Equality and Diversity road show

Greetings dear readers.

Craig and CommandoI do hope that you’re all well.
As regular readers may recall, Commando and I undertook a number of events to spread awareness of Guide Dogs during our time at Sunderland College. As a result of this we were quite well known to a number of people within that organisation.

Recently I was contacted directly by a representative of the College asking if Commando and I would be willing to attend the College’s annual Equality and Diversity Road-show.  This is an event which takes place, typically in December, traveling across all of the College’s campuses. By their own admission the College’s invitation did arrive with fairly short notice, but since I have not yet found employment I did have the time. The e-mail stated how that it was well known how much both staff and students had enjoyed previous activities undertaken by Commando and myself, which is always nice to hear. So I decided that we would accept the College’s invitation and attend the Road-show.

Unfortunately the short notice did mean that we were unable to attend the first day of the event as Commando had an appointment with the Vet for his annual check-up and booster. But we were both ready and raring to go to the Washington Campus for the second day of the event.

Upon our arrival we were met by a member of staff who escorted us to the room where the event was taking place, and kept us company throughout.  We, along with various other organisations had our own table, with us being positioned to avoid any chances of Commando being accidentally stood on, but in a place where he could be easily seen of course. I had brought some Guide Dogs materials with me, including leaflets on puppy sponsorship and of course a large number of Guide Dog stickers.

Once we were all set up it was simply a case of just waiting for people to spot us and, if they wished to, come over and say hello. Naturally we did not have to wait long for that to start to happen. The site of a dog in a place where there as a rule would be no dog was enough to attract attention and before long Commando was soon holding court with a number of students gathered around him, all so very keen to give him a great deal of fuss. Commando, ever the diplomat, was more than happy to soak up stroke after stroke, all in the name of Guide Dogs of course.  

Although most of my involvement with the College had been formally arranged speaking events, the road-show was more of a kind of meat and greet, question and answer session. I would ask Commando’s army of admiring students if they had any questions about Guide Dogs or guide dog ownership, answering as best as I could to every question, but often finding myself giving the same answers to the same questions many times during each day. With the most popular question by far being “how long does it take to train a guide dog?”  Along with “How old is Commando, and how long have the two of you been together?”

At one point, during our first day, two of my former College lecturers dropped by to say hello!  Commando spotted them first and immediately moved forward to say hello.  Naturally his enthusiastic greeting was returned in kind.  One of my lecturers pointed out that I should have brought a collection box with me. This sparked an idea. I knew that I had a spare collection box at home, and I had been toying with the idea of giving it some festive decoration, but only to make a nice photograph. But my lecturers suggestion had sparked an idea. So the box was festooned with tinsel, bows, bells and such and accompanied Commando and I to the remaining two days of the event.

Day 2, at the St Peters Campus, very close to the University, was a little quieter. But Commando still managed to bring in a crowd.  Once again people had questions, were keen to fuss Commando and take stickers as souvenirs. I am also pleased to say that they were also keen to put any loose change they had into our festive Guide Dogs collection box. I also spoke to a few people who expressed an interest in the various volunteering opportunities that Guide dogs has to offer.

CommandoThe third and final day of the event saw Commando and I return to our old stomping grounds of Bede Campus. Once again we were positioned in the room where the event was taking place with Commando safely but visibly positioned. Again it did not take long for students to notice him and come over to say hello. In fact, on this day, we had a few repeat customers as it were with the same people coming back to say hello to Commando. People continued to place money into the collection box, take leaflets and stickers, and of course ask questions while fussing over Commando. This time we actually had a few tutor groups who were brought down to the room by tutors, so as a result I gave a micro-talk about Guide Dogs, what the organisation does, how it does it and the difference it makes. It was quite a challenge to make myself heard over the noise in the room. But I offered everyone the chance to come up and ask any individual questions they had at the end of the talk, just in case they hadn’t heard me or had a question on an area I hadn’t covered.

Although I’ve given a number of talks, interacted with many people, and told my story in a number of ways including through this blog. At the Bede event I encountered a situation I’ve never come across before.  After one of my micro-talks, a young lady had come to see Commando and I, as her group was dispersing to investigate the other organisations present. I was told that she had a question but had not wanted to ask it with the entire group present.  Her question was about how my eye sight had deteriorated over the years leading to my current situation of total blindness. Since this was a story I had told many times before I was happy to do so again, explaining how up until age 18 I had limited but manageable sight, how it suddenly began to deteriorate and how over the ensuing years it continued to do so spontaneously and ultimately irreversibly leading to the inevitable conclusion. I then explained how this had meant that I had been able to, all be it slowly, rebuild my life and how Commando had played his own vital part in helping me to become the person I am today. Once I had finished, the poor young lady appeared to be on the verge of bursting into tears, and insisted adamantly on giving me a hug!!!  I again explained to her that although the story wasn’t all that great it did have a happy ending, but she was quite insistent on the hug…

It occurred to me that the nature of what we were doing was a lot like our classic fund raising endeavours undertaken during Guide Dogs Week at Newcastle. We were positioned where people could see us, waiting for them to come over to say hello if they wished, to answer any questions they had, and if they wished to put money into the box, to thank them most sincerely for their contribution. Without applying any kind of pressure to either attract attention or donations.

It seems that there’s just something about a guide dog partnership that attracts people. As a guide dog owner I was in an excellent position to be able to answer just about all of the questions that were asked, and to be able to say, with pride and sincerity just how much Commando has changed my life and how much he means to me.

I would like to close by thanking the College for inviting Commando and I to take part in their Road-show. The staff member who kept Commando and I company every day we were there, as well as keeping me in coffee and Commando in water. As well as every student and staff member who came to see us, who took a leaflet and or a sticker. I truly hope that you enjoyed your encounters with Commando and I.


Ted, 8:51pm Wed 6 Jan 2016:

Love the blog. Happy New Year to you, Commando and your family

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