guide dog

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.

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!

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…

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 on Screen Time

Fiji sleeping

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

As I sit here happily remembering the run I had this morning with Dad and my doggy-sister Allie, I got to thinking about something that has been bothering me lately.
How much screen time should we dogs allow our humans?

Because both Mom and Dad seem to spend a whole lot of time sitting staring into a computer screen. Or talking into a computer screen. And I just can’t figure out why they do it.

I know Mom and Dad have lots to do that isn’t of interest to us dogs. Mom seems to love typing into the computer, as does Dad. At least sometimes I can understand when Mom does it, because she’s helping me with my book or with my blog posts, as she’s doing now. It really isn’t so easy for me to type so it makes much more sense for me to tell Mom what I want to say and for her to write it down for me.
But what about the rest of the time? Honestly, there are days when Mom and Dad spend literally hours at the computer. While us dogs find a comfy place to curl up and sleep.

I usually sleep on one of the warm dog beds in the bedroom, my doggy-sister Emily either sleeps on the blanket in the study with Mom or in the doorway so she can keep an eye on what Mom’s doing. My other doggy-sister Allie sometimes sits with Mom but most often curls up on the couch so she can keep an eye on Dad and also make sure no-one can sneak up on the house from outside. And my brand new doggy-brother Onyx usually joins her on the couch as well, so we are doubly safe now.

Maybe all this sounds perfectly normal to you. But to me it simply does not make sense.

Why spend hours and hours staring at a computer when you could be outside walking, running or playing with us dogs? Even though the weather is cooler now, it’s still warm enough to romp around in the garden, or to go for a glorious walkaround the neighbourhood. And if it’s raining, surely it makes far more sense to find a warm and comfy place to curl up and sleep?

Like I’ve said before, sometimes humans really don’t make sense to me!

Back to my original question. How much screen time do you think I should allow Mom and Dad? And how should I distract them from their computers? Any help will be gratefully wagged at.

Paws for Thought: My Brand New Book Cover!

The image shows the cover of the book Paws for Thought, with a close-up of a yellow Labrador’s head on a teal background.

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!

Paws for Thought on the Perplexity of Cooking

Fiji looking at a bag of dog foodHello 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.

Update on Fiji’s Book

The image shows Lois and Fiji 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…

Paws for Thought on Itchy Ears

The image shows a close-up of Fiji’s face.

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!
XXX

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