Public transport for assistance dogs in 200 words

Verdict: mixed but it has not stopped me so far!

Advice : you are the expert on what you need – so don’t be afraid to tell people what will make things easier and they will often surprise you.

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Boats and Ferries 🐾🐾🐾🐾  4.5 out of 5 paws – staff usually friendly, larger vessels will have plenty of space for furry partners to rest in comfort.

bus 🐾🐾🐾- some have large disabled spaces. But if not be prepared to be in the way. Big dogs don’t fit under the seats!

Trains🐾🐾- 2 out of 5. Pot luck- booking extra leg room ( small dog) or  token disabled space is only possible if you can plan ahead otherwise negotiating with fellow passengers already in position is usually left to you and can be traumatising. However there are heart warming exceptions.

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Underground🐾🐾🐾🐾. Four paws- although still much ancient creaking infrastructure rolling maintenance programmes show increased provision for travelers requiring assistance. Easy to use app to check for lift availability beforehand. 🎉🎉Special commendation for fellow passengers who often play twister around Angus during the rush hour to protect him from being squashed! We travel on the back standing seats as this is the biggest space and least in the way.

…. 200…. bet you didn’t think I could do that!

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The new London Route Master- great views from here but a bit tricky to get out!

 

 

Calling all cabbies…

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I am not quite sure how anyone can resist the cheeky grin and sparkling eyes of Angus exercising ‘full charm mode’.

Sadly most of the taxi drivers that we meet are immune! While there are some lovely ones out there most see us as a big problem. Due to recently publicised cases both controllers and drivers are keen to quote the Equalities act 2010  at me… which is novel as I am usually the one who has to do that in shops and restaurants. ” Of course we can’t refuse to take you…” But the prolonged pause and raising of an eyebrow  which follows says more than the words.

At least today’s driver was honest as he flicked the button opening all four windows wide, ” I’m the one with the problem. One dog hair and the next customer will ring in and complain. They said the one who should have got you had a puncture. Not true, he refused the job.”

I’m not sure if the  resulting frosty atmosphere for the rest of the journey was down to the gale now blowing straight through the car or if it was caused by his rage and embarrassment. I do understand that they like a hackney cab to take the job but they are not always about even when I give fair notice. For this reason I always proclaim Angus’s presence and carry a large blanket to cover the back seat and although this may seem a step down to Angus there is always the boot… if it had been emptied by said driver . Not sure how a wheel chair user was supposed to negotiate this problem either? Regrettably his irate ‘discussion’ with control on the radio while we were in earshot in the back lasted for at least two miles and left me wondering if I had spawned a pair of shiney red horns since I last looked in the mirror. IMG_6855

At last we arrived,money changed hands and we skittles away like two naughty kids who had been in trouble again! Off we went- not into the horizon but on to the train and then the bus followed by the underground and then the whole thing in reverse. Oh my what fun we shall have while trying hard just to be ‘normal’.

 

Angus – the P.A.T volunteer

This year Angus and I were allowed the privilege of joining P.A.T. (Pets   As Therapy) , a national charity that brings animal and their owners together with public  organisations to spread a little love and enjoyment with others. This may be encouraging children to learn to read in schools, visiting the elderly in care homes or hospitals and assisting patient wellbeing through animal contact based therapies.

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Angus is already a volunteer along with me at my local mental health NHS trust and now spends some of his time out from being an Assistance dog on the wards as a P.A.T. Dog. He is a great duchess- recognised and (I am frequently assured ) loved by staff and patients alike to provide a well deserved few minutes of stress relief. Some of his new friends like to stroke him, others tell him about their pets and what kind of day they are having and one lovely lady sings to him while giving him a head massage. I am sure you will guess from this that it is one of Angus’ favourite times of the week.And afterwards there is always time for a good roll!

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Travels with my Goldie – A taste of island life

DSC04551A taste of island life…

Although we didn’t realise it our arrival coincided with winter shut down on Colonsay. Like a National Trust property in November- there was a sense in the air that dust sheets had been fetched from the loft and if you lingered too long you too would be covered over till next March.

However I caught my self wondering if this kind of exile would be entirely bad? Rugged landscape suited best to the gales of winter and locals who were down to earth and genuinely engaged with visitors.(For those interested check out some of the fascinating articles and books about islanders lives.) No resentment here on Colonsay to the screaming intrusion into their quiet way of life! During a brief stay we encountered amazing characters. Among them : the local who knew my childhood home; seasonal workers who love the life style of their adopted summer home and the shop owners who let us glimpse parts of their rural winter life.

Only a few miles wide and  with around 120 hardy inhabitants This out post is 2.5 ferry hours from Oban and 1 from the much bigger and busier whisky island of Islay could just as easily a whole world away. While locals went about their business Colonsay  remained still and silent except for the occasional distant call of grey seals against the wind and crash if the sea and the flocks of Canada Geese that seemed to track you all over the island.

My favourite Colonsay’ism’ was parking on a 3m x2m concrete slab next to a rough green. It turned out that the 1960’s style concrete bench  next to it held the islands total golf facilities: a laminated copy of club rules and. An honesty box lashed to the least exposed side . This in itself set it aside on many of the western isles geared up for tourists and Leisure seeking incomers.Apart from the airfield and two recycling centres (whose significance I may relate later) the harbour town boasts a grand total of :one shop, a post office, cafe,gallery, library, hotel with the only public bar and a petrol pump. Our arriving boat was shared by a local celebrity whisky writer arriving in a flourish only to be gone again in less than a day.

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On the afternoon that we left the hotel housing the islands only bar shut for the winter.Closing weekend appeared to be an event in itself. In little groups the locals dropped in to the bar to raise a toast to the leaving staff  and make the most of the last big screen match while the small group of remaining tourists gathered waiting to see whether the ferry would make it through the rising squall. What if it didn’t?( Shop already closed for the weekend and everyone else seemed to be off to ‘the big house’ for the end of season staff party.) There was little doubt that we would be rescued by the locals but it served to hilight that this would be a tough place without friends!

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Angus does Notts TV

Angus and I are in awe of the energy and enthusiasm with which Julie and David from Darwin Dogs have advanced the acceptance of Mental Health Assistance dogs in the UK. So, of course we were delighted when they asked us to join them for a feature about Darwin Dogs for Notts TV.

As usual Angus had a great time and thought that all the fuss and attention was rather good fun!

Here is the result:

Watch: Charity uses dogs to help people overcome mental health problems

 

Hiding in plain sight

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Today while out on our dog walk I looked down just in time to notice a tiny frog crouched completely still just in front of my feet. This little creature was trying its hardest not to move until the threat my huge wellies posed had gone. All well and good if this little fellow had been in his normal habitat, I would have walked past without noticing his magnificent speckled green and yellow skin.  Unfortunately for him he had moved out onto the grey expanse of tarmac path where his camouflage left him horribly visible. As I peered down he was quite obviously uncomfortable and aware that he had been rumbled. I imagine if froggie feelings are anything like human ones he was experiencing what it is to be alone and very vulnerable!

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In stories and recounts of war time, spies and soldiers often survive by ‘hiding in plain sight’ – a talent not gifted to many. So, when most of us choose to do something different it is extremely hard. We can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable just like my frog on the path. For me this is rather comforting as several recent decisions have taken me right out from the long grass of my comfort zone. For example, choosing to take my beloved assistance dog out with me everywhere is massive. I am rebuilding a meaningful existence. And gosh I feel priveledged to have him. However for anyone considering a step like this it is wise to remember it is not all plain sailing. Extra plans need to be made before travelling to ensure Angus’ welfare; we have to keep refreshing training and feeling that we must be on our very best behaviour at all times and facing the gauntlet of endless intrusive questions about the finer details of my depression an panic attacks . Usually I don’t mind too much- it promotes the cause! But just occasionally when I am feeling below parr assumptions and opinions can make me feel as out of place as the frog on tarmac. It is good then to be able to understand why I feel this discomfort and to realise that to be different is fine. We are probably doing ok -it is just that this part of my journey requires the courage to go against instinct, step out of the long grass onto the pavement and be seen for a while!

 

Angus does Speedway GP, Cardiff 2017

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Angus loves local speedway… but this is an experience in a new league for him- literally! Speedway GP 2017 in Cardiff… oh my! After a quick trip round the shops it’s off to the Principality Stadium.  For anyone in the know speedway is noisy! If you are wondering what Angus thought to this check out his huge grin at the end of this video as he meets up with some Polish fans who are definitely in good voice😀

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You see Angus is by nature a gregarious doggie. He likes nothing better than to do a spot of people watching… if, as it usually does, this involves him getting an extra bit of fuss it is bliss!

Then it is into the stadium to our seats in the accessibility area ( to allow plenty of room for Angus to sit comfortably.) on with his dog ear defenders and ready to watch the fun!

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(Thanks for this photo BigWoofa)

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Wow – fantastic racing and although our favourite Tai Woffenden was out before final stages it was thrilling stuff. Although I have to admit Angus did miss out on some of the action for a nap (I have no idea how you sleep through speedway!) and to stock up on the attention he attracted! Another hilight for him was in true Winnie-the-Pooh style a ‘little smackrel’ of the traditional yummy lap 17 hot dog!

Many thanks to the stadium and security staff for making Angus’ and my visit a really positive and fun trip.

Cardiff Principality Stadium and Speedway GP 2017 – you both get 10 out of 10 in our accessibility rating- nothing was a problem and you went out of your way to help us.👍

Cardiff are really set up for this regular event- stewards even handing out trendy rain gear as we waited for our train to come in 😂

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Home to bed after a fantastic day. Sweet dreams Angus!

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The call of the sea…QED

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When we find a place in the world to be ourselves and let everything else go for a while we are truly fortunate. My place is the sea.The last few days have been blissful- a time to wander and exploIMG_6971re. To build memories with close family and discover even more of the natural wonders and people around me. Magically all this time my mind is working in the background to replace my negative learned behaviour with positive experiences that will continue my journey to better health.

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Neuroscience assures me that in future when my brain finds itself in situations that mirror these times my reactions will not be stress, panic and freezing helplessly on the spot. Let me share an example, a sudden crowd of people around some rocks on the beach automatically triggers my ‘fear, fight, flight’ response. My instinct defaults to, ‘go as quickly as possible in the opposite direction- encounters with strangers are painful and embarrassing! ‘. Fortunately now my most recent memory of a crowd is : of the sun warming my skin, the smell of the sea and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. This added to the story behind the crowd- of ‘the Blue Pool’ where locals follow tradition to jump into its clear, deep water just as they have for generations. Then there is the story of the lady who told us about this tradition… All of a sudden my respons to a crowd is more positive.

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The words of a long forgotten tutor suddenly come to mind. As he finished a mind bending explanation of chemical titration equations which at the end of a long laboratory session had once again left me frustrated and dispondent . He would scribble quickly on the page, rearrange my result figures and then triumphantly declare, “There, you see? QED!” At the time I never thought of his calculation method as Qite Easily Done. However time and life experience perhaps brings true understanding of his comment. Maybe his real meaning was, ” Yes I know it is difficult, but keep going, keep practicing and eventually it will become second nature!” Why do humans never say what they really mean?! So then, keep going to the beach, keep making good memories and eventually experiences will become positive. Perhaps even one day …QED!

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