OOH A Surprise!!!!!

Monday 21 November 2016 was the start of my birthday celebration month. I’ll drag it out for as long as I can. I’m only sixty once.

I received a beautiful bracelet and ear rings from Jo and Stephane. Thanks Jo & Stephane.

Bronwyn with diamond and silver ear drops and bracelet, with flowering gum tree.

Bronwyn with diamond and silver ear drops and bracelet, with flowering gum tree.

 

The next treat was a secret adventure.  Over the past month Brenda has been plotting and planning a treat for my birthday.  I was told to keep 23 November free and wear smart casual.

I thought they may have planned a bush walk or beach walk or meal on the Harbour.  The morning dawned a hot 31 º.  I changed my clothes four times before I was happy.  I’m glad I changed.  I wore a lovely floral dress.

We left home and turned left at York St so I knew we weren’t going north or west.  We stopped at Strathfield Station and caught a train to Central. That narrowed the list of options.

When we were nearly at the theatre I said to Roy “We are going to the theatre”.  He didn’t say anything.  It was a surprise for Naomi’s graduation as well as my birthday and she had no idea where we were going.

Brenda had purchased tickets for Naomi and me to the theatre.  I still didn’t know what we were going to see.  Naomi knew then.

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Naomi holding Princess Jasmine and Aladdin dolls.

She showed me the dressed teddy but I wasn’t familiar with their clothing.  I really had no idea.  They might be fancy pirate costumes so I said “Pirates of Penzance”.  I hadn’t heard it was showing.  Naomi laughed “no”.  She was a tease she wouldn’t tell me.  My eyes lit up “Aladdin”!

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Roy and Bronwyn holding Aladdin Teddy.

Roy and I haven’t seen the Disney film.  We didn’t know the story line.  It was a new adventure for us.  I remembered a little Golden Book we had for our kids. The forty thieves wore haram Ali Baba trousers.

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Brenda holding Aladdin teddy, and Bronwyn.

The actors were energetic.  Their costumes were spectacular, vivid and sparkly.   The production had beautiful music and singing.  Many heart stopping moments and a few tear jerkers.  Lots of subtle jokes and bad puns as well.

Aladdin was magical.

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Brenda, Naomi, Bronwyn throwing silver streamer.

 

Afterwards we had organised to be at Luke & Beth’s for a meal at 5:00pm. We would have made it easily if the Sydney traffic wasn’t so horrendous. It took us 2 hours to go 30kms.

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Naomi and baby Fletcher.

We finally got there and ate yummy salads and pizza. Beth made the salads and a delicious birthday cake.

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Bronwyn and Beth birthday party.  Brenda, Luke, Michael and Fletcher, Beth and Imogen, Noah, Roy and Bronwyn.

An exciting start to the beginning of my month long birthday.

Naomi at Luke and Beth's place.

Naomi at Luke and Beth’s place.

Thanks to Jo and Stephane for the jewellery, to Brenda for the ticket to the show and Beth and Luke for the delicious meal. Thanks to our chauffeur Roy.

I look forward to at least 40 more birthdays.

Lots of love Bronnie.

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Flight for Sight

Black smoke filled our historic Holden.  Dad was agitated because he had to stop again to let it’s  engine cool.

The trip to the airport was nerve wracking for my mother.

 

Will we get there in time? What’s my daughter’s future? How will my other six children be while I’m away for two weeks? These are all questions along with many more that went through my mother’s mind as we crept to the airport.

 

My mother was overwhelmed. She had short notice to find people to mind my six siblings. Without surgery I was going to lose the sight in my right eye.

 

If that was not enough to concern her our car was filling with smoke every few kilometres on the way to the airport.

 

Arriving at Hobart airport our plane was ready to taxi.

 

I was nine years old and about to go on my first airplane ride. I was so excited. My mother was upset because the plane was about to leave.

 

The old days are called the ‘good old days’.

 

Where was OH&S in 1966 when the airport authorities stood me and my mother, clutching my hand, onto the stairs then wheeled them to the plane?

 

We made our way up to the plane .however the door was not open and they wheeled the steps away from the plane so that this could happen. That left us with a big empty space in front of us.

 

My mother had a terrible fright!

 

She grabbed me tightly and said, loudly, “stop”. As I was about to step out into mid-air.

 

Safely on the plane I heard the power of the plane’s engines as they roared before takeoff.

 

The force of the plane pushed me into my seat as it climbed up and up.

 

After takeoff I watched the flaps retract into the wings, then the buildings, roads and cars turned into toys as it climbed further.

 

I tried to share these joyous experiences with my mother but she was too anxious to listen to my chatter.

 

When we were lost in the clouds I explored the contents of the seat pockets. My pleasure even extended to the discovery of the vomit bags

 

‘Fasten your seat belt sign’ flashed up and the pilot announced we would be going through some rough weather.

 

The plane bucked.     I was thrilled and mum held tightly to her seat.

 

Oh goodness me! The man over the aisle used his bags. I watched as he grabbed them. He opened two bags as one. His meal landed on his lap.

 

After landing the next stop was the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital.

 

The hospital had been built in 1883 and extended as the population increased. There were dark corridors and spooky rooms. I was use to the small Royal Hobart Hospital. This one seemed to have kilometres of corridors twisting and turning.

 

I was booked in for surgery the following day. My retina had detached and it was a delicate operation to reattach.

 

The procedure took over eight hours and after surgery I wasn’t to move at all. I had to stay on my back very still for ten days or more.

 

The children’s ward was full and I was put with the ladies in a ward with iron beds around the walls.

 

Amazingly smoking was permitted inside hospitals.

 

The lady beside me smoked. Her gas heater had exploded in her face and she had bandages on both eyes. When I was able to sit up I use to hide her lighter. She took my prank with good fun and use to laugh at me.

 

The nurses use to smack me for many reasons. One was that I wouldn’t eat meat. Another was when they wanted to shave my legs and I wouldn’t stay still because I was afraid of the shaver.

 

Looking back I was a frightened little girl who was losing sight in one eye and being terrorised by the nursing staff.

 

As children we have the ability to block unpleasant experiences from our memory. However, a happy memory was when my cousin came to visit me and gave me one of her old china dolls. The doll had dreadlocks and broken eyes but I loved her because she had a princess dress.

 

I spent two weeks in the hospital. The terrorisation by the nurses and patients smoking made my hospital experience one of the worst in my life.

 

The Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital was a training hospital. My detached retina was rare. This meant every student, with aspirations of being a specialist, had a look in my eyes. I hated the invasion. There was only one doctor who spoke to me kindly.

 

Flying home was nowhere as exciting as the trip to Melbourne. It may have been because I was in pain and sad.

I was not able to go to school.  I had to wear a pirate patch for 8 weeks.

 

It meant many restrictions for an active little girl. I begged my mum to let me out to play. She eventually relented and I was promptly struck over the right eye with a golf ball size rock which reversed the surgery.

 

My mother had been removing the patch daily and testing my vision on a very colourful lounge room curtain.

 

After the rock incident I could not see the bright colours any more.  The doctors would not redo the surgery.

 

As a child I was not concerned too much with the loss of sight. It wasn’t till later when I started to lose sight in my left eye that I wished things could have been different when I was ten.

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Helna’s Birthday Paddle

My friend Helna is very special, almost my twin. Her birthday is five days after mine. For her 2015 birthday we hired a Mirage 582 and gave it to her for a guided kayak tour around our favourite playground.

 

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Sydney enjoys glorious weather and has the most beautiful harbour in the world.

 

We met Helna at the Spit on a bright autumn morning with the sun sparkling on Middle Harbour. We paddled Clontarf Point, Castle Crag, Grotto Point, Middle Head, Cobblers Beach, HMAS Penguin, Hunters Bay, Balmoral Beach and Chinamans beach.

 

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Rock and Roll 2016, Jimmy’s Beach

NSW Sea Kayak Club hold the most exciting Rock & Roll weekends. This year was our fifth RnR.

The amount of organisation and planning for the weekend is outstanding.

Thank you to all the hard working volunteers who make a grand RnR symposium.

For Roy and me it was a weekend of testing Expedition Kayaks, EK’s boats.

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Morning launch at Jimmy’s Beach.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Dolphins, caves & runners

On Saturday we borrowed EK’s Pace 17 and 17-S. With some coaching from Mark Sundin I had the rudder almost under control.

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Bron executing a cool “Telemark” turn. Port Stephens.

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Port Stephens. Bron sliding in beside me.

 

Mark was the leader of our group of 6 paddlers. We were off for an adventure to Boondelbah and Cabbage Tree Islands.

On the way there was a pod of playful dolphins.

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Yaccabah, dolphins every where!

Roy and I enjoyed testing the Pace 17s on the flat and turbulent water.

Perfect paddling conditions with a 5 knot head wind saw us paddling to Boondelbah.

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Looking out of Boondelbah gorge.

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Conference south of Boondelbah.

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Now on to Cabbage Tree Island.

Most of the group bravely explored the spooky sea caves. I’m frightened of the dark and the Plesiosaurus which inhabit coastal sea caves.

I stayed outside.

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South west corner of Cabbage Tree Island.

 

 

 

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South west corner of Cabbage Tree Island.

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Cave at south west corner of Cabbage Tree Island.

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Cave at south west corner of Cabbage Tree Island.

The return trip was so much fun. On the way back to Jimmys Beach we had a tail wind and runners. I was free! Surfing down the waves I let the PACE 17-S have its head.

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Tomaree and Yaccabah.

I thought Mark was matching me pace for Pace. Alas a cry went out “Bronwyn slow down!” My heart dropped. “Why?”  “Because I can’t keep up.” “I don’t want to slow down!” I wanted to paddle to the end of the sea!

 

Some years ago I was seriously injured in a pedestrian accident.   I have PTSD and thus no guide dog. I’m shackled to a human when travelling on land.

On the water it’s a different story. As long as I’m ahead of the pack there’s no boat to collide with. I try not to think of the motorised craft. I’m off the leash. Roy is my guardian angel vigilantly directing.

Mark Sundin tells the story. Read his colourful blog.

http://expeditionkayaks.blogspot.com.au/

(Page down to Wednesday 16 March 2016, “Rocks, Inspiration and Sunshine”.)

On the Sunday and Monday Roy tried out several of EK’s boats and has settled on a Pace 17. I couldn’t be left behind so I’m treating myself as well with a Pace 17-S.

Mark recommended Roy try a wing paddle. When using the Epic Mid Wing paddle Roy exclaimed “I got a fright when using the wing paddle. I shot out of the starting gate with surprising acceleration!”

Rock and Roll 2016,  Jimmy’s Beach, Boondelbah, Cabbage Tree Islands.  High resolution.  In bottom right of video screen click on “HD” (enable HD quality ).
If you find the download is too slow, try the low res version below.

 

Rock and Roll 2016,  Jimmy’s Beach, Boondelbah, Cabbage Tree Islands.  Low resolution.
If you find the quality is poor on a big screen, try the high res version above.

 

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Trip with Scenarios

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Map of Royal National Park showing Wattamolla and four kilometres to the north east, Little Marley beach.

Which kayak trips do you remember most? The very rare days when there’s no wind and low swell, absolutely! Or are they the trips where the conditions challenge and extend you beyond your comfort zone? These are the days when your toolbox is fully open and you frantically try to remember all you’ve been taught. Sure we remember all our trips but to arrive back exhausted and smiling is very gratifying! You’ve climbed another hurdle and have more confidence in what you are able to do after one of those days. Harry’s “Trip with Scenarios” was one of those trips.

Dark skies and thunder greeted us on our arrival at Wattamolla Beach on Sunday 21 February 2016.

The forecast for Sunday was cloudy with winds 10 to 15 knots, first swell south easterly 1.5m and second swell easterly 1m. The growling overhead and dark skies caused the team some concern.

Harry was our captain, Caoimhin was his right-hand man, Nick, Ken, Marty, Mark, Roy and I completed the group.

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Harry, Nick, Bronwyn and Roy raft up to debrief after the rescue.

After we carried the kayaks to the beach Harry briefed us on what his plan was and if we had any concerns for the day. Nick mentioned the thunder which was persisting. Everyone was watching the dark sky, following the storm’s progress. It had dissipated by the time we were ready to launch.

With a pounding heart I launched into the little surf and paddled around the clapotis caused by the reefs.

Once we were clear of the headlands we paddled south into a 10 knot wind. Harry nominated a leader and overseer for each of the two teams. We were given various scenarios.

Roy capsized and I had to rescue him.

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Bronwyn comes to rescue Roy. Roy reaching for her bow toggle.

 

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Bronwyn slides Roy’s bow across her cockpit skirt then rotates his kayak to empty his cockpit.

Next Harry wanted me to capsize and push my boat away.

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Bron has lost contact with her kayak and is floating away. Roy puts Bron’s kayak on contact tow then goes back to rescue her.

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Bron hooks her outside foot under the cockpit rim then uses this leverage to re-enter and skirt up.

Initially Roy got to me too quickly so Harry asked me to paddle away again while he physically held Roy back. We had a run away kayak and a swimmer.

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Bron has separated from her kayak again. It has been blown thirty metres away. She has no hope of swimming to it. Nick races to the orange helmet bobbing in and out of sight. Roy chases Bron’s kayak down wind.

Nick had to coordinate the rescue. He asked me to straddle his boat’s bow while he paddled to Roy who was chasing my kayak.

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Nick supports Bron on his bow and they go to Roy as he brings up Bron’s kayak.

I enjoy new skills and the opportunity to be taught by experienced leaders.

We climbed the approaching 2 m swell as we paddled further south.

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Bron loves launching off waves.

After a break, on shore at Wattamolla, Harry gave us two options. The first was 8kms south in lumpy seas or 4kms north in the same conditions. We chose the latter and launched into the surf and through the backwash.

With the wind and a following sea we flew to Little Marley for lunch.

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Two more kayaks launch off the swell peak.

After lunch the sea was getting increasingly lumpy and the trip back into a headwind was challenging. Caoimhin sidled up to me and told me “you’re feeling sea sick”. Nick instructed Roy to tow. I was “overcome by an intense bout of sea sickness” and capsized. Roy continued to “tow, tow my boat lumpily down the sea”. He heard “you’ve got no passenger mate”. Nick rescued me after Roy returned my kayak. Roy said he felt a bit of a funny jerk and thought it was nothing and merrily paddled on.

Harry’s group, Mark, Marty & Ken did a similar exercise. Marty was towing Ken who was “sea sick”. Woops, Ken’s sickness got too much and he capsized! Oh no while Ken was in the water Marty capsized. That was the scenario for Mark to get the two kayakers safely into their boats and on their way. What do you think would be the best way to execute the rescue of two swimmers?

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Bronwyn lets Roy catch up to her.

Harry had another surprise! I was released from the torment. Each kayaker had to paddle backwards using sweep strokes on one side only. The aim was to navigate around Harry and myself, drifting targets. It was done both clockwise and anti-clockwise in rough conditions.

Harry’s comments and chuckles about what the group were doing were funny. Everyone was cheating. After discussing the exercise with Roy he realised he left his skeg down. That’s why he was getting nowhere fast.

Lastly we had to get back under a threatening sky. Heads down and paddles churning we punched into the wind and swell.

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Waves rebound off the cliffs to form confused clapotis driving us up and down. Bron does not miss a beat.

The wind spun my kayak off course and I was endlessly having to turn back into the wind. Instinctively I gripped my thigh braces. That caused my quads to ache, my back to tense and I tired trying to hold on. When I relaxed my paddling went smoother.

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Bronwyn launches her bow a metre over the crest of the swell.

About 1km from Wattamolla I was tiring. It was better to ask for help rather than struggle on. Part way through the tow Roy’s rope unclipped and I was on my own again. We were nearly into the sheltered bay beyond  the cliffs. Before we landed I flipped a nasty, stinging blue bottle onto my neck.

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A perfect beach landing in small surf.

The trip gave both Roy and me much more confidence in our abilities paddling in rough conditions. I mastered new skills and feel a great sense of accomplishment after an eventful trip.

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Harry says Bronwyn is a legend. He doesn’t know how he could paddle blind folded.

Thanks to Harry and Caoimhin for an extremely well planned trip, Thanks also to Nick for paddling alongside me giving me encouragement. Always a big thanks to Roy for directing and watching out for me. I’m looking forward to another adventure.

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Bron is almost caught out by a surprise wave. She saves her dignity with a low brace.

 

 

Click here to link to the video on Dropbox, then download a high resolution copy:

2016 02 21 Wattamolla Scenarios g, short third rescue.

 

If you are interested in rescues and would like to see the third rescue at normal speed , here is the link to download the high resolution video:

2016 02 21 Wattamolla Scenarios f, third rescue normal speed

 

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Following My Leader

My pride had suffered a severe battering after I walked face first into an awning support pole in the Coffs Harbour mall.  After wiping tears of pain and humiliation from my face I felt shocked, fearful and unsure about my future.  I didn’t see the pole at all.  I returned home shaken.  With the responsibilities of caring for three young sons I promptly forgot the incident.

When I was ten I lost sight in my right eye. After my fifteenth birthday, while playing basketball at school I was hit in the head by the ball.  This accident detached my retina, robbing me of most of the sight in my left eye.  Surgery restored some tunnel vision.  I could see to do most things I wanted but lurking in the back of my mind was the fear of blindness.

A year after the pole incident , in 1990, we packed up our beachside home and moved to Sydney.  It was a culture shock for us all. There was frightfully busy traffic and thousands of people who were always rushed.

Eighteen months after leaving Coffs Harbour we purchased a home in Sydney.  We decided on a school for our boys and were settling into city life.  One day I was attempting to cross the road after I collected my youngest son from preschool.  I almost killed him.  I could not see the traffic light change.  There was a stationery truck in the centre lane.  It had a red arrow for turning right.  I thought the lights were green for me and started to cross.  Screaming brakes stopped me.  I swiftly pull the stroller backwards.  The car had screeched to a stop but not until it clipped the stroller’s front wheels and sent it spinning down the road.  My heart stopped.  On shaking legs I ran and picked up my little fellow and hugged him to myself.  He had not been injured.  The driver was shaken and apologetic.  It had not been her fault.

One of the school’s teachers drove us home.  I settled my little man and then contacted the road authority to have audible indicators installed at that intersection.  This was done the following day.  Shortly afterwards I contacted the Guide Dog Association to discuss my options.  After a lengthy assessment I was told I could have a dog.  I had a wait of nine-months before a compatible dog that had similar temperament and energy to me could be found.

In September 1992 I received confirmation that a dog was waiting for me.  I was excited and felt trepidation.  I had never put my trust in a dog.  Would the dog lead me safely?  How would my children cope without me for four weeks?

Three weeks later I left three clinging, tearful boys with their dad. Then with an anxious heart I flew to Melbourne for four weeks of training.

Initially I learned to follow a harness with my trainer as the dog.  I had to give the trainer commands such as left, right, stop and forward.  Until I had that correct I would not be introduced to my dog. Initially I found following the harness awkward and I was uncoordinated.  The trainer was patient and we kept practicing until I had the commands perfect.

On the second day our dogs were given to us.  We had to take full responsibility for them.  For example the dogs slept in our dormitory room and it was like having a new baby.  Sometimes my dog wanted to go out in the middle of the night and she would wake me up to take her.  Every morning we groomed our dogs and made sure they had a run in the pen before we went out with them.  After returning from the walks we gave them water and another run and fed them in the evening.

The dog I was given was a vivacious golden Labrador with sparkling brown eyes and biscuit ears.  Her name was Sophie.  I often wondered if she and I were a perfect match.  What did Guide Dogs think of my personality?  Though Sophie was a wonderful worker she was an absolute rascal off harness.  Her spunk and inquisitive nature got her into trouble.  On reflection she was just like me.

A guide dog has the age intelligence of a two to four year old child.  Sometimes they act like a cheeky child who needs regular disciplining.

Training was a month of daily walks and lectures.  At the centre there were three people who were given a dog and seven people doing white cane training.

In the guide dog group there was an elderly gentleman who was given a giant golden retriever like a polar bear.  The second man had a regal Labrador cross poodle and I was given a lively Labrador.  During the class times the other dogs settled down quietly at their masters’ feet.  But every time someone moved my dog jumped up.  I was often instructed “control your dog.”  I was often perplexed.  How is a high-spirited dog expected to sit still during a long lecture?

My trainer was serious.  She was strict and thorough.  She did not appear to have a sense of humour.  I did not hear her laugh once in four weeks.  My fellow students were also dour.  I always see the funny side in everything and often I would be the only person laughing at incidents that I thought were hilarious.  Such as the time when a gentleman with the golden retriever was trying to harness his dog. He was repeatedly saying “come on put your head in here.”  As we were listening we heard the trainer say “you are trying to put your dog’s tail in the harness.  Turn him around.”  It was understandable as his dog was so furry and he was having difficulty determining the difference between his dog’s head and tail.

Twice a day we climbed into the minivan with our dogs.  When we had arrived at the destination the trainer took us one at a time, with our dogs on harness, around the block.  Then we’d wait while the others had their walks.

Slowly as we gained confidence the trainer removed her lead from the dog and followed closely.  It was very important not to make a mistake as the dog learned by routine.

Back in Sydney I took hold of her harness and let her guide me.  I had a new independence. I put my absolute trust in Sophie as she loved to work.  She also loved to eat.  Food was a constant distraction.

If you can imagine the level of a Labrador’s nose is that of a three-year olds’ shoulder.  One morning we were walking along the street and a child was eating chips.  Sophie swiped her tongue and the snack disappeared.  I heard the child crying “that doggy has by chip”.  Another time my mother baked cheese scones and left then to cool.  She went to investigate a rustling sound.  There was Sophie with her paws on the bench greedily gobbling down the warm scones.

Sophie was an escape artist.  Two new homes were being built in the next street.  She would take off and eat the builders’ lunches.  When the builders saw me walking with her they told me what she had done.  You’d think they would put their lunches somewhere safe after losing them to a dog.

In March 1993 I started work with Freight Rail.  Sophie settled into work sleeping underneath my desk.  Many people did not realise she was with me.

A group of tough-looking union representatives was touring the offices.  A very tall bearded man stood talking beside my desk.  Sophie thought I was being threatened. She gave a warning growl then an ear-splitting bark.  The representative jumped almost hitting the roof in fear. My colleagues and I could not stop laughing.

Sophie was protective.  We were at a camp where a mother was play-fighting with her young son.  Sophie did not understand and thought the boy was being attacked.  Sophie rushed barking at the mother. The woman was shocked and jumped away. When Sophie was happy that all was well she sat down again beside me.

Although Sophie was the most mischievous dog off harness, her work could never be faulted.

A couple of years into our relationship we were waiting at traffic lights in Parramatta.  Two vicious bull terriers attacked Sophie, jumping on her, growling fiercely and biting her.  I dropped the harness, as we were trained.  There were people all around us but no one intervened.  I was frightened and Sophie was whimpering.  Eventually an elderly lady came to our rescue and shooed the menacing dogs away.  It was a terrifying experience and Sophie was shaking.  We returned to work and I checked her for injuries.  Fortunately she was unhurt.

Sophie and I walked everywhere.  She confidently navigated me around crowds and street furniture.  We walked five kilometres to and from work and had many trips by ourselves into Sydney CBD.  It was a pleasure to walk independently with her.

After Sophie had been with me for five years she developed a large tumour on her chest.  The tumour was removed by surgery.  When she recovered she was able to continue to work.  Twelve months later we got the saddest news.  The cancer returned throughout her body.  She could no longer work and was on chemotherapy tablets daily.  She got weaker and passed away quietly in July 1997.  We all were heart-broken.  We sat on the seat outside patting her and crying.

It takes twelve-months to be fully familiar with your dog and teach her all your various routes.  She was prematurely retired and it was time to consider a new dog.  The challenge was daunting.  Losing your best guide is like losing your left arm.  To walk with a white cane is awkward.  It’s a different way of navigating.  The dog avoids obstacles and working with a cane you must locate obstacles to give you reference points.  I have never known a cane user to walk for pleasure.  However, people using dog guides walk effortlessly with their dog.

After Sophie’s death I missed her terribly.  My life changed.  I went to work walking with a white cane.  I had never used a white cane and I could not walk in a straight line.  Many vision-impaired people choose a cane over a dog, but not me.

Once after work I was walking down the street when the cane went under a bus seat.  My knee cracked against the edge of the seat.  The pain was excruciating.  I sat on the seat and cried.  One of my colleagues passing asked “where is your dog?”  I burst into tears afresh and told him.  He kindly walked me to the taxi.

After a couple of months of working with a white cane my new dog was waiting for me.  He had a quieter temperament than Sophie and similar colouring.  When we were introduced it was love at first sight for us both.  The following morning he jumped on my bed for a cuddle.

His name was Zeff and he had the sweetest nature.  He never got into mischief nor did he do anything naughty in the twelve years he was with me.

We walked five kilometres to work every morning and he never put a paw wrong.

When Zeff was five years old we bought a puppy golden retriever, Emma.  Zeff put up with her chewing on his ear and generally being annoying.  Sometimes he’d walk away indignantly and tried to hide from her.  She thought he was her parent and stuck beside him.  He was grateful to go to work to have a rest from her.

I fed the dogs together in the evening.  Some mornings the puppy’s bowl would be downstairs under the washing line.  It was always a mystery how it got there.

One morning my son was up early pegging up his washing.  He caught Zeff carefully carrying the puppy’s bowl downstairs.  “Zeff!” Luke exploded.  Zeff guiltily dropped the bowl and slunk off.

Zeff’s only vice was he had a problem with breaking wind.  Some days at work it would be so toxic I had to tie him in an area where there were no workers.  This area became known as “the wind tunnel”.

In 2002 I changed jobs with a different route.  Zeff navigated me over very busy roads, through tunnels and around overhanging trees.

One day I was waiting in a chemist when a lady mentioned “the little child in the stroller beside your dog is feeding him”.  I thought it was cute but moved my dog out of reach.  One of the rules with a guide dog is that no one other than their owner ever feeds them.  I was very strict with my dogs as my safety relied on them.

Zeff and I were walking to work on 31 May 2005 when a negligent driver, looking to the right and turning to the left hit me with the wheels going over both my legs.  As I was falling under her wheels I remember thinking it’s impossible that this is happening.  I was in the middle of the road and very easily seen when she hit me.  I was seriously injured with multiple fractures in both legs.  Zeff was unhurt and lay beside me whimpering until the ambulance arrived.  It was obvious that the driver had not been watching for a long period of time.

After I graduated out of my wheel chair and then off my crutches we worked together but in a very limited way.  I never walked to work again.

Zeff developed arthritis in his hips and walking became painful for him.  I had to retire him.  After a brief illness he passed away in 2007.

I was two years without a dog.

Eventually I applied for another dog.  Molly came to live with us.  She was a delightfully spunky cross Labrador golden retriever.

By the time I got Molly I had left working for a company and started a home-based massage clinic.  Due to the accident I was fearful of crossing the road by myself.  This restricted my walks with Molly to trips around the block.

Although Molly was a delight and such a wonderfully friendly young dog our time together was brief.

I found I was not using her to her full potential and surrendered her to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

I hope she is still successfully leading another blind person.

I loved my three dogs and their devotion to me was obvious. The bond between a working dog and their master is unique. We worked as one using hand signals, positioning of our bodies and often a nod of the head.  By holding the harness handle lightly I could feel my dog’s slightest movement.  Working with a guide dog is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had.  We worked like a pair of dancers, always in step.

If I had a favourite it was Zeff.  He was always faithfully beside me.  I still miss him.

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