Tuesday, 19 August 2014

We are not invisible

As you may, or may not, be aware at the time of writing this a guide dog has been missing for four weeks now.

I can't begin to imagine the horror that the poor guide dog owner must be going through at this time. Ever since getting my guide dog Samson I'd always said my worst fear was that he'd be attacked by another dog... I have to say I now have two worst fears, that he'd be attacked by another dog or that he'd go missing.

If you follow me on twitter you'll know that my time line has been dominated by the hash tags #findtess, #MissingGuideDog & #TESS. I along with the Guide Dog 'family' have done our best to help find Tess in some small way from where we are. Tess went missing in Nairn, Scotland. I live in London, England. I know that people have been spreading the word from Scotland to Dorset, from Manchester to Cardiff, from New Zealand to the USA. People care, people want Tess the guide dog back in her rightful place, at her guide dog owners side.

This is my take on how this search for Tess reflects what our society, our government & our media really think of disability & what place we (disabled people) have in society today...

The national media has steadfastly refused to cover the story. But they've covered George Osbourne's cat getting clipped by a car. the national media have steadfastly refused to cover this story because the 'human interest' isn't strong enough. but they've covered the 'ice bucket challenge' like there's no tomorrow (no one I know gives a flying fart about the ice bucket challenge by the way!) The likes of 'Good Morning Britain' have said that they don't 'do name checks or birthday greetings'. Okay, that's fine... But a missing guide dog isn't a birthday greeting or a name check. A missing guide dog is actually a blind persons life line, a blind persons independence, a blind persons dignity and so much more. It is also, to put a hardened tint on it a 50grand dog, a mobility aid that takes approx two years to train & works (& plays!) incredibly hard for its whole working life, to belittle a guide dog in this way I think is hugely insulting...!

It's feels like Tess is invisible, unimportant & something to be brushed under the carpet. 

Why is this is??!! Ever since the 2012 Paralympics people have told me that Great Britain is more accepting of people with disabilities, that people admire those with disabilities, that access is better for people with disabilities, that people with disabilities have a stronger voice... From my own personal experiences I can tell you that this isn't the case. I've been verbally abused for no other reason than I have a disability. I've been thrown out of shops for no other reason than I have a disability. I've been patronised for no other reason than I have a disability and I'll tell you why, our government has done its utmost to demonise those with disabilities. To screw those with disabilities over. To make people believe that we are the scourge on society. That we are the reason the country is in the dire straits it is in. That anyone that gets Disability Living Allowance is scrounging from the tax payer. That people with disabilities aren't worth the time of day. That our voice or anything we have to say is invalid, insignificant  or laughable. That anyone that gets ANY additional financial support due to their disability is living the life of a playboy millionaire... This is what they've set out to make society believe & with the help of the media they've pretty much achieved it.

They've made us invisible, they've made us insignificant & they've made us invalid. So much so that the UN will at some point, after the next general election it seems (to save embarrassment?!?!) be investigating the 'grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights'

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/08/uk-is-first-country-to-face-un-inquiry-into-disability-rights-violations/

I sound bitter I know & that's because I am & I make no apologies for that. I am not a blight on society & I resent the fact that I  am portrayed as such just because my sight & hearing are dodgy. I'm now at a point where I've got so angry at the way the media & government portray me & those I know with disabilities that I have to start fighting back & I will.

But onto the more positive side of the #findtess story & there really are some. Pets at Home have proven that massive, faceless corporations can & do have a heart. They have offered a £1000 donation to guide dogs on information leading to finding Tess. They've emailed their 2million VIP members about Tess & what to do if they think they've seen her. And they've been very active on keeping Tess talked about on their social media & in their hundreds of stores around the UK.

People have been talking, tweeting, emailing, facebooking, leafleting, postering about Tess all over the UK. Celebs, police forces, fire brigades, local shops, online shops & ordinary every day people have been sharing information on Tess. 

So it shows that society in general is 'good' that in general they don't believe the BS given by the media & government & that they DO care about a missing guide dog and DO believe she's more important than a 'name check or birthday greeting'

There IS still hope that Tess will be found, there has been a credible sighting of her which is being looked into as I write.

Tess isn't invisible, Tess isn't insignificant & Tess isn't invalid. 

#findtess, #MissingGuideDog #TESS

Saturday, 25 January 2014

To the angry man who verbally abused me,

The other night I got on a train to go home after a long day at work. It was rush hour. There were LOTS of people on the train. It was crowded. there was very little room for myself and my boy Samson to get on. But we did. And yes, it was a squeeze. Nothing untoward about that. It's three stops to my station and so while it is rather intimate, it IS a short journey.

It should have been uneventful, something that was annoying, but something I should have forgotten all about it by the time I'd walked from the station to my front door. But you decided to make it something far more horrible than it should have been. You decided to make it memorable for all the wrong reasons...

You don't know me, you don't know anything about me, you've never met me, you don't know what my financial situation is, you don't know what I do for work and as far as I know you've never even seen me before.

And yet, you felt you had the right to make some very sweeping and damning assumptions about me and you did this very loudly, very rudely and very publicly.

You saw a woman with a Guide Dog get onto the train and thought you'd take out all your frustrations out on me. I think that I'll remember the things you said to me clearly for a very long time, because they were hurtful, they were hateful and they were humiliating. You didn't like me answering you back did you? It clearly wound you up even more, to the point that you were screaming right in my face. I've never seen such hate on someones face aimed at me, when we've never even met before. In fact, I've never seen such hate on someones face aimed at me when we have met. 

Well, here are the answers to your rants that you refused to listen to...

'Why the f*ck would you choose to use public transport at this time with that f*cking dog???'

I chose to get on the train at that time because like everyone else on that train I also was on my way home after a day at work. I chose to get on the train at time because like everyone else on that train I wanted to get home as soon as possible.

'I bet you've just been sat around all day doing f*ck all on my taxes you lazy c*nt!!!'

No actually. That day I'd been doing interviews, inductions, database stuff, filing, a report and all the other day to day admin stuff I have to do in my job. Something I get paid for and something that I also have to pay taxes on.

'F*cking get off and f*cking walk! Get the f*ck off!!!'

Why should I? If you're so offended by my existence, YOU get off, YOU move elsewhere or just ignore me!

'Your f*cking sort get on my f*cking nerves! Me, me, me, give me more f*cking money, me, me, me!'

My 'sort'? You the mean the 'sort that works, the 'sort' that volunteers, the 'sort' that actually has to work harder than you just to get through the day as 'normally' as possible, the 'sort' that doesn't claim thousand of pounds a week (that 'sort' is pretty much a myth by the way!)?

I don't just blame you, although I do blame you mostly, I also blame our government and our media who have done everything they possibly can to demonise my 'sort'. Who allow you to think I am worth nothing more than something you might have the misfortune to tread in, who allow you to think that I am fair game when it comes to random abuse and who allow you to think I should be invisible and should dare to be out in public.

I also blame them for letting every other person on that train to do or say nothing. Who either pretended it wasn't happening or just stood and openly watched. That spurred you on didn't it?

'No one gives a f*cking sh*t about you or your spastic needs! You spastic c*nt!'

Right at that very minute, you're right, no one did. I was very much on my own. I don't think I had ever felt more alone than I did for those ten minutes. Never. I was raised to speak up for those going through an injustice and I have done so on many occasions. I'll continue to do so, but wwill also now know that it's not something to automacally assume others would do for me and that makes me a little sad because I've always assumed that people are in general decent and kind and moral. Not cowards.

I wonder if you went home and proudly told your family and friends that you verbally abused a blind woman? I wonder if you actually felt like a man acting like a nasty little bully? I wonder just how empty and bitter and lonely and unfulfilled you must feel as a human being to do what you did?

But... If your aim was to make me feel about two inches tall, to humiliate me, to make me feel worthless and to make me cry, congratulations. You succeeded.

I have to remember that this, while not unheard of, isn't the norm. I have to remember that my life is obviously filled with more joy than yours is. I have to remember that I am not the piece of scum you want me to believe I am.

And I have to remember that you clearly have a tiny penis!

Monday, 1 October 2012

I 'Heart' my Guide Dog!

Some time ago I wrote a letter to my Guide Dog Samson. He changed and continues to change my life in a way I didn't believe possible. He has made me 'me' again, something I didn't think I'd ever be again. Below is what I wrote, it is just as valid and true as it was back then...



Dear Samson,

I know that you're never going to understand this, and that you'd far more appreciate a dentistix, a tummy tickle or a run in the park. You'll get all that anyway, but I NEED to write this.

Before you, my life was getting darker and darker, and my world was getting smaller and smaller. It took me a long time to accept the condition I have and to realise that I needed something to make life easier and safer.

Before you, I would rarely go out, I'd go to work and come home and turn down 99% of invites because it was more stressful and sometimes more dangerous than staying in.

Before you, I was sinking into a dark depression, where I could not see it ever getting better.

Before you, I'd fall over, walk into Walls, bump into people and constantly ne covered in bruises, grazes and bumps.

Before you, my confidence, self belief and happiness were at rock bottom.

Before you, despite having loving friends and family I felt desperately lonely and scared. No one can prepare you for the terrifying knowledge that one day you might be completely blind and deaf.

Before you, I could see no meaningful future.

Then you came crashing and bouncing through my front door and life... I remember the moment when I first realised I could trust you, that you'd got my back and that your sole aim in life was to ensure I was safe. That was the beginning of the light coming back into my life, and the world throwing itself wide open again. The relief and emotions that came with that hit me like a ton of bricks, and instantly after, I felt freer than I had in years.

You have given me back my confidence, my self belief, my happiness and my independence.

You have lifted me out of a bottomless pit of despair.

Since you've been with me I've only had one fall when out, but that was on a steep hill covered with ice, so can't really blame you for that!! ;)

You have guided me out of harms way, and you have guided me back into life.

I love how you cheer me up when I'm feeling a bit down. I love how I can trust you and that you trust me. I love the obvious joy you have when we go for a free run. I love the fact that you are an absolute tart for a tummy tickle. I love your very naughty streak when you decide you want to be naughty. I love the way you're thrilled to me when I come down in the morning, your whole body wags, nor just your tail!!

I love that you have given me back my life, my pride and dignity.

You are my gentle brute, my daft brush and sensitive soul.

You are more than 'just' my guide dog. You are my mate, my saviour and dare I say it... My hero.

Thank you Samson!

Friday, 14 September 2012

2012

2012 has been one hell of a challenge so far, more so than any other year!    

Without a doubt the biggest was my diagnosis of Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) at the beginning of this year. In a nut shell my thyroid has been working overtime and then decided to attack the white blood cells behind my eyes... In turn making one of my eyes 'pop' out. It's uncomfortable, it aches, it's tiring, it's stressful and really really unattractive. Right now (and for the most part of this year) I have been rocking a very uncanny Popeye impression! When I was first diagnosed I was put on a course of medication, 30 odd pills a day, gradually going down to none... Which made no difference whatsoever. The first few times taking them I threw them straight back up, not nice at all! It felt like I was going to hospital every other day to have the (very nice it has to said) Nurses doing colour tests, Doctors putting drops in my eyes and then shining bright lights in them, and then measuring the amount the eye was popped out by, then to be told by my Consultant that everything was the same. So now, I've got a date for an operation to 'pop the eye back where it should be'. I'm both pleased and nervous... It will hopefully make everything alright again, but then again, it's an operation on the eye... That's a bit.... EEEEEK!!! 

Then Samson, My beautiful, daft, lovely boy was taken into Guide Dog hospital to sort out an ear infection that just wasn't going away! 21 days later I got my boy back. 21 days of missing him. 21 days of realising just how much I have come to rely on him. 21 days of feeling a bit lost. 21 days of having no soft velety ears to fondle. 21 days of not going at the speed I am now used to going at. 21 days of people asking when I was going to get Samson back.

Then, TWO root canal treatments!! I don't think I need to say any more on that matter!

Then the challenge of working in London during the Olympic Games.... At an Olympic Games venue. Each day the way into work was changed, the security checked got more strict each day and each day trying to concentrate and not get distracted by the bellowing cheers and whatnot.

There's been more, but these are the main ones that I think I'll remember for the rest of my life. I'm actually quite proud of how I've dealt with it all. A couple of years back I would have sunk into a pit of depression and not known how to claw my way out again. But this year, I wobbled right on the edge of the pit and then pulled myself away from it. 

Why? How?  I have learnt to be more honest, with myself and with others. I have realised that saying to people 'you know what, I can't do that because my eyes hurt, but if you'd like to do this instead that would be great and be easier for me to deal with' doesn't make people think I'm being selfish, and that actually they'd rather hear that and help me.

I've learnt to relax.




Sunday, 29 January 2012

It's been a while...

A very long while in fact, but here I am again!

I have excuses as to why I've not been doing this blog for so long. But main and most valid one is that I've felt the most happiest and content and 'yay, life is actually quite good!' than I have in a long long long long time. I used the blog as a way of trying to sort my head out, as a way to try and make sense of what I have, as a way to talk about it without using my mouth and without crying.

Because that how it worked. I'd talk about it and I'd feel like crying, or I would cry or I'd very quickly change the subject.

From the very first post I felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. That I am able to articulate and tell people how I felt and feel.

Don't get me wrong, I still have the times where I feel sorry for myself, where I just want to curl up in bed and never leave it and times when I still feel totally and utterly stunned. But I don't feel like that everyday... Now I go days, weeks and months and months feeling good.

And that's probably the main reason I haven't been doing this blog, I haven't felt like there's been anything horrible, horrific or hollow to write about. So I got out of the habit of writing.

Well, I'm back now (not that anything terrible is happening!) with a sidekick! I feel like I want to carry on recording what life is, the good, the bad and the ugly!

This isn't really a proper post, it's more of a reintroduction! See y'all soon!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Guide Dogs, Part Four.

So the next stage of the assessment was where someone completely different came out to do a walk and have a general chat with me.

It was at this point I was starting to realise what an indepth process this whole thing is/was! I hadn't even had a mere sniff of a guide dog yet and they (the people from guide dogs) have been out to see me four times, each time was a minimum of an hour and a half. I now know that this long process is good for everyone! It reassures the people at guide dogs, and gives them lots of time to find out what sort of person I am. My work life, my private life, my family, my friends, where or what I like to do for holidays it's all found out, but not in an intrusive way. It's done in such a way that you feel like you're chatting to a mate!

All this information gives them a better idea of what sort of dog would be good for me.

It was good for me, as we really talked about why I felt I needed a guide dog, how it would effect my life, (both good and maybe not so good!), and how I would most probably have to change my whole approach to life really. Talking about all these things in an open, positive, and no holds barred way helped ,e to know that this was the right path to go down.


So next, I was invited to an over night stay in a hotel in London, to meet some guide dog puppies who were fast approaching the end of their final stages of training!!

There were three other blind/visually impaired people there, eight puppies, and what seemed like thousand of trainers!! When we first got there we were shown to our rooms and told to settle in and them come down to the conference room in half an hour. I sat on the bed and thought to myself..... 'Really..... Seriously..... What on earth am I doing here?????' I was starting to have real doubts, I've NEVER had a dog before, we were a family who grew up with cats! Most of my mates have cats! What if the dog they gave me was horrid?! What if I turned into one of these mad people who let their dog 'kiss' them???

I then gave myself a shake, and thought, tonight is like a trial run, if I don't like it, I call it all off!!

I took a deep breath and walked downstairs....

Honestly, I had nothing to worry about! My fellow blindies were lovely, and like most Guide Dog Owners I've since met, were larger than life characters, intelligent beyond belief, but also very 'normal'.

So first up we were given a dog to do some basic obedience training with. I was given Josh, a very very very laid back gingery Retriever, he did pretty much what he was told to do, but there was a definate 'I'm not too impressed that YOU, who I've just met is telling ME what to do!' vibe going on!

We were then given another dog and taught how to groom it, to say that these puppies enjoy a groom is a MASSIVE understatement! The amount of tail wagging and looks of pure bliss on those faces had to be seen to be believed!!

Then I was given Josh again and we went out on a harness walk... I don't like to say it was a failure, but when the instructor says that the dog 'is taking the mick' you get a pretty good idea that this might not be the dog for you!! :)

Back to the hotel, where we had lunch and the chance to talk to a Guide Dog Owner and hear how it was, the good, the bad and the ugly! It was really useful, because she was saying that no matter how annoyed, frustrated you might get with your dog, the pro's of them far outweigh those niggles!

Then it was another harness walk with another dog (whose name I cant remember which makes me feel terrible!!), this walk was pretty uneventful, the dog did exactly as it needed to do, but there just wasn't 'that' spark!

Back at the hotel we were told that we were now going to be given a dog to look after overnight in the hotel room and that we were going to be going out on a night walk with it. Nights, dark nights for those of you who have read all of this blog will know that they are my most stressful times, especially, crowded roads at night, with streetlights here and there and cars with headlights glaring away!

So it was with mixed emotions when I was introduced to Forrester, he was totally and utterly stunning, when he came into the room I was thinking, please be for me!!! He was tall, slim, and black, and they brought him over to me! I started gushing all over him, telling him he was beautiful, whilst at the same time wondering how the hell could I trust an animal to take me for a walk and not let anything happen to me?????

Monday, 17 January 2011

Guide Dogs, Part Three

Well..... it's been a while, and I do have my excuses.

1) I had to do some pretty intensive training with my guide dog.
2) I had to put a lot of time and effort to sorting out my work situation.
3) I started a new job!
4) It was Christmas!
5) It was New Years Eve!
6) My laptop has died a death!

Hopefully you will all understand that all the above combined made me put the blog on a bit of a back burner! I'm here now though, and fully intend to stay!

So..... Guide Dogs Part Three! From the list of excuses above, you will have probably guessed that I now have a Guide Dog! I'll try not to rush into how amazing he is just yet, and continue nicely from that post about Guide Dogs!

After the initial assessment an appointment was made for Dee to come out again for us to go out on a walk, for her to get an idea of how I walk, my pace, the sort of roads I use etc. The day came around and Dee arrived. First off we just walked down my road with her besides me chatting away to each other.

She then asked if I'd mind doing a short handle walk. This is where the assessor (Dee has a shorter version of the handle on a Guide Dogs harness, I held one end, Dee got down on her hands and knees and off we went! Naturally I'm joking, she didn't get on her hands and knees! we just carried on walking her slightly ahead of me and winding about a bit. I actually felt a bit of a plank during this bit as the road I was living on at the time was, and probably still is a busy one! But needs must, I'm pretty certain it helps to match me to a dog, and isn't just an exercise in looking a bit silly!

After about ten minutes of this and me feeling a bit smug cos Dee told me I was very good at following the harness (understandably I guess most people with some remaining sight find it hard to 'let go' of the responsibility of looking after themselves!), we then did an exercise where I stood at a cross road looking straight ahead and telling Dee when I could see the car she told me was coming. That was a real wake up call for me to be honest... It took a long time from Dee telling me, to me actually seeing it!

We then sat by the river, it was a beautiful sunny hot day and talked some more about the possibility of me getting a dog.

She told me that someone else from her office would be coming out to do another walk assessment and after that I would be invited out for an overnight stay in a hotel to meet some dogs, and to work with them.

Thats all for now folks!