White Cane:Friend Or Fo

After reading
This post
From John, I thought i’d write about my relationship with the cane and when i first got it.

When i was a child, i had a fantastic social worker who taught me how to use the cane when i was about the age of three or 4. Now this was before canes were designed especially for kids, so my cane was a tiny simbol cane, which was painted pink and had little bells on the end of it. I called that cane Annabell after my classroom assistant at my nursery school. I wasn’t really that keen on using Annabell though, because i couldn’t understand why nobody else had to use a cane. Unfortunately poor Annabell was stopped when i went to school, as the school didn’t like any of its blind pupils using a cane unless it was with the mobility officer there. So poor Annabell now resides in a cupboard, probably never to see the light of day again. I’m not even sure if she still exists.

When i was at school, i just had to trail the walls which was basically having your hands at about waist height and trailing the walls with the back of your hand. It was horrible when you hit your fingers off horribley sticky out door jams. Not to mention the massive radiators which were at knee height and were ever so painful if you walked in to them as they were big chunky things.

I didn’t get to use a cane until i was about 12. The mobility officer in school didn’t really teach me much. In fact i learnt more from my rehab worker who had started working with me at home at that time, than i ever did at school.

I remember when i started learning the cane with my rehab worker at home. We went to where my social worker works. It is a day centre but that part is upstairs. Anyway the downstairs part has long straight corridors. The very first cane i used was a pencil tip one. It wasn’t recommended much as it would get stuck in cracks in the pavement and such. I eventually moved on to a roller ball when i was propperly measured for a cane.

I remember trying to walk in step with the cane (I don’t really walk in step even now), learning about traffic, different surfaces through the cane, pinging off every lamppost, the first route you learn with a cane…i could go on. I wonder out of interest if i would still remember that first route i learnt with the cane. Hmmmm. Even the first time i had to ask for assistance was hard.

I worked with the cane up until i was about 18 but yet i still could never see eye to eye with it. I had a good technique and could use it pretty well, but i was never that keen. I think it could have been because i didn’t have it from 5 to 12, so that is such a long time without support. Maybe i might have liked and used it more. Plus maybe if i had to use it to get places rather than relying on my family, i might have used it more too. Who knows.

I was very hard on myself when i used the cane. I had to be perfectly straight, perfectly alined, I had to know my left from my right. I remember on a couple of occasions beating myself up ridiculously when i was told when i applied for a guide dog that i had a
Rolling gait
For example, or when i kept making mistakes and i
Got in a tiz over my left and rights
Note that it was me putting all that pressure on myself.

I have great admiration for people who can use their cane full time. I personally use a dog, but it’s all different strokes for different folks.

So what are everyone elses experiences of the cane? Would it be your friend, or fo? If you have got this far, thank you. That was a massive case of word vomit there. Thank you for reading though :).


happy Qualification, Big Ush

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo, but thought i’d better write something about mine and ushi’s two year qualification. I always like to celebrate it. Plus it’s always good to compare. So i hope you won’t find it boring.

So on Saturday i celebrated two years with Ushi. Over the last year i’ve noticed some big changes. Ushi was always quite confident with her work, but over the last year she has become more confident.

She no longer hesitates so much with her obbsticles, and is usually more confident with tight spaces, although she does like to wait and make totally sure i will fit through the gap.

When we are crossing roads now, if it is a quiet road, Ushi has to wait until she is sure there is no car coming towards me. This kind of does get a little annoying, but at least she is being cautious. She does eventually go forward though.

There are two kerbs that she absolutely refuses to budge on. I have to physically step off the kerb and use the lead to get her going. (It is a quiet road, but you can hear traffic in the distance as there are four roads leading off it). I’ve tried bribing her with treats but no joy. It’s only on two kerbs too!

I’ve discovered how well Ushi works in busy conditions. I love working her in new environments if someone is directing me.

She has also started whining for her food in the mornings! She never used to do this, but i think me forgetting to feed her until 12 o’clock one day might have had something to do with it. Most of the time it’s a gentle whine, but there was one day she actually barked and scared herself lol. I used to feed her at half 5 for her dinner, but i’m now doing it at 7 o’clock since she was waking me up ridiculously early the next morning.

One of the biggest changes would have to be how she now will swim. Fair enough it is only in a still river, but it’s a start! I’d love to take her down to the sea to see what she was like with it since the last time we took her she didN@t like it at all. she was in her harness though so that might have had something to do with it. So i’d love to see her just off her lead.

The biggest thing i’ve noticed is how she has wormed her way into my uncles heart. He has never really liked dogs, but a few months ago he saw the article i did in the paper about me and Ushi, and wanted to meet her. So we met in town. I thought he would just put on that he liked Ushi for my sake, but he invited us up to his house one time when my sister was going up. From that day he has been hooked. He has Bipolar disorder so having Ushi really helps his moods. and his skin has got much better after Ushi licks him. I know it isn’t healthy but there is no way of stopping her really. she is so firm and he has said it looks much healthier after she is done. He doesn’t have to put his creams on as much either when she is there. She treats him like one of the family now.

He even got her bowls so i wouldn’t have to bring mine up all the time. Unfortunately the first food bowl was far too small and Ushi couldn’t move her food around in it, so she wouldn’t eat. I actually had to empty it onto the floor! So my uncle went out and baught her a new one.

She even has two pillows and a blanket for her bed.

she also has spare food up there and carrots that are Ushi’s. She even has her own jug of water!

My uncle now looks forward to Ushi being up, and actively calls her over to him. He loves the way she comes out to the kitchen when he is cooking, and has conversations with her.

Ushi has really benifited him as he is getting out more, and he enjoys having to focus on directing me when i am working her. I was worried in case he wouldn’t like me working her and would want to guide but he loves seeing the two sides of her.

I sometimes feel though i don’t work her as much as i should, or that i don’t deserve her. I know i do though and even if i am just doing a walk which is most of my routes, she is still getting her exercise and i am getting to meet so many people on my travels. i do wish i felt able to travel more independently but i know that sometimes it’s too awkward to do it if it is at night for example. I know the volunteer drivers don’t mind though but i feel that sometimes i am just making excuses.

So happy qualification Ushi. I’m so glad i’ve got you and i hope you don’t get bored of me. I really enjoy walking along and not having to worry where my next step will be. I hope you are with me for a good while anyway, and contenue working well. I do sometimes get bored of the routene but i don’t think i could go back to the cane.

I can’t wait to see what the next year of our partnership brings!


Big Steps

Today i had a branch meeting for our guide dogs fundraising branch. It was in Cushendall.

I had decided that the next time we would go to Cushendall, I would take the bus if i was feeling adventurous. This was the first time we were at Cushendall as we wanted to make sure the weather was good as when it is icey it is quite hard to get to as the road is quite windey.

So this morning me, my dad, my sister and me set off to get to our nearest bus stop. Unfortunately at the stop there is no way you know that you are at the stop as there isn’t even a pole there. The stop is half way up the wall! So if i was ever doing it on my own i don’t know how we’d find it. Dad and my sister were heading to Glenariff forest park which is near Cushendall.

There was a bus that passed and we thought it was our bus but it turned out it was a school bus. We got on the next one though.

It was a very rattley bus and each time we turned a corner it made little Ushi slide on the floor.

When my dad and sister got out i was panicking in case the bus didn’t stop at my destination, but it did and my friends mum was waiting for me.

Since we had a little time to kill before the meeting, we decided to take the dogs for a run. Luckily i had braught my free running stuff just in case. We first of all let them run around the garden for a while before getting in the car to head to where we would run them.

They had a great time just running around. I noticed they stuck together and wouldn’t leave each others side near enough. When I called Ushi back, Della wasn’t far behind and vice versa. On the way Della started to whine because she knew where she was going and knew we were near the sea, so Ushi started to copy too. We didn’t let them go near the sea though as we didn’t fancy the smell of we dog.

When we got back to the house they still wanted to play lol.

The meeting was good and Ushi just slept because she was so exhausted. We stayed for lunch afterwards. I was going to get the bus back but we finished early so i figured there wouldn’t be much point in waiting around when the branch organiser was going home the same way anyway.

I feel though that i have made some big steps. It’s so good to do something totally independently. We were talking about going up again just to let the dogs have a run together. I can’t wait! If only the busstop was slightly better though.

On another note, the fundraising coordinator asked me if i would like to try surfing at some point. The Derry branch are organising it and they are talking about it being a sponsored event. The guy who mentioned the surfing to the Derry branch does it for people with disabilities and it would be an adapted board and everything. So i said i would give it a try. I’ll let you know though when i have more info on that. It sounds very exciting though!

Oh and i forgot to say I was a bit worried about how Ushi would react to my friends cats. When she is in harness she will sniff but i don’t think she would do anything to a cat. My friend said though that the cats she had had disappeared but there was the neighbours cat who lurked about. It stood in front of Ushi and she didn’t care! So i was glad about that!


The Fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival:Achieving Independence

I thought i’d write my post for the
5th Assistance dog blog carnival
The theme is “achievements”. I thought i’d write about how i have achieved independence with Ushi. I hope this fits into the theme.

I was about 5 when i was introduced to the cane. It wasn’t propper cane work. My socialworker had given me a little symbol cane which she had attached bells to. I called it Annabell after a favourite classroom assistant in Nursery school. Annabell was mainly used for around the house to improve my orientation i think. Even then i hated using the cane. Unfortunately it is not recommended that kids use the cane so young now, even if it wasn’t actually a proper cane.

I propperly was introduced to the long cane when i was about 12. My rehab worker used to work for our local social services before he became a full time rehab worker for guide dogs. I was a bit of a slacker when it came to using the cane though, and would only use it when i had mobility and when i was going around college. I just found it really awkward and used to dread it as it seemed to take so long going anywhere.

I had often thought about a guide dog, but never really thought long and hard until my rehab worker suggested it back in 2008. I thought he was mad and must have spent a good few hours asking him all the questions i could think of. I applied a couple of days later.

There were a number of assessments i had to go through before i was even put on the waiting list. These were things like medical forms, what my lifestyle would be like, walking with an instructor and a harness to assess my speed and how i could control a dog, and sometimes they get you to walk with a dog just to see how you would be with a dog. They don’t do that all the time though.

The waiting list is normally from 6 to 12 months, but it can be longer or shorter. I waited 15 months in total before i got Ushi.

Now that I have got Ushi, I go out at least twice a day. I am now doing a quilting course every monday morning at a local coffee shop. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but i don’t think that would have been possible without a guide dog. Sure i could have done it with a cane, but i wouldn’t have enjoyed it. The rest of my week is just walks mainly, and I ocasionally go into town to meet up with people. I know just “walking” isn’t much, but i can relax and just go for a strole. I’m not really into shopping so i don’t really go to town that much. I sometimes wonder if i should be working her more, but i’ve lost my motivation to studdy or find work. I hope next year i find it again!

I can now walk at a normal speed, and I find that more people will say hello whereas with the cane nobody hardly spoke.

I hope you have enjoyed my submission for the 5th assistance dog blog carnival. The deadline is the 23rd October! (Sorry for my other readers reading some of this before).