Thanks for reading

In July 2007, I wrote my very first
blog post
before I went to Cork to train with OJ. I didn’t really know how blogs worked, how long I would keep writing for, and if anybody would actually ever read what I wrote. Time has absolutely flown, and we’ve done a lot in those ten years.

I decided earlier this year that I would write my last blog post in July. I didn’t want to be repeating things I have already written, and didn’t want long gaps between blog posts. I think I have told my story with O.J now, and hopefully given people an insight into what owning and working with a guide dog is like. When I made that decision to finish my blog, I didn’t think that O.J would no longer be around. I thought he would outlive the blog, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I’m just very glad that I kept writing for so long, and now I have so many memories and stories of our life together to read back on.

When I began blogging, I did so to keep a record of training and working with my first guide dog. It wasn’t written to please other people. I really enjoy writing, so I usually put time and effort into putting posts together. I didn’t put much work into sharing and promoting the blog. I posted when I wanted to, not because I hadn’t posted in a few days and needed to update people about my life. It was online,and if people enjoyed reading and learning from it, then that was a huge bonus. People did interact with it and learn from it. I’ve made many new online friends, and some who I have enjoyed meeting and spending time with as a result of this blog. That was something I hadn’t expected. I really appreciate people’s thoughtful comments, advice and encouragement on the blog. Thanks especially to those of you (who I won’t name but you know who you are), who regularly left comments. It was always so nice to hear from you, and I hope we can stay in touch. Those of you who have blogs, I’ll definitely keep reading them. I’m on Facebook, i’m @ojdoherty on twitter, and my email address is
jennydoherty86(at)gmail.com
if anybody does want to keep in touch. I’ll be doing something soon in memory of O.J, so you might want to hear more about that.

All I can say now is a massive thanks to everyone for reading during the last ten years. The biggest thanks of all goes to O.J, for changing my life and being the inspiration for this blog and everything I’ve written.
Jennifer xx

Opportunity

The
fourteenth
assistance dog blog carnival is being hosted by
l-squared.
I rarely post in these carnival type things, but the theme of “opportunity” was something I could relate to straight away, so I thought I’d write about the many opportunities that having a guide dog has given me.
Don’t forget to check out L’s blog soon to read all the blog posts.

When you think about guide dogs and how they help their owners, independence is the obvious thing that comes to mind. It’s impossible to describe the freedom that having a dog gives, unless you’ve actually had one. Many blind and visually impaired people never own a dog and manage perfectly fine with their cane. I knew from a young age that I was never going to be one of those people. I understand that I need to use it at times, but when I have to use it, I’m like a different person trying to find my way around. I walk much slower, am less confident, and the thought of moving from one place to another stresses me out. I need to point out that this is a personal weakness and definitely not the case for every cane user. Having O.J is like walking with a sighted person, since he guides me around obstacles, instead of me having to come into contact with them and find my way around them. I grew up among sighted family and friends, so this has always felt more natural. Going for walks is relaxing now, so as well as going to necessary places, O.J and I go for leisurely walks along with my pet dog, just for the enjoyment of it. Of course the exercise is another bonus.

If you are a confident person, you’ll automatically become more positive, therefore discovering and benefiting from more opportunities that come your way. I have been working since 2007, as well as doing voluntary work. It might sound strange to thank my dog for this, but I know having him with me has given me more confidence. Last week my contract in work finished, and I’ll have one or two days of work a week now if I’m lucky. I’m not too worried about it because O.J will keep me in a routine, and I know that when something new comes up, I can learn new routes and take new opportunities if I have him with me.

Owning a guide dog provides a constant opportunity to meet people on a daily basis, since everyone wants to ask questions about the dog. You’ll be tired saying the same things over and over again, but wouldn’t it be worse if people were afraid to start a conversation with you just because you are blind? I think when people see the dog, they are interested in him and overcome their shyness because they want to ask questions.
O.J has given me the opportunity to meet other guide dog owners, whether through training at the beginning, fundraising or talking online. This has led to me meeting some new friends and my boyfriend, and I know that we wouldn’t have all met if we didn’t have dogs.

Travel is another thing that I find much easier with a guide dog. Before I had O.J, I did go places, and often flew to England to visit my cousin. Now when I travel, I’m much more relaxed, and apart from bringing a few extra things for the dog and making sure the place I’m staying in has grass nearby, I don’t worry about where I’m going much. I don’t know my way around many of the places that I travel too, but people are inclined to approach me quicker and offer help when they see the dog.

I suppose if I was trying to summerise what having O.J means to me, I’d say that he gives me the opportunity to live a normal life. I hate using the word “normal”, but it’s the only one I can think of. A guide dog has given me the opportunity to live independently like my other family members and friends, and I can do lots of the same things they can do, without having to depend on them. Simple things like walking to visit people, instead of waiting for someone to come and get me, and being able to watch my nephews and take them places mean a lot to me. When I walk with O.J, it’s obvious that I am blind, and he stands out a lot. However, when he’s not with me, there are many situations where I feel much more disabled and less capable.
For me, having a guide dog provides a lot more opportunities than basic mobility and independence.

Advice From Dave

It seems to be an annual thing. Every so often I don’t blog for a while, can’t think of things to write about, and ask myself why I’m still bothering to write here anymore. Maybe five years of writing about life with a guide dog is getting boring. There’s not much to talk about that I haven’t mentioned already. I have always blogged for myself, not to attract readers, but if I can’t keep myself interested, how can I expect the few readers I have left to be interested.

I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks, because I spent a week in France where one of my best friends got married, and came back to a broken internet. I had a quick look back over blogs, while still trying to decide whether to keep my own. A blog I love reading and always find inspiring is

<a HREF=”http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com”>Rolling Around in My Head</a>

by Dave Hingsburger, and one simple sentense he wrote in a recent post helped me to motivate my own interest in keeping this blog up, for another year anyway.

“Pay attention to your day and you will find things to write about.”

And he is so right.

And its his fault that I’m sticking around for another while. No doubt O J and I will have lots more experiences that I can write about, if I pay attention.

Long Time, No See

That’s something people round here say often. Its a sentence i use often too, even though I’ve actuallly never seen anybody before in my life. Its also the title of
Beth Finke’s memoir.
I’ve been reading and enjoying Beth’s blog for the last few years, so naturally i was delighted to finally be able to read the book in braille when it was published and sent to me by the
RNIB library.
Beth’s book gives us an insight into what its like to live with juvenile diabetes, fall in love and get married, lose your sight and raise a child with a significant learning disability, not to mention train with a guide dog when you really don’t like dogs!

Beth’s great sense of humour, pure honesty and gift for storytelling makes this book a pleasure to read. I’ve heard her speak on NPR a couple of times, so I can almost hear her narrating her own story as I read my braille copy.

I think the main reason why I could relate so much to Beth’s story is not because she is blind, but because of her positive attitude to life. She recognises that not everything is straightforward and simple. Things are sometimes difficult but that doesn’t mean you have to sit down and feel sorry for yourself. I could relate to her determination to be independent, find a job, look good and to not be what some people would consider a stereotypical blind person. Her husband Mike seems to share the same obtimistic attitude, making them perfect role models and supportive parents for their son Gus. The words “fight the good fight” will stick with me for a long time.

‘Long Time No See’ is an excellent book for teachers, parents, people in the medical or caring professions, and anybody who is curious to know what its like to lose your sight and still lead a normal life. Sometimes as blind people, we might think we know all this already, but I can guarantee you that Beth’s story will teach you something new, and you’ll be glad you took the time to read it.

Guest Post: Assistance Dog for Autism

This month’s guest post is from a blogger I have mentioned many times here during the last couple of years. They won an Irish Blog Award earlier this year, so I thought it was time they introduced themselves in their own words.

“Greetings from Clive & Co over at Clive – Assistance Dog for Autism and many thanks for the opportunity to introduce ourselves and talk a little about assistance dogs, autism and the impact both have had on our lives.
Three years ago we started blogging about Clive and Murray – our assistance dog and our son who has autism.  Clive is 6 now, Murray is 13.  Clive came into our lives five years ago and during that time a huge transformation has taken place in Murray.  A lot of work has also taken place during that time too
– lots of special needs schooling, lots of occupational therapy and speech therapy, lots of horse-riding and swimming and Special Olympics competitions
but it’s been the ‘lots of Clive’ that has really turned things around for Murray.
Before Clive came into our lives – simple everyday tasks were difficult for Murray.  He craved routine, familiarity, the safety of home.  Taking him shopping, trying to stand in a queue, attempting to go to a football match – these were all things that Murray found extremely frightening and upsetting.  He had little language to explain his fear, his sensitivity to noise and crowds, his nervousness of strangers – so Murray cried or screamed or got so upset at
the idea of leaving the house – he threw up.  We got so used to Murray getting sick that we couldn’t remember a time when Murray didn’t throw up at the idea of a change in routine.  That was what life was like for our family or rather it was a lack of a life because we couldn’t do much as a family. Murray has another sibling who didn’t get much of look in with all that was going on with Murray.

Clive has changed that – Clive has transformed Murray – Clive has enabled Murray to lead a relatively normal life.  When Murray has Clive with him – he feels secure, confident and is able to cope with a change in his surroundings, Murray can manage and now enjoy interaction with people outside of the house.
 From the days of not even being able to go to our local GAA club to watch Murray’s sister play football – we can now go into Croke Park to cheer on Dublin! 
Over the past five years Murray’s speech has come on hugely – Clive has helped that because Murray wanted to communicate with ‘his dog’ so having Clive with him 24/7 has helped develop Murray’s language skills.  Murray has become far more independent because of Clive – more independent than we ever thought possible – seeing him able to take Clive for a walk on his own this summer was a truly magical experience.  An experience we would never have considered
possible five years ago prior to Clive coming into our lives.  Murray’s confidence has grown hugely – he now engages willingly and happily with people outside the house.  He is hugely proud of Clive and always willing to go places, try new things, meet new people.
Clive has literally opened up the world for Murray!   Clive has taken Murray to Spain, France, Belgium and the USA.  A fellow blogger in the USA – reading Clive’s blog in South Carolina has invited us over to her house for the past two summers.  Clive and his blog have enabled Murray to experience new countries, new experiences – truly a whole new world.  On the rare occasion that for some reason, Clive can’t be with Murray – Murray can now accept and understand
that and can carry on without Clive (once he knows Clive is safe and happy at home).
Murray is a magical kid – a kid that has given his family so much pleasure over the past 13 years – he has enriched our lives and made all the family sit up and view the world a little differently.  He has got his family involved in fundraising, autism awareness and supporting Irish Guide Dogs and the work they do.  He has done all this and more because of that great golden shaggy dog that came home from Cork one June morning five years ago.   If Murray is
magical – then Clive is his ‘magical’ canine!

There are currently 175 assistance dogs around Ireland working with children like Murray.  There are also over 200 children with autism on a waiting list for an assistance dog.  The current wait time for an assistance dog is four years.  That’s a long time when you have a child with autism ….
Many thanks for taking the time to read our guest post here on Jen’s Blog.  For more stories on Clive and the work he does as an assistance dog for autism
– please check out his blog
assistance dog for autism.”

Guest Post: At A Glacial Pace

The first blog post of each month is a guest post from a guest blogger. This month’s is from Jes, whose blog has been an inspiration to me since I discovered it earlier this year. When you read her post, you’ll know exactly why. Then go follow her blog:

At A Glacial Pace.

You only think your life is busy until you read about hers!

Have you ever taken a step back and wondered

“where did the time go?” or,

“what have I done in the last six years?”

I didn’t necessarily think these things exactly, but in December of

2005, I started writing a blog. I don’t think anyone really read it,

but I was okay with that. It was more for my own entertainment and

musings; something I could look back on and remember what was going on

in my life. It was also a place for me to vent my feelings and

sentiments about living as a twenty-something, blind girl blundering

my way through life with my first guide dog, Jetta, by my side. A lot

has changed since December 2005. Jetta has retired, I’ve moved a

million times-it feels like it anyway-and I’ve grown up a lot. I still

rant from time to time, but I think I’m a bit more eloquent now and

perhaps don’t get as fired up about certain things as I used to.

Now, my blog focuses primarily on my life as a blind woman in the

process of moving from the United States to Edinburgh Scotland. It

chronicles the happenings in my house with two guide dogs and a

husband. It’s much different from the raging, slightly radical

Sociology student that often spewed words out in an attempt to make

her brain shut off. I still advocate for equality and accessibility; I

still try to raise awareness for those populations who may not

necessarily have a voice-that includes animals; but it’s a less

aggressive and probably much more readable approach.

My blog is constantly changing and it’s probably because I don’t stay

still well. I always have at least two projects on the go and if not,

I’m looking for something else to add. I used to be a competitive

swimmer for Canada and retired in 2008. It took me a few years to

realise that the fire for competition had not burned out and I made it

my mission to fulfill this void; this happens to be training for a

triathlon. I have dreams of competing in the Paralympics again as a

triathlete. If you’re going to dream, dream big.

Athletics are not my only interest. I have a degree in Sociology and

Massage Therapy. I would also like to get my Master’s in

Physiotherapy, which is in the works for September of 2012. On the

side, I love training dogs and interacting with them. My most recent

dog related adventure was starting up a Pet Consulting business that

will be a side project until I can build up a client base. On top of

all of this, my posts are full of stories about the move to Scotland,

my experience as a guide dog handler and a few random ramblings about

the necessity of coffee. In reality, you will probably never know what

the next day’s post is going to be about as I never run out of things

to say. Strangely enough, I am quite the opposite in person; if I

don’t know you, I probably won’t talk much.

“At A Glacial Pace” is the title of the blog and is intended to be

ironic and a play on words all at the same time. Glacier is my current

working dog and nothing moves “at a glacial pace” in our lives. The

URL for the blog is “Walking Barefoot in the Sand” because that is

what life is like. Sand is unstable and if you were to walk on it

every day, or at different times of the day, it would be different.

Sometimes it’s warm and pleasant under your feet; others you must run

because it is too hot; and sometimes it is cold and wet and sticks to

your feet. Life is like walking on a sandy beach: you never know what

you’re going to experience and sometimes it can be pleasant, soothing

and exciting and sometimes it is cold, ungiving and desolate. Either

way, life-and sand-go on and the next time you step out your front

door, or on to a beach, it will not be the same. That is what is

exciting about life and I think my blog reflects that; or at least I

hope it does.

Guest Post: To You I bestow

Many blog readers already know that I produce a music show for my local community radio station
ICR FM
which is broadcast every Sunday between 8 and 9 pm. I enjoy picking music for the show and introducing listeners to the music that I like, but it can get a bit boring because the show is pre-recorded.
When I move house I hope to get lots of new equipment which will hopefully enable me to broadcast my show online from home. I haven’t worked out the exact format of the show yet, but my love of music by Irish artists is making me consider an Irish alternative music show. Who knows how this will end up, but that’s not the main point of this post.

The main point is to give you an insight into a blog which has inspired my appreciation for Irish artists even more. I guest posted on Peter Nagle’s blog
2 U I Bestow
just over a year ago, and he kindly returned the favour when I asked him to write a bit about his blog last week. Thanks Peter!

I’m Peter and I write the 2 U I Bestow Irish music blog and a folk column for the collaborative blog
fourforty4.
For my day job I teach Maths in a special school but in the evenings and the weekends I’m constantly listening to music, discovering great music or going to gigs and festivals. The 2 U I Bestow blog has enabled me to run a sessions gig in an intimate venue in Slane called
Boyles
and we imaginatively called the night ‘Live at Boyles’. Around half of my online traffic still comes from the US, with a sizable amount from the UK and the rest from Ireland. I’d say that there are over two hundred views from Ireland per day which I’m delighted with as the blog is just a hobby and there’s no revenue from it. I’m going to talk about the origin of the blog and where I see it in years to come.

The main inspiration for me to become a blogger was when I discovered
Mp3hugger.com
around five years ago now. The writing was and is still crisp and to the point with an opportunity to listen to new music before going off to buy an album or to see the band live. As mp3hugger only satisfied the indie/alternative side of me I went looking for blogs that were writing about Irish artists, or singer-songwriters or even good blogs writing about artists I adore like Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. So when there’s a spot in the market you have to go for it. I began a blog in February 2008 called Mixtape4Melfi. I was thinking along the lines of a website which provides good music to escape from the mundane day to day life. Yeah I didn’t think it through enough. Anyway while writing the Mixtape4Melfi blog I realised that I was writing about Irish artists that no one else covered such as Finglas born but Pittsburgh based Mark Dignam or Galway’s Peadar King. I therefore began planning an Irish artist only blog which went live in November 2008. I wanted a name for the blog that was the name of a popular Irish song. It came to me that I remembered reading that the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack has sold millions worldwide and it contains that Mundy song To You I Bestow.

There have been times in the past where I wondered if I was of any help to the bands I write passionately about. My ‘best of … ‘ lists rarely include albums that end up on the Choice Awards lists or are revered by other established bloggers. It’s taken some time to build an Irish readership because the blog is my own thoughts suited to my own tastes and it’s not a tool used by PR companies, record labels or concert promoters. I therefore have free reign to write about those artist I value and to ignore the music I do not value. Over time I hope those artists I write about gain the recognition and attention they deserve. I’m particularly delighted for artist such as Lisa O’Neill and Henrietta Game who are building a sizable fan base years after I first wrote a few words about them.

I aim to continue writing until I lose passion for the blog. I’d love to see the establishment of a Nationwide Irish music only radio station because we have so many wonderful musicians and bands. Ireland unfortunately is too small to keep a band gainfully employed full time. They need to look beyond Ireland to the UK, Europe and beyond in the way Villagers, Julie Feeney and James Vincent McMorrow have been touring and promoting recently. For this reason I hope all of my readers from the US and the UK keep returning to the blog to discover new Irish music.

Thanks Jen for asking me to write a guest post for you. I hope your new radio show goes well and that you continue to find new Irish music from 2 U I Bestow.

Project 366 things

I don’t know how I haven’t read this blog before now. Its a brilliant concept, interesting, funny and very well written.
The creater of
the project 366 things
is Dan Mooney, a 26 year-old from Limerick. He began the project on his 26th birthday, and will do something he has never done before every day until he turns 27.

I heard Dan talking to Ray Darcy on today fm yesterday, just before he began one of his latest challenges. I’ve also heard him
plucking a turkey
looked for a needle in a haystack (literally)
and getting a
Brazilian wax
all on national radio. Its not like I hadn’t heard of him before, so I have no idea why I only looked at the blog for the first time yesterday. Better late than never I suppose, and reading back through his posts was great fun.

Other things Dan did for the first time included dying his hair, knitting, set dancing and sewing.
Some of the stranger things included:
staying outdoors for 24 hours
drinking his own urine
learning to beat box, burning a bra, giving money to a stranger, and lots lots more.
Dan even tried
being blind for a day
Pity he didn’t have a guide dog to try walking with that day too.

There’s still another month of new things to go. Good luck with the rest of the project Dan!
Anyone who hasn’t seen it, check it out!

The assistance dog carnival

If you have any experience of assistance dogs, you might like to participate in this blogging carnival.
You can find out exactly how it works
here

Assistance dogs can be guide dogs, hearing dogs, autism service dogs, seizure detection dogs, service dogs etc.
If you own one or have owned one in the past, train or have trained one, live with someone who owns one, or have any experience of one and a story to tell, write a blog post, post it on your blog and send the host of the carnival the link. You can also submit a link to a post you’ve already written, provided it fits the topic.

the topic for the blog posts is “first.” this can be first anything relating to an assistance dog.
The deadline for submissions is 19th October, and you can post your blog posts any time between now and then.

It is an interesting project, and it will be good to read what people come up with.
If your taking part, good luck and have fun writing 🙂

Good stuff :)

I got an email a few days ago, telling me that the blog has received a “2010 Top 30 Vision Impaired Blogs award”, presented by Medical Billing and Coding!
Winners were chosen through a scoring system that included Internet
nominations, which came from my reader base.
I have no idea what that means, or what this is, but thank you anyway! 🙂
If your interested in blogs by blind and visually impaired writers, you can see the list of winners and their blogs
here.

On the subject of good things, I just had an amazing weekend in Galway with my cousin. She lives right in the city centre, so we didn’t have to go far for anything. I didn’t take O.J because there was no grass close to her house. If I’d have known the weather was going to be so nice, we could have easily walked to find some when he needed it, but good weather in Ireland is a rare thing!
We had lovely Thai food in Thai Garden and the nicest pizza in the world in Milanos. We shopped and went to the market, and most importantly, we chatted a lot and just had fun. I got to see a few great pubs, and on Saturday we ended up in the Roisin, which I love. I was two days late though, as David Gray played a secret gig there on Arthursday.

The people in Galway are so friendly! I didn’t bring my cane, and none of the bouncers at the doors of the pubs thought I was drunk, which was a relief. Usually if they don’t know me, they tell me I’m not allowed in, and when I tell them I’m blind they nearly die with embarrassment. That didn’t happen at all this time.
It also seems like somewhere that wouldn’t be impossible to find your way around with a guide dog. Its busy but not too big. I think you’d have to be a student to live in the city centre though.
The best thing about leaving O.J was the enormous enthusiastic welcome back I got from him when I got home!

We’re going to Dublin on Thursday for a gig, and I’m in the studio for Lawler Live with
Stuart
on Saturday. Tune in to
HKC radio
at 3 pm if you can. It would be great to have some participation from listeners to the show, who discovered it via the blog, so give us a shout on skype, msn or twitter if you can.