I’m wagging so hard right now! I finally have a book cover for my forthcoming book, Paws for Thought: Seeing the world through the eyes of a guide dog.
And it’s really pretty. At least I think it is. Because it’s got me on it!
I know you’re probably frustrated that it’s taking so long to get the book out. I know I’m frustrated and we dogs are usually more patient than you humans. Unless we’re waiting to go for a walk or to be fed.
I wish I could get stuck in and help on this part of the process but, as a dog, I realize that sometimes I have to leave things in the paws of Mom and Dad. No matter how long they seem to take.
Dad is busy getting the book ready to go onto Amazon, and is sorting out the ISBN – whatever that is – so we can do a print run here at home for anyone who wants to read a book with actual pages.
Mom is busy writing down what I tell her I want on the book description, and is researching things called keywords and categories. Whatever they are, they seem important to humans. All I know is that occasionally she looks down to where I’m lying and asks me if I think a term will work. And I either sneeze, shake my head or wag my tail at her, depending on how I’m feeling at the time. I don’t know how she interprets my responses but she usually laughs and pats me, so everything must be good.
Anyway, although I know we’ve all been waiting a very long time for this book, I wanted to ask you to be a little bit more patient while we work through the complicated human stuff, and for you to know that we’re working as fast as we can. At least now we have the cover!
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
I know I say it often, but there are some things about humans that confuse me. Like why they feel the need to ruin perfectly yummy food by cooking it.
I mean, I’m ecstatically happy to be given a bowl of pellets at mealtimes. I’m so excited that I start to run straight to my food spot as soon as Mom picks up my bowl. but then I lose sight of my food. And get Scared that Mom might get distracted. So I spin back to check. And then I continue my spin so I don’t crash into the doorway. And then spin around again to check my food is still on its way. I think my greatest number of complete spins is eleven. I know it looks like I’m chasing my tail. But I’m not.
When we reach the spot, I sit down like I’m meant to, quivering with excitement. And Mom eventually puts my bowl on the ground. A fraction of a second after she tells me I can eat I dive in. And gobble my food as fast as I can. Because I have to finish before my doggy-sisters do, or they’ll try to steal mine. And they both feel the same.
But not mom and dad. No, they have to get all fancy and complicated with their food. In all sorts of peculiar ways. They either fry, roast, grill, boil, poach or steam it. And for what? It doesn’t make it last any longer before it’s all gobbled down.
Okay, I admit that when Dad cooks meat me and my sisters get intoxicated by the delicious scent of the meat cooking. And, joy of all joys, if he gives us a teeny bit of the meat to taste after it’s cooked, it certainly tastes wonderful. But it takes sooo long before it’s ready to eat.
If you ask me, even if it does taste delicious, I bet it would taste almost as good if we just ate it without all the fuss of cooking it first. And it wouldn’t take as long to prepare – just drop it in our bowls and it’ll be gone before you can say “Eat it”.
Somehow Mom and Dad just don’t see it that way and insist on spending unnecessary time cooking it. Apart from salad, which we dogs wouldn’t want to eat any way. Except perhaps for my sister Emily, who will eat almost anything. Except parsley, celery tops and brussels sprouts.
Drat! Talking about all this food has made me hungry. I wonder how long it is till supper.
It’s been a while since I updated you on Fiji’s book. And things are starting to move fast now!
Fiji and I have finished creating the content and the book has been proofread. Our next step is to add the photographs and to create a cover for the book… with Fiji on it, of course. Then we need to start shifting into the publishing and marketing phase. Which is going to be exciting for us both!
To my surprise, the book has turned out to be 27 000 words. Considering I anticipated it would be around 20 000 at a stretch, I was amazed to find it just continued to grow. Fiji and I kept adding stories. It’s been so much fun creating a book about Fiji’s perspective of the world. And those who have read it so far, including her puppy walkers, said they enjoyed it.
We can’t wait to share it with you! It will still be a while before it’s available. In the meantime, here is another short extract from the book. This time drawn from what happened when Fiji and I arrived home after being on guide dog training.
Here’s how Fiji remembers that experience:
“Mom and the man had a serious conversation on the trip to wherever we were going. I heard my name a few times but couldn’t figure out what it was about. I rather enjoyed snoozing contentedly at mom’s feet, curled up and occasionally resting my head and my front left paw on mom’s seat. Whatever they were talking about I knew I’d be fine.
The car eventually stopped and I lifted my head to stare curiously around me. The man got out of the car and closed the door, lowering his window to let in some cool air since mom and I were staying in the car. Then he opened the front door and three dogs bounded out and ran onto the grass.
I immediately wanted to go and join them and tried to climb through the open car window. Mom grabbed my collar and held me back and I started to whine and wriggle to get to the dogs. So mom opened her car door and I took a flying leap out of the car and went to introduce myself to my new siblings.
Introductions were quickly made, amidst much tail wagging and tentative play. Emily and I became friends right away – she was seven years old but was still happy to play with me. At fifteen years old, Calvin was already ancient by then and was a little grumpy, and mostly ignored me. But that was okay, because I had lots to explore and mom and Emily to play with. The third dog, Eccles, was mom’s retired guide dog and she seemed to be friendly as well, though she didn’t really want to play much either. She also tried lecturing me on how to look after mom best – as if I needed to be told! Still, I thought it would be disrespectful to ignore her so listened to what she had to say… before rushing off to explore some more.
Eccles and I had a polite conversation about who would get to sleep beside mom on the floor next to the bed. She felt she ought to retain that right. But I told her it was my spot now, since I was mom’s proper guide dog. The conversation went on for quite some time. And eventually we agreed to take it in turns – with whomever got there first winning the coveted spot. Which, of course, meant that I got to sleep nearest to mom most nights. Because I was so much younger and quicker than Eccles, and would race to the bed as soon as we’d had our night-time biscuits.”
We’ll let you know how to get hold of the book soon, I promise…
Early last week my ear started to irritate me. I was forced to shake my head repeatedly to try and clear the itchiness but it didn’t help. No matter how much I shook my head.
When mom noticed she sent me to the doggy doctor. Usually I enjoy going to the doctor because I get treats and get lots of attention. Every now and then I also get an injection which makes me cry. But most often not so the doggy doctor is my friend.
This time she checked my ear and it was sore. So I cried. And she patted me and said she was sorry.
Since then I’ve noticed dad slipping something into my dinner so I think he’s feeding me pills. But I never find them in my food since I eat it so fast. So that’s okay with me.
But I’ve also been having yucky liquid put in one of my ears. Twice a day. I absolutely hate it. It makes a horrible slushy type of sound and feels very horrid when it gets into my ear. So I have to shake my head and try and get it all out.
Is it any wonder that I run away and hide under the bed when dad reaches for the bottle of liquid for my ears? Dad’s taken to cheating and bringing my amazing squeaky toy and then I can’t help myself – I squeeze out from under the bed and jump for it. And dad grabs my collar. And then I get yucky liquid in my ear again.
On the positive side, my ear isn’t feeling itchy any more. And I haven’t needed to shake my head for several days now. Except to clear the medicine from my ear. Or if I’m playing with my squeaky toy and need to give it a good shake.
But yucky ear liquid is definitely going on my list of things I hate – along with being Top spotted and being left at home when mom goes out.
Next month I want to tell you all about another of my favouritest things in the world – food… Mmm, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
I’ve had a YouTube channel for years. But I’ve never really done much with it. Okay, I’ve used it to post videos of my speaking, of Fiji and I working, and a few fun videos of my beloved dogs. But very little beyond that.
In 2017 I uploaded a video of Fiji and I riding on an escalator. I thought the cutest part of the video was that Fiji is wagging her tail all the way down the escalator, clearly loving the work she’s doing.
And for years that video limped along, being viewed every now and then by a curious YouTuber. Until the last few months.
Suddenly I began getting a stream of notifications from YouTube telling me that people were watching the clip. These were interspersed with notifications that people were following my channel. And I began paying a lot more attention to what was happening on YouTube.
Over the space of two months my subscribers leapt from just over 100 to 615. And the number of views of that specific video clip rocketed from a few hundred to over 204 000.
It s made me realize the power that YouTube can have. And that I need to be more strategic about sharing videos, especially if they include my beautiful Guide Dog Fiji!
So, watch out – we’ve got lots more videos in our plans!
PS: Here’s the link to that particular video. Why not take a few seconds to watch it after all, more than 200K people must be on to something! https://youtube.com/shorts/exDSDDDrKWM
Date: 2 February 2021
Hi everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
The most exciting thing is happening! After four years of procrastinating, mom and I have finally started writing my book. In fact, we’ve finished writing it and are just busy doing other, clearly less important, stuff like spell checking, editing, proof reading and formatting the book now. Even though mom keeps telling me that these are all very important parts of the writing process, I just can’t see it – surely writing my story is the important bit?
I guess mom and I will just have to disagree about that.
Anyway, while we’re busy with all the stuff that mom has to do on my behalf, we’re also busy with other things. We’re discussing the cover design, and are playing around with a number of different titles and sub-titles for the book.
I don’t exactly know how we’re going to distribute the book. We have a few ideas but nothing has been decided yet. I’m sure we’ll let you know as soon as we have all that in place.
In the meantime, just to whet your appetite, here’s a sneak peek into a bit of the story. Mom told me I ought to warn you that this hasn’t been edited yet, so it might change before the book is published.
“I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 30 August 2014, one of a litter of eight puppies. My mom is a Golden Retriever named Fiesta and my dad is a black Labrador named Jay. My dad lives in America –I still don’t know if I’m eligible for a Green Card because of that fact. I’m a bit confused about the whole process since I don’t think my dad came to South Africa to meet my mom. But I really don’t want to know about the details – there are just some things I don’t need to know.
Actually, I’m a bit confused about the whole mom and dad thing. Because I have had several moms and dads through my life – with my forever mom and dad being the humans I live with now. Especially mom, for whom I work as a guide.
But, if they are my forever mom and dad, does that mean the other people I thought of as mom and dad should have been called something else? Because there have been quite a few of them. First, as I said, there were Fiesta and Jay. And the human who is mom to Fiesta, too. Then I went to stay with Jenny and Mike in Johannesburg and they taught me lots of things, played with me, took me places and also took me to puppy school. They also gave me lots of toys – ropes which I chewed to pieces and a fluffy sheep toy that I didn’t, which was my favouritest toy when I was little.
I have lots of wonderful memories of the time they were my mom and dad – like playing in the garden and chewing my way through the stems of the strelitzia plants, grabbing the garden hose and pulling it through the house to put it in my bed with all my other toys, and going to wake mom up carrying my tennis ball in my mouth. I still do that sometimes, bringing my tennis ball with me when I want attention from my forever mom and dad.
This was also when I first started being called Fiji. Mom-Jenny and dad-Mike called me Fiji because they said my coat was the colour of the sand on the beaches of the volcanic island of Fiji. Though my forever mom also sometimes tells people that she believes it is because I have something of a volcanic personality.
I was very sad to say goodbye to mom-Jenny and dad-Mike and move to Cape Town for the next phase in my life. It all seemed very strange to me at first. But then I was introduced to my new mom and dad – Beata and Piotr, and I soon adjusted to my new place and my new routine.
That was when I started proper training to become a guide dog. I would go to school every day – well, every weekday – and Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Charne would teach me all sorts of exciting lessons I would need if I wanted to become a guide. I was surrounded by lots of other dogs who also wanted to become guides, as well as lots of friendly humans who worked with the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind, getting us ready for our exciting futures.”
So that’s a little of my story – you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more. After we’ve finished with all the bits we’re busy with. I promise either mom or I will let you know when it’s ready to go.
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
A very happy New Year to you all – whether you’re my friend or my mom’s, I hope you have a wonderful 2021, filled with walks and lots of delicious food! And lots of play with your family. Because that’s what I hope is in store for me in the year to come.
Talking about family, I got to meet my doggy nephew during the holidays. Obi is my sister Faith’s pup and he and his human partner came to Cape Town over the holidays. So we got the chance to sniff noses and spend a bit of time together.
I heard mom and Anel – Obi’s mom – talking about us and comparing us. It certainly sounded like Obi and me have lots in common – we both get upset if someone else is sleeping in our bed, we both work well as guide dogs, neither of us suffers from significant dog distraction, and we look very similar, as you can probably see from the photograph included with this post. For ease of reference, I am the slightly bigger dog in the image. Obi is a very little dog, especially for a boy.
We also are different in many ways. Obi loves to sleep on the couch, which I only got to do after he had been to visit… and I wasn’t totally comfortable since I was sure mom or dad would tell me to get off. But they didn’t. But I’m still only going to jump on the couch when mom invites me to do so. Just in case.
Obi also got trapped under the dining room table, which has never happened to me. He just stood there and waited for someone to come and rescue him, where I would simply have pushed the chairs out of the way so I could escape. And Obi also doesn’t play with tug ropes – his brother Loonie does, though so we did get a chance to play with him.
I really hope I will get the chance to see my litter sister Faith sometime, so I can tell her all about how her pup is doing. I’m sure she will be very proud of the wonderful guide dog he’s become and how well he looks after Anel, his human partner. But, with all the strangeness still going on in the world, who knows when that might happen.
It was wonderful to meet Obi and Anel, and Gavin and Loonie, here in Cape Town. And it was a good end to 2020.
You know, I forgot to ask Obi what he thinks of squirrels… and if he’s even met a squirrel. But I’m sure he’ll share my aversion to the pesky things!
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
Today I want to tell you about a very clever and sneaky trick I played on my doggy sister, Allie. Well, to be honest, it’s a trick I think I’m going to have to play on her quite often.
It was time for me to go to sleep. I wandered over to my bed. And found my sister Allie already asleep – in my bed! What a cheek!
Okay, okay – I know my doggy sisters and I don’t actually have our own beds. We have three beds and we sleep wherever we choose to. But that’s hardly the point – Allie was asleep in my bed… or at least the bed that I wanted to sleep in right then.
I tried glaring at Allie, but she just ignored me and stayed in my bed.
I knew asking mom to get Allie to move wouldn’t work. I’ve tried that before and mom only pats me on the head and tells me to go and sleep on one of the other beds. That Allie got there first so she should be allowed to stay there.
So I knew I’d have to find another way to reclaim my bed.
I went over to mom and just stood there waiting. Eventually she looked up from the book she was reading and patted me. So I licked her hand, just as if I was asking her for water. She offered me water and I had a few licks to satisfy her. Then I followed mom back to the bedroom and continued just standing there and looking at her expectantly.
Mom asked me if I wanted to play and I wagged my tail enthusiastically. That was what I’d been trying to get her to do. But sometimes mom is a bit slow and doesn’t understand my very clear communication.
And, as soon as we started to play, allie jumped out of bed and came to join in with the game.
And I quickly jumped into my bed, snuggled up and went to sleep.
Mom told me I wasn’t very nice to Allie, but it’s not like I forced her to come and play – she did so entirely on her own. As I knew she would!
Don’t you think that was clever of me?
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
I know it’s meant to be mom’s turn to write an article, but I thought I’d sneak in an extra post this week.
Because it’s soon going to be mom’s birthday. And it’s quite a significant one, or so I believe.
Human birthdays confuse me a little – mom says she’s getting old but, in my calculation, she’s only just over a year older than me. But she was already grown up when I met her 4 years ago. I was really only a puppy then and it feels like a very long time ago. So maybe mom just ages differently from me.
Anyway, I hope mom has a very happy birthday on Saturday and I hope she gives me a very special treat so I can also celebrate her special day with her. And I guess she’d better also give my doggy sisters a treat as well, or they’ll be sad. And I don’t want my doggy sisters to be sad.
Anyway, happy birthday from me, Emily and Allie, mom! And I hope we do lots of walks and go to lots of interesting places in the coming year – after all, this year has been a bit quiet…
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with other dogs. On the one hand, there are my doggy sisters and other doggy friends. Then there are dogs I’ve never met and who I encounter when mom and I are out and about.
When it comes to my doggy sisters and other doggy friends I know I am allowed to be a dog. I can play fight with them, chase them around the garden and be chased in turn, or just snuggle up with them and sleep. And I love being able to do that – after all, it’s part and parcel of being part of a family of dogs.
But, when it comes to dogs mom and I encounter on a walk, well, that’s a little different. Because I know I’m working and need to focus on what I’m doing so mom and I can be safe. Sometimes those dogs try to distract me by barking or by trying to run up to me, even if they are on leash. And that’s okay. I know I just have to maintain my focus on what I’m doing and mom and I will soon be past them.
I wish it were as simple when it comes to squirrels. But somehow squirrels just engage my chase instinct and I have to struggle against the compulsion to abandon my guide dog training and just run after them. It’s really hard for me to fight that instinct and mom can obviously feel the battle that goes on in my body, making me shake with restrained excitement as we walk past.
Mom is very understanding when this happens. She ensures she has a firm hold of my harness and soothes me with gentle words. And that really helps me. But sometimes it feels like an eternity before we’ve walked past that squirrel.
So, basically I wish squirrels were just like other dogs so I could easily ignore them when we walk. And then get back to my doggy sisters so I can have a rowdy game!