Grace Still In Da House

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Guide Dogs 2 Comments

A black labrador- retriever cross is sitting staring into the camera with bright warm brown eyes and a grin on her muzzle. next to her, looking a little more serious, stands a younger golden labrador. They are on a path in the middle of some woods. They look very happy.

Grace and Maisie, Grace’s young buddy,  ‘living it large’ Photo (c) L. Purling

For those of you who are asking about the wonderful hound…

Yup, Grace is still with me at the moment. The re-homing process is longer and more complex than I had originally thought. There were many wonderful people wanting to take her on and yet there are so many issues when it comes to re-homing an older guide dog that, in the end, we decided to hand all things over to the re-homing team. This means I can just pretend it isn’t happening for a wee bit longer.

Grace meantime has happily settled deep into her retirement and…well… gone ‘dog’.  In the old days of just a couple of months ago, I would wake up, feed us, get my sh** together, harness up Grace and head out the flat and up the hill. Boom! There, wherever ‘there’ happened to be that day,-and back again. Work? Done. Supermarket? Done. Gym? Done.  I had NO flippin’ idea just how much I had taken Grace for granted. Have you ANY idea how hard it is,  for any dog,  to walk sniff-less and in straight lines whilst hefting a talking monkey? Perhaps our equivalent would be being always prepped for a full triathlon whenever and where ever we got a text from our boss.  What now? But I am in the pub…awww..maaaan. Okay. As it’s YOU.

Two labradors, one yellow and one black, are heading away down a track in the middle of some beautiful green woods.

Seven years of sniffing to catch up on! Back laters! Photo (c) L. Purling

Now, Retired Grace is making all that painfully clear. She has seven and half yeas of sniffing to catch up on. If we can get 20 metres in 20 minutes it is a result.  She won’t get out of the car if she can’t see green fields and grass to run in and, should I convince her, with promises of fishy teats the size of a pillow,  to come into town with me at all, she is liable to lock legs,  pause and lick up any dropped ice cream, chips, bread crumbs in the street, looking up at me with Clint Eastwood glintiness and a grin on her chops that says,

‘Payback is, quite literally in this case, a bitch’.

Damn, I LOVE this dog!

On another note, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

I actually heard some Tory apologist on the radio this morning saying that their response to the financial cuts to care and services was not to put more money in. Oh no.  Money was Not Needed.  They would, however, ‘ensure there are more resources than any other party.’  What? Do you mean Tories would fund resources from the teary dreams of babies and the light from the eye of a unicorn?   Seems Trump-Speak is contagious.

Back in 2012 I came across an excellent piece of research by Kay Garthwrite called Fear of the Brown Envelope.   Only a few months before, I had nearly been evicted due to an administrative error by the DWP and was cringing every time the post came. I had gone to look after my Dad for a few weeks as he was very ill with multiple myeloma. He was in Zambia. I had sent my dates and passport details before I had left the country and when I returned but the DWP had ‘lost’ them.

You are still abroad and taking money off the state. You are sanctioned! the Brown Envelope screamed.

I am in Cambridge. I was on the phone to you this morning.


I sent my boarding tickets and passport details to you registered mail. You signed for them.

No, you didn’t.

This conversation went on for six months. Each phone call and letter was humiliating, absurd and reduced me to sobbing, begging and fury. I got pretty sick both mentally and physically and financially things verged on disaster. Eventually, on one lucky day, I phoned up and got a kind and thoughtful woman. Rather than pass me to someone else, or get defensive or angry, she said, ‘Hang on, that doesn’t sound right. You HAVE the postal receipt? Let me have a proper look.’

She spent 20 minutes looking through the computer log and realised they DID have the information and it HAD been signed for and logged in their system. She got me reinstated immediately I was given an apology and an extra week’s income support.

A woman lokks into the camera. She is close with dark hair and wearing large black framed specs that distort her eyes.

DWP terror

But, because of that incident, I am terrified all the time in my interactions with the DWP  and I am terrified when I get a brown envelope. What would have happened if I hadn’t got lucky on that one call out of SO many?  In my novel, CULL,  I worked this up briefly and put the condition on the literary map

‘Have you heard of the “Brown Envelope Syndrome”?’ Alex asks. She feels she should change the subject.

‘Yes,’ says Helen ‘if you are referring to the fear and grim anticipation of the brown envelopes arriving with news of the latest decisions on your life taken by the Department for Work and Pensions. Didn’t know it was actually a syndrome, though.’

‘It was entered into the DCM and ICD listings three days ago. “Brown Envelope Syndrome; an extreme anxiety created by waiting for, or appearance of, brown envelopes from a welfare agency resulting in depression, hypermania, disassociation and often leading to intensification of existing mental and physical health issues, and on occasion to suicidal thoughts and actions.”’ Alex has the quote by heart.

‘Dear God!’ Kitty drains her glass and signals Tina to mix some more cocktails.

‘I am currently suffering from it,’ says Alex.

‘So am I and most of the women in here,’ says Helen. ‘In fact, they sanctioned Tilly in Accounts last week for not attending her work assessment, even though she was in hospital having dialysis…

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