All journeys great and small

Hello again dear readers.

The ability to be able to get around independently with the help of a guide dog is truly a remarkable thing.  It enables those of us who are lucky enough to be guide dog owners to embark upon many different journeys.  Be they literal journeys or figurative, such as my own journey through higher education, made possible through having Commando at my side.

These journeys can be fairly short trips to nearby friends or family.  Or they can be longer trips to previously unexplored areas such as our recently documented trip to Birmingham or our trip earlier in the year to a Puppy Room at Newcastle University.

But however long or short the journey, one thing is certain.  Our confidence in ourselves is increased because we have confidence in our dogs.  As I have said on numerous occasions, having Commando by my side means that I can focus on other things around me.  Sometimes that can serve to make a journey more enjoyable, or it can actually prove a useful aid to navigation.

As a volunteer with Guide Dogs I often find myself at the Newcastle Mobility Teams office.  Although the layout of the office is not all that complicated, I hadn’t really taken down all of the mental notes that I needed in order to get around the place all that well on my own.  Those of you who read Commando’s very own Guide Dogs Week post will recall that dogs, and especially guide dogs, are among his favourite things.  As such he always gets quite excitable whenever we’re at the Newcastle office as he knows that there are often other guide dogs there.  As a result I often expend a lot of time and energy keeping him calm and steady when we first arrive and typically follow a member of the team to where we need to be.  As a result, although I had a rough idea of the layout I was not completely sure of it.  That is until recently.

Again regular readers will recall that as part of Guide Dogs Week 2015 there was once again a major event at the office, and Commando and I were in attendance.  Once we got around to lunch time my colleagues and I, who were occupying a specific section of the office, decided that in order to ensure that there was always someone around to greet visitors, we would stagger our lunch times.  A result of this was that Commando and I had to find our way from one end of the office to the other.  Now as I said, the layout of the office is not that complicated, and I already had some idea of where I needed to be.  So, with harness handle in hand, and Commando ever ready to do his job we set out on the quest for cake.  Not usually what we’d have for lunch, but I knew first hand that there were plenty of cakes in the building, so cake it was to be…

Once we started moving away from our desk I gestured and instructed Commando to find the door which I knew was somewhere on our right.  Commando duly obliged and I then directed him to proceed straight ahead in order to get us into the primary corridor of the office, which we had to proceed down to get to the cakes.  Since I knew that Commando was going to cover the basics I allowed myself to take in information using other senses.  The sheer volume of people in the office meant that what would normally have been a fairly swift passage along the corridor actually took a good few minutes, with Commando carefully threading his way through people and even one or two other guide dogs (which he actually ignored!) in order to get us to our destination.  There were other side doors on the route which Commando did indicate, but was happy to pass by on hearing from me that we didn’t need them today.

We eventually made it to the cake stall, which I discerned by being able to listen to what was going on around me and subsequently hearing people buying cakes.  I got a piece of cake and some coffee, and was guided to a place to sit by a member of staff.  I then had a nice conversation with a couple of Puppy Walkers whilst enjoying some cake.

Once lunch was done with it was time for the slightly more complicated part of the journey, to get us back to where we had started.  I asked Commando to find the door, and he once again carefully moved through the room to one of the two doors which would take us back into the main corridor.  We then, once again, carefully picked our way through the corridor towards our destination.  As we were moving, I was once again able to use another sense, certain that Commando knew what he was doing.  I had a fairly good idea that the door we needed to get us back to where we needed to be was just after we would pass the main entry to the office.  As we were moving along I felt a breeze from the open doors at said entry way and knew that we were almost where we needed to be.  So I again asked Commando to find the door, gesturing ahead with my hand so he knew which door I was indicating.  Commando promptly took us through that door and into the room we needed.  At this point, the next challenge was to find the desk we had been sitting at. 

Something that always impresses me dear readers, and I know also impresses other guide dog owners, is how well our dogs can remember things.  Often our dogs can even recall information about somewhere they have been, even if they haven’t been there for quite some time.  In this case of course we had only been gone for around fifteen minutes.  I directed Commando to go left and noticed that he seemed to set his mind on a specific destination in the room.  A few seconds later when I heard one of my colleagues speaking to someone and felt the angle of Commando’s approach I realized that he had brought us back to our exact point of departure!

I must admit that I felt rather proud of us both at that point.  Commando had picked his way through a lot of people and even some dogs, and had taken it all in stride, helping me to get exactly where I wanted to go, and back again.  Without doubt this was perhaps our shortest journey to date, but it was an important one none the less, and one like so many others made all the smoother, safer and faster for having Commando at my side.

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