cross with you… And very happy when you came back the next morning, though I didn’t want to let on. I leapt up and grabbed your arm to tell you I wasn’t going to let you get away with behaviour like that again – that you were my mom and that I was to be there to look after you. And then you hugged me and I forgave you.

Lois: I think we’ve had a pretty good last four years, don’t you?

Fiji: For the most part. We’ve had some fun adventures and have met some lovely dogs and people. We’ve gone to plenty interesting places. But I’ve also been worried about you a few times -like when you tripped over that step and hurt yourself. And when you went away for a week because you got sick. And when you left me with dad and went to do something in Ghana. I always miss you when you go away without me. Because I love working with you and want to be with you always.

Lois: I know sometimes I go places without you. I always want to take you, but sometimes it’s just not possible. But I always come home, don’t I?

Fiji: Yes, you do. And then I grab your arm again to remind you that your place is with me and my place is with you. And then you hug me and everything’s fine again.

Lois: So, Fiji, what’s going to happen in the next four years?

Fiji: I think you’re going to walk me three times a day every day. And you’re going to start feeding me lunch as well as breakfast and supper. And you’re going to actually let me chase the squirrels when we see them.

Lois: Umm, maybe not.

Fiji: Oh. Well, I had to ask…

Fiji and I also want to send out a huge thank you to those who have been part of her journey to this point – her puppy walkers, Jenny and Mike, Beata and Piotr, all the wonderful people at the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind, the hundreds of adults and children that Fiji and I have been privileged to talk to, and of course all our friends and family – human and canine!

Thinking about the first day I met Fiji makes me realize how much independence she’s given me and how much I’ve been able to accomplish in the time we’ve been working together. She is a generous-natured and loving dog with a number of unique quirks – some of them totally endearing… some not so much. As I write this, she’s lying curled up by my feet, enjoying the cool air from the ceiling fan. With one eye and ear open, just in case I need her to do something.

You’ll be able to read more about our adventures together when the updated version of A Different Way of Seeing 2.0 gets released shortly – as an ebook and as an audio book. There’s plenty of Fiji stories in the book, I promise!

Happy anniversary to us, Fiji – and many more wonderful years of working and playing together!

Celebrating a Mind-blowing Anniversary

Cds DSCF5911I know I don’t usually post on a Wednesday, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me when you hear my reason for doing so – today is my and my amazing beautiful clever guide dog Fiji’s second anniversary!

“Wow,” I hear you say, “Two years?” And I know exactly what you mean. In some ways it feels like it was only yesterday that I found my brand new guide dog curled up asleep on my bed on the very day I met her – as an aside, I was chatting to one of the trainers in the kitchen of the training centre at the time, and had no clue that Fiji was making herself so at home in my room. At the same time, we work so well as a team now that it feels like we’ve been partnered forever.

In the two short years we’ve been working together I already have so many stories about Fiji and the things she and I have done… that I could probably devote and entire book to her, instead of the mere chapter I dedicated to my previous dogs, Leila and Eccles in A Different Way of Seeing. I don’t think Fiji’s done more than they did, but I’m living the adventures with Fiji in the here and now, where those with Ecce and Leila are drawn from my memories.

Here’s just a few special moments from my time with Fiji: there was the time I got back to the training centre after leaving Fiji there overnight and was met by a young blonde ball of lunatic Labrador- in one short week we’d already bonded that much. Or the time a pesky squirrel tormented Fiji by throwing twigs at her thus initiating a state of all-out war between Fiji and squirrels. Or the windy day I was trying to take advantage of a lull in both wind and traffic so we could cross Main Road , only to have Fiji flatly refuse to move because I had forgotten to give her a treat for finding the crossing.

From the way she constantly glances back over her shoulder when we’re walking to make sure I’m still there, to her bouncing down the hallway to pounce either her doggy sister Emily or me just prior to one of our walks. From the complete and utter exuberance with which she greets each morning to the contentment I sense from her as she curls up and falls asleep next to me every night. , From the intense focus she brings to both her work as a guide dog and her times of joyful play, Fiji has become an integral part of my life. Nor do I think I’ll ever lose the sense of wonder with which I contemplate our partnership as guide dog and human partner – she’s simply that awesome!

Happy anniversary, precious baby girl! May we look forward to many more years of discovering the world together!

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