Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.
The most amazing thing happened to me last weekend – I had a visit from one of my cousin guide dogs, whose Dad had human stuff to do and couldn’t take his guide dog with him.
Guide dog Billy is great. He is a black Labrador, and is lots bigger than me. In fact, he’s even bigger than my oldest doggy sister, Emily. Billy is only 3 years old and still loves to play. Billy, my sister Allie and I turned the garden into a high speed racetrack and spent much of the weekend chasing one another around.
Billy came with us when Mom and I went to try adaptive golf, which Mom will tell you about soon. In fact, I think Billy had most fun trying to catch the balls that the humans were playing with. It certainly kept him busy while I sat and whined encouragement at my mom.
Unfortunately, my doggy brother Onyx didn’t like Billy and Mom and Dad had to be creative in finding ways to keep them separated so Onyx wouldn’t snarl at Billy. All of us girl dogs thought Onyx was being silly because Billy is such fun.
Okay, I have to admit that I also barked at Billy when he first arrive. I wanted to make it clear that Mom is mine and I’m not sharing her with another guide dog. But as soon as Billy told me that he already has a fulltime job guiding his dad, I was okay with him coming to stay.
So, if Onyx wanted to sulk and not get to play with Billy, well, that was his problem.
Now that Billy has gone home, life at our house has gone back to normal. Which is why I’m writing this post rather than chasing other dogs round the garden. But maybe I will go out and play now that I’m done here.
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
I know I promised to tell you more about my brother, Onyx. He’s now been part of our family for 5 months and has wriggled his way into the day-to-day activities of the house very well. He is full of energy and loves to run around and play. He also likes to bark a lot, which is a bit annoying when I’m trying to have my midday nap. And he and my sister Allie absolutely love to play together. They run around and jump onto the couches play-growling the whole time – they really are the terrible twins!
I know people say that all dogs are curious by nature, but Onyx takes it from a pleasant pastime to a fulltime career. Whenever Mom or Dad open a cupboard or a drawer, Onyx will somehow be standing right beside them with his head buried deep inside. He’s not even scrounging for food. He simply wants to sniff anything and everything he can find.
Onyx also devours treats whenever he can. Whenever Mom restocks my treat bag before I take her for a walk, Onyx will walk back and forth on his back legs trying to stick his nose into the bag. But Mom’s too fast for him so I don’t have to worry he will eat all my treats. It would be terrible if we were to run out halfway through our walk!
And Onyx is also a sock thief. It all started when he stole socks from the clothes washing that was hanging up to dry. He grabbed them off the rack and ran off at high speed with them in his mouth. Not bad for a partially sighted pup! Then he started checking all the cupboards and drawers he could get into and stole any socks he could find. He carries them around like I carry my tennis ball. And sometimes he tosses them into the air and pounces on them to play. Again and again.
I was a little hesitant when Onyx first joined the family. But he’s great fun and I’m glad he’s here.
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!
The very first day mom brought me home from guide dog training school I had a meeting with my new doggy siblings, Eccles, Emily and Calvin. They told me that mom and dad were already mostly well trained, with one exception – we weren’t allowed to sleep on the furniture.
I gave the matter some thought and decided it would be okay to just sleep on the warm and comfy blankets scattered around the house. Except for anytime mom went out and forgot to take me with her – of course I’d curl up on the couch then. But never when mom and dad were home.
Everything changed the day my doggy sister Allie came to live with us.
When she walked into the house Allie leapt up onto the couch and curled up. No matter what dad did, she’d somehow find her way there. When he eventually put planks of wood across the couch she simply tried pulling the cushions out so she could sleep on them. And landed up tearing the cushions to pieces.
After two weeks dad gave up… and the no-couch rule went out the window.
It took a little time for my doggy sister Emily and I to break the years of no-couch conditioning. Then we decided to try our luck. Because, ultimately, it would be horribly unfair if mom and dad yelled at us for doing something that Allie was allowed to.
Now, though we don’t do it often because we have beautifully comfy dog beds, Emily and I sometimes curl up on the couch as well.
Which only goes to prove that you can teach old humans new tricks!
Hmm, I wonder if we can train mom and dad to let us sleep on the bed as well. It might be worth a try…
The photo shows Allie asleep on the couch.
I was perturbed to read mom’s last article and see no mention of me in her intentions for the year. So I’m going to correct her oversight and hope she pays attention to my Wishlist for 2019.
You’ll notice my needs are a lot simpler than mom’s. it’s okay that she wants to achieve lots of different stuff in 2019 – writing books, challenging herself, and continuing to build her profile and her business in all sorts of areas. But me, all the things I want to do are easily achievable. At least, I think they are.
So, here’s my Wishlist for 2019:
- Walking with mom – go for 5 walks a week – if I were greedy, I’d ask for double that. So I think I’m being ultra-generous in just asking for 5, don’t you?
- Working with mom 01 – I know mom enjoys practicing the routes she knows regularly and that’s fine with me, but it gets a little boring sometimes. So, I’d like for us to learn at least 1 new route this year.
- Working with mom 02 – I think mom did quite well getting out and about with me last year. I want to challenge her to continue doing so, and to take me with her to lots of exciting new places as well as our old familiar haunts.
- Running with dad – go for 3 runs a week. I know my doggy sister Allie and I can’t always run with dad since sometimes he has to do LSDs (long, slow runs for those non-runners who read this), and we’re too fast for LSD. But it’s important for Allie and me to keep up our mileage and keep our trim waistlines, so 3 runs a week should be okay.
- Communicating – this year I want to do more Facebook posts and videos, because they’re fun. I’ll need to figure out a better way of stealing mom’s iPhone or laptop to stay in touch with my human and doggy friends on social media, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.
- Eating – I want to try to Persuade mom to give me 3 meals a day. I know this may be a stretch goal but I think we should all try to reach for bigger goals sometimes. Besides,, mom has 3 meals a day, so why shouldn’t I?
- Playing – in 2019 I want to play lots with my doggy sisters Emily and Allie. I know this is probably the easiest goal for me to achieve since we already play lots, but I’m including it for completeness’ sake.
There you go – my Wishlist for 2019. I realize I may need to retrain mom a little to achieve some of them. I also know some of them may not be easy but, like Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
And I assure you I’m already dreaming about that third meal!
I can’t believe I turned four years old last week. And that mom and I have been partnered for 2.5 years already. As I lie here snuggled up against the cold, I’ve been reflecting on all that’s happened in my life so far.
I’ll admit I was a little worried when mom and I first met. I mean, she seemed a nice lady and I was sure I could train her easily enough. Then, one day on class, she burst into tears and nothing I did seemed to calm her down. Nowadays when we give talks, mom explains that she’d become dependent on family and friends since her previous guide dog (my sister Eccles) had retired and that she’d stopped using her other senses and instincts to guide her. And she was terrified that she might do something to harm me or her.
Of course, I already knew that. I’d noticed my new mom was slightly hesitant when we walked. And that she wanted me to walk a lot slower than I like. And that she was always extra careful about stepping off and onto pavements. I tried to tell her that I trusted her and knew I could help her get over her anxiety about walking with me. But she didn’t seem to understand. So I realized I’d just have to show her.
It’s been wonderful to see how far mom’s come in the last 2.5 years – she’s far more confident, and is totally fine walking at my preferred pace. She’s also happy to go places and do things that she wouldn’t have done in those first few weeks. And mom trusts me and knows I’ll always be there to help her, no matter what. Unless she ever wants to try bungee jumping – then she’s on her own!
When I was training to be a guide dog we often used to wonder about the people we’d be partnered with. And, the day I met mom, I discovered it wasn’t going to be just her and me – that I’d have a whole human and doggy family! I love having doggy siblings to play with when I’m not on duty and me and my sisters Emily and Allie spend lots of time having mock fights and pulling rope.
The other really great thing about my family is that I’m allowed to take dad running. I wrote about that last time, so you can go back and read my previous article if you want to know more. Since I wrote the article, Allie’s started joining us on our runs which is also fun – especially when she accidentally slips off the rocks when we’re free-running on Muizenburg beach.
Finally, I’m really happy I still get to see some of the important people from before mom and I started working together. I see my puppy-walkers, Jenny and Mike, at events quite often and they even came to visit me at my home once. Mom and I sometimes do talks for the SA Guide-Dogs Association so I get to see Avril, Teagan, Cheryl and Charne as well, though I always try to remember to show them how well mom’s doing now.
Sometimes when I meet young trainee guide dogs, I laugh at how young, naughty and puppyish they still are. But then I remember how mischievous I was as a puppy, and some of the antics I and my guide dog class got up to and I realize that even the naughtiest dog has the potential to become a wonderful guide dog one day.
I’ve added a few photos from my carefree puppy days with Jenny and Mike, one of the official photos from when mom graduated from guide dog school with me, and one of me and mom working together.
As I lie curled up at mom’s feet reflecting on my four years on this earth and the time I’ve spent as a working guide dog with my wonderful family, all I can say is wag, wag, wag, wag, wag, wag, wag!
It’s always heartbreaking to lose a beloved fur-child. It’s even harder when it’s a retired guide dog who has given so much of her life and energy helping you live the independent life you want. And harder still if you happen to be on another continent at the time.
Sitting in our Airbnb apartment in Wroclaw, Poland on the evening my retired guide dog, Eccles, passed away, I found myself reflecting on the 12 ½ years she and I had spent together.
I smiled when I remembered our very first meeting when Eccles refused to acknowledge my existence, waiting patiently for her beloved trainer to rescue her from the total stranger she’d been lumped with. And at how quickly the bond of trust and love developed between us despite that inauspicious beginning. I thought of how many hundreds of times she and I must have traipsed from home, to the train station, down to the office in Simon’s Town, and back again at the end of the day. And how she would grab her squeaky toy and bounce round the office with it, squeaking joyfully to let us know it was time to stop working and head home. I laughed, remembering how she had hidden under the bed for the first three months we had Emily – desperately trying to avoid the savage paws and jaws of the young pup – until she rediscovered her ability to play.
I recalled how Eccles in essence retired herself when she was 11 years old, preferring to stay snoozing on her blanket rather than accompanying me to events. And I remembered her last final months when she seemed to find her inner naughty puppy –testing boundaries that had been out of bounds to her as a guide dog – and most often getting away with her naughtiness because her love of life was simply to infectious for me to chastise her.
Eccles was by far the gentlest of my 3 guide dogs. Where Leila tended to barge through people like an armoured tank (a trait shared by Fiji), Eccles would politely manoeuvre her way round people with a diffident but determined manner. She could also be a little scatter-brained – on one occasion she was so busy thinking about something else that she started walking in the opposite direction until I laughingly stopped her and turned her round.
Where Leila and Fiji would be quite likely to wander off and amuse themselves when they were off-duty, Eccles would prefer to sit at my feet until she was needed. Mind you, it was Eccles who pulled her leash out of my dad’s hand and wandered from one side of an auditorium to the other to find me when I was giving a presentation at a Toastmasters conference (you’ll need to get a copy of my book “A Different Way of Seeing” to read the whole story).
Though I have absolutely no doubt we took the right decision in letting Eccles go, I have to live with the feeling that I let her down because I wasn’t there with her at the end. I can’t express how grateful I am for the technology that made it possible for us to have a half hour WhatsApp conversation with our vet to really understand the options we faced. And I’m even more grateful for the strength and courage of our friend, Claire van Zyl, who was looking after our home and dogs while we were away – at least I know Eccles was with someone she knew and adored as she slipped into her final sleep. But it was inexpressibly hard not to be there and be able to say goodbye, and that pain will remain with me for a very long time.
Farewell, my beautiful Eccles, and thank you for the very many wonderful memories of our time together – I’ll treasure them always…
As mom and I go about our work people often comment about how well behaved I am and that their dogs could never do what I do.
I know I’m a guide dog and I need to behave with a degree of decorum when I’m working and I’m okay with that.
But sometimes I like to revel in just being a dog – as this video of me and my doggy sister Emily shows.
So, next time you see a guide dog and wonder at how well behaved we are, remember we’re just dogs and have moments when we lose the harness and the restraint and simply play like any other dog!