Guide Dogs Week 2011

It’s Guide Dogs Week 2011 (1st – 9th October).  This has got to be one of my most active weeks this year!  My volunteering for Guide dogs has taken on a slightly manic aspect.  I find myself skipping breakfast and flying towards the bus stop with a grumbling Trudy who, like me, is not wired up to deal with early morning starts.  As we sit panting on the bus Trudy’s noises of discontent gain her the sympathy of our fellow passengers.  I smile haplessly and hope we won’t miss the stop, which is a frequent occurrence.

Luckily this week has been good so far as regards buses.  No memorable food crimes have been committed by the hoovering hound, and nothing untoward has happened.

It’s a difficult time for fundraising.  Spare cash is almost non-existent, so standing in a supermarket or Town centre with a collecting bucket is not as profitable as it was this time last year.  Charities are all competing with each other for scraps from the master’s table.  Some will inevitably not survive this barren period.  But this does not make fundraising any less rewarding.  For one thing, I am extremely fortunate having Trudy to help me.

When we are doing street collections we are not allowed to shake our buckets or ask people to donate money, so it can be quite disheartening watching a stream of people pass by seemingly oblivious to the fact that we are there.  Trudy however, does not have to abide by any such rules.  She locks onto the eye of a passer-by and draws that person towards me, begging him or her to donate to the cause.  She rolls onto her back and folds her limbs in half just asking for her tummy to be tickled.  Many people cannot walk by a prostrate Labrador who appears to be in the grip of sublime rapture.  When Trudy does her fundraising roll (as I’ve dubbed it this week) my bucket sings with coins!  Of course I explain to people that I have never trained Trudy to do this, but it is a fantastic fundraiser!  Trudy laps up the compliments like a cabaret artist.

So although the totals are down, the rewards have not diminished.  Bucket collections have always been characterised by fits and starts.  Just as my legs start to go numb and my back aches to distraction I become immersed in conversation with a friendly person, and the coins clink into the bucket which is extremely invigorating.  From somewhere, a new wave of energy emerges and I can finish my two-hour stint.  (As I’m with Trudy, I’m only allowed to do two hours at a time – which is just as well, as Trudy’s head would become bald from all the patting and stroking).

As charities are being hit hard at the moment, it’s even more important to keep up a high public profile.  It means working harder, but getting noticed increases your chances of raising funds.  This is one of the many reasons I love being a Speaker for Guide dogs.  Word of mouth is a very powerful fundraiser.  I think it helps people to relate to Guide dogs the charity if they can see an actual Guide dog and listen to the personal experience of a Guide dog owner.  Trudy loves being the centre of attention and as she’s such a vocal dog she usually makes the audience laugh at some point, which helps me no end!

For instance when I tell people that it costs approximately £49,000 to train and maintain each working Guide dog – Trudy often agrees with an expressive groan, as if to say “Because I’m worth it”.  I’m so lucky to have such an ally.  Trudy makes my talks real, and interrupts me which keeps them “live”.  I never lose sight of the fact that if it wasn’t for Trudy, I would never have become a volunteer and a whole chunk of life would have been missed.

My quest is to raise funds for more Muttleys to be trained as Guide dogs, and as the charity receives no government funding I think I’m in for an awful lot of bucket collecting….

http://www.justgiving.com/Claire-Rush0

Defeat of the Gremlins: Just ask that Guide dog!

Guide dogs are adept at warding off gremlins, as I know from first-hand experience.  The gremlin who inhabits my flat is often at his most peevish in the early hours of the morning.  Trudy, whose criminal alias is The Hereford Hoover, is instantly awake the minute he pokes my eye to wake me up.  She bounces out of her wicker basket which is adjacent to my bed, grabs one of my slippers and whacks the gremlin out of my day.  It always works.

Even on the most drab and melancholy Monday mornings I can’t help chuckling at the gusto of my Guide dog.  I usually attempt to get back to sleep, but the wagging rudder thumps incessantly to remind me that I owe her one for chasing away the gremlin.  Once my arm is out of bed rolling up her Labrador ears into long tubes, sleep loses its appeal.  So at the point when Trudy’s warm, wet tongue slides over my hand I invariably get up.  Trudy is all fur and tail.  She wraps her paws round my feet, sprinting off as I grope around for the slipper which is nearly always still in her mouth.  I daren’t invoke the gremlin by checking the time – but it’s usually around 6 am by this point.  I’m still half-dazed, only just aware of a hot-breathing hound baiting me with my own slipper.  She pretends to lose interest, but each time I draw near she hares off again with her stolen booty.  After much hiding and seeking, pleading and grumbling, I finally reclaim my slipper – damp and crumpled after its encounter with a Labrador.

Fighting gremlins probably isn’t in Trudy’s job description, yet she is an expert.  She seems to sense when the insidious creature is lurking round the corner ready to ruin a morning or afternoon.   Up goes her tail, beating rapidly to ward off the malevolent spirit.  The climax of the ritual involves a complicated war-dance with Trudy wielding one of her toys above her head.   Her current favourite is a massive pink turtle called Myrtle.  Trudy won Myrtle at the Guide dog of the Year Awards and Myrtle is thankfully still intact with all her limbs attached.  Whenever the gremlin is about to steal my smile, Trudy grabs Myrtle and flies towards me snorting and panting.  Even if I’m not up for a tug of war game, Trudy charging towards me with Myrtle  hanging out of her mouth is guaranteed to make me laugh   Laughter is toxic to gremlins so my unwanted guest vanishes instantly.  One of Myrtle’s bonus features is that her tummy makes rude noises when it’s held in a certain way.  This feature has proved invaluable  in the war against gremlins.

You may be wondering about these gremlins.  I suspect there are many types and breeds skulking about in worldwide dwellings.  But the character who sneaks around in my flat is particularly destructive.  He tips over milk bottles, pokes me when I’m about to nod off in a chair, and sets off the smoke alarm when I’m really really hungry and just want a piece of toast….!  He pervades my mind and needles under my skin if he’s not dealt with in time.  Trudy will not tolerate him.  If he slips a morsel of despair into my lunch box she will take it out and replace it with a chewed sock.  I wouldn’t say it tastes much better, but it’s the thought that counts.  Chewed socks, stolen receipts, the entire contents of my bag – they are all brought in dribs and drabs to cheer me up.  One of the things I love about Labradors is that they never arrive on the scene empty-handed.  Even though Trudy’s presents are usually recycled socks, scraps of paper or stolen items from my laundry basket they are still presents from her to me.  The generosity of Labradors is unbeatable, and gremlins scarper at the sight of it.

Gremlins are intent on bringing gloom into your day, but Guide dogs are gremlin grabbers!  I really came to understand this when I was separated from Trudy at the start of my radiotherapy treatment.  After only two days without her I became aware that the nefarious gremlin inhabiting my flat had gathered a formidable army.  I was utterly defeated and could not function.  I did not even have any inclination to fight.  I knew that I needed Trudy back, so back home she came.  The moment she bounded through the door the gremlin legion lay down its arms and marched away.  They have not returned en masse since.

I think that most dogs are capable of being gremlin chasers, but as I’ve never lived with a pet dog I can’t be sure.  This got me thinking about stereotypes.  The Guide dog stereotype is a noble, obedient,, long-suffering dog with almost no will of its own.  As a Guide dog Trudy is exemplary, but thankfully she does not match the stereotype.  She can be noble – even supercilious at times when she spies a misbehaving pet dog who should know better (according to the Laws of Hound).  She can be obedient too when I really need her to be.  But she is so stubborn there are times when a battle of wills  determines the outcome of certain situations.  We have stand-offs, sit-downs and strikes in the oddest and most inappropriate places.    If Trudy had to wear a school tie she’d turn it inside out with the ends askew.  I’d almost certainly catch her smoking behind the bike shed with a can of lager in her free paw.  Yet she’d pass her exams and probably get into Oxford.  She’s that kind of “told you so” dog.

It makes me smile when I explain to audiences about the matching process of Guide dogs.  So much time and effort is put into matching the right dog with the right owner.  How did Worcester Guide dogs know I’m stubborn, love food and prefer to do my own thing?!  It concerns me that it might be obvious!  Being matched with a Guide dog is a bit like registering with a dating agency.  They pool your common denominators and mix up the rest, so at some point during your partnership you and your dog become one being.  I think this is what makes Guide dogs experts at chasing away gremlins.  Trudy knows before I do when something is amiss.  This means that the lone gremlin who wakes me up in the early hours does not stand a chance.  In fact I think Trudy is quite capable of chasing him away for good, but then I’d have a homeless gremlin on my conscience.

So next time you spy a Guide dog with a wagging tail and a glint of mischief in its eye, think of the gremlins it has probably chased away that day.  If your smile lasts for at least four seconds any gremlins you know may take a hike at the same time…..

HELP! I’M GOING BLIND!

Wondering if you might be going blind is not a pleasant thought.  Knowing that you’re going blind can feel like you’re heading for eternal doom.  In this post I hope to paint an alternative picture of blindness for those readers who know that this is an inevitability.  I will  also offer some practical advice, and hopefully by the time you’ve finished reading this article the word “blind” will  not conjure up such fearful images.

Deteriorating vision is easier to deny than to accept.  For one thing, the human brain often compensates for sight loss by replacing indistinct shapes with recognisable ones.  So if your eyes register a blur in front of you your brain will try to make sense of it by replacing the blur with familiar objects.    The dancing cat or waving monkey may in fact be a crooked fence post or a canvas sign flapping in the wind.  At this point your friends or family will probably be nagging you to “get your eyes checked”.    Your vision defect could turn out to be something  that’s curable or helped by prescription glasses.  But occasionally the situation may be more serious.  You might suspect this and be afraid to have it verified, or perhaps you’re already under an opthalmologist and you know that sight loss is fast approaching.
This is often where fear of the unknown – i.e. being blind, takes over your rational head.  Sometimes the easiest thing to do is simply to ignore the reality and get on with your everyday life.  But the trouble with this approach is that one day, if sight loss is inevitable, there will come a point when you can no longer run away from it.
Most sight loss is in fact gradual.  It’s extremely rare to wake up one morning and find that you’re totally blind. You’re more likely to realise you cannot see when you’re trying to read something or spot someone in a crowd.  This realisation that you’re practically blind will probably hit you with a bang, and your world will go topsy-turvy for a while.  Therefore if you know that one day you’ll be blind, it makes sense to slowly introduce yourself to this concept.  A good way to do this is to familiarise yourself  with some of the gadgets and gizmos that are out there to assist visually impaired people with everyday tasks.  You could start with something basic such as a liquid level indicator.  This useful inexpensive little gadget has plastic prongs which hook over a cup or mug, and vibrate or beep when the hot water makes contact.  You may well encounter resistance from people around you who don’t wish to think of you as being blind.  This can make arming yourself with gadgets and paraphernalia tricky, but don’t be deterred.   Talking alarm clocks and audiobooks do have some general appeal nowadays, so if you share your living space with others there’s no reason to be isolated.  However, other people’s reactions are not always helpful – it might be worth bearing in mind that they will be having to readjust too as your vision deteriorates.
 This preparation period could be viewed as a blindfold test drive.  It doesn’t mean you have to become preoccupied with blindness, but becoming more self-aware will help you later on   Familiarise yourself with  what’s available before you absolutely need it.  Browsing through the RNIB catalogue or on an Assistive technology website  might even be inspiring!  You’ll probably be amazed by the variety of aids and gadgets on offer,and most of them don’t require great technical know-how to operate.  The whole point of these things is to help not hinder!
If you’re at the stage where you know your sight is failing this is a great time to build up your list of contacts.    Your local association for the blind, or charities such as RNIB or Action for Blind People are great resources.  The RNIB has a helpline: 0303 123 9999.  Knowing that you’re going blind is actually a great opportunity to consider what you want to do with your life, and to ascertain what assistance (if any) you might need to achieve your goals.  It doesn’t have to be a headlong dive into despair.
Coming to terms with  blindness is often harder than the blindness itself.  Facing it head on might seem like the last thing you want to do.  But from my own experience the more you stick your head in the sand the longer it will take to readjust.  As I mentioned before, blindness is more often than not a gradual process.  Imagining being blind can be frightening, so it’s a good idea to find someone who will listen to your fears and anxieties.  An objective person such as your GP or RNIB staff might be able to offer more practical advice than someone close to you.
What is being blind like?  Blindness does not necessarily mean total darkness.  Most registered blind people in the UK retain some light perception or are able to make out hand movements.  Being registered blind essentially means that the vision you have is no longer reliable or useful.  This does not mean your life has to stop or tone down, but you will need to find other ways of continuing your hobbies.  For instance I’ve always been a bookworm, and when I lost my sight I missed reading more than anything else.  But once I’d accepted that I could no longer read print I began listening to audiobooks and Radio Drama.  Although it doesn’t quite equal reading, I can still get my fill of literature  from Audio libraries such as Calibre and RNIB.
Whether you lose your vision suddenly or gradually you’ll find that you learn to manage indoors far more quickly than outdoors.   The big wide world outside your front door might become a source of terror.  This probably accounts for why around 180,000 visually impaired people never leave home alone.   I can’t pretend that the outdoors isn’t scary at first.  But  I know for sure that it gets more and more scary if you start hibernating.  For this reason I would make it a priority to step outside your front door at least once a day.  You don’t have to go anywhere – but just listen to the birds, inhale some fresh air, stand still and absorb your surroundings.  Slowly a whole new world will start to emerge.  Sounds will seem sharper, the rain will make your nose tingle with a medley of smells,  and if you’re lucky someone might even call a greeting to you.  Even if you meet no one, you’ve shown yourself to the world and you’ll go back inside a more refreshed person.  In time, you’ll find that you still have a place in the world.
It’s common for newly blind people to become very depressed.  Losing your sight is a huge loss, and you will grieve.  If your sight loss is sudden and you’ve had to change your whole lifestyle your emotions will be totally out of sync.  My advice would be to go with your instincts and not to expect too much from yourself.  Accepting that your feelings are natural will help you move forward.  There’s no time limit to adjusting – some people may take 20 years to feel comfortable with their blindness, and others just a few months.  It’s your journey, and you’re the one deciding how fast to travel.  Perhaps it’s worth saying here that a lot of people who find themselves suddenly disabled in any way struggle with asking for or accepting help from others.  You’ll learn how to balance keeping your pride and independence with getting to where you want to go.  This comes with experience.
But blindness or near-blindness does not mean the end of the road.  In fact it’s often a new beginning, despite the fact that you’d rather not have had a new beginning.  When I was at the ‘Guide dog of the Year Awards this year I met Scott and his dog Travis.  Scott lost his sight in 1993 and has just received an MBE.  He’s trekked hundreds of miles, climbed Ben Nevis with his Guide dog and raised £!25, 000 for Guide dogs.  Blindness does not stop you having a life.  Not every one will have the inclination to climb Ben Nevis, but whatever your goals are you can still achieve them.  Being blind may mean that it takes you twice as long, but perseverance pays off.   In my own life it took 18 years to be matched successfully with a Guide dog, but the great benefit of achieving something after a real effort is that the victory tastes super-sweet.
There will undoubtedly be days when you wish you were dead.  But if you forge on you will emerge stronger and more determined than ever.  Your life will not be the same as it was before your sight loss, but that does not necessarily mean it is worse.  Whether you end up training with a Guide dog, competing in the Paralympics, wading through the CDs of the RNIB library or learning to touch type – you will find your own way of learning to live with blindness.  If you keep hold of your dreams and don’t give up,  the darkness will  eventually lose its gloom and you’ll feel the radiance of a rainbow light up your life.

Underground, overground…..

Not many people agree with me when I wax lyrical about the smell of the London Underground.  For me the combination of hot rubber, industrial detergent and all manner of human odours is strangely comforting.  Yes, I do like it.  What I struggle with is the fat slug of passengers clogging up every inch of space from the ticket barriers to the platforms.  Somehow you’re supposed to find a hole in the slug’s body and dive through it to the other side, as if your life depends on it.  If you happen to misjudge this move there’s a risk that you’ll get swallowed up into the slug’s huge digestive system and end up being spewed onto the wrong platform somewhere far away.  Timing is crucial when you’re negotiating the London Underground.  One false move and you find yourself being swept along in the wrong direction, feet flailing, arms flapping, heart sinking.
As a visually impaired person, dodging the giant human slug in the Underground is a heart attack in the making.  Last week when I attended the Guide dog of the Year Awards I had to face the beast head on.  Luckily I was accompanied by a travel-wise mate.  Having a savvy mate by your side is a fantastic help, but if you add a hoovering Guide dog and an overloaded rucksack with wheels that don’t wheel – the best made plans crumble into chaos.  My rucksack with the dodgy wheels was kindly adopted by my companion for the duration of our London trek.  All I had to do therefore, was to steer The Hoover.
We would have been fine had it not been for the aforementioned slug of tourists and commuters.  This giant beast wedged its great body between us numerous times, which left us frequently calling to each other desperate not to get separated forever.  Trying to listen for directions with a hoover-in-harness eyeballing every grain on the ground was no mean feat.  Our stress levels quickly peaked.  The effort of remaining calm whilst being swept away by a perpetually moving monster would test the nerves of the most accomplished traveller.  “Where are you?”  I’d call.  “Over here – in front of you!” was the disappearing answer, and we’d be lucky to reunite within the next five minutes.  We lost count of the number of times we had to hunt down an unoccupied space and simply “take stock”.
Another major bane was escalators.  Those massive metal mountains which move up and up and up…!  Guide dogs cannot travel on escalators because of the risk of their paws getting trapped, so every time we encountered an escalator we had to hunt for a London Transport staff member.  This was not straightforward.  When I lived in London in the early 1990’s there was no such thing as Help Points, so it was mere chance that my mate came across a circular white disc at Euston fitted with Help and Emergency buttons.
We didn’t expect any joy when she pressed the Help button, so when a disembodied voice answered our SOS call it was extremely heartening.  London Transport staff were mostly very helpful once we’d located the Help Points.  But there appeared to be no logical system as to their whereabouts, so searching for Help Points became a quest in itself every time we chanced upon a dreaded escalator.  And once the offending escalators were halted hundreds of steps needed climbing.  There was a moment at Oxford Circus when my companion sailed by on a parallel escalator (there has to be some perk for being the luggage carrier!), and I was seriously beginning to wane.  The steps seemed to be endless, and my legs were growing heavier by the second.  As she passed by she called out to me “Come on Claire!” and somehow I found a spurt of energy that I didn’t know I had.  I’m not sure if Trudy felt more tired than I did, but her front paws were definitely sagging by the time we made it to the top.  It might not have been so bad had we not had to repeat this exercise at least ten times!
On our second day we decided to be tourists and visit Buckingham Palace.  Green Park was possibly our trickiest tube station, but we did not know this when we hatched our plans over breakfast.  Puffing our guts out ascending Green Park’s stationary escalator might have seemed worthwhile had the sky not decided to empty its latrine bucket over our heads just as we exited the station.  Playing the tourist in London invariably gets you soaking wet – as we discovered the hard way.  London rain is hard, relentless, back-stabbing, rib-jabbing pain.  It  literally penetrated our bones as we traipsed through Green Park,  vaguely taking in the scene of mounted Police and majestic trees.  I decided to give Trudy the chance to have a free run despite the fact that we were almost drowning.  A group of excited Japanese tourists pelted past laughing at the force of the downpour.  We were unable to share their merriment.
Trudy was dashing about with the bells on her collar jingling in time to the rain.  She seemed oblivious to the cold shards of silver being hurled from the sky.  Herein lies the sorriest part of my tale.   Trudy used her freedom wisely and performed a “busy” on the grass as we neared Buckingham Palace.   I dutifully pulled a bag from my pocket in order to deposit her offering  in the nearest bin.  All the while the rain was continuing to assault our bodies and we were hunched over double.  I turned towards my rucksack with the dodgy wheels and expressed concern that it might look “unattended” while we were retrieving Trudy’s “busy”.  At this point I  wondered where the “busy” actually was, for it had seemingly disappeared.  In fact it had not disappeared at all – it was under my shoe.  This was quite possibly the lowest point of our London experience.  There was a poignant moment of despair and self-loathing,  but once my shoe had been washed in a series of puddles the hilarity of the situation took over.  Laughter is truly a great medicine.  Hence we were able to reach our destination, Buckingham Palace, where we lingered for about thirty seconds.  The rain was still venomous, so we decided to head back towards the shelter of Green Park station.
As we neared the station we came across a Marks and Spencer, and the prospect of a sandwich tempted us in.  Dripping pools of water onto the floor we took refuge behind a huge pillar in order to try to organise our sodden belongings.  Trudy, who was hoovering up crumbs,  shook her waterlogged fur all over a smartly dressed lady .  If that smartly dressed lady happens to be reading this, I apologise on behalf of my soggy hound.  Throughout the watery chaos we were  being watched by a store detective who must have labelled us  “suspicious persons” right from the moment we entered.  Against the odds, we did manage to buy a sandwich and that kept our spirits afloat as we headed back towards the mayhem of Green Park station.  Many escalators, steps, platforms, crowds and near-heart attacks later, we were sitting on the train at Paddington about to start our homeward journey.
Hereford and London are two vastly contrasting places.  When you’re in Hereford, London seems magical, exciting, buzzing, and alluring.  But once you actually hit that heaving hub of humans, the magic fades into unease, and slowly that unease changes to all-out panic.  After just 24 hours of city strife I was longing for the pure oxygen and grassy hills of Herefordshire.  Now as I sit at my desk I smile as I remember pouring over Tubeplanner early last week.  It is a great online resource for would-be Tube travellers, but memorising the stops on the Bakerloo line whilst sitting in your living room does NOT prepare you at all for the brutal reality of the London Underground.  Having said that, I have not ruled out another trip at some point in the future!

Paws for a Snack

I'm so hungry!

All Guide dogs are noble when they need to be, but I think the best Guide dogs possess that “lovable rogue” quality which brings out the funny side of life.

My Guide dog Trudy has those Labrador eyes which melt the most hardened hearts, and she knows precisely who will fall for her “please rescue me, I’m starving” act.  The Postie has got used to her head appearing round the door with an empty food bowl hanging from her mouth.  But people who aren’t used to Trudy never cease to tell me that they think “she might be hungry”.  The empty bowl with its well-chewed edges is the picture of neglect when it’s dropped at the feet of a stranger.  She looks up at the unsuspecting newbie with sorrowful eyes, which I’m positive she has learned to enlarge just to increase the pathos.

The starved Labrador act comes into its own when we’re out and about.    When we’re walking through a busy street I always have to be ready for the sudden lurch of the harness – it invariably means she’s spied a discarded sandwich crust, or a lone chip.  As I know her tactics I can usually grab her back before she’s reached the edible item, but she still occasionally manages to outwit me.

Sometimes she’ll lunge for something dramatically, but when I prize it from her mouth I find it’s nothing more than an apple stalk or a dried piece of orange peel, or a till receipt.  I can almost hear the “Ha ha, fooled you” snigger as I pretend the incident never occurred (I have to maintain my own street cred…).

In the early days of our partnership Trudy committed some worthy food crimes.  One late evening I was walking down the hill towards Hereford Town centre and Trudy suddenly appeared to be limping.  I was alarmed, and stopped her to check her paws in case she’d trodden on some glass or chewing gum. I was unable to find anything, so gave her the command to continue.  As she did so I noted that she was definitely walking peculiarly, and became quite concerned.  After stopping her again and checking her more thoroughly, I discovered a dirty great doughnut hanging out of her chops.  She’d procured it without even stopping so I hadn’t noticed the crime take place.  And she was so determined to hide her stolen booty that she was trying to eat the doughnut on the hop before she got rumbled.  Unfortunately for Trudy, walking in harness whilst munching a doughnut requires considerable practise, so she didn’t get away with that one.

At home Trudy is a seasoned thief.  Her bed is a hoard of socks, gloves, shoe laces and other items which may come in handy later.  Stealing underwear from my laundry basket and presenting them as “gifts” to visitors is one of her favourite antics.  I’ve had to buy a Trudy-proof laundry basket to protect my dignity…  (Trudy is a canine expert on the topic of “how to embarrass the parents”).

She has only thieved from a shop once.  This particular crime occurred in a local pet supplies shop, in which ironically I was purchasing some rawhide chews.  Just as I was paying for the multipack of pressed rawhide, I was aware of a rapid crunching sound in my left ear.  Torn between ignoring it and facing the inevitable, I reluctantly plunged for the latter.  I reached down to Trudy’s muzzle, and felt the thin end of a gluten-free chew disappearing into her mouth.  She looked up at me with such imploring “I couldn’t help it” eyes that the shopkeeper actually offered her another one!  “They’re only 43p” he said, chuckling at the notion of a shoplifting Guide dog.  That’s Labrador psychology for you.

Trudy is untrustworthy whenever there is unsupervised food.  (The 5 mince pies left unwittingly too near met a grisly end last Christmas).  But despite the fact that she has earned the nickname of “The Hoover”, I have never felt unsafe when I’m out with her.  She has never once led me over a kerb into the road, or put me in any danger.    I am 100% certain that Trudy’s professional role as a Guide dog overcomes the scallywag Labrador when my safety is in question.    Trudy is a synonym for mischief, but the fact is I know I can trust her with my life.

Although there have been times when Trudy’s antics have caused me to cringe with embarrassment, there is nothing about her that I would ever wish to change.