CANE AND ABLE
Evans, my wonderful and characterful guide dog, has recently had an operation. I think it best possibly not to go into any great details here (just in case anybody is having a snack whilst reading this) but safe to say he needs some time to recuperate. He is, as I write, making his presence felt in the hospital block of the guide dogs centre Atherton. I couldn't wish for him to have better care anywhere else and I'm happy he's going to get the best opportunity to recover.
From all perspectives I miss him, but from a practical view I do need to try and keep things as normal as possible; which includes getting out and about, doing the things that we would do day to day. I know, if this was an audio blog, the dramatic music would start up and speaking in a Vincent Price type voice - I would say 'including the daily commute'.Followed by horrific laughter and a blood curdling scream.
Keeping the dramatic nature of this down to a minimum, I have, where possible, tried to keep my long cane skills practised and fairly up to date. Yes, with my sensible head firmly on, I've always taken the view that in times when needed, it's important to have a mobility back up when required and that time is certainly now for me. On a quirky point though, I'm not too image conscious but I'm keen to avoid any comedic walks out in public; I'll leave those kind of things to those trying to avoid my cane or those john clees imitation acts.
My commute to work is certainly not the easiest in terms of the amount of people that I have to steer through. Evans loves this work and the challenges that it sets. However, mobilising around people by using a cane brings in a whole lot of new factors; ones like patience, more patience and yes you've guessed a lot more patience. I know the routes fairly well that I have to do, but sadly, many things change on those that make the long cane a real trial of concentration and resilience. Either stupidly or through a sheer flash of inspiration, I decided to walk from leeds train station to work the other day. With Evans, I would need to ensure we were going in the right direction and that he wasn’t too concerned with window shopping or stray buskers. He would do the rest, guide me round street obsticles, sensible people and unannounced diversions. With my cane, I need to concentrate on direction, what certain obsticles mean (should I go to the right or left of a post), guess which way people are moving by the sound of their mobile phones and second guess vehicles that find their way onto pavements (drivers would soon complain if I decided to walk in the road wouldn’t they).
Anyway, back to the task in hand, When I left the station, I was immediately faced with the issue of working my way round a pavement diversion. The walkway was blocked and therefore we had to go onto the road, down a defined barriered route which took us back onto the pavement further on. With evans, this would have been fine; with my cane, it was literally hit barrier, explore right to find no way through, divert left and bounce off barrier and then like a pinball find my way through a gap – deciding whether to go on or not and then be rescued by a bemused fellow commuter (who obviously didn’t want me to continue my hoaky coaky act) and help me on through the diversion.
Seriously, I tend to deal with very difficult situations by applying a certain amount of humour. It is purely self protection, because I know how difficult and stressful using a cane in these enviroments can be. Ultimately, I need to get out to go shopping, to go to work and to keep life as normal as possible and I’m glad I have the means to do this. However, one thing is for sure, there is nothing in this world that compares to the value and feeling of guide dog mobility. Using my long cane is essential to get out and about, but it is my back up, my safety net and something that I won’t dismiss, but working with a guide dog is magic, its freedom but its something that I will never ever take for granted.