guide dog

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

Five Wonderful Years with Guide Dog Fiji

The image shows Guide Dog Fiji licking Lois on the nose

Who would have thought it? Fiji and I celebrate our fifth anniversary today! And what an amazing five years they’ve turned out to be – full of fun, adventure, learning, independence, sharing our story, and lots of wonderful companionship. Sure, there have been a few less than perfect moments, too. But so few and far between that they fade into insignificance.

Last year I shared a conversation between Fiji and myself in which we reflected on the four years we’d worked. And this past year has hardly been anything for either of us to brag about since we’ve not been able to add much to our adventures due to COVID-19. But, even with the little we are able to do right now, I am reminded of how much independence Fiji gives me and how much joy she provides.

Admittedly, there are a few things that have changed in the last year. For one thing, Fiji has turned into a vampire runner. By which I mean that she no longer joins Craig and Allie on their runs if they do so in the morning. Rather she waits for the sun to be well and truly down before being willing to head out and hit the road.

The guide dog trainer said she thinks Fiji is self-managing her running and that maybe she’s feeling the heat of a morning run more than she used to. So, rather than leaping up and demanding a run whenever she can, she is regulating both how often and how far she gets to run. I guess I have to acknowledge that Fiji is getting older – she is now 6.5 years old. But it’s still sad for me to see it in her behaviour… even if it’s only apparent in small ways like when she chooses to run.

Having said that, the vet told us last week that Fiji is in remarkable shape for a dog her age, and someone who encountered Fiji when she was walking with Craig the other day asked if they could buy one of her puppies. And she is still as playful and as loveable as ever – still leaps into the air to catch her crunchwater, chases her tennis ball, and plays rowdily with her doggy sisters.

More than that, Fiji’s discovered a new toy. A few months ago we found Eccles’s old squeaky toy. And when we squeaked it, Fiji came hurtling up from the other side of the house and leapt for it. And proceeded to squeak it and shake it with glorious abandon. Which is strange because she’s never shown any interest in it before

Every now and then we find her staring up at the dressing table where we keep the squeaky toy with a wistful look on her face. Until we pick it up and toss it to her. And then we have a leaping, shaking, tail-wagging gleeful Fiji once again.

Most importantly, Fiji comes running whenever I pick up her guide dog harness, twisting in circles and wagging as fast as she can. Her love of guiding is always a joy for me to experience. And I’m sure she and I will continue working together for many years yet.

A very happy and waggy anniversary to my precious guide dog companion – and many more adventures for us… And a successful book launch when we finish her book later this year. But we’ll update you on that soon, we promise…

What do you mean we’ve had 200 K views???

https://youtube.com/shorts/exDSDDDrKWM

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

Paws for Thought on A Sneaky Trick

The image shows Fiji lying in her dog-bed

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?

Paws for Thought on Birthdays

the image shows Fiji kissing Lois on the nose

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…

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