Sunday, 24 April 2011

Six steps to bed and back.. Continued. Challenge Four

Pict. knights fighting with an armoured scorpion from Dungeon & Dragons online for my fourth challenge - Where is the bathroom?  After wandering around the hotel bedroom and whistling loudly, all I hear in the room is the sort of echo only ever found in a cathedral.  I did eventually find the bathroom which was designed as a wet room, which was great, but it was so large it took me 15 minutes before I collided with the toilet. [Thank heavens I wasn’t desperate.]
Now then, unbeknownst to me, there was a button at waist height just outside the bathroom door. It was placed there to allow wheelchair users to open the front door from a distance (so that their wheelchair doesn't clatter into it when the bedroom door opens).  I stripped off in the main room and felt my way back to the bathroom. I had a great shower, but as I came out again. I collided with that button, which activated the front door… little did I know, that as I dried myself, the extra wide front door had very smoothly and silently opened.  Exposing my naked self to every passer by!   It was only days later when a colleague was pressing the button out of curiosity, that I discovered what had been happening.

Pict. of disability door access button

My penultimate challenge was to close the curtains, so that I didn't expose myself to the whole city as well as the residents in the hotel.

The room had electric powered curtains, which were operated from the side of the bed. Very luxurious and practical for a wheelchair user.  However, as a totally blind person, the only way I could tell if the curtains were open or closed was to get up, make my way across the room and physically feel for myself. If the curtains were open, it would then take a further five minutes to locate my bed again and activate the button and of course being completely paranoid now, I was never convinced that they worked, so I would have to get up yet again and check for a second time.
At last my sixth and final challenge - Sleep
I collapsed into bed exhausted with the day’s challenges’, whizzing round my head.  I had to find a way of calming the mind to get to sleep.  But after about 10minutes I woke up with a start.     OH NO….I’ve got to find my way down to breakfast in the morning, ..............I better get up now….

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Six steps to bed and back or the blind hotel game!

Its holiday time, and I thought I would just share my experiences of staying in hotels with a Guide Dog.
My first challenge when staying at an unfamiliar hotel is, finding my way into the building! 
If the hotel has a revolving door my guide dog Renton  will see it as a hazard and refuse to move. I’m left standing on the pavement wondering why he’s not budging. It is only when a passer by mutters something about a revolving door, that I understand what’s happening. I now start to coax and eventually bribe him to step into the gap while the door is slowly rotating. Not easy for a dog to co-ordinate.  Timing is crucial here. (So is a small dog) Unfortunately, I’ve a seven and a half  stone German Shepherd. A bit like trying to get an elephant into a lift. The door flicks us from behind into reception. Paws, luggage, bits of fur and me land in an undignified heap - what an entrance. the first challenge in this game has now been completed successfully.
The second challenge awaits, I’m in the reception area, now to locate the reception desk. You would think after making such an impressive entrance, someone would notice and call over to me. But, no.. Listening carefully I strain my ears for a clue. Nope! May be a doorman will come over and point me in the correct direction. No!  Eventually a phone rings in the distance “Hello, Elvira speaking.” Aha! Renton and I make our way towards the voice.
Elvira asks me for the registration number of my car, I’m standing there with my guide dog – I doubt that she has even glanced in my direction.  A porter takes me along endless corridors, two sets of lifts, and a rope swing, eventually reaching my room. 
The second challenge has been completed…now the third challenge.  The porter opens the door with a plastic card, quickly points around the room and tries to leave. I force him to stay and explain every detail of the room which includes funnily enough, how to open the door. I never know which way the card should go in. I’ve spent many an hour in a hotel corridor trying every possible combination.

I find that I have been given the disabled room. I can understand why they do this, However, the facilities a blind person needs aren’t the same as someone who is a wheelchair user. The room is huge and it takes me literally 10 minutes to find the bed and a chair and another 10 to find the window.  I hear the dog quietly snuffling about, he thinks its a park, I hope it doesn’t have a green carpet or we could have a spillage!
Part 2 to come. . 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Ode to Renton

My friend Brian Orr of Lanark wrote this poem at the weekend, in honour of my new guide dog Renton..please enjoy... and thankyou Brian

Pict. loving black and white picture of Renton wit h haze surrounding him


They knew it was coming
But it was still hard to take
Trusty Moss' time was over
It was time for a break

So Ian's search started
For a guide dog supreme
And a big German shepherd
Was our macho man's dream

No poodle for Ian
And labs were now out
But a dog with some presence
Who could push folk about

Life with no guide dog
Was really a pain
Especially as Ian
Was inept with the cane

He'd breeze up the High Street
Of Lanark fair town
White stick in his hand
Knocking wheely bins down

At last the call came
A new dog had been found
A big German beauty
Called Renton - the hound

Renton came for a visit
To check out the new boss
Ian passed the test
As did Christine and Moss

Then 3 weeks of training
In sunny East Kilbride
Walking and bonding
With the "pony" at his side

Yes, Renton was a big lad
Both in length and in height
Sleek coat and fine features
A truly awesome sight

Soon Renton was at the BBC
Lying, resting on the floor
For Reevel and Jackie, 
To stroke and adore
He liked the stardom status

He even had a blog
Which got over 10000 hits
Not bad for a guide dog

And then he really made it
The real star of his breed
Appeared on peak time telly
The programme -"Born to lead"

Now Renton's Ian's Porsche
As he speeds around the town
His friend and his companion
He'll never let him down

Pict. of Renton playing in the snow

Brian Orr     April 2011

Friday, 15 April 2011

"Who is Lorne?" I hear you say...

Pict of Lorne playing his pipes standing on dog sledge
                         I'VE DONE IT! I've got my Husky Dog Driving Licence
                         Joi-JOILLLL!   HREEEIIIEEEIII

Lorne Brown is the guy who draws the cartoons for me, he is Christine's father. A couple of years ago he decided that he wanted to do something different. As you can see by these photographs he succeeded in his challenge and he got his Driving Licence.

 I have pasted an enticing introduction from his website...where you can read more about his experiences. Please have a look in, it makes a jolly good read.

At 78 years of age I don't know if I'm acting maturely or not but I'm combining a trip to East Greenland to attain my Husky Dog Driving Licence with raising donations for the Guide Dogs for the Blind –

Pict. of snowy canyon with sledge tracks and blue sky

In July 2009, I retired for the second time having been a workaholic and always finding something to keep busy. Like many others I never seemed to have enough time in the day, week or year for that matter. Until – sitting in front of a computer screen in the office, I realised that time is finite. Response?
Lorne standing under ice and snow overhang, it dwarfs him
What am I doing here? Pack it in. Go home. I did!Next day, I had my comeuppance with the dreadful thought: What have I done by retiring? I've shot myself in the foot!
I enjoyed working and here I am at my wits’ end after 16 hours. What can be done with all this spare time? I'll go to Ittoqqortoormiit in East Greenland and see how the mushers and Inuits live. I did go; enjoyed the experience and I'm going back this year to obtain a Husky Dog Driving Licence.
Pict. of sledge at base camp, it looks cold snow everywhere clear blue sky

Lorne managed to raise over £3,000 for guide dogs and you can still donate on his
Just Giving page which is secure and can be used from anywhere in the world.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Adopt a blind man and save the world.

Pic: of cute puppy winking at waving to the camera :adopt me"

To give you some background to me, both my parents passed away some time ago. So technically I’m an orphan. Admittedly, as I’m now 40 ish,ish!, some may say I’m too old to be someone’s adoptee. But I say "no!" Why should that be the case? As far as I’m aware, there is no age restriction  to adoption.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to put myself up for adoption and I’m looking for suitable candidates. 
In this crazy world of ours we now have a number of choices as to what we can adopt. We can adopt a child, adopt a granny, adopt a tree, a goat, a plant, a park bench, we can even adopt a wild animal. However, I’ve got a much better idea - how about adopt a blind man and save the world.
It’s so sad; I’ve got no old relations I can go round and sponge off when I’m financially embarrassed. Nor do I have some ageing parent to sneak round and visit to get free meals when I’m put on a diet at home. Now, I don’t want you thinking I’m motivated by hunger and financial reward. Although, if I’m being honest, these are major contributing factors in my search.
There are some advantages in adopting me, opposed to a Zebra on the plains of Africa. 
I’m very good at assembling flat pack furniture, as long as you read out the instructions.
If I get you hammered on sherry down the pub, I can still get us home in the dark by using my guide dog. When you pay to fly me on exotic holidays, {a hint there} because I’m blind, we’ll be able to jump the queue to get aboard the aircraft before everyone else. 
If you like dogs you’ve also struck gold. As I’ve got two. One  is a lovely guide dog German Shepherd and the other is layed back retired black Labrador who both just love being spoiled. I can be reasonably entertaining, mainly by talking about me! and my fascinating life.  Something that I have no doubt you will learn to appreciate over time as it fills your otherwise dull and empty days. Plus, I’ve been fully house-trained, and am over the stroppy teenage years. But, a warning, I’m in  my midlife crises phase.  (But being blind there is no danger of killing myself on a powerful motor cycle trying to regain my youth).    
You have to acknowledge I’m starting to look like a very attractive proposition 
Perhaps I should add here I am very progressive, so will accept a lone parent, widow or single sex couple. Well, to be truthful at my age I can’t afford to be too choosy. 
Remember, if you take me on it’s for life. A blind man isn’t just for Christmas…. 


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pushing ahead.

Pic of Moss and Renton sitting together

A colleague of mine asked me at work last week(after she watched the documentary) "Why did you want a German Shepherd and not a Labrador?" A good question and surprisingly not something I can recall anyone else asking. So far I've had two Labradors, two cross Lab Retrievers and Renton will be my second German Shepherd. For me, the best guide dogs breeds I have worked with has been  the Cross Lab. Retrievers and my first  Shepherd. (You read more about Tim on my articles page) It is very early days with Renton to include him  in the top three, but already he is proving himself to be a very good guider. 

However, there can be issues with German Shepherds that you just will not get with a Labrador. Shepherds  don't transfer well from the trainer to the new handler as they are so loyal and can be very sensitive, [surprising for such
a large dog.] They also have some German Shepherd instincts that have to be worked on for example: chasing, territorial, rounding-up  and exuberant protection of their handler.
So taking all of that into account, why a Shepherd? well, in my view they are fantastic guide dogs once they settle down.  There is a bit of pain at the beginning, but after about a year that goes, so patience and understanding is essential.  Their drive means that they always find the way  and with such definite conviction that you are in no doubt that they will find it. It could be a doorway, pelican crossing, a set of stairs or a train. As someone who is totally blind like me, it  gives me real confidence in where I  am and where I am going. 

They are also very intelligent and this can cause some confusion at first, as they like to use their initiative, plan ahead find a better route.   A Labrador, on the other hand will wait until they are up against an obstacle before they decide which way to go, but a Shepherd is reading the road much further ahead constantly re-assessing the situation. 
Another thing that they do, which I love, is their confidence to create space on busy pavements, not being afraid to use their physicality to ease people out the way. 
Renton will very gently lean against other pedestrians and slowly push them aside if they are blocking our path. It is done so subtly, I'm not even aware that he's doing it. Last week when I was getting on the train at Glasgow Central Station, someone tried to jump in front of me to get on the train. However, they didn't reckon on Renton. He  just stepped forward, leaned on them to push them back and then blocked the door way, whilst at the same time putting his two front paws on the train, giving me space and time to get on. 
Pic. of the said "two paws"

 How fantastic is that!

The commuter was left standing on the platform wondering what had happened  If you have a Shepherd you can’t get shoved about by the discourteous members of the general public. 
Pic. of Rentons' big paw the same size as Ians hand

So, to answer  my colleagues question, these are some of the reasons why I’ve got a German Shepherd.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Down to Brass Tacks

I understand that this may be an in-delicate topic, so for those with a delicate stomach - turn away now....Dog POO! 

Pic: of overly large Renton with a huge poo bag and small man
The euphoria of getting a new dog was flattened when Mary from Guide Dogs followed Renton down the garden..scooped up his poop and handed me this HUGE bag of poo.  I laughed, thinking that she had just filled a bag with lots of rubbish to make it heavy...but no..for cleaning up after Renton we could easily hire a pick-up truck.

Lorne, of course, has seen the funny side of this with his most recent cartoon - the Poo bag is bigger than me!

For those people new to the Blog, Lorne has also submitted another cartoon of Renton running rings around me when I work on obedience training....