Attaining Grace

Tanvir Naomi BushGuide Dogs 14 Comments

‘How many times have you been shat on by a bird?’ My friend M is gingerly swiping the top of his head with his hand. Its only water dripping from the overhead pub awning but still he looks across at me, his eyes darkening.

‘Well, how many?’ He is insistent and I note his fist is clenched.

Startled I shake my head. ‘Errr …nefariously onceI think. Splashed in passing. ‘

‘Yes yes,’ M leans forward. ‘That’s the usual response.’
His breath comes out in a hiss. ‘And how many times do you think I have been shat on..? ‘

‘Err …’

‘Eighteen!’ He blurts out wildly.


‘Eighteen times! ‘

‘But… surely that’s not possible…. ?’


He slumps back on the bench, his handsome face pale, his terrible secret out. ‘Once it even happened twice…. in the same day.’

I gasp. That’s less the odds on a lightning strike!

We sit silently for a moment sucking on warm beer. I glance, with a phoney casual pretend flicking of my hair, at the sky over his head. Its empty but I still feel we are being watched.

Could it be the same bird every time? I am imagining some serious starling vendetta or a love-sick tern but he tells me that it started way back when he was a child and a bird managed to spatter him through the open roof of a car. (That takes some serious co-ordination and aim.) Ever since then he has been regularly ‘blessed’. Its even been caught on camera, on film.

Birds poo on this man.

‘Its lucky.’ I am trying to be up beat. He sighs. I think he has heard that one before.
‘Good thing pigs can’t fly..’ I think.

M has taken me out to this London pub after a long day’s photographic workshop and he is actually doing a very fine job of distracting me from my current state of emotional stir-fry as I have just made a decision that might completely change my already rather baffling life. I am going with the Guide Dog.

I met her on Tuesday. I went out to the car to greet her expecting the usual gorgeous, dewy-eyed beast and out lolloped a stocky, black and brown grinning mutt acutely resembling a small rottweiller.
I sat on the pavement and we bashed heads in greeting. The trainer, a stern woman with a skin tanned to leather, was all action and within seconds I took up the handle on the dog’s harness. The dog confused, looked around a couple of times for the trainer who insisted, in that ghastly British way, on calling herself the dog’s ‘mum’ as in; ‘ she’ll keep looking for her ‘mum’ so you will have to use your voice to push her forward.’ I do and the dog shrugs and we are off.

We walk the block passing interested neighbours and disinterested cats and the dog happily snuffles and galumphs and tail wags her way ahead of me. Later back at the flat she is splayed out on the floor and my feet. Her ears are soft and cool, dark brown. She snores.

Taking on a working dog is incredibly tough. There will be three weeks immersion training in a crumbling hotel in darkest fenland with visitors restricted and no access to a decent pub to start with. If I survive the training, then there will be six months adjusting to my local routes..except there isn’t time because I start my MA course in October. She will have to commute back and forth to Bath with me and sit under formica tables on nylon carpets bored out of her mind whilst I attend lectures and indulge in endless conversations about composition and structure.

She will need feeding, cleaning, pooper scooping, walking every day.

And she’s not a pet. She’s a working dog. I won’t be able to nip off for a few days. I won’t be able to stay in bed all Sundays. And I will have to think twice about all my plans for the rest of my life.

And my blindness will be ‘official’.

Interestingly several people including M, are confused. ‘Do you really need a guide dog?’ they ask. ‘You seem to get around fine with chutzpah and cane. ‘

Then, ‘ Won’t you stop using your useful vision as you start relying on the dog?’

And I can’t answer either of those questions and I suppose all these things will become apparent during the training.

But I do know I need help and could certainly do with some animal magic and am immensely lucky to have been even given the chance to learn a new skill and find a new route through the world.

So I just say ‘lets do it.’

You will not find your mission by standing still. The way to find it is by challenging yourself in something – I would almost say it does not matter what. Then by making consistent effort, the direction you should take will open up before you quite naturally, just as wide new horizons before someone walking up a hill. Little by little you will come to understand your mission. That is why it is so important to have the courage to ask yourself what it is you should really be doing now, at this very moment.
Daisaku Ikeda; President of the Sokka Gakkai International

‘Prayer Flags’ (c) T. Bush
And by the way, the brown dog with the small, smiling, gold eyes, dodgy eyebrows and velvet ears is called Grace and I know I could always do with more of that!

‘Saving Grace’ (c) T. Bush ’09

Comments 14

  1. As Nietzsche says "a tree requires stormy weather if it is to attain a proud height". You go girl. You can but try. You've got nothing to lose and quite frankly your list of skills is begnning to dazzle: MA, writer, pole dancer, photographer, lecturer, advisor, guide dog expert…..what next? Lx

  2. Grace sounds fabulous and I hope you will both have great adventures! What is your MA? Referring to a pet owner as mum is always unforgivable. x

  3. I am very proud of you. I know taking that step is hard but i think the dog is the way to go. Plus you can train him to fetch you cockatils if need be

  4. I think Grace will enhance your already rich life and while I know she will be a working dog she will be your friend too! I think she is lovely, from your description and pic…she will in no time be a an expert in gin and tonic making…and knowing where the best pubs are!! Having a dog that isnt that sweet soft looking andrex dog lookalike will have its advantages in this cruel not so perfect world.But you do what feels good for you sweets, coz thats all that matters. We will all be behind you 100% xxx

  5. exciting news! and Grace looks lovely – i think you will have many adventures and much fun together. Sure it will be a change in many ways, but change must happen too; it is a step forward i think into a new and fun filled phase. Please keep us updated in blogland on all the Grace filled tales…. I can see some of the blog titles already!! take good care and enjoy xx

  6. Post

    Hi Lulu, good old Nietezsche! Did he and Oscar Wilde ever meet? Imagine HAT dinner party!! One trying to 'out droll' the other.
    Yep..what next indeed?! Was thinking of bomb disposal for a break…

    Hi Susan
    Grace looks firece but with inane grin. Its a bizarre mix but works Will keep you posted!

    Hi NMJ – MA is 'creative fiction' at Bath Spa. (v glad you agree with the 'mum' thing!! Grrrrrr!)

    Dear Bro and Suzie,
    Grace will learn to mix martinis on first day of training. Apparently having they have a bit of trouble with ice cubes but practice makes perfect and I am of course happy to practice.

    Hey louisa and Val,
    Thanks so much for lovely thoughts and yep..will definately blog about it although I will try and keep posts bit shorter! I really agree that having an innocuous looking dog is going to be better then having a 'supermodel'. She'll be able to wrok better without all the usual attention too I would think and same for me…
    its going to be fascinating to see how it all pans out!

    Lots of love all
    T xx

  7. Hey Tanv

    I know it's hard. Even with disorders like mine, which I know are chicken feed by comparison, there is such a thin line between where one can and can't manage life that it's hard to know what help to take on without being given considerably more than you need. The last thing I'd want is some Little Britain type careworker ("What a kerfuffle!").

    But enjoy the company of Grace and who knows – as you spot one or two things guide dogs are supposed to before she does, you'll develop into a team where you function as equals.

    After all how many totally sightless people can pooper scooper their own dogs

    Lots of love sweetie

    Chris xxxxx

  8. Tanvir its a huge step. I know you're thinking it anchors you and everything else, but worth it, surely? Think of that future date when you can't imagine life before your Grace. SInce we're in for the big names here, I'll send you Goethe (attributed, anyway): “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

  9. Post

    Thank you Chris! What lovely positive ways of looking at it all! Yep – i agree about the Little Britain careworker..god forbid!

    Hey Tam,
    Marvellous Goethe quote! yes..i boldly go!
    T x

  10. I have been popping in here every now and again, via Miranda, or Tamara, or both, I can't really remember, and love your blog. I must comment today though… I had a 'service dog' (I am quadriplegic) called Julie. She was the fluffy angelic golden retriever type wth a personality to match. She died too young (as all good things do?). Thing is, though, that when I got her, I very much had the same cautious, anxious thoughts about the whole thing (and, I'm afraid, HATED the week I had to spend confined at the training centre – dog trainers really are made to interact with dogs and struggle with humans I think). My point is this though – once I had her I really couldn't imagine not having her (and I was, admittedly a bit slack with the whole being strict thing, easier for a service dog as opposed to guide dog). Sheesh, I'm not getting to my point properly… It is absolutely and totally worth it. Wishing you all the best with it. Its hard to resist those velvet ears and the inane grin! xx

  11. Post

    Hi Shiny and thank you so very much for your comment. I really appreciate it and feel very much encouraged! I head off tomorrow and am trying to pack and trying not to think too much about the dog 'people' and just concentrate on how i feel about Grace herself..and its still feels right.
    Did you ever get a dog to replace Julie?
    Tanvi x

  12. Oooo, good luck! I do have another dog, yes, not a service dog though. She's a black labrador (well, honestly I think she may have a great great grandfather or something that was a seal, her fur shimmers like one!) and is purely a pet. A lovely pet. I hope it all goes well and look forward to reading about it x

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