Wonderful Winnie, my Guide dog, has retired. This is my first week of getting around without her, using a long cane. Fortunately none of the journeys I’ve had to make have been too challenging. so far. What I’ve found is, that while I miss the warmth and effortless guidance of Winnie, feeling my way forward with the probing tip of the long cane has its own rewards.
Every subtle change in surface texture is transmitted through the length of the cane into my hand and consciousness. Enabling me to establish what feels like a rather exclusively intimate interaction with my immediate environment. It seems that the sensation of each variation in contour, erupting weeds and grass, loitering sticks and stones and of course litter, occurs as a private revelation. I’ve found the experience to be almost meditative at times.
Winnie’s absence is also playing out in other unexpected ways. I’m finding that the loss of the Winnie related routine that was threaded through my daily life as left me a little disorientated. On Wednesday I managed to knock a full cup of coffee over the lounge carpet and leave my keys in the door when I popped out to get some lunch. On the face of it, its hard to see how being without Winnie played a role in these mishaps, but on reflection I’ve figured out how the removal of Winnie’s presence played its part.
On arriving back at my flat with coffee just purchased from the station cafe around the corner, my former routine would have been to put the coffee on the kitchen surface while removing Winnie’s harness, hang up my jacket, collect the coffee from the kitchen, sit down on the sofa and place it on the low table nearby. Now Winnieless, I simply put the coffee on the low table and then hung my jacket up. Sitting back down my leg knocked the table and over the coffee went.
Leaving my keys in the door occurred, because their removal is usually preluded by Winnie jumping down the doorstep, pulling the lead taught and my arm almost from its socket. Without this prompt, my attention was newly placed upon assembling my cane and getting to the cafe before it closed.
Its going to be interesting discovering the ways Winnie’s absence shows itself over the coming weeks and also what I learn about my abilities to cope without her and grow new strategies and resources to get about and interact with the world around me.