A Guide Dog’s Joy and Excitement

the image shows Lois wearing a brightly coloured mask, standing outside with her guide dog, Fiji.

After almost six weeks of being confined to home during the Level 5 lockdown, I wasn’t sure how my guide dog would react to once again wearing her harness and working with me. Okay, I knew she’d pull like crazy, because that’s what she does after a few days without working. So I had no illusions about how much pulling a six-week break was going to warrant!

After working together for over four years I was fairly certain that the break wouldn’t impact on her ability to work. Or her enthusiasm for guiding. By now Fiji and I know each other pretty well. What did concern me slightly was whether her excitement would override her excellent training – would she remember what she’d been trained to do?

I decided to have back-up with me the first time we walked, just in case. So my husband joined us for our first time out. As did our youngest dog, Allie, who walked with Craig. At least, that was the plan.

What a bad mistake it turned out to be!

Allie is used to running with Fiji. And I really mean with her – they run side by side flawlessly. So, poor Allie didn’t understand why she and dad were walking behind Fiji and mom. She whined, and she pulled, and she did doggy star-jumps to try and catch up with Fiji and me. Which totally put Fiji off her game.

Fiji kept trying to see what was bothering her sister. At first, she tried turning around to see what was going on. When that didn’t work, because I kept her moving forward, she tried to walk into the middle of the road to try and catch sight of Allie out of the corner of her eye. In desperation we tried allowing Craig and Allie to walk ahead. Only then Fiji was the one pulling like a steam train to get back out front.

So we figured we’d just have to deal with two slightly crazy dogs. But at least Fiji and I got to be out front.

Apart from that, Fiji did well on her walk.

The second time we walked, Craig hopped on his bicycle and cycled round the neighbourhood, checking in on us every now and then as we walked.

Which was fine. Except that every time he cycled past us, Fiji wanted to dash off after him. When he was going in the same direction as us it wasn’t so bad – we simply walked a little faster until he was out of sight. But whenever he appeared in front of us and rode past, Fiji immediately tried to turn round and run after him. I didn’t know whether to laugh at her enthusiasm, or growl at her naughtiness.

Since then Fiji and I have been going it alone. And she’s working brilliantly. Maybe she’s burned off the initial excitement and she’s once again used to walking her routes. Maybe she was just distracted by Craig’s presence… and Allie’s. Regardless, Fiji and I have slipped back into the easy rhythm of working as a team. And I totally love the experience.

I’m grateful that Craig was willing to help me manage my anxiety on our first two walks. But it is immensely liberating to be able to walk on my own with my beautiful Fiji.

You’ll Never Believe What I Saw in the Airport!

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We were walking down (yet another) passageway in Schiphol Airport that was full of tired and grumpy passengers much like ourselves when we came upon a strange sight. It! was strange even for an airport, where I’m sure you’ll agree you can experience some very strange things

There, in a neat row, were a number of exercise bikes. Yes, in the middle of the airport. What’s more, people were queuing to use them. You don’t believe me? Well, read on…

One of the worst parts of overseas travel is how much time you spend in airports. Apart from the constant “hurry up and wait” aspect that sees travellers rushing from one place to another to stand around waiting for their flights, most airport activity tends not to be what I’d consider healthy – lots of eating, shopping, and sitting around. So it really seemed out of character to see people so eager to climb on an exercise bike in the middle of an airport. I mean, I knew cycling was popular in Holland, but this just seemed extreme.

Then everything was explained – these exercise bikes had been converted to let people charge their mobile phones…

And that was why tired, grumpy passengers were standing around waiting for a chance to clamber onto the machines. It had absolutely nothing to do with health or exercise – simply the desire to send one more WhatsApp.

And, as a totally unforeseen side-effect, they also lifted the tired grumpiness of one passenger just a little by giving me something to laugh about. But then, my iPhone battery still had charge…

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