On Saturday my Glugster and I attended a Puppy Raiser Social at the SA Guide-dogs Association’s Gladys Evans Training Centre in JHB.
These socials are an opportunity for puppy raisers and brood stock holders with pups of all ages to meet each other and meet members of the training staff.
There is time for socialising, refreshments are provided and they include an activity or talk that is either informative or fun (they usually try to make it both).
For Saturday’s two hour social, we were surprised with blindfold masks and then we were escorted across the training lawn to the GDA’s College of Orientation and Mobility hall.
There we were assisted to a seat – exactly they way they would help a visually impaired person – and then shown that there was a knife, fork, cup, spoon and serviette set out on the table in front of us.
And just a note here – the following pictures (except the first one in this gallery) I took while I was blindfolded because I couldn’t NOT take any pictures!
Once everyone was seated the GDA staff walked around pouring fruit juice and then served food and we were informed where the food was on the plate – rice at 2 o’clock, quiche at 6 o’clock and veggies at 9 o’clock – and, still blindfolded, we were invited to eat!
Plates were cleared away (with many people not even sure if they’d finished eating) and dessert was served. A couple of slices of tinned peaches on a plate are tricky to find without using your fingers!
All of this was done under blindfold, with us having to keep control of our puppies-in-training at the same time!
Wendal was an absolute superstar, and having been under formal training for a few months already he was as good as gold, lying at my feet.
My Glugster had a bit of a harder time than me, having offered to look after almost 16 week old puppy-in-training Ash whilst her mommy was busy. She is very well trained already, but there was another young pup under the table next to her so they weren’t quite as chilled as Wendal was.
Executive Director Gail spoke to the Puppy Raisers afterwards and explained why the pups knowing to sit quietly at a table whilst people are eating is so important.
The social was certainly an “eye opener” for many puppy raisers!
Now you know what we did, let me try to tell you how I felt…
Firstly, I have a deep and intense connection to my camera (and my phone of course), and not being able to take pictures and tweet what we were doing was immensely frustrating!
Is that ridiculous or what!?
I found myself racking my brain to try and think how I was going to access the apps on my touchscreen Samsung S4 if I couldn’t see the screen!!
Walking across the lawn under blindfold was strange… I know the property so I knew where we were going, but it felt to me like we were walking in a circle to the right! I battled not to try and steer my guide by yanking on his arm as we walked!
Once we reached our destination he guided me to a seat and then I realised I didn’t know where my husband was or who was sitting next to me! Was it a round table or a square table?! Was my handbag going to be okay under my seat!? And reaching out to see if there was someone in the seats next to me was a little tricky as I didn’t want to grab someones boob or smack someone in the face!
And the noise! I battle to filter out background noise under normal circumstances and without my eyes I was even more aware of the voices around me! Thankfully they seated my Glugs almost opposite me at what I realised was a long table, and I heard a voice I recognised a few chairs down from me, but there was not a lot of conversation… Without eye contact its very hard to initiate small talk so I found myself talking to my husband, who was not quite a metre away from me at the table but it felt like a mile!
At the start of the little luncheon I handed my camera to one of the Guide Dog trainers and she took a few pictures of the seated guests for me, and then she got busy so I had to either not get any pictures or make another plan, so without removing my blindfold – which was incredibly tempting – I remembered how to unlock the screen and turn on the camera, and held thumbs!
We were blindfolded for maybe an hour, and it felt a lot longer. I kept catching myself trying to look past my blindfold, as if I was just holding something in front of my face and turning my head a little to the left or right would fix it. Let me tell you, it took considerable concentration to not simply remove the blindfold, like you would brush your hair back out of your face.
Once I found my cutlery – with the aid of the GDA staff member who had seated me – I kept touching it as if I was expecting to forget where it was or someone was going to take it away!
Eating the food on my plate was tricky – I couldn’t tell if there was anything on my fork and I kept turning my fork upside down and getting nothing on it! And I couldn’t see how big a piece of the quiche I was cutting so I got almost the whole thing in my mouth!
I tried using my fingers to see if there was any food left on my plate, but I also wanted to be polite and not make a mess!
Dessert was two slices of tinned peaches on a plate, and lemme tell you bunnies – that shit is slippery!! I resorted to using a finger to hold a piece while I cut it with my spoon and I managed to eat it, but I got sticky fingers in the process!
I was terrified I was going to knock my cup over, and I was quite sure I would spill food on my shirt and in my lap!
It was an eye opener and a half, excuse the pun. It was fun and a little scary. It made me think differently and I learned a lesson or two.