It’s been one of those weeks. It’s been frenetically busy, and I have come out of it feeling completely wiped out. . Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom, but there have been some challenges that I would rather have not had to face. There has been an unacceptable amount of focus, negativity, an, for want of a better word, prejudice, aimed at me , as blind , for my personal comfort, and not enough recognition of the whole person. I haven’t had much opportunity to shake It off by playing ponies.
An example of this happened on Thursday, when Hal and I spent a, mostly, enjoyable time at the Royal Cornwall Show. It isn’t the worst thing that happened this week, but it’s a prime example of the sort of thing that I, and countless other blind and visually impaired people, especially Guide Dog owners, and, I imagine, wheelchair users, have to deal with on a daily basis. . It’s also the most horsey related example of the week. . We
Are thinking about buying a trailer. So we thought Royal Cornwall Show would be a good place to d
Some research. Enter the idiot from Newgent Horse Boxes.
The conversation went like this.
Hal. Aha, horse boxes!
Me. Ooh, what make?
Hal. Newgent? Ring any bells?
Mee, squeezing between two closely parked trailers. No. Oh the ramp isn’t down. There’s no room back here.
Man, strolling over. Hello, can I …
ooh what a lovely dog!
Me. Shame the ramp isn’t down I’d have liked to gone inside
Man. Is it OK to say hello
Be, removing Quincey’s harness. What size horses will this take?
Man. Are you interested in horse boxes then?
Hal. Yes, we haven’t had one before so we’re just doing some homework
Man. Is he a collie? That’s unusual.
Me. He’s half collie half Golden Retrieber. So I’d be able to put 2 16.2’s in here?
Man. Hmm I think so. Yes, I think you can carry some quite large horses in here. You have horses then?
Hal. Yes, my wife is horse and. Is the floor aluminium?
Man. So do you ride then?
Me. Yes. What did you say oh say the floor was made of?
Man. Aluminium. So are you partially sighted or blind then?
Me. Totally blind… and what about the ramp, actually, is there a front ramp? Are they wood or ally?
Man. You must have excellent hearing
Me. Not really. What did you say the ramp was made of?
Man. Oh, aluminium. There’s no wood anywhere in the construction. The sides are some kind of composit
Me, tapping side of trailer. Oh I see
Man. You can really tell by doing that! You really do have heightened senses don’t you
Hal. So how much is one of these?
Man. Hmm, I think it’s about £6000.
Me, losing the will to live. Do you have a brochure?
If ever a man came across as not knowing anything about, or not having any interest in, his product, it was this chap. Frustratingly, this act of hyjacking of a situation by asking irrelevant , and sometimes extremely personal, questions about my Guide Dog, or my eyesight, happens on a daily basis. If I sat next to you on a bus or train, and, on noticing your wedding ring, exclaimed at the top of my voice in tones of total amazement, “your Married!?”, you would, rightly, be very offended. If I then went on to ask you if your spouse was ginger/blue-eyed/black/fat… too you would think I was both rude and weird. So why do you think it’s OK to do this to me? Likewise, if a salesperson kept asking you questions about your gender/sexuality/religion/cultural background/ethnicity.. you wouldn’t be very impressed. However, I’m routinely expected to grin and bare the inevitable barrage of sometimes intimate questions about my blindness, and am accused of having an attitude problem if I complain. This is something that impacts on every aspect of my life, but, oddly, actually tends to be less prevalent in the horse world.
Later on we came across a company who had Ifor Williams horseboxes. What a contrast! The man here knew his product inside out, and really wanted to sell it too us. Nothing was too much trouble, and, best of all, it was the trailer, not me or Quincey, that was the star of the show.e
Oh dear, this year is really testing us. . It’s already May, and, while I had so many plans, all I seem to have done so far this year is lurch from crisis to crisis. . To be honest, Florence and Breeze are the least of our problems, but I’d really like to be doing a lot more with them. . The weather has, of course, been, and continues to be, a major problem, but that’s the same for everyone.. .. I did manage to get them turned out overnight. A couple of weeks ago we had a brief spell of unseasonably warm sunny weather, and they were increasingly reluctant to come in in the evenings. . So, even though we had hardly any grass, on Friday 13th April they stayed out. So now it’s gone cold, wet, and windy again.
Sadly, last week, we lost Hal’ sDad. It wasn’t really a huge shock. He was 92 and had been ill for a while. It’s still a big thing for Hal and his sisters to contend with though, especially as their Mother died a few years back.
We have also had a very poorly dog on our hands this week. On Thursday night Ripley, my 12-year-old retired guide dog, was very very sick in the night. I discovered this by that tried and tested method known to all blind people who own cats,dogs, and small children, The world over, I stood in it! Now, Ripley being sick is not actually that big a deal. He is half labrador, and generally has the Constitution of the cast iron dustbin , and some of the most disgusting eating habits. Usually he is able to throw up royally, and then say to him self, “that’s better, what’s for dinner?”. Unfortunately though, this time it hasn’t gone that way. He kept dry heaving, and throwing up bile, all day on Friday. So I didn’t feed him all day. On Saturday morning I offered him a scrambled egg, which he refused and then started heaving again. Q trip to Vets on Saturday morning, where an initial examination could find nothing wrong. He was given an anti-emetic, which did stop his trying to be sick. However he was extremely quiet, and again refused food on Saturday night. He was extremely quiet all day on Sunday, and again would not eat. In fact he just seem to be getting weaker and weaker. No change by Monday morning, so back to the vet, where he had x-rays, blood test’s, mouth and throat examination, and a rectal examination, nothing showed up as abnormal. In fact he has the profile of an extremely healthy dog. When we fetched him back from the vet on Monday he was still very heavily sedated, and so, whilst The vets helped us get him into the car, we had extreme difficulty getting him out again at home. We managed to actually get him out, but he collapsed in the heap behind the car in the garage. So there we stayed, One very poorly elderly retired guide dog, and one very worried dog owner, between the back of The car and the garage door, for about two hours, while he gathered together enough energy and compus mentis to walk into the house, and I convinced myself he was actually in the act of dying. It’s been a very hard week. In a strange way Ripley being ill has managed to distract from dealing with the death of Hal’s Dad, but it has been all encompassing. I have not felt able to do anything other than watching him like a hawk. I’ve been on absolute tenterhooks in case I need to rush into the bet or in case he made his final journey before we could get him there. I’ve hardly been near the horses since Thursday, and haven’t been able to concentrate on anything. There is good news though. He does seem to have turned a corner, and started taking in very small quantities of food. He is still very weak and wobbly though, is being extremely quiet, and he does seem to have become very old dog overnight. Hopefully though he is taking his first steps towards recovery. What is really concerning and confusing though, is that we can’t seem to find what is cause the problem. He hasn’t been anywhere Quincy hasn’t, Quincy is absolutely fine. The best money is on the fact that he may have eaten something that has disagreed with him, but what, and where did he get hold of it? It’s all very strange.
So that’s bad weather, Snow, trying to resolve Leone’s problems and then losing her, my mum having to go into care, losing Hals dad, and coming very close to losing Ripley. Somebody wants told me that God doesn’t send you more than you can cope with. I don’t personally believe in an . all-powerful divine creator, but if I’m wrong and there is a God, I really think he may have got me mixed up with somebody else. I’ve had enough now. Please can I just be left in peace to play with my ponies? Preferably in some nice sunny weather.
So , in this village, every 5th November, the local bell ringers turn The Devil’s Stone. They do this to ensure that the Horned One is kept at bay for another year. If the stone doesn’t get turned, well, who wants to risk that?! It’s a big thing here, and much fun is had. It also means that fireworks are a rarity round here. Hal and I have never yet made it to the Turning of the Stone. The first year year we were here we didn’t know what the firework situation was going to be like, an so didn’t to leave cats, dogs and horses unattended. Last year I was only a few days post op, and really not feeling well. So this year I was really looking forward to finally going.
It wasn’t to be.
The people who own the field next to ours decided to have fireworks! At the bottom of their field! Right next to our horses! They gave us 30 minutes warning! Mind you, we were lucky. They didn’t bother telling the people who own the field on the other side of them, where 9 sheep live, at all! Or anyone else for that matter.
So Hal froze his bollocks off monitoring 4 terrified horses, while I attempted to ignore 2 terrified dogs with the combined weight of 57kg while they tried to climb onto me while shaking violently, hyperventilating, and barking hysterically!
Luckily we seem to have got away with it. Nobody’s hurt, and no colic. The sheep are OK too thankfully.
I am quite sure that this little fireworks display was all arranged well in advance. I am also sure that these individuals have been fully aware of the horses on one side of them, and the sheep on the other. So not giving us advance warning of their plans is at best thoughtless, selfish and inconsiderate. It may also be construed as a deliberate act of animal cruelty.
The people who did this aren’t youngsters. In fact they’re grandparents. They also have animals of their own. You’d think they would have more sense and decency.
Thankfully, due in no small part to the amazing temperaments of our horses, nothing bad happened last night. It could have been so much worse.
It’s often said that the last person to enter the House of Parliament with honest intentions was Guy Faulkes.
“Rememver remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot”
So here we are. Tonight is Halloween, Saturday is Guy Faulkes Night, and, I understand, this week , this year, I understand, it also happens to be Diwali. All this adds up to a fabulous week of fun and celebration. A jolly good time will be had by all!
Well no actually .
There at least two groups of people , and I belong to both, who dread this time of year.
Horse owners, and dog owners, and more specifically, Guide Dog Owners.
Now, OK, I grant you, fireworks aren’t traditionally integral to Halloween, but for some people it’s any excuse to party with a bang. Also, while fireworks are a big part of Diwali, it is a festival of light after all, Diwali itself is a moveable celebration, so happens at a slightly different time each year. However, most people would agree that the celebration of Guys Faulkes takes place on far more days than just the 5th November..
There are supposed to be regulations controlling when, and to whom, fireworks can be sold, as wel as when, where, and by whom, they can can be letoff
I don’t know of many Guide Dog Owners who don’t actually dread this time of year. I expect it’s the same for other Assistance Dog Owners too. A frightened, anxious dog can’t work safely. So what do you do? Do you reach for the white stick and leave Fido at home? OK if you aren’t going to be very long, or there’s someone at home to look after the dog; and if you’re a confident cane user. Do you stay at home and live like a recluse for the duration? Hardly practical, or possible, especially if you have to get to work or take the kids to school.do you carry on as normal and prey/hope/trust that nothing bad will happen?
Guide Dogs often have to hang up their harness for good as a direct result of being terrified by fireworks.
For horse owners it’s just as difficult.. Even if you know that there is going to be an organised display or private party close to where you keep your horse, you have very few options. Very few, if any, of us, are able to take our horses elsewhere for the duration. Even if we could, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be fireworks there too! So, do you leave your horses out, or shut them in? There’s no right or wrong answer here. Horses, being prey animals instinctively flee , or bolt, from scarey, things. Their mantra is, ‘Run first, ask questions later – Your life might depend on it!’. A terrified horse is dangerous, both to themself and anyone who gets in their any. They are runnin on pure Adrenalin and they are not engaging their mind.
Every year horses die as a direct result of fireworks. I’ve already read about one this weekend. Usually horses have to be put to sleep, or even sometimes shot, because of injuries they sustained while trying to run away. Often , prolonged exposure to adrenalin from the fear, stress and anxiety that prolonged or repeated fireworks cause, leads to a lethal bout of colic. Some horses just drop dead because their heart just can’t take it anymore. Whatever, the result is the same, a dead horse, and a decastated owner. All because of fireworks.is it worth it? If it was up to me fireworks would only be allowed at organised public displays, and those Chinese Lanterns that float off indescriminately with a lit flame inside them would be banned outright. It’s not up to me though.
So please, if you are planning a fireworks party this year, let people know. Then, they can at least try to make it easier for their animals.
I really am going to go off topic with this post. However, if you work in, or run and equestrian business, or any other kind of business for that matter, especially one where you offer goods and services to the public, or invite the public onto your property for any reason, then read on, this post applies to you.Do you know the law when it comes to Guide Dogs and Other Assistance Dogs? If you are just Mr, Mrs, or Miss Average, then I suspect not. However, if you run a business that offers goods and services to the public in any way, why not? You should, and the law applies to the equestrian industry as much as any other.
I m writing this post because, as a Guide Dog Owner, I regularly fall victim to access refusals, and less favourable treatment because of my Guide Dog, and believe me, after 23 years of Guide Dog Ownership, and a lifetime of living with sight loss, it’s beginning to wear a bit thin! Now, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I predominantly experience access refusals in pubs, cafes, restaurants, and hotels and guest houses. However, I have had problems with taxis, and, in the equestrian world, tack shops.. I personally have never had a problem with a Riding School or Livery Yard, but I do know people who have. OK, I was once asked to keep my then Guide Dog tied up when at the yard where I kept my horse at the time, but in fairness, he had just pushed the elderly resident Staffy into the pond, so it was a reasonable enough request really!
So what is the law, and what are everyones obligations under it?
Firstly, let’s make it clear from the outset, the law is not about the dog, the law is about treating people who have disabilities and long term health problems fairly, and not discriminating against them because of their disability or condition.
Originally these protections were enshrined in law as part of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and were then incorporated into the Equalities Act 2010 (EA). That means that these laws have been on the Statute Book for 24 years. Why then do so many business owners, Taxi Drivers, Service Providers, claim that they are ignorant of the law? Surely this is just one of many laws and regulations that you must be aware of in order to run any business or service legally? It honestly rocks my world when, having been denied access, or offered a less than favourable service because I have my Guide Dog with me, the reason/excuse given is so often “I’m sorry, I didn’t know”. It makes me wonder what other laws and regulations they don’t know about.
The EA provides that it is illegal for service providers to treat people with disabilities less favourably because of their disability, or because they have a Guide or other Assistance Dog with them. Service providers are required to make reasonable adjustment to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, and thisincludes allowing all Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs into all public places with their owners. In practical terms this means that, even if you would normally have a blanket ban on dogs in your premises, if you are open to the public, you cannot stop a person with a Guide Dog, or other Assistance Dog coming in . It also means that Guide Dogs and other Assistance Dogs cannot be restricted to any existing zone that is reserved for pet dogs.
This is not an entirely one way thing though. Far from it. Guide and Assistance Dog Owners have obligations under the EA too. Accredited Guide Dog and Assistance Dogs are highly trained, and we owners have had specialised training the safe and effective handling of our dogs. The dogs behaviour is a fundamental part of this training. Guide and Assistance Dogs are trained to lie quietly under tables, sit, stand or lie quietly next to their owner in queues or at counters, sit quietly in footwells of vehicles, sit quietly under seats or in footwells on trains, trams and buses, and should not scavenge or beg for food. We are trained to groom our dogs, they have regular flea, tic, and worm treatments, are fully inoculated, are spayed or castrated, and regularly, every 6 months in the case of Guide Dogs, have full vet checks.. We are expected to keep our dogs under control at all times when they are on duty. If you, as the business owner or service provider , or even as a member of the public, do not think that a Guide or Assistance Dog is being correctly handled you are fully within your rights to point this out to the owner in the first instance, and report the problem to Guide Dogs, or whichever Assistance Dog organisation the dog comes under.
So how can you be sure the dog is what the owner is claiming it to be?
This is a very valid question. Sadly there are some sad, strange, misguided individuals out there who seem to think that Guide and Assistance Dogs are merely privileged pets. They are not! It’s sad but true, but some people seem to think it’s OK to claim they have a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog when they don’t. It’s more of a problem inthe USA, but Fake Service/Assistance Dogs are a genuine problem, and it just makes life so much more difficult for those of us who are legitimately just trying to live our lives with the help of our chosen mobility/safety aid. You see, that’s what a genuine Guide Dog or other Assistance Dog actually is. Yes, they are lovely, but, regardless of the fur and wagging tails, they are not pets, they are mobility aids and safety equipment. Yes, they are sooo much more than that. Ultimately though, for those of us who have them, our safety, independance, mobility, even life, rests in their paws, eyes, and noses. There is no t technology yet invented that can do what a well trained dog can do anywhre near as reliably. Quite simply they are the best tool for the job!
In the UK there is an organisation called Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK) which oversees the training, professional standards, animal welfare standards and legality of organisations which provide dogs to guide or in any other way support people living with disabilities and long term health conditions. ADUK are themselves governed by 2 international bodiesAssistance Dogs International (ADI) and the International Guide Dogs Federation (IGDF). In order to. Be a member of ADUK an organisation has to be accredited to either ADI or IGDF, and it is the organisation, which has to meet verry rigorous standards which apply to every aspect of how that organisation works, from dog training and welfare client support to the supporting infrastructure.
Every client of an ADUK accredited organisation is given an anADUK ID book which gives details of the dog, owner, organisation, and other relevent information. The law applies to ADUK accredited dog/owner partnerships only. So if in doubt ask to see the dogs ID. That said, Guide and Assistance Dogs invariably wear some kind of uniform, either a harness or jacket which clearly indicates what their job is.
Now, I feel it’s important for me to point out here that, in the case of Guide Dogs at least, the law only applies to working Guide Dogs. The law doesn’t actually aplly to pups at walk, breeding stock, retired Guide Dogs, or working Guide Dogs who aren’t actually with their owner. So, if I’m poorly, and my husband offers to take th dog for a walk, he can’t just pop into the shop on his way home, and take the dog in with him. Neither can my elderly retired dog automatically go everywhere he used to e able to when he was working. Sadly some Guide Dog owners have a real problem getting their heads around this fact, and again, just like people who claim their pets are Assistance Dogs, it confuses matters and makes things for the rest of us, who just want to be able to get on with living our life, so much more difficult.
So, how should you behave towards a Guide Dog Owner, or somebody with another kind of Assistance Dog? Quite simply, in exactly the same way you would behave towards them if they didn’t have their dog with them.
Behave as if the dog is not there. Remeber this dog is not a pet, it is there to help it’s owner to live their life safely. Yes, we know they are beautiful and clever, but, if I’m in your premises, I’m probably there to do something like shop, eat, have a meeting…the list goes on… Really I’m there for exactly the same reasons as anyone else might be. I’m not there to balster your ego, inspire you, entertain you, and I’m definately not there to educate you about your legal obligations towrds me. All of us who have nay kind of Assistance Dog are very aware that we only have them because of the kindness and generosity of those members of the public who support the various Assistance Dog charities. We really are very greatful, but we have lives that , whilst our dogs are vital to our being able to live them, are about. So much more than our dogs or our disability. If I’m trying to have lunch, or I need to be fitted for a correctly fitting riding hat, the dog should not be your first concern.
Remember, as clever and well trained as they are, Guide and Assistance Dogs are just that – dogs! They are amazing, but they are not little machines, and they are not little humans in fur coats. They can be distracted by, and frightened by, the exact same things that every other dog can bedistracted and frightened by. They cannot read, understand complex instructions or tell the time. They are not particularly good at judging the speed of cars, bicycles, or even other pedestrians, and they feel pain, discomfort, heat and cold, get hungry, thirsty, and need to wee and poo just like every other dog. They can get ill, injured, and stressed, and when this happens it has a direct and negative effect on that dogs owners ability to live their life to the full.
Recently I was the victim of an access refusal because I had my Guide Dog Quincey with me. It was unusual, because I personally have never come across a situation quite like this before. We fell victim to the Dog Zone.
Many pub landlords, restauranteurs, and cafe owners are becoming wise to the fact that having a blanket ban on dogs in their premises may be detrimental to their takings. Dog people like to take their dogs everywhere with them, especially since , and I don’t mean offence by using the following term, handbag dogs became such a fashion statement, or in areas where family holidays often mean the whole family, 4 legged as well as 2 legged. Many establishments have got round this by having a specific area where dogs are allowed, whilst leaving the rest of the premises free for those clients who are dog free. It sounds like a really good idea, and in principle it is, but there can be problems, especially if the presence of a specific dog zone in a premises is used as a smoke screen for breaking the EA. This is exactly what happened to me last week.
Under the terms of the EA reasonable adjustment must be made to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, and, as I wrote above, this means that if a person is accompanied by their Guide Dog, or other Assistance Dog, tat dog, they must be allowed into any area that the public would normally be allowed into, regardless of whether dogs are allowed there or not. If you do not allow somebody with a Guide Dog or other Assistance Dog into your premises because of the dog, or insist that they use the dog only zone, you are treating them less favourably because of their disability.
THEY ONLY HAVE THEIR DOG BECAUSE OF THEIR DISABILITY
The dog is not a pet. The dog is not a fashion accessory.
The dog is a vital piece of mobility, orientation, health or safety equipment, without which that individual cannot safely live their life.
If you refuse access to a person because of their Guide Dog, or other Assistance Dog, or you insist that they stick to the dog only zone, you are treating them less favourably because of their disability. If you are treating somebody less favourably because of their disability you are discriminating against them. If you are discriminating against them because they have a disability you are breaking the law.
It’s not rocket science.
As I said at the top of this post. I rarely actually have a problem in the equestrian world where this is concerned. However, it does happen in every business and it shouldn’t.
Please make sure that you and your staff know the law.
Regular readers will know that for Hal and I 2018 has been a truly horrible year. I had so many hopes and plans as we waved a fond farewell to 2017, but right from the get go it became clear that things weren’t going to go our way.
Viruses, coughing horses, lameness. Extreme wet weather, storm force wind, snow! losing Leonie, Stella, Hal’s Dad, my Mum. Nearly losing Ripley. Having a very sick Tabitha. Falling off the tandem and damaging the ligaments in my knee. Having to replace a leaking oil tank, defunct fridge, broken dishwasher. Finding out Breeze is going blind.Yes, it does seem to have been a year of lurching chaotically from one crisis to another. No wonder we both feel so wiped out!
To be fair there have been some good bits along the way. Our Niece Sarah’s wedding, veing given an award by the Riding Club. Increasing support for this Blog, support for Blind Riders UK, my business getting stronger. Having lessons on Florence. Doing more talks for Guide Dogs. Doing some PR for Retina Implant.
Personally though, New Year’s Day cannot come quick enough for me. New beginnings, A fresh start, A blank sheet. I have of course got lots of hopes and aspirations for 2019. Poor Florence isn’t going to know what hit her! Neither is Hal for that matter. In the meantime though thank you very much for supporting this blog. I hope you have an absolutely marvellous Christmas and a happy horsey New Year