Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

Hello and welcome back.

Well folks, Guide Dogs Week is over for another year.

But with luck, word of the work of Guide Dogs has been spread far and wide. Vital funds have been raised, and some additional, equally vital volunteers have joined our cause, thus creating a lasting legacy from the week.

Craig and Commando With Waterproof ProtectionDuring Guide Dogs Week, Commando and I were lucky enough to have some speaking engagements back at Sunderland College. I always relish the opportunity to give talks about Guide Dogs, as not only does it give me a chance to give something back to the charity, but it also serves to remind me, as I tell my story, just how fortunate I am to have Commando in my life.

This year the theme for Guide Dogs Week was once again centred on nice bright colours, in particular yellow. As part of that, some very nice bright yellow waterproof coats had been made for Guide Dogs staff and volunteers to wear, in order to fly the flag as it were. The coats also had contact details on the back for anyone who, attracted by the coats, was curious about volunteering with Guide Dogs. Since I was at the Newcastle office on the first Saturday of Guide Dogs Week I had been asked if I’d like one of the coats.

Always keen to do anything I can to bring Guide Dogs to the public’s attention, I agreed to take one of the coats, and pledged to wear it everywhere I went for the duration of Guide Dogs Week, and perhaps beyond.

So Monday of Guide Dogs Week rolled around, and it was a 9am talk at one of the College campuses for Commando and I. So we arrived, yellow coat and all, at the College. I proceeded with my talk, telling a classroom of students all about Guide Dogs, and the work of the organisation and the difference Commando makes to my life each and every day.  Naturally I also mentioned my coat and the theme of this year’s Guide Dogs Week, and how valuable volunteers are to us. The talk seemed to go well, and at the end a couple of the students had said they were thinking about volunteering.

I left the College and headed for University, still a glowing Yellow beacon on an otherwise cloudy day. I spent the rest of the day feeling rather pleased about my choice of waterproof coat, as it had been raining pretty much all day, and thanks to my coat I was nice and dry.

Over the course of the next few days, wherever Commando and I went, the coat came too. Including the talk I gave back at my old College campus on the Thursday of Guide Dogs Week. Once again, I think a few of the students were considering volunteering by the end, as well as looking into some fund raising activities for Guide Dogs over the coming year.

Even after Guide Dogs Week had come to an end, and I had returned to a slightly lower-profile kind of jacket, I still kept the waterproof coat nearby as I knew that I would be requiring it at least one more time.

I still had one more talk to give. This one was at our local Brownies group. It had been arranged a few weeks earlier and, as luck would have it, it fell close to Guide Dogs Week. Since the Brownies were doing their disability awareness badge, I decided that I would try to cover life with sight loss in as much detail as I could, along with information about Commando, what he does and how he does it.

So the day of the talk came around, and the first order of business was to give Commando an early tea so that he would be ok to be out and about, and of course so that he wouldn’t be hungry whilst I was giving my talk. Once Commando had been fed I started to pick up everything I would need for the talk. This included my laptop to demonstrate the screen reader I use on a daily basis, a few other bits and pieces of technology, and of course some Guide Dogs bookmarks and stickers for the Brownies. As well as, you guessed it, the yellow coat.

As Guide Dogs speakers we are encouraged to tailor our talks to best suit our audiences. With young people and adults I cover a wide range of topics, around my own story, Guide Dogs as a charity, how the guide dogs are trained, and so on. But for this younger audience I had decided to focus primarily on Commando. I decided to start the talk, however, with the recording I made last year, for the post entitled walk with me, in order to try and give the Brownies a taste of what it’s like to work with a guide dog. Then it was on to Commando; how he was trained and named, how he does his job, how much he loves doing it, and what he gets up to in his own time. At the end of this segment of the talk it was time for some questions. Often, it can be difficult to get college-aged audiences to engage and ask their questions, but this was certainly not the case with the Brownies. They were brimming with queries, not only about Commando but also about a number of different aspects of life with sight loss.

I then gave a quick demonstration of some of the technology I had brought along with me, as well as telling them a little about Braille and letting them see a Braille alphabet.

Then the last few minutes were dedicated to letting Commando have some meet-and-greet time with his new bunch of adoring fans.

This was my first talk to a group like the Brownies, and I was very pleased that it seemed to go so well. In addition, I was very surprised and grateful when I was given a donation for Guide Dogs at the end of the evening. The speaker service is provided free-of-charge, with no obligation to make a donation. But I was certainly very happy to receive it and pass it along to the Newcastle team.

I hope that you have all enjoyed my Guide Dogs Week mini-series. Wherever you were and however you were involved in Guide Dogs Week, I hope you enjoyed the experience. If reading these posts has made you wish that you had been involved in Guide Dogs Week, then don’t worry, because whether or not it’s Guide Dogs Week, anyone wishing to volunteer their time to help is more than welcome. All you need to do is to contact your local mobility team which can be found by searching for your area on the Local to You section of the Guide Dogs website.

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Craig And Commando

Craig is in his early thirties and he is completely blind. His blog details the day-to-day adventures he experiences with his first guide dog, Commando.

Read Craig and Commando's most recent adventures.