Fiji

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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/

Paws for Thought on New Arrivals

The image is a close-up of Lois and Fiji’s faces with Lois holding a glass of bubbly up in a toast

Hello everyone – it’s me, Fiji!

I’m so excited right now that I’m bouncing up and down and wagging my tail full speed. Because the book that Mom and I wrote is now available on Amazon.

Even more than that, we’re going to be having a launch party on Zoom and would love for you to be there. And you might win a free copy of our book, “Pause for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”

To book for the launch party, go to https://bit.ly/38C8uHz

The party will take place at 17:00 South African time on Sunday, 12 September and everyone is invited… your doggy companions as well!

And, to be amongst the first to read our book, the Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Mom and I hope you can attend our celebration… and that you feel inspired to buy the book and read my story. It would also be wonderful if you could tell your friends about the book and the online celebration – we would love to have as many people there as possible!

Oh yes, we are planning a South African print run of the book soon if you prefer to read it in that format… more on that as we get everything organised…

When Every Day Feels Like Blursday

the images show the book covers of Lois’s book Paws for Thought.

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts recently when the presenters mentioned the word blursday. It’s described as the sensation that one day blurs into the next. The word fits the way I’ve been feeling over the past few days perfectly. And it’s exhausting.

For one thing, I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything. Which is impacting both of my writing projects. I know I have work to do before I can publish the audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing, and Fiji’s book, Paws for Thought. But it’s so hard to scrape together the energy to get them finished.

And because I feel like I’m not making progress I become more demoralized…

In reality I know I’m making progress, no matter how small. And I do manage to get tasks ticked off my To-Do-List every day. I’m just frustrated with myself that it’s not happening faster.

On the bright side… and looking beyond my somewhat self-pitying blursday reflections… I am now so close to publishing Fiji’s book that I can almost touch the finished product – the back cover is now designed and we are busy getting everything set up on Amazon. From there I need to start working on a local print run for those of Fiji’s friends who want paper copies, and then hit play on the Amazon pre-order of the book. And then start implementing our plans for a fun online book launch.

My audio book isn’t quite as close to completion. I’m still waiting for feedback on the audio quality of the recordings from my beta listeners, including myself. And then to move onto the process of actually getting the book listed on the various audio book platforms. So why is it so hard for me to become enthused about hitting the play button on the recordings myself?

When the blursday sensation sends me into another of those exhausting foggy states, I reassure myself with a phrase a friend of mine used to tell me – Don’t worry, this too shall pass. And I believe that is true. I just hope it will be soon.

PS: The podcast I was listening to when I heard them talking about Blursday is called Something Rhymes with Purple, a podcast about the English language and words. It’s fun and educational.

Paws for Thought on Trains

the image shows a wet Fiji on the beach, with Lois kneeling beside her.

I don’t like trains.

I think train travel must be important, because I hear lots of trains whistling and screaming past my house from early morning to late at night.

Clearly lots of people travel on trains. Which means that some guide dogs must also go on them with their humans. But I don’t think I’d like to take Mom on a train unless I had no other choice.

I see trains often when Mom and I are walking on the road that is next to the trainline. To me, trains look like giant snake monsters that want to gobble me up. And they make a dreadful rumbling and moaning sound. They shake and shudder as they go from one place to another and their wheels scream and shriek as they go by. And their horrible unearthly whistles try to shatter my poor eardrums. Sometimes their doors whoosh open and sometimes they don’t, which is also intimidating. Is it any wonder trains make me a little nervous?

Admittedly I’ve only travelled by train once, back when I first met Mom and had to help teach her how to work with me. All of us guide dogs took our new humans to the train station and caught a train to Fish Hoek beach. While I loved having the chance to run, wrestle and play with my guide dog friends on the beach, while the trainers made sure our humans didn’t misbehave, I honestly would have preferred to travel there by car.

I know my guide dog sister-aunts Leila and Eccles used to take Mom to work on the train before I was her guide dog, so I know it must be possible for us to go on a train and not get gobbled up by the nasty snake monster-type thing. I’m sure I would probably also get used to it if I had no other choice. But I honestly think it would be far better to go by car or by Uber. Or simply to walk there, provided it’s not too far. But since Mom now works from home, it’s all hypothetical anyway.

So, while I know trains are good and are important to help humans and some guide dogs get to where they need to go, I’m just as happy that I don’t have to use them. Unless it’s the only way to travel to the beach. In which case I might be willing to consider taking Mom on a train again.

Paws for Thought about Brothers

The image shows a dark brown dog smiling at the camera

Two months ago my doggy sisters and I got a new brother. Like my sister Allie, he is a rescue dog and his name is Onyx.

Naturally it took him time to settle in and get used to all us girls. It’s really only in the last few weeks that he’s started playing with us. Even now he plays mostly with Allie, while Emily and I bark encouragement from the sidelines.

When Onyx first came to live with us I noticed something a little strange. He would walk into things a lot more often than anyone else in the family, except for mom, who also has a tendency to walk into things. But not even mom walks into things as often as Onyx.

I also noticed that Onyx had an odd way of walking, almost as if he was feeling what was before him with his front paws, rather than just putting them down.

Eventually I asked mom if she knew why he did that. Mom told me that Onyx is partially sighted and sometimes he’s not able to see things. And suddenly it made sense to me.

Mom also told me that the visual impairment was the reason it had taken Onyx five years to find a forever home. The nice lady from DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) told her that several people had considered adopting him. But as soon as they heard he was partially sighted they decided to adopt a different dog instead. Which was why Onyx was there waiting for Dad and us to bring him home.

I’ve been giving my new brother’s sight impairment a lot of thought. I don’t know if he’d be able to get a guide dog to help him in the same way that I help mom. I’ve even wondered if he might find a white cane useful. Except I don’t know how Onyx would be able to hold it and swing it in front of him like mom does on the very rare occasions I let her use her white cane.

On reflection, I think I’m not giving Onyx enough credit. He’s learned to adapt incredibly well and is managing just fine without any assistance. He runs around the garden with us and almost never bumps into things at home. it’s really only when we go for a walk that he sometimes bumps things. And he certainly has no problems leaping onto the couch. Or knowing when one of us girls is sneaking up to try and steal his food – and he is quick to snap at us if we do.

So I don’t think mom needs to apply for him to get a guide dog of his own. Besides, that’s my job and I wouldn’t want any competition from another guide dog, even if it wasn’t there to help mom.
Anyway, all I really wanted to do was to introduce my new brother and welcome him to the family. I’m sure he is going to be very happy living here!

A Sneak Peek at Fiji’s Book

The image shows a book cover with the title Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide dog, and a yellow Labrador’s face

“I am named Fiji, and am a yellow Labrador cross Golden Retriever.
I have a very special job – I’m a guide dog for the blind. Being a guide dog takes discipline and focus, but it also means my life is full of excitement. I have had plenty of adventures with my mom, Lois Strachan, both as a guide and when my harness is released.
I have had a real dog’s life and boy, I have loved every bit of it. And I am here to share it with you in my own words.”

Fiji and I are over the moon to be able to share the first chapter of her book, Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog with you and anyone you know who loves dogs.

You can download the free chapter at https://www.loisstrachan.com/paws-for-thought/

And please share the link – the more people who read it, the better! Because we are so excited to be able to share my beautiful guide dog’s story with the world.
PS Keep watching the blog for updates on when the book will be published in its entirety – we’re working hard to get there!

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