My friend Cindy – the golden guiding girl

Four paws, 10 happy years together, and a big, waggy tail. I’d like to tell you about my friend Cindy the golden retriever!

I’d like to tell you about my friend. She isn’t around any more, but you can see her picture on both of my websites. Many of my friends met her, but for anyone who hasn’t, this is the story of Cindy, my golden guiding girl.

If you asked me about my favourite dog breed, I’d tell you it’s the golden retriever. This is because I spent 9 happy years with one – firstly as my guide dog, and then as a friend and companion because she stayed with me when she was too old to work.

Cindy was not my first guide dog. The first one was a crazy Labrador who had some behavioural issues and after a year it was decided that she was not suitable to guide. She retired early and became a family pet. I knew I could make it work with a guide dog. I saw how much happiness and freedom they brought to other visually impaired friends. I have loved dogs since I was a small child. We always had them when I was growing up because my grandparents loved dogs as well.

When I was 4, we got a new dog, who was also called Cindy. I grew up with her, and she was my childhood friend. When I was 5, I thought she was smart enough to learn to read. “Wag your tail if this word says cat”! That didn’t work out so well, but she was a smart girl and we had a lot of fun together, in our garden, on holiday, on walks, or just chilling out. The first Cindy died when I was 15.

Cindy the retriever bounced into my life when I was in my early twenties. You don’t get to choose the name of a guide dog, so it felt quite special that this girl shared her name with my childhood friend. Each litter of puppies is given names beginning with the same letter – so all of Cindy’s brothers and sisters had names beginning with C.

We trained out of a hotel in Greenwich, London, which meant that we were close to a nice big park for walks after the training sessions.

During the next years, we did everything together! Cindy sat under my desk in my various offices, helped me to negotiate two of my least favourite obstacles on London streets – roadworks, because they are never in the same place twice and completely change the landscape that was otherwise so familiar to us, and tourists, because many of them are so intent on taking their pictures and completely oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the streets who might actually need to get somewhere, such as to work!

I had a lot of dog-loving friends, many of whom worked long hours, so they couldn’t have a dog of their own. We all went for long walks together, mostly in the Surrey countryside, and sometimes we went for long weekends to visit a friend on the Isle of Wight, where the golden girl could swim in the sea.

This is something I wrote on her 4th birthday and it sums up a lot of the happy memories we had together:

Four years – where have they gone?

The golden wagging bundle of fun
Who bounded in to my house one day in November In preparation for our December class.

Something about you got my attention
Your love for life and sense of fun
Your ability to keep calm and wag whatever happens.
I loved the golden puppy girl straight away!

I’d been so disappointed with a failed match
Willing to put my trust in a new guide But feeling under ridiculous pressure to make it work.
Pressure of my own making – but still it was there.

Class was fun in the training centre.
We learned together.

A few months in, you were naughty
Not wanting to walk past the vets
Because you’d been in there for ear treatment.
Not wanting to go home
If you didn’t think our walk had been long enough!

But somehow along the way things fell in to place And we became a team, and good friends.
I think we’d always been friends
But were just getting to know each other.
You learned I don’t like mornings
I learned you love to run and chase after sticks And bark at them if they are too big!
You love to sing and do headstands when you’re happy
And can pick up if I’m annoyed or upset,
Coming over to make sure I’m ok,
Laying your head on my lap And not leaving till you’ve made me smile.

So many happy memories
Chasing in the park after your ball
Diving in to the forbidden muddy pond
When we were supposed to be going out for lunch.

I was so proud when we did our first walks together
And you remembered the places we’d been before.
You soon got the name Singing Cindy
Because of your happy songs!

We explored our new area together
When we moved house, under a year after we met.
Would you find our door again? Would we get lost?
Only once did you try to have me break in to another house with my key
But that was months in to our time there and I wasn’t paying attention!

The time when you were so ill after eating a firework
I was so worried because you couldn’t breathe.
Rushing you to the vets to get you cared for.

Then moving jobs to a brand new office and company
You looking out for men as you always do Unaware of their place on the talent scale!

How many secrets do you know about me?
It’s a good thing you can’t talk!!

I was so proud as you took in each new place with ease
Learning routes and following other dogs without going crazy!

It’s fun to see you out on walks
Loving the feeling of freedom
Running like a crazy horse
And carrying logs twice your size!
Rolling in the dry grass
And telling off any log which is too big for you to carry!

With you I can stroll around town confidently!
Not feeling clumsy or dependent,
But travelling quickly and freely because I know you’re looking out for things in our way.

The time that the knife-wielding men fled at the sight of you
After trying to terrorise the train carriage.
Meanwhile you were sleeping – oblivious to the whole thing!
The time we accidentally got on the TV news,
Because I thought the live reporters outside our building were a bunch of tourists
And urged you forward so we could go inside!

How many people say how beautiful you are
And want to stroke that golden head!
Sometimes it’s annoying
But I’m proud to know you’re so stunning

Sometimes people try to deny you access
And that makes me really angry.
I’ll take on the argument, and usually win
But how embarrassing and degrading is that?
We just want to have a meal or a drink with friends in peace
And don’t always have the energy to make people aware of the law.

We’ve done so much together!
The long trips we’ve taken
The new people we’ve met.
Apart from your tendency to want to be everyone’s best friend
I know I can take you anywhere And that you will behave impeccably.

And the Cindy hugs,
When you jump up on your back legs And give me a hug.

And the times when it’s all got too much
And you let me cry in to that silky fur!
Staying with me, no words necessary!

I asked for a speedy dog, and I got one
Happy to trot along when I’m late
Quickly but carefully!
Trying to stop at the taxi rank
To see if I’ll pay for a ride home
And in doing so give you the evening off!

We’ve had so much fun over the last four years
And I look forward to the next years together with you My golden guiding girl.

Well, We had more than four more years together after that. As Cindy grew older, she had a number of health issues and we later discovered it was pancreatitis. This meant various types of medication before and with her food, and that I had to be so careful that she didn’t get anything other than the special prescribed diet. Otherwise she could get very sick.

This became easier when I changed my job and set up my own business. No more 3 hour commutes into London! That was wonderful and although we’d both had good times with our colleagues in London, in the end we were glad not to have to travel any more.

I was so relieved when I got permission to keep Cindy when she retired. This doesn’t happen automatically and if you can’t find an approved home for your guide dog, the Guide Dogs Association will rehome your dog, but the new owners are not obliged to stay in touch with the original guide dog owner. After we’d been through so much together, I could not imagine anyone else looking after her but me. After all, we’d worked together as a team for so many years. She’d looked out for me, and I wanted to do the same for her in her old age.

It all worked out well in the end. I worked from home, and Cindy stayed with me. At first I thought about applying for a new guide dog straight away, but then I moved house again and decided that I didn’t want to put Cindy through the stress of having a young dog bouncing around.

When Cindy was 12, she developed a tumour. At first nothing happened, but then it began to spread quickly. I had to make the hardest decision that any animal owner has to make, but I didn’t want her to suffer, or to keep her alive just because I couldn’t bear to say goodbye. The vet came to our house to make it less traumatic and Cindy fell asleep for the last time in my arms.

I don’t plan to get another guide dog at the moment and this is not the place to ask about that. This post is to celebrate my friendship with a wonderful golden retriever who brought so much happiness to my life. She wasn’t perfect – anyone who has lived with a golden retriever knows just how stubborn they can be – but I certainly wasn’t perfect either, and that’s what makes a friendship real.

If you’ve written a post about your dog, please drop the link in the comments. I would love to read it!

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Discover dogs

Discover dogs – a day out for dog lovers

You may have guessed it by now, but in case you haven’t, I love dogs. My absolute favourite breed is the Golden Retriever, because of my golden guiding girl, who was my faithful companion for 10 years.

I don’t have a dog at the moment, but I never pass up on hug time with the Labrador, Greyhound, Saluki, German Shepherd, Yorkshire Terrier or Chihuahua Cross in our circle of friends. Oh ok then, and the random ones I meet on my adventures.

I’ve been wanting to attend the Discover Dogs event for a number of years and last year we did it. My partner and I travelled to the Excel Centre and entered a temporary world of soft furry snouts and waggy tails.

Of course I paid the Golden Retriever a visit, and checked out all the other types of retriever too, but the main aim for me was to find out what the other breeds look like. I knew about some of them from previous encounters or descriptions that I’d read in books, but some of the breeds, such as the mountain dogs, are more rare and you’re less likely to come across them in the local park. Being able to stroke them and talk about them with their owners gave me a much better mental image than anything I might have read about them.

The stalls are organised alphabetically in terms of dog breeds so you can either hunt out specific breeds if you’re interested in one (whether you are getting a dog from a rescue or a breeder, it’s still good to chat to people who already have that breed), or you can do what we did, which is to go along the line systematically and try to meet as many breeds as possible.

Our favourites were the Maremma Sheepdog, Canadian Eskimo Dog, Canaan Dog, Pyrenean Mastiff, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Finnish Lapphund, Tibetan Mastiff, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Norwegian Bulhund, Newfoundland, Leonberger, Kooikerhondje, Japanese Akita Inu, Japanese Shiba Inu, Belgian Shepherd Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie, Brittany, Deerhound, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Estrela Mountain Dog, Eurasier, Hovawart, Hungarian Vizsla, Hungarian Kuvasz, Irish Wolfhound, Griffon Fauve de Bretagne and Greenland Dog. As you can see, we tended to prefer the bigger dogs, although the Beagle in the picture was very sweet!

If you have a visual impairment, I would advise finding someone to go with, as it is a large exhibition with a constant flow of people and dogs and it was at times quite noisy. I think I would have struggled to negotiate the conference hall without sighted assistance. Even if I’d managed it with the help of many strangers, I think the idea would have been much more stressful and less enjoyable. As well as explaining which breeds we were approaching, my partner was also able to get me into good stroking positions, as there were often many people standing around each enclosure. It was also good to have someone with whom to share the experience.

There were usually several of each breed, so they could swap them around and it didn’t become too tiring for one dog.

Our main interest was the dogs, although there were other activities going on in the show rings. Classes were being judged, and I believe there were demonstrations too of what working dogs can do and dancing to music demonstrations.

If I had to suggest an improvement, I found the music too loud, especially towards the end of the afternoon. If noise sensitivity is a thing for humans, I’m sure it affects dogs too. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a big deal outside, but I don’t think the music needed to be as loud as it was. After all, people were trying to talk to each other and the dogs’ hearing is better than ours.

Overall, I really enjoyed my day and I felt that I learned a lot from it. So many different types of fur. Floppy ears, pointy ears, silky ears. I’ve been following the antics of some Tibetan Terriers on Facebook and now I finally know what the breed looks like, as well as many other breeds that I didn’t even know existed. If you love dogs, it’s a really good day out.

This year (2017), Discover dogs is on 21st and 22nd October. If you want to find out more, you can go to the Discover Dogs website.

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January 2017 favourites

My favourite products in January 2017!

I’m going to do monthly favourites posts on my blog. The things are either new in January, or something that I’ve rediscovered or have really been enjoying. The categories on these favourites posts are the same as on my featured products pages, so if you want to see what else has had a good review, check out the featured products pages. I only include things on those pages that have had a good review.

Make-up

When my mum heard about my cream eye shadow discovery, she bought me two more! The first one was from a range that I already have, but a different colour. I now have the Maybelline Color Tattoo in pink gold.

We also discovered that Max Factor does cream shadows, so we got the Max Factor excess shimmer cream eye shadow. You can see the whole range of colours on the Boots website – I got the copper one.

These are a different consistency to the Maybelline ones – in fact I think they are easier to apply, because they are more like a liquid face cream than a solid product. A little goes a long way, and you do need an eye primer underneath – otherwise it will crease. I like these so much that I got another one, but that will be featured in my drug store haul!

Skincare

You have probably worked out by now that I love everything mango! I mentioned the Victoria’s Secret mango shower gel in my Christmas post, but this month I’ve also been using the Victoria’s Secret mango body lotion, which has the same sweet mango scent and in fact stays on your skin even longer.

My Christmas Day treat from the Body Shop advent calendar was the Oils of Life sleeping cream. It was a generous mini and I would say that this night cream measures up well to others in a higher price range. My skin felt lovely and smooth in the morning, and the cream didn’t feel greasy when I applied it. I’m not a fan of scentless face creams so I was pleased that this one has a faint scent, though I couldn’t actually describe what it is – definitely something natural and something that I’m happy to have on my face. I’m trying out some of the other night creams from the Body Shop, but I would definitely get this one again in a larger size.

Hair care

Carrying on with the mango theme, the Avon Magnificent mango crazy hair tamer has become part of my daily hair care routine. I don’t care that it’s supposed to be for children – it does the job and helps me to get the knots out of my long, thick hair, and it leaves the hair with a faint mango smell. Not as sweet as the body lotion, but still distinctively mango! This link is for two bottles, but you can buy single ones or packs of 3. It’s cheaper to bulk buy, but of course you first need to work out whether you like the product. I will definitely be replacing it, but as I only use 2 or 3 squirts each time, it will last for a while yet.

I wanted to give my hair a treat, so I bought a range of hair masks to see which one I liked most. The first one I tried was the Garnier hair mask with avocado and shea butter which, according to the manufacturer gives your hair supple bounce and shine. I would definitely say that my hair is softer and more silky after using this product, and I love the smell – for some reason it reminds me of holidays! The description says that it is for dry, damaged hair, which is not what I have, so maybe there is a better product on the market for me – although I have to say that I’m pleased with the results, and with 300 ml, it’s a generous size.

Jewellery

This isn’t new, but I’ve been wearing it a lot this month. I don’t have a dog any more, but this lovely pewter golden retriever necklace reminds me of my golden guiding girl, and unlike some necklaces that are available, the shape of the dog is easy to feel, from the end of its snout to the tip of its waggy tail!

I like my jewellery to express something about my likes or personality, and this definitely shows that I’m a golden retriever fan.

The picture is of the necklace, but I don’t have the original box.

Food and drink

I talk a lot as part of my job, and I always have something to drink next to me. Although I could drink coffee till the cows come home, I do try to swap it out with other things, and as the weather is still cold, I tend to reach more for hot drinks. After having lychees at a Chinese restaurant recently, I remembered my old favourite Twinings mango and lychee green tea. As a child, I thought I didn’t like tea. The truth is, I don’t like the traditional English tea with milk – because I think it’s grim – but fruit teas, jasmin tea, rice tea – anything like that is fine and a good winter warmer.

If you’re looking for something cool and refreshing, I recently discovered Bottle Green mango and coconut presse

Clothing

I love owls and when I found this studded owl top, I had to get it! Actually it was going to be for New Year, but I didn’t get round to buying it. I made up for this in January and I was really pleased with the way that I could feel all the detail on the owl – his face, ears and the detail on his body. I’ve been disappointed by Amazon t-shirt stinginess before, but in terms of this, I’d say it’s fine to get your actual size, and I can confirm that it stayed intact in the wash. Still, I’d recommend that you wash it inside out to protect the owl.

How about you?

So, what are your favourite products this month? Do let me know in the comments – 1. Because I’m nosey and 2. Because I’m always looking for inspiration when it comes to new things to review!

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This post contains affiliate links, but I only promote links to things that I love or have tried!

Podcast

Unseen Beauty is also available as a podcast. If you want to listen to it, you can find it on iTunes or Player FM.

The URL for the podcast feed is
https://player.fm/series/unseen-beauty