Fiji

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Paws for Thought on Homecomings

Cds IMG 0003

Hello everyone it’s me – Fiji… again
 
This isn’t going to be a long post, because I’m just sooo excited because my mom is back home. She came home a few days ago and I’m still jumping up and down and running around like crazy because I’m so happy.
  
Mom is home and everything is right with the world again. Wag wag wag wag wag
 
Im sure Mom will tell you all about the paces she visited when she takes control of the blog again. So that should be fun!

Paws for Thought on Humans and Clothing

The image shows a yellow Labrador wearing a dark brown guide dog harness

 
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji:
 
As you no doubt realized, Mom is still away overseas. So I’m grabbing the opportunity to steal a few extra blog posts while she’s away.
 
Anyway, as I was lying in my bed this morning, still dreaming about the mountains of food that I imagine must exist in Hungary – wherever that is – I began thinking about the preparations Mom and Dad made before going on holiday.
 
Which got me thinking about human clothing and how odd it is. The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. Because human clothing just doesn’t make sense to me at all.
 
I’m a dog, so I always wear the same collar, no matter what the weather is like, the time  of year, or where I’m planning to go. In fact, the same is true of my guide dog harness. I only have one and I wear it wherever I’m going, if I’m working.
 
But not humans. Oh no, they have to complicate things. They have lots of clothing, with different colours, different styles-  the variety seems endless. Some of their clothing is smarter than other bits. And it seems to come in lots of different forms – dresses, trousers, skirts, long sleeved tops, short sleeved shirts. It makes my head spin.
 
Mom is particularly odd because sometimes she wears dresses and sometimes she wears trousers. At least Dad always wears trousers, so he’s less confusing to me.
 
Humans also seem to get unhappy with their clothing often. Which is the only reason I can think of that they change their clothing so much. Sometimes they might change three times in a single day. I’d be exhausted if I had to constantly change my collar or harness. Why don’t they simply wear the same thing all the time?
 
They even have different types of clothing for different activities. Dad wears one type of clothes when we go running and another when we walk. And they change their clothing if we go out to visit people. How silly is that? Can you imagine me changing my collar every time I go to visit my cousins Pixie, Baillie and Huey?
 
For some reason, time of day also seems to play a role in the clothing they choose. Because they change out of perfectly good clothing and immediately replace it with other clothing before climbing into bed at night. But they don’t do it if they take a nap in the daytime. Which confuses me even more.
 
The only thing about human clothing that I can sort of understand is that they wear more clothing when the weather gets cold. Because I also like to sleep under a blanket then.
 
I’ve tried to ask my mom about it and she pats me and tells me it’s a human thing. Which doesn’t  strike me as a particularly good explanation, because  it doesn’t answer my question at all.
 
If I were a human, I would have only one piece of clothing and I’d wear it the whole time. Okay, maybe I’d have a second item of clothing for when I’m working, just like my guide dog harness. I think that would make far more sense, don’t you?
 
So, maybe  I should simply accept the fact that I will never understand the human obsession with clothing and leave it at that.
 
PS: Like I said, Mom is still away, and all us doggies are having lots of fun with the humans we’re looking after until Mom and Dad return.

Paws for Thought on Birthdays and Holidays

Yellow labrador
 
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.
 
Today is my birthday. I’m not going to tell you how old I am because a lady never reveals her age. Well, to be honest, I’m still unsure if I should be counting in human or doggy years so I just thought I would ignore the whole thing. Except for the important fact that it’s my birthday and I’m getting spoilt!
 
The only thing that is not great about today is that Mom and Dad are getting ready to go away on holiday. Without us doggies. Admittedly they haven’t been travelling during the past three years because of COVID. It’s been wonderful having them spend so much time with us, so we can’t really complain that they’re going now. But us doggies still don’t like that they’re going away without us. Especially me, because I’m meant to go everywhere with my mom so I can guide her around.
 
Please don’t worry that we might be lonely because we always have people who come and stay with us and keep us entertained. And give us food, of course. But we love having Mom and Dad around and we miss them when they go away.
 
Yesterday I asked Mom where they’re going. Not that it matters, because her answer made no sense to me. But they’re going to Europe – wherever that is – specifically to Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.
 
I wasn’t all that interested in the details until my mom mentioned Hungary. because I get that way a lot – hungry, I mean. Though I don’t know why it’s spelled differently. Anyway, I think I might like to go to Hungary, because I imagine it must be filled with mountains of yummy food just waiting to be eaten. Because why else would they call it Hungary?
 
I’m sure Mom and Dad are going to have lots of fun on their holiday. And me and my doggy siblings will wait eagerly for their return. When we’re not busy dreaming of, and consequently being,  Hungary.
 
I’ll pop in and chat to you here on Mom’s blog every now and then, since Mom will probably be too busy having adventures to sit down and write. So, for now, I’m in charge of the Beyond Sight blog… What fun!

Paws for Thought on Helping Mom Out

The image shows a yellow Labrador lying on the ground with her head on the floor.

 
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
 
I know I don’t usually write for Mom’s blog in the middle of the month, but Mom has been so busy recently that I thought I would help her out by blogging for her. After all, I am  a guide dog, and my task is to help her where I can.
 
I’m not overly worried about how busy Mom is,  except when it gets in the way of the things she needs to do to look after me and my doggy siblings. I mean, last week Dad had to feed us supper twice because Mom was in meetings. Usually supper time is 5:00 PM, so I did begin to worry when it got to 5:15 PM and we still hadn’t had supper. Till Dad came to the rescue and everything was fine again. 
 
So, while I’m not overly worried about how busy Mom has been, I am curious about what is taking up so much of her time. I decided to put my nose to the ground and sniff out what’s been going on.
 
One of the projects Mom’s working on has something to do with blind photography. She’s working with a professional photographer who is visually impaired. Her name is Karren Visser and you can find out more about her at www.karrenvisser.com or on her new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KarrenMVisser/
 
Mom is also busy creating content to update her website. It seems to be taking a long time, but I hope she will manage to find the right words for everything she wants to say. I overheard her talking to Dad and it sounds like the new site will be launched in October, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder if they’ll have a party for the launch like they did for my book? Because that would be fun!
 
Mom is also planning a workshop for writers who want to turn their books into audio books and sell them through the major audio book retailers. She did that with her own book recently and wants to share her experience to help others. I guess that makes Mom a bit like a guide dog, too – because she is happy to show other people the way to go.  And maybe I can ask her if we can make my book an audio book, too, if I wag nicely.
 
Those are the main tasks that are keeping  Mom tied to her laptop, but she’s also busy with other things as well.
 
She’s been looking after my doggy sister Allie, who has had a soft tissue injury in her paw and has been hopping around on three legs. Mom is trying  to limit the amount Allie runs around and it seems to be working. But I think Allie feels a bit silly only being allowed to go outside if she’s wearing her new super long leash so Mom can control her movement.
 
Allie almost pulled Mom over a few days ago when she suddenly leapt away. Mom was busy on her phone and was taken totally by surprise. Of course, the phone went flying and, though I tried to show Mom that it was under the table, she insisted on looking on the ground and everywhere else first.
 
Anyway, I thought I would help Mom out by writing her blog for her for this week. Hopefully her life will be a bit quieter and she’ll be able to update you herself next time. In the meantime, I’ve  been watching her draw up her To Do List for today and it’s exhausted me so I’m going to take a nap.  
 
Wags from me and my doggy siblings, Allie, Emily and Onyx.

Paws for Thought on Freedom and Independence

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.

Freedom and independence are very important to us guide dogs. After all, our purpose is to give our humans a greater degree of freedom and independence to do the things they want.

So I wagged when I saw that the theme of the latest ad campaign from the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind is all about freedom. If you haven’t seen the advert yet, here it is – you really ought to watch it!

Mom and I attended the campaign launch in Cape Town last week. It was lots of fun, especially since I spent the morning surrounded by some of my bestest friends who are guide dogs and pups-in-training. In total there were 16 dogs there, so I won’t bore you with a long list. But I did have a chance for a catch up with pup-in-training Yale, because she and her mom gave us a lift to the event. And I also got to chat to guide dogs Billy, Gladys and Ronnie to share notes on some of the strange things our humans had been doing recently. I also got to meet Oslo, who is a service dog, so his job is a bit different from mine, but is still really important to give freedom to his human Andrew.

A few people have asked Mom if she and I are in the video. We’re not, but my nephew Obie is, together with his mom, Anel. I’m very proud of Obie for his acting skills – he looks fabulous! And I can now tell everyone that I’m related to a movie star, can’t I?

Anyhow, I really think you should watch the advert and see how important we guide dogs are in helping our humans. Just so you don’t have to scroll back to find the link, here it is again: https://youtu.be/7RQ7vspyLLc

Up, Up and Away!

The image shows a dark-haired woman standing on the wing of a small airplane as she climbs into the cockpit of the plane
 
Last week Guide Dog Fiji told you how we found ourselves at a remote part of Cape Town International airport, and how I subsequently upset her by climbing into a small airplane and flying away. Of course, there’s more to the story, because lots happened between the time I flew away and when I returned to have a frantically relieved guide dog leap into my arms.
 
The whole story started a few weeks earlier. When we were asked if Fiji was interested in being in the photo shoot, I was invited to go for a spin in the plane afterwards. Which I naturally accepted – I mean, who wouldn’t?
 
A few days before the shoot, the photographer asked how I felt about experiencing aerial acrobatics, or aerobatics. Now, you might not know this, but I’m not really an adventurous person. So my instinctive response was “Absolutely no chance!” But then I asked myself whether I might regret not taking up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And cautiously  replied that I’d decide on the day…
 
Which is how I found myself sitting in a two-seater airplane, feeling like my body was being squashed as I experienced double the earth’s normal gravitational pull (2G). Then I felt the plane turn to the left and suddenly my body became weightless – it was like I was being stretched. Which, of course, was because I was upside down as the plane rolled.
 
What struck me most was how smoothly the plane rolled. I didn’t actually feel like the plane was flipping over, possibly because I had no visual cues and could only judge from what I was sensing through my body.
 
We did a few more rolls, pausing at various stages of the spin so I could see how I experienced flying sideways, and upside down. At first I felt somewhat detached. I was focusing on what I was feeling, rather than living the experience. It was only after the pilot and I chatted about how the rolls had felt to me that I began to assimilate what I was sensing with what was happening. Which brought me back into the  reality of what was going on.
 
It was only in the final roll, where the pilot paused at each 90 degree position that my body and brain engaged totally. And, while it was breathtakingly amazing, the realisation that I had pushed my boundaries far enough for one day began to sneak up on me.
 
So, when the pilot asked if I’d like to experience a loop – going into a roll nose first rather than wing first – I shook my head and politely declined. Part of me regrets turning down the offer. Because I am curious what it would feel like for my body to be at  3.5G and how I would interpret a loop  without the sense of sight. But there’s also part of me that is relieved that I didn’t give it a try.
 
A friend of mine joked that I wouldn’t have been as thrilled had I been able to see the ground in the place where the sky should be. And I suspect she’s correct. Even thinking about the world being upside down visually  makes me a little anxious. But I didn’t feel that way at all when it happened, so it is probably because of my blindness.
 
Would I try aerobatics again? Absolutely yes! And I might even be brave enough to try a loop this time!
 
Oh, I forgot to mention that I also briefly flew the plane. I was amazed at how responsive the controls were – if I so much as touched the stick the plane would change direction or altitude. It was as exciting and nerve-wracking as the time I drove a car independently as a blind person, only magnified by about a million.
 
I’m busy editing a podcast episode where I talk about my experience of flight with friend and colleague Jeremy Opperman. So, if you’d like to find out more about my experience, watch out for that episode.
 
The episode, plus my entire library of more than 65 episodes of the podcast can be found anywhere you usually listen to podcasts – simply search for A Different Way of Seeing and you’re bound to find my show.
XXX

Paws for Thought on Wet Ground, Little Airplanes and Photographs

Plane
 
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.
 
I’ve told you before that I sometimes think humans do strange things. I found myself thinking that again recently when me, Mom and my friends from the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind went on an adventure together.
 
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it was strange that we went on an adventure together. After all, that happens fairly often. But the actual adventure was peculiar. At least to me it was.
 
You see, we went to a quiet part of Cape Town International airport and walked up to a little airplane. Then Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Tania made me stand and sit on the wet ground while they took photographs. Aunty Cheryl gave me treats every now and then, especially when I looked at the camera and gave my bestest doggy smile.  
 
What was strange was that I had to sit beside the little plane on my own, while Mom just stood behind Aunty Tania and her camera. It was strange because my job is to be with Mom and guide her. And because I take my job as a guide dog seriously, I felt I ought to run to Mom every few minutes to check that she was still okay. Then I would run back and sit down on the wet ground again so Aunty Tania could take more photographs.
 
At least I understood why Aunty Cheryl had insisted on giving me a thorough brushing at the training centre. I don’t really enjoy being brushed so I tried to hide behind my mom, but Aunty Cheryl didn’t give me a choice. And at least I knew I was looking my beautifulest for the photographs.
 
Then the morning  got even weirder – Mom climbed into the little plane and flew away. Without me. Without even asking me if I wanted to go with her, which of course I did. At least Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Tania also got left behind, so I wasn’t on my own. But still, Mom flew away, which was extremely naughty of her.
 
Eventually the plane brought Mom back and I ran up to her and jumped up and down while remonstrating with her. Mom simply laughed and patted me. Which was nice, but didn’t actually answer any of the questions I had about where she had gone and why she hadn’t taken me with her.
 
So, like I said, it was all very weird.
 
Afterwards Mom explained that the photographs were going to be used in the 2023 calendar that the South African Guide-Dogs Association  for the Blind brings out each year. Which means there will be a photo of me hanging on people’s walls for a whole month next year! Along with lots of other photographs of beautiful guide dogs and guide dogs in training. I promise I’ll let you know when the calendar comes out so you can also have a picture of me hanging on your wall.
 
Mom asked me to tell you that she’ll let you know all about her flight in the little airplane next time. Because she’s still wagging about  it. Well, she would be wagging if she had a tail. So, watch out for her next article.

Paws for Thought  – When Guide Dog Billy Came to Stay

The image shows a black Labrador.
 
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.

Paws for Thought on Life Not Turning Out the Way You Expect

 the image shows a woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair standing with a pale yellow Labrador sitting at her feet, wearing a guide dog harness, and a black Labrador lying next to her. Beside the woman is a table with merchandise arranged on it.

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
 
You know, sometimes life just doesn’t turn out the way you expect.
 
I don’t think my expectations were totally  crazy, do you? After all, I went with Dad to collect his race number on Friday afternoon. I was with Mom and Dad when they drove to Steenberg Estate on Saturday morning. And I stood with the runners as they gathered at the starting line. Of course I expected that I was going to run with them.
 
Which was why I started barking as the announcements began. After all, I always translate the human instructions for the other dogs at the parkrun. And there were several guide-dogs-in-training at the trail run, so I had to do my job. Even if Mom tried to get me to stop.
 
I listened carefully as they counted down to the start. And then I sprang forward as fast as I could. Except that Mom was holding my leash and harness. So I couldn’t go anywhere.
 
And the runners left me behind. I couldn’t believe it!  
 
I did get to hang out with Aunty Jackie and my doggy friend Sid at the SA Guide-Dog Association stand. Which was a lot of fun. Just not what I had expected to do.
 
Then, as the runners began to cross the finish line for the race I realized what a fantastic spot we were in – everyone could see us and loads of runners came over to say hello. As did their families and supporters. I was constantly surrounded by friendly people all wanting to pat me and remind Mom how amazing I am.
 
There was even a young human puppy who bought herself a guide dog toy and came and showed it to me – I politely sniffed it and assured her she had made an excellent choice in her new puppy toy.
 
I also spent time chatting to the other learner guide dogs to tell them what a special job they are training for. Scout, Zakele, Luca and Goldie, the youngest and fluffiest Golden Retriever puppy who has just joined the team in Cape Town had lots to tell me as well, and it was great to spend some time catching up on all the news of what is going on at the training centre. And I also got to say hello  to Aunty Cheryl, who taught me all about how to look after Mom as her guide dog. So it was a wonderful morning.
 
But still, I would much rather have gone with the runners. Oh well, sometimes life just doesn’t turn out exactly how you expect it to, does it?

Waggy Anniversary, Me and Mom!

The image shows a dark-haired woman hugging a pale yellow Labrador

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.

Can you believe that Mom and I have been partnered for six years? I can’t. In some ways it feels like she has always been my mom. And in some ways it feels like it was only a short time ago that I walked into that room at the South African Guide-Dog training centre and met her.

We’ve had so much fun over the last six years, and have been to lots of interesting places. And met lots of wonderful humans. And, of course, we’ve written a book together, based on my life and thoughts as a guide dog.

I must be honest and say that I still don’t always understand the things that humans do and why. So I’ll keep being curious and let you know when things don’t make sense to me. And thank you to those who have replied to my questions in previous blogs – your answers have really helped me.

Of course, along with all the fun and exploring there have also been a few not so good bits – like vet visits, Mom going places and leaving me at home, and yucky anti-flea medicine that all us dogs have to take every now and then. But, on the whole, my life with Mom has been wonderful so far. And I’m sure I will have more new and exciting adventures as we continue working together.

Like the other day when Mom accidentally dropped a peach on the floor. I quickly grabbed it and watched as Mom scanned the floor looking for it. With me holding it gently in my mouth the whole time. Eventually Mom gave up and I ran back to my bed to gobble down my prize. I’d never tasted a peach before and it was yummy. Of course, it would have been even better if it had been meat, but Mom is a vegetarian so that wouldn’t have been possible.

Last week I took Mom to get her booster COVID vaccination, and everyone said I was lovely. I wagged my tail the whole time we were there. But I have to admit that Mom was much braver than I am when I have injections – I usually cry. I was very proud of my mom.

I want to say huge wags and celebrations to me and Mom for our sixth anniversary. Overall I think Mom has been well behaved and has maintained the high standards of training that she got when we first met on 28 February, 2016. Here’s to many more years of fun and adventures together!

PS: If you’d like to find out more about my book, it’s available from Mom’s website or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_397670860

Or you can get the first chapter for free at https://www.loisstrachan.com/paws-for-thought/

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