Tag Archives: guide dogs

Training with My New Guide Dog Apollo

On 4 November, I wrote about the impending arrival of my new guide dog Apollo, https://kmorrispoet.com/2021/11/04/my-new-guide-dog/.

Apollo and me posing for a family photo

Apollo arrived on Monday 8 November, and I have been bonding and training with him since then. Thus far we have walked to my local Sainsburys supermarket, which is located some 10-15 minutes from my home. Initially the walk took place with Apollo on the lead with me using a white cane whilst accompanied by the trainer from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Later walks occurred with Apollo in his distinctive guide dog harness with me accompanied by the trainer. Under UK law (the Equalities Act) guide dogs are allowed entrance into supermarkets and other venues where pet dogs are prohibited. This means that visually impaired guide dog owners can enter such places in the course of their daily lives.

I love Apollo’s soft ears

To reinforce the work of Apollo and other guide dogs, food is used as a reward for stopping at kerbs, finding pelican crossings Etc. The daily intake of food is adjusted to take account of food given as a reward thereby preventing the working guide dog from becoming overweight.

Apollo in his bed after a hard day training me.

My thanks to my friend Brian for taking the photographs above.

Dogs in Literature

A fascinating post on the blog Interesting Literature about the symbolism of dogs in literature, https://interestingliterature.com/2021/03/dogs-symbolism-in-literature-and-myth-meaning-analysis/.

I have myself composed a number of poems about my former (and still very much missed) guide dog Trigger, including this one entitled “To a Departed Dog”:

“Sometimes I see
You in front of me,
Or imagine you at
My side. I
Go to pat
You under the table,
Where you so often sat.
I am not able.
You are not coming back.”

(“To a Departed Dog” appears in “The Further Selected Poems of K Morris”, which can be found here, https://www.amazon.com/Further-Selected-Poems-Morris-ebook/dp/B08XPMGD3F).

Photograph

I was deeply moved when, on entering my local pub yesterday (Saturday 17th October), I found that the pub had, on prominent display a photograph of my former guide dog Trigger.

Distance shot of Trigger’s photo

Distance shot of Trigger’s photo

I have long since lost count of the number of occasions on which Trigger and I would visit the pub. Whilst I enjoyed chatting to friends over a pint (or more)! of beer Trigger would enjoy being stroked, or vacuuming up the crisps or nuts which he so adeptly managed to find on the carpet! He was a typical lab/retriever (but possessed of his own unique lovable personality), and is still sadly missed by me, and so many other people who knew him.

The below poem, “Early Morning Walk”, was written shortly after having walked Trigger in woods close to my home. Dogs live in the moment. They do not become obsessed with useless thought as do we humans, and we have so much to learn from them.

My dog snuffles
and scuffles
amongst the leaves.
He is just there
With no care
For what I think
As I drink
In the fresh morning air.

Should you happen to be in the Crystal Palace/Gipsy Hill area, and fancy a pint in convivial surroundings, you can find the Railway Bell (and Trigger’s photograph) here, https://www.rampubcompany.co.uk/visit-pubs/railway-bell.

The Railway Pub

My thanks to my friend Jeff for taking the photograph, and my friend Henry for printing it.

Close-up of Trigger’s photo

Close-up of Trigger’s photo

My thanks also to Danielle of The Railway Bell for her kindness in having the photograph framed and arranging for it to be displayed in the pub.

K Morris reading his poem ‘Dog Bed’.

On 2nd September I wrote about the sad death of my guide dog Trigger, which can be found here: https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/09/02/trigger/

I have now recorded my poem ‘Dog Bed’, which was written in memory of Trigger.

DOG BED

The mark
Of your teeth is still there,
On your old dog bed.
I walk in the park,
Where
The dead
Leaves lie.

Shadows on the grass
Mistook for an old friend.
All things pass,
However much we pretend
Otherwise. You closed your eyes,
And left your mark
Upon my heart.

Below are some photographs:

If you would like to donate to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, who receive no government funding you can do so here: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/donate-now

Many thanks in advance to anyone who kindly donates.

To A Departed Dog (Dedicated To Trigger)

Sometimes I see
You in front of me,
Or imagine you at
My side. I
Go to pat
You under the table,
Where you so often sat.
I am not able.
You are not coming back.

Dog Bed (revised poem)

On 3 September, I posted my poem “Dog Bed”, https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/09/03/dog-bed/.

The poem as originally posted consists of 3 stanzas. However, I now feel that the second verse is unnecessary. Consequently I have revised the poem, which now consists of 2 stanzas. The revised poem can be found below:

The mark
Of your teeth is still there,
On your old dog bed.
I walk in the park,
Where
The dead
Leaves lie.

Shadows on the grass
Mistook for an old friend.
All things pass,
However much we pretend
Otherwise. You closed your eyes,
And left your mark
Upon my heart.

Dog Bed

The mark
Of your teeth is still there,
On your old dog bed.
I walk in the park,
Where
The dead
Leaves lie.

I
Hear the breeze
And pause by
Trees
You sniffed
‘Ere you where
Cold, and stiff.

Shadows on the grass
Mistook for an old friend.
All things pass,
However much we pretend
Otherwise. You closed your eyes,
And left your mark
Upon my heart

https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/09/02/trigger/

Trigger

A close up of Trigger!

I have lost my dear old friend Trigger. My guide dog who brought so much joy into my life (and that of others), and who served me faithfully as my guide from 4 July 2011.

Trigger relaxing on the ground

Trigger became very unwell on the evening of Saturday 29 July. My mum, sister and I rushed him to the vets. Although Trigger received excellent treatment his condition deteriated. There was no chance of recovery and to avoid unnecessary suffering I took the heart breaking decision to have my dear old friend euthanised yesterday (Tuesday 1 September).

My mum and I spent some 20 minutes or so with Trigger prior to him being sent into that sleep from which none of us return. He circled us with a pilow case in his mouth, his tail wagging and died, peacefully with that same case in his mouth.

I have so often seen Trigger greet me and family and friends with his blanket or some other object in his mouth, his tail waving wildly.

He has left a huge hole in my life. But he died as he lived, happy with a pillow case clamped in his jaws, surrounded by people he loved, and people who loved him.

Trigger in his bed

The below poem, “The Power of The Dog”, by Rudyard Kipling sums up how I feel and, doubtless how countless other dog owners feel (and have felt) on losing a faithful friend:

“There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?”.

(The above poem is in the public domain).

Below are some photographs of Trigger taken several weeks ago, by my friend Jeff, in a park close to my home.

Trigger relaxing on the ground

 

My friend Trigger and me at the Park

Me petting Trigger

 

Me talking about Trigger

Me remembering Trigger

How to Assist a Blind Person During Social Distancing

I received this message from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA), the charity which trains guide dogs in the UK, and thought it would be of value to my readers as it offers useful tips on how to assist a visually impaired person during this time of social distancing:

“Did you know that only one fifth of the public ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with sight loss while social distancing is in place?*

“Today Guide Dogs has launched a new campaign called ‘Be There’ to give the public ways of supporting people with sight loss during social distancing.

“Social distancing is the most challenging aspect for me in the whole Covid-19 situation… it would really help if people have an awareness of how they can play their part.” Jonathan, guide dog owner

Jon is not alone in this, we’ve heard similar stories many times over the past few months. That’s why we’ve come up with 3 simple tips for the wider public to help them support people with sight loss:

1. Keep your distance, but don’t disappear – People with sight loss may find it challenging to social distance, so if you see someone with a Guide Dog or a long cane then you can help them by making sure you keep 2m away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also offer your help.

2. Say hello and offer your help – Simply by letting someone with sight loss know you are nearby; you are giving them the opportunity to ask for any help if they need it. People often feel unsure about their ability to help someone with sight loss, but their request could be a simple as finding out where a shopping queue starts, or if there is a safer place to cross a road.

3. Describe the scene – We’ve all had to adapt to unusual sights during lockdown – people standing apart in long lines outside of supermarkets for example. But those with sight loss haven’t always witnessed this to the same extent, which can be isolating and confusing. By describing what you can see to someone with sight loss, you can help them to understand the environment and navigate accordingly”.

As a visually impaired person and a guide dog owner, I have, I think been lucky as I’ve continued to find the public helpful during the current COVID-19 situation. Just last evening I was walking home after having spent a couple of hours with a friend in Crystal Palace park, when I became aware that the pavement was blocked by workmen carrying out pavement works. Without me asking, one of the workmen offered me his arm and guided me passed the obstruction. Again, a few weeks back, a gentleman helped me navigate fallen branches in my local woodland by allowing me to take his arm.

(You can find out more about the work of Guide Dogs here, https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/).