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International Women’s Day

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Today is International Women’s day. The day to celebrate all women and our successes, achievements, our lives.

It seems very timely to me, that the opening of my first major art exhibition has fallen just before International women’s day. I know I wouldn’t have got where I am if it weren’t for the women in my life. My mother for teaching me that I can do anything I want, that my blindness is not an excuse to prevent me from achieving my goals. My best and oldest friend, Lauren, always there to lean on and to be given a good shove when I’m being negative.

Ashlee and Sam.

In the last couple of years, there has been Art Mania and the incredibly strong and talented women that have become my friends and support network. There is Bek, who makes it possible for you to read these posts, by doing the uploading and editing for me. Dana, who is always positive and a fellow dog lover. She was my first support worker at Art Mania and still helps me with many little things that I don’t know how to do. Or which I need a little help to achieve.

There is Ashlee, my friend, my support worker and my mentor.

Ash, you have given me so much confidence in myself as an artist. You have taught me so much about the artistic process as well as different kinds of art. And I know I still have more to learn from you.

Ashlee and Sam creating with resin.

There are so many incredible women working at, and taking classes at Art Mania. I won’t list you all, but you all, in different ways, have helped and supported and encouraged me. From advice on how to tackle a project. Telling me where I’ve got lost with work. And just giving me a safe place to blossom and create. I love you all and acknowledge you all as women to be proud of, lucky to know and spend time with.

Fee and Sam.

I can’t finish however, without first acknowledging one other incredible woman. And that is Fee. Mother and creater of Art Mania. My big sister and mentor. The one who praises when it’s deserved and needed. And who gives me a good push and talking to when I’m being negative and self destructive. I am a better, stronger woman thanks to you Fee. I’m in a better place mentally and I’ve found what my heart has always longed for.

Thank you too all of you at Art Mania. And here’s to all the strong, beautiful, intelligent women around the world. Happy International Women’s day.

Love Your Pet Day

By | Disability, Lifestyle

Today is Love Your Pet day. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you about the animals in my life. 

I’ve been lucky in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to touch several different species of animal. The first time I remember, I was around eight. It was a Koala and I remember being amazed how woolly it was and the sharpness of its claws. 

 

In my first year of high school, I went, with a group of blind school kids, to Melbourne for an athletics competition. While in Melbourne we paid a visit to the zoo. We sat on the floor in a circle and got to touch and stroke various animals. A possum, a snake that I refused to touch and a wombat. I love wombats and that first encounter has helped me so much over the years to create art pieces that are wombat based. I could get a clear picture in my head of what they looked like.  

Over the years I’ve met kangaroos, blue-tongue lizards, a bandicoot, a turtle, an enormous stick insect, both fresh water and salty crocodiles. The list goes on. And of course, most recently a water dragon who lives at Art Mania and answers to the name Jimmy. 

As some of you may know, I sculpted Jimmy out of clay about a year ago, and he and I became friends.

Now he likes to sit on my shoulder while I work. He likes to watch what’s happening in the studio and often watches what I’m creating. In August last year, I was working on a painting and a large canvas. Jimmy had spent most of the day on my shoulder. As I began to work on the top of the canvas, Jimmy decided he wanted a better look and proceeded to walk out onto my raised arm. He sat there watching what I was doing. 

Only this week, he decided to get a closer look ant a few pieces I was working on. I’d been painting a board with a sand coloured paint, when again, Jimmy came down off my should to investigate. This time however he lay across my arm and began scraping the board with his nails. He was fascinated. By the end of the day, he had paint on his feet and splashed on his back. He’s loved every minute.  

Yesterday, he decided to sit on my work. Luckily I wasn’t working with paint, but was stitching the backing on to a wall hanging I’ve made. He settled in, with no intention of moving. It was only the prospect of dinner that changed his mind.  

The one thing all of these interactions with animals have in common is that I now have a clear picture of what they all look like. What they feel like, giving me a good understanding of how to create them.  

I still have several animals on my “must see” list. Including elephant, dolphin, seal, I could go on, but I won’t.  

Although none of these animals have been pets of mine, they have all had a significant impact on my life and understanding. So I’d like to say, I think we should love our pets and all the other animals out there every day. But especially on February 20. Give your pets a hug from me. 

-Sam Olgilvie 

Fear and Empowerment

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Ask any of my family or friends, and they will tell you that I have been petrified of snakes all my life. I’ve suffered with nightmares about snakes since I was around four.

A few months ago, Art Mania started a regular group art session at the Hunter Wetlands. I am a regular member of this group, and on learning that among the other wild-life, they have snakes, made me start to consider the possibility that I could overcome my fear, if I just touched a snake. A snake who is used to being man handled, and woman and child handled. The more I thought of the idea, the more I came to believe that it could help. All of these thoughts were just that, thoughts. An exercise in positive thought and creative possibilities. I don’t believe I actually intended to touch a snake. Rather, I did not at any stage believe that I would go through with the event if it ever occurred.

So given all of the above, imagine my own surprise when, around ten days before Christmas, I found myself touching a snake. I had to get pictures, because I knew nobody would believe me without them. This is what happened and how that encounter changed my life.

I’d arrived at the wetlands one morning and found a woman standing out the front of the entrance holding a snake. As I approached where she was standing, she asked if I would like to touch him. I’d always believed that if and when this moment arrived I would run screaming in the opposite direction. What I actually found myself doing was walking up to them and saying yes. His name is Kenny and he is a Children’s python. This does not mean he prefers to dine on children, but that the scientist who discovered his breed, was named Children. Kenny is eighteen months old and is a metre and a half long and around the circumference of a twenty cent coin.

I knew the belief that snakes are slimy is a myth, but I didn’t expect him to feel so soft. I stroked him with a couple of fingers at first and he allowed me to touch his head. My fear was gone, I was completely in the moment, totally focused on Kenny. His tongue on my skin was like butterfly wings. His skin like satin. Even to the point that on first contact, he felt cold like satin, but soon warmed to the heat of my skin. He moved across my hand and wrapped himself around my wrist a couple of times, just like a bracelet. At one point he was about my wrist with around thirty centimetres hanging upside-down and checking out Aimee. Aimee who stood calmly while Kenny investigated.

I could have stayed there with him forever. The touch of him was like falling into a deep pool of clear and calm water. My heart actually slowed, rather than increasing from fear. Even after he’d been taken away to impress other visitors, I could still feel him around my wrist, feel him gliding along my arm. The most amazing thing was that he broke something open in me. Some blockage I wasn’t even aware of, to my creativity. I knew I had to sculpt him and put that piece into my exhibition at the wetlands in March.

I’ve met him once since that first day. He was brought down to the room where we all create our art, so I could remind myself of what he looked and felt like. This time he slid across my arms, across my shoulders. At one point, his head and upper body was snuggled along my arm, where it formed a hollow against my ribs. He was snuggling, enjoying the warmth of my body.

Kenny the Childrens python lives behind the first viewing window, when you first walk into the entrance of the Wetlands. He’s not easy to find however, because he is nocturnal, but if you’re lucky, he’ll poke his little head out to check out who you are and to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Meeting Kenny has been one of the most magical experiences of my life.

I still wouldn’t want to encounter a snake out in the wild, but he has most definitely changed my attitude. Even more incredible, I’ve been told that any time I want to work on my sculpture, one of the snake handlers can bring him down for me. He apparently loves to pose for photos, so will be quite happy being immortalised in art.

I want to say thank you to everyone at the Wetlands Centre for their support. For making it possible for myself and other students to get to know and be up and close with the wildlife.

Being able to create in such a beautiful, positive environment is nourishing my soul and my creativity.

Having the chance to exhibit the resulting work, is something special and I feel honoured to be given this chance.

 

-Sam Ogilvie

Jumping into 2021

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

JUMPING INTO 2021

Welcome to 2021 and a brand new exciting year at Art Mania. Now that the year has started, it’s time to work out where each of us want to be by the end of the year. I know the tradition is to make new years resolutions, the majority of which are abandoned by mid February.

I am not a new years resolution girl. Instead, for all of my adult life, I’ve spent a portion of the last day of each year, writing goals for the coming year. I don’t always finish everything on the list, and I do make alterations and edits throughout the year. I have usually managed to complete at least half of the goals on my list by the end of the year.

This New Year’s, I did things slightly differently to my old ritual. Before I sat down to write my goals for 2021, I sat down and made a list of achievements for 2020 and things that meant a lot to me. The things I’m grateful for.

I thought I’d kick off this year’s series of posts by sharing a few things from each list with you and hope they inspire you all. So let’s get started.

What I’ve achieved and am grateful for:

1. My job at Art Mania and getting to share my journey with you all.

I don’t think any of us will remember 2020 as a great year. Covid has been a major blow from left field, but I think we should be proud that we have survived. I think we should all, as I do, be so incredibly grateful to Fee and the Art Mania team for keeping the studio open and offering a safe haven to create in and catch up with friends. I know that this had a huge impact on me and kept my mental health on the positive side.

Sam is dressed in a white top with pink embroidery. She is standing on the walkway to the Wetlands Centre. A slim, brown-scaled snake is twined around her wrist.

2. Art Mania’s teaming up with the Wetlands Centre.

This year Art Mania started running sessions for our NDIS clients and those who identify as having a disability. We had a room for two days a week for our little group and it was magical. Firstly seeing how some of our newer clients slowly come out of themselves and try different things.

We even got to meet some of the reptiles, a children’s python named Kenny, blue-tongue lizards named Russel and Nudge and a pygmy bearded water dragon. That’s right a baby version of our own Jimmy. And for me, personally, Kenny had the biggest impact upon me. I would never have believed you if you told me I would touch a snake, but I have and it’s been so empowering to overcome a fear.

3. Participating in my first ever exhibition.

Thanks to Castle Personnel’s social media person, Zoe, Art Mania had the chance to showcase the work of our students with disabilities for International Day of Disability. There were five of us and again it was an empowering moment. I knew I could create, but it still gave me that huge boost knowing that people were coming to see my work. I also sold my first piece of art. I don’t know who it was who brought my painting, but if you’re reading this, thank you so very much.

Sam, dressed in an orange top and navy jacket, standing in front of her painting at the exhibition. It is a large canvas, the background is a mix of green, yellow and blue, with large white circles over the top, with yellow and orange circles inside it.

These are my top three and I promise to expand on at least one of these in the next weeks (but you’ll have to keep reading posts to find out which it will be.). So on to the goals for this year.

My Top Three Goals for 2021

1. To become a mentor to other students with a disability who join the Art Mania team.

We have been working on setting up a program for NDIS clients that enables them to come and join the Art Mania family and create art. On top of this, for those who are interested, we are offering a business support program, so we can learn how to set ourselves up and sell our art. And part of all of this, is giving the more established students the chance to support the new ones. I’m so excited and could rave about this program for pages, but I will save that for a future post.

2. To participate in my second exhibition.

In two months, well probably more like six/seven weeks, I am having my work exhibited at the wetlands. This has been one of the great things about the sessions at the wetlands. I love nature and this is the perfect excuse to submerge myself in the natural world and be inspired by it and all the incredible creatures that live there.

3. My third goal is to get out into the world, particularly the natural world with my beautiful girl Aimee.

I know this will give me back the confidence I lost when I lost my boy Roscoe. I also know it will be more inspiration for my art. And I really hope you will all follow my journey and keep reading my posts.

This brings me to one last item I’m grateful for, and that’s all of you who read my posts. It really means a lot to me that you do, and I’m so grateful for all of your support. Please keep reading.

 

 

 

ART AS VOICE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

I am naturally an introvert and have a tendency to be shy. At high school I was bullied by the other students and made to feel that it was dangerous to excel at anything or to speak up, especially not to speak up for myself. I was an easy target. We all know that teenagers will focus their intimidation and humiliation on those they perceive as different and/or weak.

As a teenager with a vision impairment, I was a perfect target.

At school, I developed ways to be small and silent and unnoticed. When it came to choosing electives, I made sure to stay out of the classes my primary tormenter took. The one class I took that didn’t follow these rules was art. Several of the girls who liked to make my life hell were in my art class.

In year eight, my art teacher didn’t even want me in her class. She believed that someone who was blind could not do art.

I spent most of the first half of the school year turning up for class and sitting, being ignored by the teacher, being made to feel invisible.

That teacher left and I stayed in the class with a new teacher. Mrs Kaminsky made sure I could participate in the class. She introduced me to oil pastels and showed me how to shade and blend and create pictures where others painted. She helped me hone and build on the sculpting skills I’d started developing in primary school. She gave me a way to have a voice. It was this class that kept me sane throughout school.

Mrs Kaminsky encouraged and nurtured my artistic voice by believing in me and encouraging me. 

Years later, coming back to art has given me back the voice I thought I’d lost forever.

When I can’t untangle my thoughts, I paint out the knots and snarls.

It is a physical thing, the movement of my hand, arm and body loosens the threads. The threads then have room and space to weave themselves into order.

When I paint out these tangles I feel my breath changes, my thoughts, that started the session as a pile of scattered and like leaves before a storm. These thoughts start to slow, to shift and eventually make sense again. I can paint out the problem and give me back my voice.

My paintings and sketches tell the stories I can’t get out in words. The stories that frighten me. That are too full of emotion that I’m afraid if I start speaking, they will explode and drown me.

I can be brave in my art, when I can’t be in the rest of my life. When I create, I am centred and present. Most importantly, I’ve got the strength and confidence to give voice to my experiences. The knowledge that my work is never going to be perfect, but will be uniquely mine, has quietened the perfectionist inside me. By taking away that fear of not being perfect, I can speak and share what’s inside me.

Art is my meditation and my voice.

-Sam Ogilvie

MEET OUR NEW DRAWING TEACHER

By | Art, Lifestyle

A big welcome to our drawing teacher, Gail!

Gail has lived in Wallsend for 30 years with her husband & 5 children.

Gail completed her Fine Arts Diploma at Hunter Street TAFE, graduating from Newcastle University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, then with an Honours degree in 2011.

Her work is inspired by an interest and love for people & community.

Gail works in painting, drawing & textiles. These disciplines often cross over producing interesting hybrid art works of colour, image & stitch.

The essence of Gail’s art practice is acknowledging people’s lives, validating & empathising with their experiences. She finds teaching & exhibiting rewarding as she is able to connect with the community.

 

Gail has exhibited widely, she has shown her art within:

  • John Hunter Arts & Health programs
  • Wallsend Library
  • Watt Space Newcastle
  • Newcastle Art Space
  • Art Systems Wickham
  • Maitland Regional Gallery

Gail believes the world is the richer for the contribution of the creative soul.

She is looking forward to cheering others on to discover their unique voice & mark so that they can confidently express who they are & what they have to say.

NATURE’S SERENADE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

One of the major themes in my art is the natural world. I’ve used leaves and trees in lino carving that I then printed onto different hand-made papers. Some still feel like the stringy fibres of the trees that they originated from. In my glass work I’ve been using the natural elements of earth, fire, water and air to create pictures using powdered glass. I’m building up quite a collection of clay animals as well.

When I found out I would be having an exhibition of my own, I was of course, very excited. Learning that it would happen at the wetlands was even better. I’d never been there, but I did know about it and everything I heard was positive.

A couple of days ago, I finally got a chance to visit the wetlands for myself. It was the perfect day, sunny but not too hot.

My first impression was one of peace and of the world slowing and taking time to breathe. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. The various birds sang, intermingling and creating a symphony of joy and life.

As we slowly walked along the paths, the gravel crunched beneath our feet and I could feel the texture through my shoes.

I stopped to feel one of the totem poles scattered around the wetlands. It felt worn smooth over time. Criss-crossed by carvings that read like road signs in a tactile language akin to the braille I read. I could feel my thoughts slowing and images and words drifted through me. They slipped in and out in a meditative manner, not necessary to be held onto or analysed.

I learnt of a bird known as a magpie goose and arrived in time to witness their daily meal. They gathered in a group on the bank where their food had been left. They ate and a couple in particular kept up a gentle honking conversation. As each bird took to the water again, their entry sounded like a gentle wave washing over the shore of a harbour.

Their black and white colouring made them a good contrast with the earth they fed on and so I was able to make them out. They were bouncing balls of contrast to my eyes.

We ended up sitting by another pond along the sensory trail. The seat we sat upon was in the sun, while in front of us, the ground was dappled with sun and shade. As we sat quietly sketching and writing, magpies strutted back and forward in the space before us. The only thing making it possible to make their existence out, was their movement. The shifting of something before me.

I found myself sketching the trunk of an old tree. It had pieces of bark, some as large as my sketch pad peeling away from the trunk. Peeling away like old skin, making room for the new, clean and green regrowth to come through.

Those couple of hours were exactly the nourishment I needed. To be able to touch nature with my hands, my feet. To be serenaded by bird song, snapping twigs and gently shifting water. The sound of the light breeze in the trees. I found myself writing poetry as well as sketching.

I’ve come away feeling revived and my creative flow running smooth and thick with ideas. It was definitely an experience I will make sure I have again.

If you are feeling smothered, stale, just over the world, especially now with Covid- take a walk in nature. Nothing will revive you as well as the natural world. And you don’t have to worry about social distancing from trees.

– Sam Ogilvie

UPDATE: SAM AND HER GUIDE DOG AIMEE

By | Art, Lifestyle

This past week has been all about Aimee and I getting to know each other. It’s been both emotional and exhausting. It’s been all about highs and lows. I’d forgotten the details of how it is to train with a new guide dog, but I love it.

We did our first proper walk together on Wednesday afternoon. It was a couple of laps of Lambton Park. She was fantastic, I lost count of the number of dogs in the vicinity, but Aimee just dismissed them all as unimportant.

The highlight came when we were coming to the end of our first lap and we came on a guide dog puppy preschool session in progress. Aimee’s response can be described best as one of a rockstar accepting the adoration of her fans.

I’ve been telling her ever since that all those guide dog puppies will be dreaming of growing up to be her.

One of the most important things to develop with a new guide dog, is trust. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always tried to have a gap between my dogs, it makes it easier to bond with the new dog and results, for me at least, less comparison between the old and new. It’s this bonding process that makes it so important for others to keep their distance and not interact with her while we are getting to know one another.

This week is the first time we’ve been in to Art Mania for regular classes. It was mosaics and pottery today and Aimee lay comfortably on her bed under my table in the pottery area. Out of the way, but able to observe what was going on. She wouldn’t have been able to fit last term, but the renovations out the back have created more space and a more practical layout. If you haven’t been out to see it, you really should.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone, students and staff for your understanding and support for myself and Aimee.

I know many of you read my last post and took the message on board. There have also been others, particularly new people who have asked me what’s right and wrong in regards to a guide dog. You all have no idea just how much I appreciate all of you. One of the hardest things to deal with when you have a guide dog and are out in the public, is when people reach out and pat the dog without asking. Worse are the ones who say “oh I know I’m not supposed to ….” So thank you all so very much.

Not being able to talk to Aimee, doesn’t mean you can’t talk to me. So, please, feel free to say hi and ask any questions you might have about the journey Aimee and I are on, or anything else you have been curious about, but didn’t feel comfortable asking me.

-Sam Ogilvie

LIFE DRAWING WITH NO EYES

By | Art, Lifestyle

One of my favourite things about being part of Art Mania, is that it’s given me the chance to try different things. The opportunity to explore ideas and mediums I haven’t had access to before.

One of the things I’d never considered before, was the idea of life drawing.

It always got categorized in my head as one of those purely visual styles of art. It wasn’t something I’d even contemplated as something I could do. I do remember, years ago, living in Melbourne, my flat mate worked as a life model. One day, I went along with her to one of her sessions, but didn’t stay in the room. I sat in the garden and worked on my poetry.

A picture of a hand using charcoal to draw the outline and shading of a side-on body.

It was only after her session was over and we were heading off to the tram, that I learnt about some of the artists who she regularly posed for. One of these artists always left her without eyes. I found this intriguing and an interesting spin on a purely visual art form. The idea that the artist sees the world, but the model isn’t allowed the same ability. Or was it about the blinding of the naked female because of her nakedness?

Still, it never occurred to me to attempt this form. It continued to remain in that folder of impossibilities due to a lack of vision.

Recently, however, there came a shift in my attitude. I was talking to a fellow artist who had wanted her partner to pose naked for her and the partner refused. This friend and I got talking and agreed that we were happy to pose for one another.

This is an incredible gift that my friend was offering. For life drawing is possible for me, it just means I have to touch the model. Something that then brings up its own challenges. Such an intimate act, made even more so by the need for physical contact. It is a beautiful gift just having the offer made to me. And then the playing field changed again.

I was approached not long after, by a guy who had worked as a life model before and was interested in picking up more work in the area. I explained the situation, the need to touch. He told me that he had no problem with that.

Sam sitting at a canvas painting. There is pink paint on the canvas.

I realised however, that maybe I did. Being female, and a small one at that, I couldn’t help feeling that even though I would be clothed, I was the vulnerable one.

It is always interesting when I meet people and witness how they take my lack of vision.

Some simply take it in their stride. To them I’m just a person who happens to be blind. For others, I bring out that fear within them, the fear of how they would or wouldn’t cope, in my shoes. Another group have trouble getting part the question of how I see them and the world without sight. This often involves them thinking and/or ask me if I need to feel their face to know what they look like.

This is one of the concepts that drives my art. The desire to show people that I do see the world, just not with my eyes and that the images in my head are often very different to theirs’.

I find the act of touching someone’s face, incredibly intimate and not something I feel comfortable with at first meeting, in some cases if ever. The exploration of another’s face is something I’ve only done with lovers, family and those I feel particularly comfortable. This comfort is a two way street. The person in question needs to be comfortable enough in their own skin for me to feel comfortable touching them.

Sam holding Jimmy the lizard.

All of these thoughts and others have been racing around my brain. There was also an implied sexual element on the part of the guy offering to model for me. Obviously some body functions occur in particular situations and I could see where he was coming from. The problem for me was the idea that this would mean a further intimacy was expected on his part.

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to sort it all out in my head. My final decision, that I only reached last night, was that I couldn’t do it. I’m still perfectly comfortable stripping off for my friend and having her sit for me. I think the difference is that I know that there are no hidden agendas with my friend. That I won’t be walking on unsteady ground. At risk of plunging over a cliff at any time.

So, I’ve surprised myself. Without consciously doing it, I’ve discovered that something I thought was impossible for me, isn’t.

As my mother has always told me, “just because I’m blind, doesn’t mean I can’t do anything I want. It just means I might need to find a different way of going about it.”

Perhaps this will help you look at life differently. Look at something you’ve always seen one way and found there is another way to go about it. Enjoy what you discover.

-Sam Ogilvie

A GUIDE TO GUIDE DOGS

By | Lifestyle

When I first joined the Art Mania family, I had a guide dog, Roscoe. Unfortunately, last November, I discovered that Roscoe had cancer.  

I’m happy to be able to write that a new guide dog called Amy has been matched with me.

She and I will be training from 24 August and part of that will include coming into the studio.  

I wanted to take this opportunity to outline the rules around guide dogs and why they exist.

And a little about the training process, with the intention of reducing any confusion people may have around guide dogs. 

Once a guide dog passes their training and get the tick of approval to go out to work, they then get matched with a person on the waiting list. When matching me with my new dog Amy, the staff at Guide Dogs looked at my lifestyle, my personality, my height and weight and traits I prefer in my dogs. Once the match is made, the dog and person or handler, embark on a 4 week training program together.

This training is about the team getting to know each other, and to bond.

If it’s a first dog, you will receive training on how to take care of the dog, bathing, grooming, health checks etc.

For me as an experienced handler, it is about my dog and I getting to know each other and her learning my lifestyle and the places I go to regularly. This includes public transport, shopping, work and all other places I go to. This initial training of dog and handler is still part of the overall training of the dog. 

This is why my guide dog won’t be fully trained and get her guide dog medallion until the end of this training. So you may see my dog with me, but she may not be wearing a harness. It is important that people know, even though she won’t be wearing a harness, that she is in training and can’t be interacted with.  

Guide dogs are like children, they need clear boundaries. This is why the following rules are so important.

These rules also apply to a new dog training with their handler, even when they are out of harness. If you do see us around the studio and have any questions, I’m happy to answer them, just come up and say hi.  

GUIDE DOG ETIQUETTE  

Do not pat a guide dog in harness.

This includes a guide dog in harness lying at the feet of their handler. They may look completely relaxed and even be sleeping, but will in fact be alert to any changes or signals from their handler. That dog needs to be able to jump up and go into work mode immediately, so patting will distract them. If you pat a guide dog in harness regularly, the dog will start seeking that attention, when they are supposed to be working and could injure their handler and themselves. 

Never feed a guide dog. 

Even if you go to the home of the handler and the dog is off harness and leash, you should never feed the dog. Labradors are ravenous eaters and they do not have the ability to know when they’ve had enough. So they will look at you with pleading eyes, especially if you are eating. The tendency to sit and tell the dog you are sorry that you can’t feed them, isn’t helpful. I and all other handlers beg you please, please don’t look at the dog when you are eating. It will only encourage them.

Once a dog has developed the bad habit of food distraction, it is the one habit that can’t be corrected and can result in the dog putting themselves and the handler in danger. 

Never speak to a guide dog.

This is another way that will distract the dog and put themselves and handler at risk. If you need to direct a guide dog handler, you do not direct your instructions to the dog, rather speak to the handler and they will give the dog any necessary commands.  

Never touch a dog’s harness.

If you need to guide a handler and their dog, you still offer the person your arm, and under no circumstances do you grab the harness. This will confuse and upset both dog and handler. This also includes grabbing the dog’s lead. 

I am very aware how hard it can be to follow these rules when confronted with a cute and cuddly dog. I know that my boy Roscoe was well aware of his beauty and would play on this, making eyes at people.

These rules are there for a reason and I for one will be eternally grateful if you all could follow them. 

-Sam Ogilvie