guide dogs

1 2 3 7

Paws for Thought on Homecomings

Cds IMG 0003

Hello everyone it’s me – Fiji… again
 
This isn’t going to be a long post, because I’m just sooo excited because my mom is back home. She came home a few days ago and I’m still jumping up and down and running around like crazy because I’m so happy.
  
Mom is home and everything is right with the world again. Wag wag wag wag wag
 
Im sure Mom will tell you all about the paces she visited when she takes control of the blog again. So that should be fun!

Paws for Thought on Birthdays and Holidays

Yellow labrador
 
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.
 
Today is my birthday. I’m not going to tell you how old I am because a lady never reveals her age. Well, to be honest, I’m still unsure if I should be counting in human or doggy years so I just thought I would ignore the whole thing. Except for the important fact that it’s my birthday and I’m getting spoilt!
 
The only thing that is not great about today is that Mom and Dad are getting ready to go away on holiday. Without us doggies. Admittedly they haven’t been travelling during the past three years because of COVID. It’s been wonderful having them spend so much time with us, so we can’t really complain that they’re going now. But us doggies still don’t like that they’re going away without us. Especially me, because I’m meant to go everywhere with my mom so I can guide her around.
 
Please don’t worry that we might be lonely because we always have people who come and stay with us and keep us entertained. And give us food, of course. But we love having Mom and Dad around and we miss them when they go away.
 
Yesterday I asked Mom where they’re going. Not that it matters, because her answer made no sense to me. But they’re going to Europe – wherever that is – specifically to Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.
 
I wasn’t all that interested in the details until my mom mentioned Hungary. because I get that way a lot – hungry, I mean. Though I don’t know why it’s spelled differently. Anyway, I think I might like to go to Hungary, because I imagine it must be filled with mountains of yummy food just waiting to be eaten. Because why else would they call it Hungary?
 
I’m sure Mom and Dad are going to have lots of fun on their holiday. And me and my doggy siblings will wait eagerly for their return. When we’re not busy dreaming of, and consequently being,  Hungary.
 
I’ll pop in and chat to you here on Mom’s blog every now and then, since Mom will probably be too busy having adventures to sit down and write. So, for now, I’m in charge of the Beyond Sight blog… What fun!

Paws for Thought on Freedom and Independence

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.

Freedom and independence are very important to us guide dogs. After all, our purpose is to give our humans a greater degree of freedom and independence to do the things they want.

So I wagged when I saw that the theme of the latest ad campaign from the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind is all about freedom. If you haven’t seen the advert yet, here it is – you really ought to watch it!

Mom and I attended the campaign launch in Cape Town last week. It was lots of fun, especially since I spent the morning surrounded by some of my bestest friends who are guide dogs and pups-in-training. In total there were 16 dogs there, so I won’t bore you with a long list. But I did have a chance for a catch up with pup-in-training Yale, because she and her mom gave us a lift to the event. And I also got to chat to guide dogs Billy, Gladys and Ronnie to share notes on some of the strange things our humans had been doing recently. I also got to meet Oslo, who is a service dog, so his job is a bit different from mine, but is still really important to give freedom to his human Andrew.

A few people have asked Mom if she and I are in the video. We’re not, but my nephew Obie is, together with his mom, Anel. I’m very proud of Obie for his acting skills – he looks fabulous! And I can now tell everyone that I’m related to a movie star, can’t I?

Anyhow, I really think you should watch the advert and see how important we guide dogs are in helping our humans. Just so you don’t have to scroll back to find the link, here it is again: https://youtu.be/7RQ7vspyLLc

Up, Up and Away!

The image shows a dark-haired woman standing on the wing of a small airplane as she climbs into the cockpit of the plane
 
Last week Guide Dog Fiji told you how we found ourselves at a remote part of Cape Town International airport, and how I subsequently upset her by climbing into a small airplane and flying away. Of course, there’s more to the story, because lots happened between the time I flew away and when I returned to have a frantically relieved guide dog leap into my arms.
 
The whole story started a few weeks earlier. When we were asked if Fiji was interested in being in the photo shoot, I was invited to go for a spin in the plane afterwards. Which I naturally accepted – I mean, who wouldn’t?
 
A few days before the shoot, the photographer asked how I felt about experiencing aerial acrobatics, or aerobatics. Now, you might not know this, but I’m not really an adventurous person. So my instinctive response was “Absolutely no chance!” But then I asked myself whether I might regret not taking up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And cautiously  replied that I’d decide on the day…
 
Which is how I found myself sitting in a two-seater airplane, feeling like my body was being squashed as I experienced double the earth’s normal gravitational pull (2G). Then I felt the plane turn to the left and suddenly my body became weightless – it was like I was being stretched. Which, of course, was because I was upside down as the plane rolled.
 
What struck me most was how smoothly the plane rolled. I didn’t actually feel like the plane was flipping over, possibly because I had no visual cues and could only judge from what I was sensing through my body.
 
We did a few more rolls, pausing at various stages of the spin so I could see how I experienced flying sideways, and upside down. At first I felt somewhat detached. I was focusing on what I was feeling, rather than living the experience. It was only after the pilot and I chatted about how the rolls had felt to me that I began to assimilate what I was sensing with what was happening. Which brought me back into the  reality of what was going on.
 
It was only in the final roll, where the pilot paused at each 90 degree position that my body and brain engaged totally. And, while it was breathtakingly amazing, the realisation that I had pushed my boundaries far enough for one day began to sneak up on me.
 
So, when the pilot asked if I’d like to experience a loop – going into a roll nose first rather than wing first – I shook my head and politely declined. Part of me regrets turning down the offer. Because I am curious what it would feel like for my body to be at  3.5G and how I would interpret a loop  without the sense of sight. But there’s also part of me that is relieved that I didn’t give it a try.
 
A friend of mine joked that I wouldn’t have been as thrilled had I been able to see the ground in the place where the sky should be. And I suspect she’s correct. Even thinking about the world being upside down visually  makes me a little anxious. But I didn’t feel that way at all when it happened, so it is probably because of my blindness.
 
Would I try aerobatics again? Absolutely yes! And I might even be brave enough to try a loop this time!
 
Oh, I forgot to mention that I also briefly flew the plane. I was amazed at how responsive the controls were – if I so much as touched the stick the plane would change direction or altitude. It was as exciting and nerve-wracking as the time I drove a car independently as a blind person, only magnified by about a million.
 
I’m busy editing a podcast episode where I talk about my experience of flight with friend and colleague Jeremy Opperman. So, if you’d like to find out more about my experience, watch out for that episode.
 
The episode, plus my entire library of more than 65 episodes of the podcast can be found anywhere you usually listen to podcasts – simply search for A Different Way of Seeing and you’re bound to find my show.
XXX

Paws for Thought on Wet Ground, Little Airplanes and Photographs

Plane
 
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji.
 
I’ve told you before that I sometimes think humans do strange things. I found myself thinking that again recently when me, Mom and my friends from the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind went on an adventure together.
 
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it was strange that we went on an adventure together. After all, that happens fairly often. But the actual adventure was peculiar. At least to me it was.
 
You see, we went to a quiet part of Cape Town International airport and walked up to a little airplane. Then Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Tania made me stand and sit on the wet ground while they took photographs. Aunty Cheryl gave me treats every now and then, especially when I looked at the camera and gave my bestest doggy smile.  
 
What was strange was that I had to sit beside the little plane on my own, while Mom just stood behind Aunty Tania and her camera. It was strange because my job is to be with Mom and guide her. And because I take my job as a guide dog seriously, I felt I ought to run to Mom every few minutes to check that she was still okay. Then I would run back and sit down on the wet ground again so Aunty Tania could take more photographs.
 
At least I understood why Aunty Cheryl had insisted on giving me a thorough brushing at the training centre. I don’t really enjoy being brushed so I tried to hide behind my mom, but Aunty Cheryl didn’t give me a choice. And at least I knew I was looking my beautifulest for the photographs.
 
Then the morning  got even weirder – Mom climbed into the little plane and flew away. Without me. Without even asking me if I wanted to go with her, which of course I did. At least Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Tania also got left behind, so I wasn’t on my own. But still, Mom flew away, which was extremely naughty of her.
 
Eventually the plane brought Mom back and I ran up to her and jumped up and down while remonstrating with her. Mom simply laughed and patted me. Which was nice, but didn’t actually answer any of the questions I had about where she had gone and why she hadn’t taken me with her.
 
So, like I said, it was all very weird.
 
Afterwards Mom explained that the photographs were going to be used in the 2023 calendar that the South African Guide-Dogs Association  for the Blind brings out each year. Which means there will be a photo of me hanging on people’s walls for a whole month next year! Along with lots of other photographs of beautiful guide dogs and guide dogs in training. I promise I’ll let you know when the calendar comes out so you can also have a picture of me hanging on your wall.
 
Mom asked me to tell you that she’ll let you know all about her flight in the little airplane next time. Because she’s still wagging about  it. Well, she would be wagging if she had a tail. So, watch out for her next article.

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.

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/

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 Finally Writing My Book

Fiji guide dogDate: 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.
XXX

Paws for Thought on a Family Holiday

the image shows two blond Labrador Golden Retriever crosses, with Lois
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!

1 2 3 7
Email updates
Lois shares updates on her book, speaking and the reality of living with blindness. Find out what Lois is up to – subscribe here.

Facebook