THE BLOG

Applying For A Guide Dog Made Me Feel Like I Was In Control Of My Life Again

25/11/2016 16:53

Since you last heard from me, it's probably no surprise to hear that I haven't been mobbed in the street by fans wanting selfies with me. There aren't any paparazzi outside my home, and the endless invites to showbiz parties have yet to materialise. All this despite my regular appearances on TV in the charity Guide Dogs' latest Sponsor A Puppy advert.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I've spent the last eight years relying on my wife, Elaine, to take me everywhere, because I'm completely blind. I lost all the sight in my left eye in 2008; it was particularly devastating because I already had a false right eye after injuring it when I was small.

You have no control over so many things when you lose your vision, which is particularly painful for a control freak like me. Even simple things like making toast can be a challenge - I've buttered quite a few kitchen worktops in my time!

I've also had to change the way I walk when I go anywhere, because I've been constantly attached to Elaine's arm. I used to step on the backs of her shoes all the time, so I quickly learned not to take such big steps. Sometimes, if we're in a shop with narrow aisles, it's easier if I wait outside. I hate that - I become sensitive to any noise, especially lads or men's voices, as I'm worried about being attacked. It might sound daft, but you can't help but feel a bit vulnerable.

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Applying for a guide dog in November 2015 definitely gave me back some feeling of control. Soon after filling in the forms, a lovely lady called Maureen from my local Guide Dogs team in Liverpool came around to assess me. They looked at all sorts of things, from how tall I am and how fast I walk, to what our home is like and where the guide dog could go to the loo! I even got a taster of the freedom that having a guide dog brings. We went out in the street, and I held the handle of an empty guide dog harness while Maureen held it at roughly the same height as a dog would be. We have must have had some funny looks! It was brilliant, though, even if it was strange to be walking while not attached to Elaine.

Then in the spring, we went on what Guide Dogs calls an 'In Touch' day. We visited the Liverpool team at their base in the Knotty Ash area of the city and met some trainee guide dogs. It was really lovely; not only did it bring back memories of the dogs I've had growing up, but it was a tantalising taste of things to come. Guide Dogs organises days like this for people waiting for a guide dog, to let them know that they haven't been forgotten about. I loved it, though it made waiting for the call even harder.

That visit really taught me to look forward to the freedom that having a guide dog will bring. Meanwhile, Elaine can't wait to get her arm back, too! Here's to the day when I can pop down to the shops on my own, instead of having to wait outside and be afraid. When that day comes, I'll know that I've truly won back control of my life.

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