Hello and welcome back once again.

When it comes to getting around with limited or no eye sight, one of the most important things is concentration. Since we can’t see what’s around us we have to use other senses and techniques to determine where we are and what’s going on around us.

I have on many occasions mentioned just how mentally taxing I feel using a cane can be. In my case, and this may not be felt by all cane users, I felt that my concentration was focused very tightly on the cane itself, in terms of the sweeping ark which is required to use a cane. I would be focused on making sure that the sweep wasn’t too narrow or too wide, then focusing on the feedback that I was receiving from the cane and working out what needed to be done based on that feedback. This feedback could mean a slight alteration in my orientation, walking direction, or having to free the cane as it had become stuck in some paving. With my concentration so focused it felt like what was going on in the world around me took a back seat to an extent. Naturally, I was listening out for the sounds of people, especially small children, who may come into my path, as the last thing I wanted to do was to accidentally send some unsuspecting toddler flying after catching their feet with the cane. So there was never any real opportunity to “smell the roses” as it were, to really appreciate the little unimportant things that can be so easily taken for granted.

Of course, as readers who have been following our adventures from the beginning will know, all of that changed when I started training with Commando. One of my most vivid and cherished memories of my early training was walking along a street and suddenly realising that I was aware of the singing birds, the smell of the flowers, and the nice warm weather. All without having to actually stop moving, or even slow down.

Now this is not to say that working with a guide dog does not require concentration. It certainly does, but as with everything, there are different types of concentration and different levels.

Commando and I can move around at a nice comfortable speed and I can appreciate the world around me. But a part of my mind is always tuned into Commando, how quickly he’s walking, whether or not he’s showing signs of distraction, if he is then what could the distraction be and how do I best deal with that. All the while I’m also keeping track of where we are, when we can expect to make the next turn, or if we come up against something unexpected like an improperly parked car, what measures we need to take, can Commando get us past or do we have to do an off curb obstacle manoeuvre. In such cases, concentration naturally switches immediately to the road, the traffic levels, and perhaps a side thought about how inconsiderate it is of someone to put us in the position where such action has to be taken.

Now, all of these factors and the levels of concentration that come with them very quickly became second nature to me. So much so that I never really gave them that much thought. But recently it occurred to me that on a few occasions this level of concentration meant that I was a little slow to realize that someone may have said hello to us in passing! This was especially true if Commando and I had just done something like an off curb obstacle, or on bin days, where higher levels of concentration are required. As a result my “hello” back was a little slow and on one or two occasions just didn’t come at all, not because I was making any conscious effort to ignore that person but because by the time I realized they’d said hello to us, the combined walking speed of that person, and Commando and I meant that a significant distance had opened up between us, even if only a few seconds had past, and in such cases I didn’t really want to turn around and have to literally shout “HELLO” back to the person who would now be several meters away.

Naturally, there are certain weather conditions, high winds or ice for instance, that require far more concentration and so the likelihood of such accidental ignoring may increase. But, to anyone who has said hello to a guide dog owner and hasn’t received an instant, or any, reply, it is far more likely due to the fact that the guide dog owner was very focused on what they and their dog were doing, rather than an intentional snub.


Zoe, 9:41pm Tue 24 Mar 2015:

I regularly say i need a tshirt that reads 'If you say hi and i don't answer, i'm not ignoring you. I didn't see you or know you were talking to me.', or words to that effect. That is the same with no cane, symbol or long cane.

Emma-rose, 8:05pm Sun 8 Feb 2015:

I couldnt have put this across any better.....having exoerienced life with no additional challenges and now heing visually impaired and currently using a white cane.....I appreciate the difference abd the added effort using a cane brings....I have a five year old and two year old and the concentration it takes to do the school run with both children leaves me exhausted and mentally trained snd often grumpy because it is immensely stressful. ....thank you for expksining this so eloquently. ..I'll be shoeing it to my friends and family xxx

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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.

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