Fiji

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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/

Where Did the Last Two Months Go?

In many ways I feel as though my year has only just started. For some reason I seem to have lost the last two months. My brain feels as if 2021 ended with November and 2022 only really got going this month.

There are reasons for this. My plans for December were derailed when I came down with COVID-19. So my plans had to be put on hold for a week or two while I recovered. Having said that, I’m immensely grateful that I wasn’t seriously ill as a result of the pandemic, just immeasurably tired most of the time. So my productivity plummeted.

The strange thing is that January wasn’t a whole lot better for me. And I have absolutely no excuse for my general apathy and lack of progress on the projects I’ve been working on. Somehow they just didn’t seem to happen.

Until February.

In contrast, the first half of this month has been wonderfully and crazily busy as my year has finally got going. I published my speaking show reel after having it waiting in the wings for almost a year. I also published a book promo video for Fiji’s book “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”, which was a fun mini-project that Charlie Dyasi created for Fiji and me.

I’ve started making a few changes in my business, thanks to incredibly valuable coaching from Heather Cresswell, from Business Brilliance. At least part of my flurry of action is the result of the shifts Heather’s coaching is creating in my life and business.

Now that my year is well and truly underway, you may be wondering what I have planned for 2022.

I’ve realized how much work I’m doing within the disability sector, speaking, training, coaching and mentoring. And it’s work I love doing! Being able to support others with disabilities, especially those who like me have a sight-related condition, is probably the most rewarding work I can envision doing. I am grateful to have so many opportunities to interact with people around the globe and encourage them to reach for their dreams. So I plan to build this aspect of my business this year.

In terms of my writing, the honeymoon period following the publication of Fiji’s book is over and it’s time I sat down to consider my next writing adventure. I’ve been chatting on and off with a friend, Meiki Motshabi, about a possible collaborative book project but we haven’t yet settled on the details of what that might look like and who might be involved. So, you’ll have to wait to find out more as our plans develop. Needless to say, writing will definitely remain one of my major activities in 2022.

There are also big changes happening in the podcasting work I’m doing. But more on that next time…

All told, I think it’s clear that I have managed to shrug off whatever lassitude affected me over the past two months and I am finally diving into 2022 with a wildly wagging tail… much to Fiji’s confusion since wagging tails are usually her responsibility.

And if you’d like to watch Fiji’s book promo video, you’ll find it at at https://youtu.be/y3rqzxUFbV0.

 

 

Paws for Thought on the Elasticity of Time

The  image shows a yellow  Labrador looking at the camera. The Labrador appears to be frowning.

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji

Do you know what really confuses me? Where time goes and how it is so elastic. Can anyone explain it to me?

I mean, doesn’t it make sense for time to be a constant? Mom sometimes uses the timer on her watch or phone to measure a specific amount of time, especially when she’s presenting a speech, or when she’s cooking. And the time doesn’t seem to do anything strange then. An hour lasts for an hour, every minute takes the same amount of time as the next one, and each second lasts for exactly a second.

So why does it feel like time goes much more slowly when I’m waiting for my supper? I’m not only talking about how much the time between breakfast and supper seems to drag, but also how many eternities I have to wait for the clock to move from 4:45 PM to 5:00 PM – I promise you those 15 minutes last for hours and hours and hours.

On the other paw, even though I know I only have my doggy vaccinations once a year, they seem to happen a lot more often than that. I swear it was only a few weeks between my shots this year. Even though Mom assured me it had been a whole year. It was honestly as if months had simply disappeared.

If you ask me, there’s something shady happening. I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I’m convinced that somewhere out there is a person who is stealing time and making it appear somewhere, or somewhen, else. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. And it’s happening right under our muzzles- time is being hoarded in a secret place and those stolen hours are being added every day between 4:45 and 5:00 PM while I’m patiently waiting for my supper.

No, I don’t know how it happens. And yes, I know it’s totally illogical. But I don’t have to be able to explain it scientifically. After all, I’m a dog.

Anyway, the reason for me telling you all this is that it’s been two months since either Mom or I wrote anything on the blog. Which is a very long time. Even though it only feels like a few days since we last wrote. It’s all part of the conspiracy.

Anyway, we’re back now. At least, I am – and I’m sure Mom will start posting articles again soon as well.

As a final note, if you happen to be the person who is appearing and disappearing time, please can you message me and let me know how and why you’re doing it. I really, really want to know…

Paws for Thought to Sniff All Sorts of Things

The image shows Lois sitting at a table surrounded by fragrance bottles and Fiji standing beside her.

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

I know I already posted an article this month but I decided to steal this post from Mom because it was her birthday on Sunday. Because she probably won’t tell you what her special day was like… Mom’s just like that sometimes.

I miss the days when Mom used to invite lots of friends around to celebrate her birthday. Somehow food always gets dropped onto the floor when there are lots of people standing around and talking, which makes it great fun for me and my doggy siblings to help clean up. Of course, we’re only doing it so Mom and Dad don’t have to. But Mom hasn’t had a party for two years now. I wish I knew why.

Which isn’t to say Mom didn’t celebrate her birthday this year. Just that she didn’t have a big party with her friends. Instead we hopped into the car and went for a long drive to Franschhoek for a perfume workshop at Kumanov Cosmetics.

When we got there I was somewhat put out because the human lady who runs the place tried to tell me I had to sit outside because she was worried that my waggy tail might break something. I mean, really! Who does she think I am? I’m a properly trained guide dog! Hmph! Luckily Mom insisted that I remain with her and the human lady relented. And I trotted happily into the room… being very careful to make sure my tail didn’t even twitch and accidentally break something.

Then the human lady told us all about the perfume industry and the different types of fragrances that are used. And I just went to sleep – I’m a dog so things like that don’t really interest me.

After a long time things got more interesting. Mom started to open one bottle of fragrance after another and my nose was assailed by lots of different scents. Some of them were nice, but others weren’t so good. Of course, none of them smelled as good as dog food, but still.

From where I was lying under the table with my head resting on my paws, I could hear Mom commenting about the different fragrances and selecting those that she liked, dismissing others that she didn’t like as much.

Eventually, the human lady came and mixed a whole lot of the fragrances together and gave Mom some bottles and a lotion that Mom helped make. Then finally I felt it was okay for me to go and greet the human lady. I wagged my tail as I politely pointed out how good I had been and that she had been silly to think I might break something. She patted me. I think she was saying she was sorry for having tried to treat me like just a dog, but I’m not sure – she might have just wanted to pat me.

Then I walked Mom back to the car and jumped into the back seat. And we drove home.

Oh, I did also get to take Mom to a birthday supper with Dad, Granny Ank and Uncle James where I got to have lots of yummy crunchwater.

Still, I hope Mom will get to have a big birthday braai with all her friends next year. That would be wonderful!
XXXX

My Brother Doesn’t Paws for Thought

the image is of a small brown and black dog with adorable ears

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.

Yes, I Am Still Working on the Audio Book of My Memoir

The image shows the cover of Lois’s book A Different Way of Seeing.

Wow, where has this year gone? I can’t believe we are already heading towards the end of October. And I still have so much I want to have completed by the end of the year. And I’m definitely running out of time… fast!

One of the projects I had expected to have finished long before now is the publishing of the audio book of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way. After all, the book was published a year ago tomorrow.

Somehow 2021 has been swallowed up by the writing, launching and marketing of my guide dog Fiji’s book called Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog. Fiji and I started working on the book in January 2021 and published it in September – a whole lot faster than any of my earlier books!

Somehow I never seemed to get around to the next steps in the process to launch my audio book. Till now.

Over the past two weeks I’ve listened to the recordings of the book and have once again been reminded what an amazing job my narrator, Julie Norman, has done with the book. It is sounding fantastic!

Now that I know the recordings are ready to go it is time for me to investigate getting the book into the various outlets that sell audio books. So that will be the next, and hopefully the final, step in what has become a much more complicated project than I originally expected.

But it will be available soon… after all, it’s been long enough!

As an aside, I am also working on the audio versions of my children’s books, so watch out for more information on that project as well.

Podcast on Long-Distance Air Travel with a Guide Dog.

The image shows a man sitting on a park bench with a yellow Labrador beside him.

Hosting a podcast on accessible travel, I often have the opportunity to chat with interesting people about a wide range of topics. My last few podcasts have been no exception.

I recently interviewed Michael Hingson on the topic of long-distance air travel with a guide dog. Michael has had extensive experience on the topic, having travelled not only for work but also following his experience escaping from the World Trade Centre during the attack on 9 September 2001.

Together Michael and his guide dog Roselle walked down 78 floors of the World Trade Centre and navigated their way to safety. Michael tells the story of that day in his book “Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero”

Michael and his guide dogs have subsequently travelled around the world sharing their story. So he was the perfect person to interview on the subject of air travel with a guide dog.

You can hear some of Michael’s experiences in the podcast – http://iono.fm/e/1103477

While you’re there, why not listen to a few more exciting travel stories. And subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. With 53 published episodes so far, there is plenty to enjoy!

My Book is Here – Wag, Wag, Wag!

the image shows a close up of a yellow Labrador’s face

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji,

I’m jumping up and down and bounding around in ecstatic circles to tell you that my book has finally been published.

Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog is full of stories about me and my human and doggy family, from my puppyhood right up to the present. Although, to be fair, it’s not entirely up to the present because we had to stop writing so we could get the book ready to be read by you. So we decided to make the end of 2020 our cut-off. But let’s be honest, what with the pandemic and all, not much has happened in 2021 anyway. Except that we’ve been busy with the book.

You may be wondering why you should read my book.

It is full of stories about me and my doggy siblings, lots of stories about the many different ways I help my mom, information about the work a guide dog does, and explains why I think humans are sometimes strange. And it’s fun.

Maybe I should let you know what someone else thinks of the book. Because I admit I’m a little biased because I wrote it… with a little bit of help from my mom. Here’s a review from Amazon.
“Fiji the Labrador retriever is a witty little blond that shares her adventures with her owner in a fun and educational way. It is a fun and easy read about the challenges Lois and Fiji faces together. It would be a great gift for dog lovers or a book for the family to read together for young and old.”

I’m so happy that people are reading my story. I’m going to buy lots of dog treats with all my royalties… And maybe I’ll even share them with my doggy siblings, Emily, Allie and Onyx.

Oh, I almost forgot, here’s how you can buy the book for yourself:
Amazon/Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_397670860

South African paperback: https://www.loisstrachan.com/order-form/

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