That First Meeting

A yellow lab retriever stands beside me. She is called Ushi.

It was exactly 10 years ago when i first met Ushi. Little did i know, i would be matched to her and she would open up so many doors to me.

I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I was asked if i would like to meet a dog before traveling up to Belfast for a meeting. It was stressed that this was not a matching visit, but it was just a walk as i had been waiting on the list for a while and did i fancy it. Of course i said “yes”. I met up with the instructors, and they had a beautiful dog called Ushi with them. I remember how strange it felt following the harness and how i could feel every wiggle. It was a brilliant walk, but i didn’t think any more about it.

A few days later, i got a call to ask if Ushi could be braught out again, so that i could try a different harness on her which might make it feel more smooth and less wiggly. Again, i didn’t really think much of it but i enjoyed another walk.

I got a final call saying that they thought that Ushi was a match and would i like to go for a matching walk. On this walk, Ushi walked at my speed, whereas the first couple of walks were slightly fast. I started training with her on the 30th August and never looked back.

i had no idea just how much we would do and see in the seven and a half years that followed. from not believing that i could leave my home town, to traveling to London, Dublin and Scotland as well as attending many meetings and events up in Belfast.

Ushi was a cracker of a dog, even though at times it felt like i was fighting an uphill battle with a dog that didn’t want to work. If Ushi didn’t want to do something, she just wouldn’t, and that was as simple as that. I knew that deep down inside her though was a dog who really did want to work. When she did work, she worked brilliantly. She just knew her own mind.

Ushi was very much a one person dog, so i knew that i could not keep her when she retired. Her nose got put out of joint easily and she would have sulked as far away from me if i petted another dog. I knew she would have to go to a very special home. Thankfully, her lovely puppywalker agreed to have her back in retirement. This couldn’t have worked out better as she knew Ushi’s quirks, and Ushi was happy seeing her.

I wondered at many points if i should get another dog, but i decided that i liked how fluid things were with a dog, so of course i applied again for Ushi’s successor. Idon’t like the word “replacement” as one dog should never replace another.


a yellow lab retriever sits beside me. She is called Vivvy.

I was incredibly lucky to get a call in October 2018 to say that guide dogs thought they had a match for me and would i like to meet her. Unfortunately, the dog they thought would be a match was too fast, but they did say they had another little girl in the car and would i like to have a walk with her. They told me that she most likely would not be a match, as she was very lively compared to Ushi and needed a lot of reassurance when working. When she was braught out of the car, she jumped straight in to my arms. You couldn’t get much livlier than that. When the harness was put on though, she slipped straight in to working mode. Her speed and tention were lovely. We agreed that we would try her in an area she knew to see what she was like, so the next week, i went up to Holywood to try her in her own area. again, her speed and tention were beautiful. She didn’t jump in to my arms this time thankfully, but wagged and wiggled beside me. I had one more walk with her, before we decided that she was a match.

Vivvy is totally different to Ushi in all aspects. She just loves life and oozes happiness. When i first trained with her, every time i said her name, i dreaded what she was up to, but now, i just feel love for her. I know what she can and can’t have toy wise, as she can be a bit of a mennice with soft toys in particular. She can still be lively when she plays, but she knows when to stop now, whereas when i first got her, she’d play all day if she could. She does need a bit of reassurance when she’s working at times, but the trick is not to worry her, and just let her know that the lorry isn’t going to get her, for example. Her route memory is amazing, and she doesn’t like getting things wrong. I don’t have to fight to get her to work, she just is so eager to please.

It was hard initially not being able to do all the things, and wait a little while and building up things gradually for her. It’s like she has just slotted in where Ushi left off.

I always said i would go over and see Ushi again after six months, but with getting Vivvy, it was this day last year when i got to see Ushi again. While Ushi did remember me, and did slide in to my left side, it was clear she knew who her people were now and was really happy. She had another dog for company and the two of them got on brilliantly. Vivvy and Ushi had a great time running after each other which was brilliant to see. Sadly, Ushi passed away in October, so i am so glad i saw her when i did and that i saw her when she was well.

I don’t know what the next 10 years will hold, but i have no doubt they will be just as enjoyable as the first 10 with a guide dog.


Small Delights

I’m still dipping in and out of the virtual creative writing classes, and this weeks’ task is on “small delights”.

Small delights

The constant pat, pat rythm of gentle paws beside me. Her speed is steady, but comfortable. She stops at a bench. This is where we sometimes sit when I offer her a drink. “Not today”, I say, but she still stands still. Two ladies speak, explaining why she has stopped. Off we go again.

The air is humid with the threat of rain. I hope the rain doesn’t come until I am home. It will not dampen my spirrets. A car idles in an entry to a drive way. We pass with no problem.

We come to a kerb. The place where we do yoga is up the path to our left. We haven’t been there in months, but she still remembers where it is. There are virtual classes i can attend, but like everything else, being there physically is much better. Still, onward we plod.

A hedge brushes me as we pass it. Thankfully it is soft and friendly, but still startles me. A lady asks if I am okay. We have a little chat before heading on on our journey.

We pass a bus stop, not far to go now. It seems to get warmer as we are surrounded by hedges on one side and a grass verge on the other. I hear roadworks. The path is still being widened. The new crossing has not been put in yet. I must cross the road carefully until it has been put in.

Eventually, we arrive at the vets. Nothing to worry about, just a check up. The last time we were here, we collected tablets from the window above my head. The main door is open today. We get confused in the carpark, but a voice from opposite to where i am standing gets us back on track. Straight in we go and sit in our usual spot. We are the only ones in apart from the receptionist.

The surgery door opens and in we go. The vet wears a visor, but reassures her nicely. We chat for a while, she has a clean bill of health. She gets weighed and off we go again. The vet crosses me over the road, helpful as always.

Our usual way is blocked. Back to the road works again. I wonder when it will be finished. I stop to get my bearings. A couple approach. We chat as we walk. My heart soars when we get back on track. The man walks ahead of us, while the lady and I chat. We reach a point where we part, but we smile at each other and i thank her before we go.

We keep walking, now back to where we started. She does not show me the bench this time, but straight to the crossing. On we go, with no interuptions.

We keep going until we are back on our street. Past the Akeeta dog, safely tucked away behind a secure gate. I know it can’t get out. Cars always park on the right, but we stay left, and take a path which avoids the cars. We turn left. We pass any bins that haven’t yet been braught in. Today is bin day. We pass cars but we have plenty of space to get around them. I ask her to “find home”. She knows exactly where “home” is. I give her a treat and put my key in the lock. another positive journey completed. So many small things that make me smile.


Time Never Stops

The topic this week for the creative writing class i’ve been dipping in and out of is time and our interpritations of it.

<H1>musings on time<H1>

Time can be a funny thing. Sometimes it can be fast or slow, but it never seems to stop. I suppose in a way, it makes the world go round. Time can move at different speeds, even for the person sitting next to you. Even as you sleep, time just keeps on going.

Time can be measured on a watch or a clock. It can be on your phone or in the clock in your car. It can be on a computer screen, or on a heating system.

Time doesn’t care if you are late for a train, or if you will make that important meeting. The train will go no matter if you’re on it or not, and the meeting will carry on without you. It won’t apologise for you either.

When you are enjoying something, time flies but will drag in if you aren’t looking forward to something or if you are waiting for a parcel or a grocery delivery.

Even with the current situation of lockdown, time keeps on going. It doesn’t know what lockdown is, nor why it exists.

If i wake up in the middle of the night, the first thing i reach for is my phone. I check the time and it settles me down again for sleep. If i don’t have some way of checking the time, i will waken more, and won’t sleep propperly unless i can check the time at least once during the night.

My dog even knows what time it is. She wakens me each morning for her breakfast. I check the time then and know if it is too early or if it is, indeed, breakfast time for her.

When i do parkruns, or walks, i always want to know how fast or slow i completed it in. Two volunteers hold timers, in case the first stop watch fails. After parkrun, it’s time to catch up with friends and the parkrun community over a cup of tea and sometimes a bun. If i have to be somewhere after though, i will be on edge, in case i miss my train to whereever i need to be.

Time really is, well timeless. It has no beginning and hopefully no end.


Reviewing The Smart Beetle 14 cell Braille display From Hims

I recently got given the Smart beetle braille display from

Hims

It is a 14 cell braille display designed for use with mobile devices or a computer.

What’s in the box?

The box contains The Smart beetle itself, a usb cable, a cd with drivers on it for installing on a computer, a cloth pouch and a braille manual. There was no plug, but the usb can fit into a standard charging plug or a computers’ usb port. You can also get a leather case for the beetle, which you have to buy separatly from the main product. I got this display second hand, so the person who originally bought it also bought the leather case.

Device Layout

The device is a small rectangle no bigger than a womens’ purse or a folded blue tooth keyboard. When the machine is facing you, the 14 cell braille display is the first thing you come to. On the left and right of the cells are two tiny buttons for panning back and forth through each line.Just above the cells, are 14 currsor routing buttons, to allow you to place the currsor whereever you need it. Just above the currsor routing buttons are two lights, roughly placed at cells 5 and 10. These are to indicate the battery status and the bluetooth connection.

Above the lights and the currsor buttons, on a slightly raised surface, are from the far left, the f1 and 2 key and the space bar, the f3 and F4 keys.

Above this is the main display. From the far left, is the backspace dots 3, 2, and 1 keys, followed by the dots 4, 5 and 6 keys. To the right of the dot 6 key is the Enter key.

On the right side of the device is the power and menu button. On the back right, the usb port for charging and finally, the reset button is on the back left of the device. The speaker is on the under side of the device.

Pairing to an Idevice

I found pairing the Smart beetle a bit confusing, to be honest. I thought you would pair it up like a standard bluetooth keyboard by going into the bluetooth settings and pairing it that way, but for it to work as a braille display, you have to go in to “general, Voiceover and braille”, and choose “smart beetle” for the display. Once i had that figured out, i was flying. You can use it as a bluetooth keyboard, which means it won’t display anything in braille and just act like a bluetooth keyboard, but i don’t know how to work this feature and it seemed to freeze the beetle. Once the beetle is paired, you can see everything on your iphone or ipad. When you turn on the beetle, it will play a sound to let you know it is turned on. It will also display the words “power on” on its display. The beetle will also play a sound when a device is connected to it. Holding the power button in for three seconds will turn it on or off, but pressing the power button once quickly when it is on, will bring up the beetles internal menu. The menu lists the different ports, such as “serial”, “usb” or “bluetooth keyboard”. There is also an “information” button which contains information about the device, such as battery status and firmware version. There is also a “pairing mode” and a list of devices already paired to the beetle. There is also an “options” menu for changing the language, having the display show you messages in contracted or uncontracted braille, an option for using the beetle in one-handed mode or turning the sounds on or off. The sounds are on by default.

The beetle is very easy to type on once you get the hang of the Voiceover gestures and that. The cells are very quiet when refreshing, but you do hear a slight “ticking” sound as the curssor blinks to itself. There is slight lag when opening apps and unlocking the phone, but it is pretty responsive otherwise. You can pair the beetle up to 5 devices plus a computer via Usb. It is very easy to switch from one device to the other and it will automatically switch to the device you are using if you turn on your ipad, for example, when it is connected to the phone. I think this is pretty cool.

The battery lasts for about a day, depending on how much you use it and how many devices you have paired to it. The battery takes about 4 hours to charge. One thing i did notice when i went to charge it is it doesn’t seem to like the Apple charger as it asked for a propper adaptor. Once i changed plugs though, it worked a treat.

drawbacks

Whilst the beetle is a great little machine, it does have a few drawbacks. As previously mentioned, the device lags a little when unlocking your Idevice or when opening apps. Once you get over that hurdle, it works fine. Having the sounds on seemed to make the beetle lag more but i don’t know if that was just me imagining it.

Sometimes, the beetles’ braille cells will randomly freeze. This seems to happen after a long period of useage or when switching from one device to another and back again. The commands will still work but the display is unresponsive. I found turning the beetle off and on again seems to fix it.

The currsor sometimes seems to lose focus and jumps to a different place on the line. This can be a bit annoying especially when you have typed something long so it’s worth keeping an eye on where the currsor is and where you want it to be.

The “low power” notification when the battery needs charged seems to happen between 30 and 40 percent. It then doesn’t seem to tell you again after this. You can still check the battery status though by going in to the beetles’ menu and the “information” section.

I’ve noticed that one of the cells doesn’t seem to be coming up right which can make it appear as if there are more dots than there should be. This may just be the condition of the beetle and not a drawback as such.

finally, i would use the odd emoji for my messages or for Facebook. Whilst these are not essential, when you type a colon, and a right bracket for a smiling face, this translates as the word “were” as that is what a right bracket is normally as a contraction. However if you change from contracted braille to eight dot braille, you can then type it in and switch back again. When i do this though, every time i press the space bar, it changes between the emoji and the English UK keyboard but does not allow me to type. It is the same if i pick an emoji from the emoji keyboard. Usually, turning off the beetle and turning it back on seems to help but it is a bit annoying to have to do this every time you want to use an emoji.

Conclusion
This is a great little machine, and although you can pair up to 5 devices to it, this reduces the length of use between charges. whilst it is okay for a short time, i would not use it for long emails or meetings as i am finding that it is slightly faster touch typing on a bluetooth keyboard than typing in braille. The beetle does what you need it too though and is great for travelling or if you don’t want to type on the screen.

The Cat In The Alley

I’ve fallen off the writing waggon a bit but here is my post for this week.

The catin the alley

She woke with a start. She saw nothing at first. It was so very dark. Then she heard it. A faint, whine, almost like a cry. She looked around, but nothing was there.

“Mary, it’s just your imagination” she told herself. “That whine was probably just a fox or something”. After all, what else would cry at this time of night. As she drew the curtains, there it was again. A tiny, high pitched cry. This was no fox, she was sure of that. Foxes usually screamed, but this was different. This was deffinetly a cry. She knew she couldn’t settle until she went to investigate what was making the sound. She flung on her shoes and grabbed her phone in case she needed to call for help and headed outside.

Along the side of the house, there was an alleyway. It didn’t really lead anywhere but it was a shortcut down to the river. Well, the rivver was accross a field, but the alleyway saved you walking the longer way round. Mary was all for taking shortcuts. She never had time for taking the long way if there was a quicker way. Some would say she was always in a rush, but she disagreed. In fact, she would get annoyed easily if she had to make a longer journey than neccessary.

As she stepped out of her house, the moon was shining brightly. She had to cover her eyes for a minute-it was so bright. She stood and listened for a minute. The air was beautifully still and calm. It was actually quite peaceful. The peace was soon shattered when she heard that cry again. It seemed to come from the alley beside the house. Her heart began to race as she turned in the direction of the sound.

As she walked slowly down the alley, the crying sound came again. She couldn’t see anything at first, but then she saw it. Two little eyes piered round at her from the darkness.

“What on earth?” She thought, overcoming the urge to go back. There was deffinetly something there, she just had to build up the courage to see what it was. She patted her dressing gown pocket, remembering that her phone was there in case she needed it. She took a deep breath and crept forward.

There, against the wall, was a tiny cat. She looked beautiful. She was black with a little white patch on her chest. She had the most piercing blue eyes. Mary could hear her mothers’ voice ringing in her ears.

“No Mary, we are not getting a cat. What would you want with a filthy animal like that anyway? Don’t you know it’s superstitious to see a black cat?”

Marys’ mother was very superstitious. Plus, she really did not like animals at all. Whilst she would never hurt anything, she believed that animals should never live with people and they should always be outside. Plus, black cats were “evil” she’d often say. Perhaps this was why Mary had always loved animals. When she was a little girl, she’d always dreamt of becoming a vet, or owning her own rescue. She’d always be running up to people asking to pet their dogs, or begging her mum to let her get a pet, even just a goldfish. But her mother would have none of it, and often told her so, much to Marys’ protests.

The cats’ cry snapped her back to the present. The cat was huddled in to a ball. As Mary moved closer, the cat began to hiss slightly. “It’s alright,” she soothed, “i won’t hurt you”. The cat eyed her wearily, but began to relax, just a little. Mary knew from watching programs on the tv, that she had to be quiet and not make any sudden movements, as she didn’t want to frighten the cat. So she kept talking and moving slowly towards it. As she got closer, she noticed two little kittens beside her. They looked as if they were just born. Mary was suddenly overcome with emotion as she’d never seen something so tiny. The kittens looked exactly like the mother cat, only one had a white patch on its’ chest. She couldn’t see their eyes as they were still closed. The mother cat was becoming very protective of her kittens now, and Mary began to back away. She knew she couldn’t just leave them there, but she could at least try and make them comfortable in the alley.She slowly got up from her crouched position and began walking back to the house, all the while, trying to be as quiet as she could. As she opened her door, she did not know what she would give the cat. It was probably hungry, but she had never dealt with a cat, or any animal before, so wasn’t sure what to do. As she looked around, she remembered the old shoe box she had been meaning to put in the recycling. It would be perfect for a cat and her kittens, at least until the morning. Luckily, yesterdays’ paper was still sitting on the kitchen table. She grabbed it and began tearing it in to strips.

“This would at least keep them warm.” She thought as she tore the last piece. She cut the top of the shoe box so that it would be easy for the cat and her kittens to climb in to. She knew the cat probably wouldn’t let her near enough to let her lift her in to it.

After preparing the box, she looked in the cupboard for a small bowl. There was some chicken left over from her dinner, so she could always feed the cat with that. She didn’t even know if cats liked chicken. She found two little bowls at the back of the cupboard and began to shred the chicken in to one and she put a little water in the other.

“At least the cat and her kittens would be comfortable and fed”, she thought as she shredded the last of the chicken. She picked up the bowl of water and the chicken and left the house. She knew she couldn’t carry it all at once. As she stepped out, she could hear the gentle cry so she knew they were still there. As she crept down the alley towards them, one of the little kittens turned in her direction. Her heart melted.

“You’re really imagining that now.” She told her self, a bit too sharply. “Sure their eyes’ aren’t yet open”. She gently placed the two bowls down a short way away from the cat so as not to startle her and went back for the box. As she left the house with the box, she glanced at the clock on the wall. It was 2 o’clock in the morning. She couldn’t exactly tell her colleagues at the hotel that she wouldn’t be in because she was looking after a cat and her kittens all night, could she? She gently placed the box down near the bowls and took one final glance at the cat. She really hoped they would be safe andthat they would still be there in the morning. There was nothing more she could do now though, she just had to go to bed and hopefully, fall asleep. Otherwise, she’d be fit for nothing in the morning.Taking one last look at the cat and her kittens, she whispered “good night” and crept back to the house.

She awoke the next morning to the shrill sounds of her alarm. She had already hit the snooze button at least five times already. She knew she would have to get up, otherwise she’d be late to work. As she opened the curtains, she saw that it was raining pretty hard. She’d need to wear her wellington boots to work and change in to her smarter shoes when she got to the hotel. They would get ruined if she wore them in that weather. Her thoughts turned to the cat and her kittens, but they would have to wait until she got home. She just hoped that the alley would provide enough shelter for them and she would be back to check on them later.

When she got home from working at the hotel, she was cold and wet after getting soaked on the way too and from work. All she wanted was a nice, hot bath as that was the only thing to warm her up. as she put her key in the lock, she thought about the poor cat and her kittens. She decided that she could always check on them later, after she had warmed up.

As she lay in the bath, she came to the realisation that there was probably very little she could do for the cat. It was most likely a feral cat and could probably fend for itself without her help. That was what her head told her anyway but her heart wanted to make sure they were okay. She vowed that she would allow herself one last check before bed, but that would be it. Life was more important than worrying about a random cat who just happened to be in her alley.

She could see nothing but darkness as she piered out some time later. There was no sign of the cat, nor her kittens at all. All that were there were the bowls she’d braught out the night before and a soggy mush that was the cardboard box and its’ newspaper. It was no surprise that it was just mush due to all that rain. As she emptied the rain water out of the bowls, she had one last look down the alley before heading back inside.


Discover Prompts-Slow

What do you think of when you hear the word “slow”? For me, it can be nice to slow things down a little, especially if you’ve had a busy few months. Normally, i’d have dreaded when things began to slow down, but at christmas, for example, when everything that i am involved in like the tennis and yoga began to stop, i told myself that for those few weeks, i would not travel anywhere and just enjoy being at home in one place until January. I really enjoyed the break from the hussle and bustle, and it was nice to not have to be anywhere at a certain time or anything, but i was glad when things started up again. It was nice to recharge though.

Now, everything has stopped once again, but this time, there was no preparation, no knowing that things would stop. I am finding this harder to deal with in a way and it has left me feeling very sluggish and not really motivated to do much. I am telling myself though that it is like christmas once again in my head because on christmas day, everybody spends time with family and doesn’t do much. The only thing with christmas is you know when it will end, whereas now, we don’t know when things will return to normal.

Another time when slowing things down is good is yoga. I know when i first went to yoga, i thought it would be this magical thing and you would instantly feel connected and there would be a fan fair or fireworks at the end, but there isn’t. Sometimes you do wander off in your mind during yoga, but it is good to try, and just be on the matt, focusing on the poses and the breath. You can leave any worries outside the class and just focus on your breath. It doesn’t always work though, but that’s okay.

Slowing things can be good sometimes, but other times, it can lead to you getting a bit stuck.

This post has been part of the

Discover prompts

Series running throughout April.


The Meeting

It’s week two of the virtual creative writing challenge I mentioned in my last post. I thought i would continue the story i wrote last week. I am actually enjoying this. You can read part one of the story

Here

The day came where she would meet the long lost friend from the letter. Her stomach began to turn itself in to knots at the thought of what lay ahead. She had been pondering the letter for the past couple of days. Just who could this friend be and why did he or she for that matter want to meet her after all this time? She decided she would have to face the music and hoped the “friend” wouldn’t have forgotten.

The air was cool as she stepped out of her house. As she turned to lock the door of the old house, she couldn’t help but wander what she was about to get herself in to. She took a deep breath, and began to make her way to the lake.

She was normally too busy to go to the lake with her late husband, but he often told her many stories of the fish he’d catch. Sometimes, he’d even bring a fish or two back and she’d cook it for the family and anyone else, for that matter. She was usually too busy anyway, what with market day or her many other activities at the house to go fishing with him. As she walked along now though, she suddenly felt a pang of guilt that she didn’t spend more time with Jim and learn how to fish.

Her thoughts were suddenly interupted when a voice called out to her.

“Alice, i knew you’d come. It’s good to see you after all this time”.

She turned sharply to see Bob sitting on a stone at the lake. She greeted him with a warm smile.

Bob was one of the local farmers. He’d often be seen at the market and would occasionally bring the odd basket of eggs up to the house. She remembered that he used to keep chickens and grow the odd vegetable or two. He was always such a bubbly man.

Bob gestured for her to sit beside him. There was just enough room on the stone. Beside him, was a flask of tea and some fishing gear.

“Oh no,” she thought. “I hope i won’t have to learn to fish.”

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually spoken to Bob, but he had clearly remembered her. He still had that warm, friendly smile but she could tell that something was different about him. She guessed that it was due to not seeing him for a while as life had deffinetly gotten in the way over these past few years.

As they sat and chatted, she soon found out that he, too, was now widowed. His wife had died not long after Jim. That would explain why they both hadn’t seen each other until now as they had other things on their minds.

Before they knew it, the day was nearly over. They’d spent the whole day chatting and enjoying each others’ company. It made her think how she’d missed spending time with people and she had spent the last 5 years alone.

As they both began to wander away from the lake, they agreed that they would have to meet again, and that maybe, it was time to move on with their lives to hopefully fall in love once again. They both agreed to stay in touch, and she had no doubt that they would meet again soon.

As she walked back up to the house, she couldn’t help but smile. She had enjoyed Bobs’ company and they had a lot more in common than she ever thought.


The Mysterious Letter

Since everything is still canceled, a lady set up a virtual creative writing group. Every week, we will all be given a prompt to get us startted, and then we have all week to think of something to write about. It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to be up to 500 words. I am not much of a writer, but i thought i’d give it a go.

I hope everybody is keeping safe and distracted from the current situation we find ourselves in.

The Mysterious Letter

She opened the letter and it said something that would change her life. She didn’t know how, but she knew the letter was pretty important.

As she sat there, not daring to move, she let her mind wander. How did she get to this point in time?

She looked around what used to be the hub of her house. Now, all she saw were blank walls. A desk sat in the corner with a dusty old record player and a picture of a man, and a golden retriever dog. An old, potted plant sat on the window sill, but it looked like it hadn’t been pruned or looked after in many years. The clock on the mantel read 20 past two. Time just seemed to go so slowly now.

She walked over to the desk and picked up the picture. She settled back in her chair, and began to reminnis. On the back of the frame was the name Jim and the date 1989. She’d met Jim at a dance, many years ago. She wasn’t much of a dancer, but Jim could do a fine jive. She’d spent many an evening down at the dance hall, because Jim worked there and she couldn’t help but be attracted to him. He, too fell in love with her, and eventually, they got married. Nothing too fancy, just an old, country church. She always wanted to keep things simple.

Over the years, their little country house became the hub of their community. She was always cooking, or doing something from crafting to gardening. She’d often sell her goods at the local market. Her door was always open for people to come round. She hated the thought of anyone being on their own, so she made it her mission that everyone would know that this country house was the place to be, no matter what. Word soon got around, and the house was always buzzing with people going in and out.

There was nothing but peace and stillness surrounding the house. If you listened carefully, you’d hear the odd cow in the distance, but apart from that, it was lovely and quiet.

Jim would have often spent his days fishing, or helping out with odd jobs that needed doing. Everybody looked forward to visiting the house and they were both highly thought of.

The picture was taken not long after they had met. It had been a beautiful spring day. Their golden retriever Humphrey was beside them in that photo. They both were her world. Jim would have taken Humphry with him when he went fishing for the company. He was a gentle boy with a big heart. He always knew when he was needed and would often drop a soggy ball innocently on to peoples’ laps. He had nothing but love to give.

They would have been married 45 years this year if Jim was still alive. She didn’t know what to do since Jim passed away. The community she had so lovingly built up had now disappeared. It was just her and her thoughts.

With tears in her eyes, she suddenly remembered the letter sitting beside her. With trembling hands, she began to open it.

“Dear Mrs Miller,

I am writing to you today to ask if we could meet up the day after next. I am a long lost friend and feel that you could use some company at this time. Please do not ignore this invitation. Meet me by the lake, where your husband used to fish.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Your long lost friend”.

She sat there, aghast. Who on earth was this person wanting to meet her? She suddenly remembered something her husband once said which was to grab life by the horns and go for it. She knew she couldn’t sit in this house forever, so the only thing to do was to go and meet this person and see what would come of it. After all, moping about with just her thoughts wasn’t getting her anywhere.


“Spring Didn’t Know”A Poem To Keep Us Going

I’m really struggling with everything being canceled, with good reason because of the Corona Virus. I found this lovely poem which i think will keep us all going throughout this time of isolation and fear. I hope you like it as much as i do. Stay safe and hopefully life will return to normal soon.

It was March 2020…
The streets were empty, stores closed, people couldn’t go out anymore.
But spring didn’t know, and the flowers began to bloom, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, swallows were coming soon, the sky was blue, morning was coming early.
It was March 2020…
Young people had to study online, and find jobs at home, people couldn’t shop anymore, or go to the hairdresser. Soon there would be no room in hospitals, and people continued to get sick.
But spring didn’t know, time to go to the garden was coming, the grass was growing.
It was March 2020…
People have been put on lockdown. to protect grandparents, families and children. No more reunion or meal, family party. Fear has become real and the days looked alike.
But spring didn’t know, apple trees, cherry trees and others grew, the leaves grew.
People started reading, playing with family, learning a language, singing on the balcony by inviting neighbors to do the same, they learned a new language, be supportive and focused on other values.
People realized the importance of health, the suffering, of this world that had stopped, of the economy that fell down.
But spring didn’t know. the flowers left their place for fruits, the birds made their nest, swallows had arrived.

Then release day came, people found out on TV, the virus had lost, people went down the street, sang, crying, kissing their neighbors, without masks or gloves.

And that’s when summer came, because spring didn’t know. He continued to be there despite everything, despite the virus, fear and death. Because spring didn’t know, it taught people the power of life.

Everything will be alright, stay home, protect yourself, and you will enjoy life.

Read this, copy it by copy / sticky this text, but above all stay confident and keep smiling!


A Year Qualified With Vivvy

It’s hard to believe, but a couple of weeks ago, Vivvy and I were qualified a year.

The last time i wrote, i only had Vivvy for two months. That really does feel like a long time ago now. Vivvy just seems to have slotted in nicely to my lifestyle. She just loves working, and will go anywhere i ask her to, whether it’s just sticking around my home area, to travelling further afield, she just takes it all in her stride. I am incredibly pleased about this as i wasn’t sure she would manage it all, because she can be a bit sensitive at times. Her sensitivities and suspicions of things can vary, and there are times where she doesn’t react at all, and others, where she’ll slow or stop, or push hard in to me but i acknowledge it, then carry on. I don’t want to make a big deal of her suspicions as i don’t want her to *think* she needs to fear whatever it is that she isn’t sure of. This approach seems to work well, as she just carries on after it as if whatever it is hasn’t happened. I really hope this continues.

Vivvy has attended many meetings with me, and after the initial excitement, she will settle beautifully. If somebody beside me looks at her though, she will get quite excitable and waggy. She can at times look for pets, which is the one thing i still find hard to get used to as Ushi never cared too much for other people, but Vivvy is such a nosy girl who always has to know what is going on around her and is afraid of missing something. I have now accepted reluctantly, that Vivvy will always be nosy, and i just have to learn to manage it and make sure she pays attention. It would be nice if she wasn’t quite so nosy though.

Vivvy has really settled in to tennis and barely reacts to the balls now, unless a ball lands within reach of her paws. She will then pick it up and show it off proudly for whoever wants to see it. You can always tell when Vivvy has had a ball, as it is usually soaking wet with slobber. Unfortunately if she is on a free run though, she can still be quite ball obsessed. We had to leave the beach a few months ago as there was another dog owner throwing a ball and Vivvy kept only focusing on the ball, even though we moved further up the beach. She had had a good run before this though, but it was still a little disappointing. If i do bring a ball for her, she runs so hard that she is physically sick, so she doesn’t get anything to run with as she runs pretty hard anyway.

Vivvy now knows that when we go to yoga, she must lie down until i allow her to have a run around the room after the class. She loves this and picks up peoples’ blankets and shows them off to people. I of course do this with peoples’ permission and everybody loves having her and love seeing her run around the room. I still have to have her attached to a table or something though, as she will usually lie right where i am doing my poses and takes up all of the mat. So keeping her attached seems to help and she doesn’t end up torturing me, or anyone else, for that matter.

Vivvys’ route memory is amazing. I always direct her of course, but if we’re lost, for example, she will make a huge effort to get back on track. I can always tell when she has found her way again as her pace quickens, and she has a confident strut going on.

We had to work on greeting people nicely for a while, and remembering to keep all of our paws on the ground. She now greats people very gently, but occasionally puts her front paws up when she sees my dad or sister, but mostly, she just wags now which is far better.

I really do love Vivvys’ spending routine. She will usually do a poo before we leave 99 percent of the time, and will only pee when we are out, and will then go for another poo when we get home from where ever we are. This really is brilliant as i know she won’t go somewhere she isn’t meant to and even if she hasn’t gone, she doesn’t like going out on the street at all and will look for somewhere quiet to go if she has got caught short.

Vivvy has been on many forms of transport, including flying, when we went to play tennis in Glasgow. I was really worried about this as Ushi did not like flying at all, but Vivvy just stretched out and made herself comfortable.

I really do think we will make a good team. For a while, i was waiting for the other shoe to drop as our partnership just seemed to good to be true, but thankfully, we haven’t really had any problems apart from her slight suspicions and sensitivities, but these are totally manageable for now. She has had a few minor health problems, and we have had to visit the vet more than i would like, but i think Vivvy will just be that type of dog. Sometimes, i have been able to manage her health at home, like when she tore the top layer off her paw pads, or when she got

Rudder tail

From playing too hard in water, i knew she just needed to wag it out over a few days, but she has had to go to the vets to get her anal glands emptied occasionally, as well as a mild ear infection. Other than that though, she is a very healthy dog, who has remained roughly at the same weight since i got her which is brilliant. Weight doesn’t get a chance to even say hello to her though as she does everything at full speed, especially playing. She works hard, but plays even harder 🙂

I can’t wait to see what the next year of our partnership will bring, and i’m sure we will continue to go from strength to strength. Thank you again to guide dogs for getting another match just right, although i didn’t think so at the start. Also thanks to Vivvy for wanting to work with me and becoming such a confident little dog compared with when i first got her. A guide dog owner once said to me that guide dogs match the dog to whatever stage you are at in life, and i really do believe this to be true. I couldn’t have managed such a lively bundle for my first dog, but at the same time, i did have to put a lot of work in to making Ushi the dog i knew she could be, despite her extreme stubbornness. I knew there was a desire to work in there somewhere though.

All that is left is to say happy christmas, and a happy new year to you all.

yello lab retriever cross Vivvy and I sit in front of the Guide dogs Northern Ireland christmas tree.