Pearce’s 10th birthday 

My first guide dog Pearce is 10 today!!! Happy birthday boy now in double figures 🙂 he’s doing fantastically well in his new home! I hope he enjoys his hug box which I’ve sent him and I plan on seeing him sometime this year hopefully as his owners keep wanting me to but I haven’t been wanting to because it was so hard last time but it’s been 6 years now and I feel I need to see him again. 

Love and miss you boy but I’m glad I did the right thing for him because he’s so much happier now which makes me happy too! He’s got the perfect home 🙂 

My happy boy when he was still happy working. My fave pic of him which will always be treasured. 

Pete’s mysterious illness and a new app 

Since I haven’t been on FB since Ash Wednesday I feel a bit out of it but in other ways I’m relieved to be off it, I haven’t had much time to think about it too much either as had some sad news last Thursday that a school friend of mine passed away which was really quite upsetting but I’m sure she’s in a better place. Throughout all this Peter had also been vomiting every morning at around about the same time but he seemed absolutely fine in himself so I wasn’t too worried even though I knew it wasn’t normal I decided to wait a few days to see whether it would clear itself but it didn’t and on Wednesday the day of my friend’s funeral which I felt sad that I couldn’t attend Pete became very lethargic, sleepy and just not the usual happy, cheeky and naughty boy I know and love, his sickness became worse and so we decided to make an apt at the vet and get him seen to! Now it was really sad to see how bad he had become because he loves the vet but he just wasn’t interested and just laid down instead of wanting to say hello to people. The vet gave him a thorough check over and decided to give him an anti sickness injection and Zantac medication to see if these helped and it’s been so far so good but we will see over the weekend now that all medication has worn off what happens. I hope he continues to improve. Thank You for everyone’s thoughts and well wishes which I’m sure have come in for Pete but I haven’t seen them yet due to banning myself off FB. Will keep you updated and I thank Lauren who has updated coffee lounge for me. 

I also have discovered a new app this week BeSpecular which I’ve used today several times and got responses within a few minutes. You take a picture of a letter, package, email or anything really and a sighted person will read what you want them to. I love it and you kind of feel really grateful for their help. Will come very much in handy 🙂 

Feb half term adventures 

Monday morning I went to Exeter to meet up with some very good friends for lunch, we met at a completely different location which was totally new to me and Pete, got a different bus but made it and we had a lovely meal and chat at the waterfront I think it’s called. 

Tuesday – Thursday I went to Guernsey with mum, older sister and Pete. This was to test how Pete would cope with flying and to see one of the Channel Islands which I had always wanted to do so I thought we could combine the two. We got to the airport around 2:45pm  and exeter were fabulous with their customer service and assistance, we got priority boarding, they were very considerate when they asked if they could take Pete through on his own and then they took me through for us to be reunited, we then sat in the departure lounge before getting called on just before 15:15 and I was taken to my seat and they showed me and got me to feel their safety vest, got me to feel where the call button is in case I needed help, I got Pete in and took his harness off, they never asked me for his car harness and never asked me to strap him in. With longer haul flights I would prob put it on but there was no way I was gonna get Pete in a car harness in a tight space. Other people then started getting on, we began to take off and I gave Pete a substantial chew which he finished half of it and I wanted to make it a positive experience so out came the schmakos too and this Kept him occupied and not worry about the flight. We landed in Jersey to then take off again so these were real tests for Pete but he did so well, we landed in Guernsey at 17:35 where it was straight through to arrivals and out to the bus stop which is directly opposite the airport, we took the 92 to st Peter port or town terminus as they call it. We then walked to our hotel Les Cotil which was up on a hill and mum could see the cross from the town. 

We got settled in and went for dinner at 8 at the hotel as we were tired and it was dark so mot much but lights to see. Took Pete out for last busy before bed. 

Woke up the next day and we went to north side of the island to Cobo bay and Vazon bay which were beautiful and we walked lots to explore the island, we did 20,000 steps that day! I was exhausted but we had dinner at the swan inn which was truly delicious. 

The next day we took a bus to icat which was I think west of the island and we walked the beautiful coastal path which Pete very much approved of from icat to jerbourg which took a bit over an hour, we then got the bus back to St Peter port, went back to our hotel and had afternoon tea which consisted of Belgian waffles and Guernsey ice cream and cream and chocolate sauce, we then collected our bags and set off again to catch the bus to the airport. The flight back Pete had more space which was good. We were due to fly straight from Guernsey to Exeter but Jersey was covered in fog so they had to do a detour and do Jersey on our way back, we waited ages in jersey whilst they sorted paperwork before setting off which delayed everything but by that time Peter was a pro at staying calm during landing and take off and didn’t bat and eyelid. So so proud of him, he was a really good boy, Flybe were fantastic, the hotel was brilliant and everywhere we went were so welcoming and everyone so helpful and friendly. 

Apple Watch series 2 – My verdict so far

I got my Apple Watch on Tuesday morning just before I was leaving for work so that was extremely good because mum and dad and my sister were out for the day which meant if it hadn’t arrived at that time we would’ve had to have collected it from the post office which one have been a problem but it’s less of a hassle if it gets delivered to the door. 

I took it to work that day and during my lunch break I set it up and began playing around with it, I set it up via the Apple Watch app on my iPhone which is fairly straightforward and I immediately put it onto voice-over to see what it was like. You not like voice-over on the iPhone so I was a bit sceptical of this but after using it for awhile since having no choice on the Apple Watch I have found it extremely helpful and less confusing and less annoying as well, voice-over on the Apple Watch is so easy to use compared to the iPhone which is really really good because without this I would’ve had to send it back. 

I was told about the Minnie and Mickey Mouse Watch faces which announce the time with a tap on the watchso that was pretty smart but there’s more! 

I have been wanting an Apple Watch for at least six months but was due to the price debating whether it was worth it. It was only after talking to a friend who got the Apple Watch for Christmas and was really impressed with it even though she cited but has a V I husband so was investigating the VI features for the watch and after hearing from other VI people who had the watch and were impressed I decided to go ahead and buy it and so far I do not regret it! 

I have tested it to its limit, I wanted it for tracking my exercise as I’m trying to lose weight and I know there are several cheaper versions out there but this Watch does so much more! 

I have tried quick start outdoor walk, indoor run, indoor cycling and pool swim and I wanted to see if what they say about this Watch being waterproof so I splashed it First under the tap, took it in the bath and finally to the local swimming pool for my half hour swim all on the special lock feature so that the touchscreen gets disabled but you can still find out how much your burning etc with voiceover which I was very impressed you just use the dial instead of the touchscreen. Afterwards all I had to do was rinse the watch and spin the wheel on the side and it unlocks back to its usual screen and touchscreen capabilities. 

It certainly motivates you to achieve your goals, it reminds you to stand if you’ve sat down for too long, it reminds you to breathe which are both very handy. 

I’ve trialled the maps app out and it’s really good that it nudges you when you need to make a turn and I’ve just found a bus check app which will notify when my stop is coming up but haven’t tried and tested it yet but will try that on Monday. 

I’m loving it so far and in new and unknown places and on buses I won’t need to worry About missing my stop 🙂 

How did I do without it I ask myself 🙂 I’m so glad I made the purchase!!! I’m not saying it’s for everyone but it’s certainly gonna be very useful for me and I look forward to discovering more of what it can do for me. 

Reflecting on 2016

The beginning of the year brought uncertainty, anxiety and upset because I knew the move was actually happening and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to stay and continue to build my life and find a more rewarding and supportive job but after countless interviews and every time failing I began to think whether moving was meant to be what I was supposed to do so I made the decision although it was difficult and I felt very worried that I wouldn’t find a job to take the plunge and move, make a new start and trust that God knows and will provide. January also brought the loss of a good friend Vicky which was the first funeral I’ve been to that I remember so that was sad as she was taken too young. 

February I handed in my notice at work and ended on 29th Feb, that was a sad day and the end of an era and it showed I was much loved by the gifts I was showered with, I was overwhelmed by their generosity and some of those will stay friends for life and again I thank them for the experience they gave me and the support they provided, had my jabs for my holiday and March I said goodbye to people I knew and loved and had become good friends with through work, guide dogs etc. At the end of March mum and dad and little sis moved to Sidmouth and I stayed with the jones family until my holiday. 

April brought the holiday of a lifetime and one I will never forget, I went with the best friend I could have gone with and had the most amazing time, met new friends and even found out that one knows my best friend from school! We stayed in beehive huts which has always been my dream, saw the king of the jungle so close up, rhino, elephants, different types of antelope and the memories of that time still makes me smile and I can say that holiday was worth every penny, the Swazi people were so amazing, kind and helpful and made sure we had the most wonderful time ever and we did so it’s thanks to Traveleyes and Jenny at Sense Africa who organised the holiday for us. They are going back next year but it’s not meant to be for me this time! 

When I got back from Africa on my way to my new home which I had never seen! I got an invite to an interview at the local agricultural college near where I live for the following week and got the job, I couldn’t believe it so much so I cried and they have been so supportive I have been overwhelmed as they really have bent over backwards for me to make sure I can do the job and do it well and I will be forever grateful. 

I also put in for voluntary work at WESC and the donkey sanctuary because I thought I would be ages without a job but it was not so I felt guilty because I couldn’t give them more of my time so not good for them but good for me getting the job and they were all so understanding. I did do a bit for the donkey sanctuary over the summer and I am still volunteering for WESC which I enjoy and get to work with one AMAZING lady who I’m glad to call my friend and her lovely assistant from time to time. 

June I went back to MK to take my exams and it was a bit of a disaster but the school did their best and it all ended well. 

July brought me starting the new job finally, it was challenging to begin with but now I think it’s a piece of cake and it’s enjoyable working with the students and seeing how happy they are seeing Pete. 

August I went back to MK again for Leisure this time to see friends which was lovely but it was also really difficult leaving them again so I was quite upset afterwards. I Also got my exam results which was a Grade B which I was so pleased about and couldn’t quite believe it! It was also the Sidmouth folk festival. And I went to Southampton to see Jo do her abseil and met the Portsmouth and Southampton crew.

September I went back to work properly and it was extremely busy and I got quite stressed because I was on my own and didn’t quite feel confident in what I was doing yet so I was thankful when I got some help. 

October, Nov and December have flown by as has the whole year and it’s been a great year overall for me and today marks two years since I got the phone call about Peter and our bond is stronger than ever even though it took a long time to come but I’m glad he’s in my life 🙂 We are still a happy healthy family all still together and for that I will be forever grateful. We also live in a beautiful location which is amazing and I’ve made new friends who will be friends forever

HAPPY NEW YEAR 🙂 here’s to 2017 🙂

8 years of guide dog ownership 

Today marks 8 years of being a guide dog owner, I started training today 8 years ago! Doesn’t time fly. I can’t quite believe it. Things have changed since that day, it’s been an emotional roller coaster having to retire and rehome Pearce as it was in his best interests, getting Texan so quickly afterwards and the emotions that came with that but I’m glad I took that boy he is one truly remarkable dog and guide dog, such a shame his eyesight going knocked his confidence so badly that he became sensitive to bus travel and wouldn’t settle in cafes etc for worry he would get trodden on and I knew he couldn’t cope with it any longer and that was harder because he saved my life for which I will be forever grateful because without him I may not have been here to write this today. He won beyond the call of duty guide Dog of the year award in 2012 for him going above and beyond his duties for me. Again the welfare of Texan had to come first and I decided to retire him but was able for keep him so I was very relieved at that! And with Peter being a totally different kettle of fish it’s been challenging but he is a fantastic worker but just a loony with it lol! My dogs have enabled me to lead a fulfilling life, take up opportunities I never would have before and taken on challenges. My confidence has bloomed, I now no longer need to worry that I’m going to trip over something or bash into someone or get lost because I will hopefully always have a guide dog by my side. 

Here is a video I made on Flipagram of 8 years as a guide dog owner with photos of my 3 boys and the fun we’ve had together, the places we’ve been, the things we’ve conquered, the people we’ve met and the full life I now lead. 

https://flipagram.com/f/yogHEPiRm6
I thank all who support, work and volunteer for guide dogs, thank you for changing lives every day. 

CVI – Cortical/Cerebral Visual Impairment 

I’m writing this blog after talking to a friend of mine who possibly has this condition, one which I also have but is undiagnosed as a lot of professionals don’t recognise CVI as a VI because the eyes themselves appear normal and it is in fact the brain with this condition That is affected because the eyes will see things but the brain can’t process what the eyes are seeing so the images get lost or stuck somewhere in between eyes and brain. Normally like myself this condition occurs at or shortly after birth due to brain damage or some sort of brain trauma so this type is called Congenital CVI but what I didn’t know same with Cerebral Palsy thanks to the Paralympics that these 2 conditions can also be acquired later in life. It does seem that the focus is mainly on children with CVI and not much on adults which is kind of odd because either we’ve had it since we were children and it won’t go away or if can be acquired and I think it’s those along with children need help and support for this condition but hopefully as more research is being done more professionals will know about this condition and acknowledge it as a VI. 

People often ask as they do with any VI person “what can you see?”. Now it’s not black and white unfortunately as everyone sees differently and because I’ve never seen normally it can be quite hard to explain, thankfully I found some fairly realistic simulation specs online which have helped people to understand a little and it’s quite interesting what different people see with these specs. Most people who have their 2 eyes working together when they put the glasses on they will see double but thankfully most of the time unless I’m tired or ill or trying to focus too hard because my eyes work completely separately to each other I don’t necessarily get the double vision. So I will try and explain as best I can what I can see to hopefully give people a better understanding:

The world around me is like a jigsaw puzzle so when I first go somewhere new my brain needs to process what my eyes are seeing and that can be very hard, tiring and takes a lot of concentration as it tries to figure out what things are and so in my home town or workplace which are familiar areas my brain can fit missing pieces of the puzzle even though I may not see it, obviously there are constantly changes which again throws the brain into confusion like bright lighting including the sun or in the evening which makes everybody and everything look like silhouettes, at night or in darkness I see nothing unless some light is coming through. have no peripharal so it’s mostly in the centre what I see and my eyes don’t work together so one may see something whilst the other will see something completely different, sometimes I see double or one and a half of something. It’s worse if I am tired or ill. I have nystagmus as well and a block squint, one eye is normally worse than the other and in my case it’s my left so I see most out of my right. I can’t see what’s on the floor so only what’s at eye level and when I try and pick things up or reach for something or touch something I sometimes miss it. The brain works in mysterious ways and I cope relatively well as my brain has adapted to my way of seeing it just doesn’t transfer the images the way it should. I have no 3D vision so people look like cardboard cut outs, steps, stairs, kerbs etc are all flat so they are difficult to judge and traffic is hard to judge the speed so I’ve had near misses but thanks to my guide dogs I’ve been saved every time 🙂 facial expressions I can’t distinguish so I go mostly by people’s voices or footsteps. Crowded and unfamiliar places are a nightmare and a challenging undertaking which can make me stressed because there’s too much for my brain to take in so it gets overloaded which in turn gives me headaches because it takes an awful lot of concentration. Sometimes sitting in darkness is actually lovely because I don’t then need to focus on anything or if I’m on my iPad then that’s the only thing I need to focus on because everything else around me is black so my eyes even though they still need to process and read it’s a lot less strain than having to try and process everything Around me when the light is on or I’m outside. Reading isn’t an easy thing because of my nystagmus everything swims on the page and it would take me far too long to read a book because I can’t read more than a few lines before feeling the strain so I listen to audio books now and if I do read I try and have the font size to 36 for instance as that’s comfortable reading but If it’s too big or too small there’s then too much movement for eyes to cope with for instance if the letters are too large I only see a portion of it and it takes much longer to figure out what that letter might be and that’s why magnifiers are not the best for me even though I have found an electronic one that is really helpful. 

High contrast things are best because otherwise things merge into each other and I can’t figure out what it is for instance kerbs, roads and pavements all look the same and are all flat to me so I can’t distinguish what is what because it’s all grey but again when I’m used to an area whether it be pitch black or daylight My brain will remember when there is a kerb etc but even when I’ve been to a familiar place a 100 times one time I will notice one thing and yet I’ve passed it so many times before or I won’t notice something or my brain will think there is something in my path when there isn’t anything. Most of the time we look as if are just fine but it takes a lot of hard work to process the world around us and that creates the eye strain, tiredness etc which the public don’t see and CVI does go hand in hand with other disabilities so it’s not just the eyesight it’s the whole package. 

I’ve attached a video link from YouTube which explains better than I do about CVI. Eyes are not the only thing that help us see the Brain is a major part and if the nerves don’t connect it is kind of as if the images are bouncing back and forth but going nowhere.