Famous Writers and their Pets

A fascinating review of a book about authors and their pets, https://interestingliterature.com/2019/11/08/alex-johnson-famous-writers-pets-review/. I knew about Edward Lear’s cat Foss, but had no idea that Byron took with him to university one bear (and not the kind of bear one buys in a toy shop)!

I grew up with dogs and still remember with great affection my first dog, Jet. Jet was a black lab/alsatian cross and loved people. He was though not fond of other dogs and (if he got out of the house) would chase cars!

I am now working with my fourth guide dog, a brindle lab/retriever called Trigger, who has just reached the grand old age of 10.

Trigger has featured in several of my poems, including “The Hungry Hound”, https://kmorrispoet.com/2016/02/03/the-hungry-hound/, and “Dog and Ball”, https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/02/18/dog-and-ball-2/.

Kevin

17 thoughts on “Famous Writers and their Pets

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for commenting.

      I was interested to read about your mother working with her 7th Seeing Eye dog. Here in the UK we call them Guide Dogs, so I guess your mother is in the United States where dogs for the blind are called Seeing Eye dogs?

      Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Mentje's Voice

        Hello Kevin,

        No we live in Holland, but you are right, it’s guide dog, my mistake, it was a very literal translation from Dutch to English, sorry English isn’t my native language! My mother has bad sight and she is bound to her chair. Her guide dog works two jobs. He functions as hands and eyes. It’s really amazing! The things that dog can do is amazing, they have a really big sense of responsibility towards their owner. for example, my mother’s current guide dog never listens to any ones command except hers, very cool! And mine a little bit but that is because he knows me well. My mother is blind on one eye and sees about 4 % with the other. How bad is it with you?

        Best wishes, Mentje

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        Hello Mentje,

        There is no need to apologise. You have excellent English, whilst I have absolutely no Dutch!

        Its interesting to hear about your mum’s guide dog. Its great that he acts both as a guide and as a more general assistance dog.

        My guide dog Trigger has a special bond with me and responds quickly when I ask him to sit or when I give other commands. However he will also respond to others, especially to close family and friends.

        I was born with full vision, however I lost the majority of my sight at about 18-months-old due to a blood clot on the brain. I can see outlines of objects but not their details. So, for example I can see the outline of a person, but I Ccan’t recognise them unless they speak to me. Having said that, I can sometimes guess at a persons identity. For instance a colleague nearly always wears the same perfume making it easy to guess that she is in the vicinity.

        Best wishes, Kevin

      3. Mentje's Voice

        Hello Kevin,

        What a sad story, must have been difficult for you! Sounds heavy!

        My mother can relate, she also pays a lot of attention to sounds and smells. She can also just see outlines but no details. One of the things see used to recognize someone is the sounds of the rhythm of their walk she told me. It’s like a superpower!

        Can your guide also know the difference between left and right? That is one of the things that impressed me with my mothers guide dogs. They respond to “look left, look right” when crossing the streets. At first the command was necessary, but now her guide dog Boyd does it by itself!

        Also funny is when I am at my moms place and I drop something, Boyd or one of the older dogs pick it up for me, haha!

        Yes guide dogs are incredible.

        Best wishes, Mentje

    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      Hello Mentje. Being very young at the time of my loss of vision, I don’t remember much about it, although I’m told by my mum that I got very frustrated at times. Trigger can often turn left or right without a command (but only on familiar routes when he knows, or thinks he knows where he is going). However he also responds to both voice and hand commands. That is an extremely useful skill for a dog to have, the ability to pick up objects from the floor. Trigger was trained purely as a guide dog (rather than a more general assistance dog), so does not have this skill/ability. On Friday I dropped the top off a bottle of milk and was unable to locate until a sighted friend visited on Saturday so, in the meantime I covered the bottle with paper towel in the fridge! Had Trigger been trained in the same manner as your mum’s dog, he would have been able to locate it for me! Its great that your mum is able to recognise people by the sound of their footfall. I’m not so good at doing this. For example I’ve sometimes thought that a lady was approaching (as the sound seemed to be that of stilettos) when in fact it was a man! All the best, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Mentje's Voice

        Hello Kevin,

        Hahaha, I can imagine that is quite the confusion. Thinking a sexy lady on stilettos is approaching you and it turns out to be a man!

        Those hand commands Trigger responds to, that is very interesting! I never new that it existed. Is this a relatively new thing among guide and assistance dogs? What kind of commands are this? I think my mother will be very interested in this! I will google on ‘hand command guide dogs’ and see what I can find. But it is nice to hear from experience. Question: How old are you guide dogs when they start working for you and when do they retire? My mom’s guide dogs come with here when they are about 2 and they retire when they are about 9. This might seem early but the dogs have to run with her next to her electric wheelchair that goes as fast as a bicycle. So they work really hard.
        My mother’s guide dogs are covered by insurance. Luckily, because guid dogs in Holland are really expensive, what’s it like in the UK?

        Best wishes, Mentje

      2. Mentje's Voice

        p.s. Our conversation inspired me to write a poem about my mother. It’s a sonnet, maybe you want to have a look? Not trying to advertise my blog! Just thought maybe you will find it interesting!

    3. K Morris Poet Post author

      Hello Mentje,

      The commands I am talking about include indicating with the hand straight out in front that you wish the guide dog to go forward (for example when crossing a road), but this is reinforced by the guide dog owner actually saying the word “forward”. Likewise the guide dog owner can indicate with his hand that he wishes his four-legged friend to go left or right but, again this is usually reinforced with the words “left” or “right”.

      In the UK (as in your country) guide dogs usually come to their owners when they are around 2 years of age. Also, as in the Netherlands they are covered by insurance.

      Here the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is a charity and gets no money from government, its all down to voluntary donations from individuals, organisations etc.

      I was interested to read that you have written a sonnet about your mum and would like to check it out. However, on clicking on the link to your blog I receive the following message generated by WordPress:
      “pinkatheartpoetry.wordpress.com is no longer available.
      The authors have deleted this site”.
      Have you published the sonnet on another blog?

      Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Mentje's Voice

        Hi Kevin,

        Wow, that is amazing! Tonight I will walk the dogs with my mum (she has two now, Boyd, and the retired Freek), I will ask her if she is also familiar with hand commands.

        Here in Holland you can also donate to Guide dog organizations, but I believe these organization are also financed, sponsored or supported by our government. However, I am not sure of this. I will ask my mother about it tonight.

        It is however amazing that in the UK so many people support these guide dog organizations. At least enough for some blindsided people to get a guide dog.

        And you are right. The poem is written on another blog. I have deleted pinkatheartpoetry and made a new blog. I wanted to start over.

        The link to my new blog is https://mentjesvoice.home.blog

        Thanks for having a look! Really appreciated!

        Best wishes, Mentje.

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        Hi Mentje,

        I will be interested to hear what your mother has to say about the use of hand commands and the financing of guide dogs.

        I look forward to checking out your new blog and will do so now.

        When you comment its your old blog which is shown as a link for people to click on. Its just a suggestion, but you may wish to link to your new profile/Gravatar so that bloggers are taken to your current website.

        Best wishes, Kevin

      3. Mentje's Voice

        Hi kevin,

        Guide dog organisations are financed with funds my mother told me. I forgot to ask about the hand commands. Will be doing that today!

        Thanks for having a look on my blog. I fixed the issue btw. Thanks for pointing it out.

        Have a great evening!

        Best wishes, Mentje

      4. K Morris Poet Post author

        Hi Mentje,

        You are welcome as regards me pointing out the blog issue, and I’m pleased that you have resolved it. I hope you get plenty of views for your website, which I enjoyed visiting. I shall be interested to learn what your mother has to say about the hand commands when you have an opportunity to ask her about it.

        Best wishes, Kevin

      5. Mentje's Voice

        Hallo Kevin,

        Yesterday was a rough day for me and my mum. She will have a major surgery next week. We spoke but not about Boyd or hand commands, we were pre occupied. Sorry, no information that I can share yet.

        Best wishes,
        Mentje

      6. K Morris Poet Post author

        Hi Mentje,

        I am really sorry that you and your mum are going through a rough time. I hope that the operation next week goes well (which I’m sure it will).

        Take care, Kevin

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