Isn’t it mildly entertaining and weird? If you look back at one of the first posts in the new guidedog topic on this blog, you’ll notice that I included a picture taken from the Irish Guide dogs for the Blind facebook page when I was waiting for training with Ike to begin in January 2011. I included the picture because I received a lot of messages from people who really wanted to see what he looked like. Today, Irish guide dogs posted a picture of Ike and again, I’ve had to copy it down so that people who got to know Ike for the nine short months can see how he’s getting on. Like it or not, and believe me I usually don’t like it, people other than the handler of guide dogs become very attached to our dogs. So, when Ike was returned back at the start of October last year a lot of people were actually quite unhappy with me. I was accused of being too harsh, of giving up, of not sticking with it and of not giving it enough time. I understand though so wasn’t bothered in the slightest by this. I suppose, what these people didn’t see was the days where I couldn’t go somewhere because I knew he would need to relieve himself in an unacceptable point along the way. Or the mornings when on the way to work Ike would be so stressed trying not to relieve himself that he wouldn’t be focused on where he was bringing me. People could even tell me that he didn’t want to go, he had no choice. I felt so sorry for him! Yet, I couldn’t go on with that kind of problem. It simply didn’t suit my life style and this completely defeated the purpose of having a guide dog in the first place.
I find it a little ironic that a year later; I’m posting another picture up here for you to see showing Ike waiting to be assigned to someone else. I really really hope it works out for him. He’s an amazing worker. I can’t say how much I miss walking with him. You just wouldn’t believe how comfortable it is navigating around Dublin city with him specifically. Freddie, my first guide dog was brilliant in so many ways and in more ways than not, his personality suited me more than Ike’s but wow; Ike had an amazing way of walking that felt completely natural. It shouldn’t bother me still but I really hate that it came to this. Firstly if I’m to be completely honest, I hate it because I start every day with the cane dreading every moment when out with that stick but secondly because I miss Ike’s work. I know this might seem heartless to those of you without a guide dog or who knows maybe those of you with a guide dog might think so too but I know that I will be able to draw a line under my trials and tribulations with Ike when I train with another dog. Until then, I’m going to remain a bit bitter about it.
Sorry. I shouldn’t but I can’t help it.
Using the cane, I’m getting a little bit freer in environments that I’m used to. Nassau Street is no longer as much of a challenge. I have to say though, walk fast and walk purposefully seems to be the best option. Sorry for people who might occasionally get in my way but it seems to be the best way of getting people to take notice. I wish pedestrians would learn! I can’t see you! You can see me! MOVE! While walking up Dawson Street now, I find that I can follow the gutter going up the centre of the path but if I just take my time people seem to stand right in my way! I called into a coffee shop last Wednesday on South Fredrick Street. They had a big sign outside their sheltered area and it was in the perfect spot for me. It always marked the centre of the path. They moved it though and my cane kept getting stuck under the plastic partition that surrounds their outside chairs. I think they might have moved it because they apologised a few times after I walked into it in the morning. The problem is though, although it looks like I’m walking into it, I’m deliberately finding it with the cane. It’s my landmark on south Fredrick Street that marks when I need to out dent away from the shop fronts so as I miss the plant pots. I’ve learned with experience. Especially when it’s raining, I don’t want to be anywhere near those stupid plants. They hit me right in the face! Then, when I pass the display, I hit the metal railings. After they finish, I take exactly ten steps and turn directly left. It’s important to take ten because if I take less than 10 I won’t align straight to my next landmark and I could end up going straight down the centre of another road. Yeah, I’ve done that. Humiliating. Anyway, it’s ten paces across south Fredrick Street. I’ll meet a skinny metal pole. I turn directly right and take fifteen and a half steps from there. That will get me to the steps of the office and the centre handrail will be directly on my right or if I’m off a little bit then the left handrail will be right beside me. I have this stepped out because if I follow the wall I can occasionally hit someone sleeping rough and I don’t like to bother them. I also find that there are a few bikes parked at the railings so I can’t follow them too closely so staying in the centre of these paths is my only efficient route. This is the level of detail I have taken on board to help me navigate independently and efficiently using the cane. Don’t get me wrong either, this level of detail wasn’t found overnight. I made some stupid mistakes and I battered my ribs off bike handle bars first. As they say, necessity is the mother of all invention. Just wish they’d stop moving my landmarks. You know where I cross after ten paces? There used to be a part of that path missing. They fixed that during the time I worked with Ike though. It took me ages to find that crossing point again. Why do they have to go around fixing stuff! A you can hopefully see, although I’m still very miffed about what happened with Ike, I’m struggling on and thanks to some great friends it’s probably a little easier this time around in some ways.