Monthly Archives: June 2016

Mixer on the Salthill Promenade

Hound Dog Tales: Mixer the Trouble Maker

I came second with this story in the Hounddog Tails competition in the over 18 category. The short story competition was kindly organised by the owners of Hounddog Dog Grooming in Galway. By the way, I highly recommend them: They do an excellent job, are lovely to owners and dogs, and they always have time for a chat about walking routes and grooming tips. The competition categories were under 12, 12 to 18 and over 18. Thus, there was a great mix of people at the awards ceremony and of course doggies of all shapes and sizes. The first place winners received three free dog grooms, second and third place one and we even got trophies. The best part however is that three dogs from the MADRA rescue centre get groomed for free every month in the name of the first prize winners. The people I talked to all own rescue dogs, so there is absolutely no need to support scrupulous puppy farmers. It was inspiring to meet so many people who truly care about dogs. Plus, I would never have written the following story without a prompt. So here it is:

Mixer the Trouble Maker

As a child I’ve always wanted a dog, but we lived in an apartment and my mum said it wouldn’t be fair. Instead, I got guinea pigs. They lived to ten and I loved them, but they wouldn’t walk on a lead. They just hopped in circles around me and I had to defend them from real dogs.

When I moved from Germany to Galway, I suddenly had a big garden and the Salthill promenade right outside the door. After almost refusing to give a dog back after two weeks minding, I decided to finally get one myself. One day I turned up at the GSPCA shelter and when asked what kind of dog I was thinking about I gave the very precise answer:

“I don’t know, medium energy terrier-something, that can be on it’s own for a few hours perhaps?”

Assuming small dogs are less work than bigger ones is a typical first-time owner misconception.

“What about a Jack Russell than?”

“Oh yes, a Jack Russell, my best friend’s parents have three and they are one of three breeds I would recognise.”

Mixer and I
Mixer the day he chose me.

Needless to say, I fell in love with the first dog I was shown. A Jack Russell called Mixer. He rolled over to let me tickle his tummy for a while, than got up and walked confidently away. They called him Mixer because he used to sleep under a concrete mixer until the lads on the building site built him a shelter. They fed him until they were finished at the site and he had to go to the rescue shelter. I thought about renaming him, but the name fits. Having lived on scraps, he’s definitely not picky. In fact he eats absolutely everything. Like a giant food mixer he devours everything often without even chewing it. I still can’t leave him alone with food. On our second day together, the cheeky monkey stole a banana out of the fruit basket. Since I have Mixer, the floor is definitely clean, apart from mucky paw prints and hair.

Mixer and his plastic banana

It’s a bit like I imagine it to be to have children. In a way having children should be easier, because you can bring them everywhere without having to tie them outside and they wear nappies and have no teeth in the beginning. Ok, that’s a silly comparison, but like first-time baby parents, I wanted to do everything right as a first-time doggie mum. I spent hours looking at the ingredients of dog food, reading toy reviews to find out which ones last longest and contain no toxic materials, and browsing training tips websites. I even broke my vegetarian existence, because I tried a piece of kibble I can’t quite remember what meat tastes like, but if it’s all like this, I’m not missing much. Well, Mixer obviously likes it.

I heard somewhere small dogs often have dental issues. Have you ever tried to brush a dog’s teeth? Reflexively I opened my own mouth and started dribbling, while Mixer licked the dog-toothpaste, bit the brush and spat at me. The dog dental care set is made in Germany and I thought we export mainly cars and beer.

Mixer trying to climb a stone fence
Mixer trying to climb a fence

Mixer is an escape artist. Geraldine who did the home check showed me some gaps I had to fix and I blocked them off with concrete blocks, thinking he’s no bank robber so why would he dig a tunnel. However, after all the blocking and several roles of wire later, he still finds gaps. He digs, jumps, climbs and balances on walls. There must be a bit of a cat in him, maybe he is a “Cat-Russell”. You would imagine someone from the former DDR should be good at building walls, but every time I’m convinced that he won’t find another one, he disappears for another adventure, only to loiter back into the garden after a while, as if nothing has happened. Now I’ve ordered an electric fence. This is war!

The only positive thing about Mixer’s rambles is that I got to know most of the neighbours. The most embarrassing incident was when he sneaked into a house, ate the resident dog’s food and left a smelly surprise.  Thankfully the neighbours still talk to me.

Sometimes, because I’m visually impaired people ask me why I didn’t get a guide dog, but I wanted to find out whether I’m a doggy person first. One day a lady asked me, if Mixer was a guide-dog. I thought it was a joke and replied: “Of course, he is still learning,” all the while having to hold onto the lead with both hands to stop him from chasing a cat. However, she was serious and while walking away mumbled: “Well he still needs some training, but at least he takes up less space than a Labrador.”

 

I would never go hungry with Mixer, if allowed to lead he would navigate me to wherever he smells food, but it could be a bin instead of a restaurant.

Mixer definitely changed my life for the better. I bring him for a run on the beach everyday. Sometimes the place is like a canine playground. Mixer is the kid – I mean dog – nobody wants to play with, because he’s not really interested in making friends, all he does is bully bigger dogs and runs off with their toys. If they are squeaky toys, I’m in trouble, because he loves them but never gets them because they are killed within minutes.

I got to know some lovely people. For some reason, I tend to remember the dogs’ names better than their owners’. One night a man even gave me a reflecting collar with flashlights, just because I remarked that it is a brilliant idea. Walking Mixer also raised my awareness of the environment. It’s only since I have to stop him from picking up every bit of rubbish along the way that I’ve realised how littered the streets actually are.

We even bring Mixer cycling in a basket on the tandem bike, but I much prefers running alongside the bike.

Having a dog is certainly a big commitment, time – and moneywise. However, I already miss Mixer when I’m just gone for a weekend. It’s nice to come home to a furry friend with a wagging tale, although he’s probably only happy because it’s dinner time again. There he is, five past six and he sits here staring accusingly at me. So, I better give him his dinner.

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Review: CARE by WillFredd Theatre with Audio Description

Photo Narrations

Although the number of audio described and subtitled live-performances has considerably increased over the last few years, they are still rare outside Dublin. Consequently, I was delighted when I received the Arts & Disability Ireland text newsletter notifying subscribers that WillFredd Theatre Companywas to bring its newest production CARE to the Galway Town Hall Theatre.The show featured audio description for visually impaired audience members and subtitles for patrons with hearing impairments.

What is Audio Description?

People may know Audio description (AD) from TV programmes. It is a voiceover telling blind and visually impaired viewers, or indeed anyone who chooses to use it, information that is not conveyed through dialogue, music or sound. For example It would say something like: “John enters holding a folder under his arm. He is a well-dressed man in his forties.” I’m not familiar with the production side of AD, but it is…

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Galway 2020: Tina Paulick –Germany

This post was first published as part of the New Tribes Series in the Galway2020 blog. Galway is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture 2020 and with only a few weeks left until the judges make their final decision, I want to share this again. I volunteer for the Galway2020 initiative and the Galway2020 team is very open to suggestions. They made me feel welcome and try to find volunteer roles I’m able to do and enjoy. Sometimes people with a disability are, often unintentionally, excluded from participating in and contributing to mainstream cultural projects. In fact, their voices are seldom heard outside disability related contexts. For me this wasn’t the case in the Galway2020 campaign. Thanks for letting me be part of it. I hope we win!

I like the concept of Europe, because theoretically, it means I can be German and Irish at the same time.

I wearing the Galway2020 shirt at the docks.

My Origins

I’m from Germany and I came to Galway as an ERASMUS student while studying English at the University of Leipzig. My degree focused mainly on Britain, but I wanted to go somewhere different and Galway was advertised as a small seaside town, so I picked it without knowing much about it.

I’m legally blind and there aren’t that many students with a disability who go abroad. I had to organise some things in advance, but it was definitely worth it, because I became more self-confident and independent. I’d recommend living in another country to anyone, but I’d especially encourage students with a disability to give it a go. During my first week in town, I did a walking tour and the guide said, ‘Some people call Galway the graveyard of ambitions, because once you move here, you can’t or won’t leave again’. I’m now doing an M.A. in Irish Studies at NUIG, so I agree with the part about not wanting to leave, but I don’t think Galway is a graveyard of ambitions. It’s very much alive and I can imagine living and working here for a while longer.

My Irish friends are always amazed that I don’t greet everyone I hear speaking German on the street, which is what most of them would do. To be honest, I didn’t really go looking for other Germans; I wanted to meet people from different countries. However, I met some lovely Germans over here, mostly ERASMUS students and people connected to the German Department in NUIG. Native speakers of English are said to be unwilling to learn another language, but I know lots of people here who learn German or at least have some phrases. There’s a German conversation group meeting every other Tuesday in the Bierhaus, if anyone wants to catch up on their German. Living abroad definitely made me look at my home country and culture in a different way.

Being at Home

If you go out and do things, it’s very easy to meet people and to get involved with community groups and projects. In the beginning, college clubs and societies helped me a lot. Especially when you’re new somewhere and know nobody, you’re more prepared to try new things.

I joined the Galway Visually Impaired Activity Club. Every other Sunday, we go cycling on tandem bikes, with a sighted pilot in the front and a visually impaired person in the back. It’s a great way to get to know different people and it doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not. Once or twice a year, we go on weekend trips and I already got to see a good bit of Ireland by bike. We also participate in charity cycles. The longest one I did was 100km, but our Sunday spins are shorter and we try to cater for all ages and abilities.

Last year, I helped organising a cycle from Berlin to Prague for the club and I hope to do the Cycle Against Suicide next year. I also volunteer with the NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland), advising people on how to use their smart phones with the built-in accessibility features.

I’d love Galway to become more accessible to people with disabilities; more pedestrian crossings and acoustic lights, wheelchair accessible businesses and bigger street signs with contrasts.

There’s always something going on in Galway; festivals, good live music in pubs, charity events, and Connemara is ideal for all kinds of outdoor activities. I bring my Jack Russell terrier, Mixer, who I got from the GSPCA for a walk on the prom every day. It’s a great place to meet other doggie-people. I got so used to having the sea right outside my doorstep that I start missing it when I’m gone for more than a week.

When I first came here, I tried to listen to a conversation on the bus from Dublin airport and thought my English was really bad, because I couldn’t understand anything. It took me a while to realise that they spoke Irish. I’ve learned a few phrases from friends and Duolingo. People are delighted that I try, even when I get it wrong. I hope to do a spoken Irish course next year. I went to a few events in Irish and even though I didn’t understand most of it, it was fun.

Because of my visual impairment, I often have to ask for directions. People here are very nice, sometimes even a bit too helpful, when they want to help me cross a road which I don’t want to cross at all or try to lift me into a bus. But they mean well and sometimes, I have great conversations with total strangers.

Accessibility

I’d love Galway to become more accessible to people with disabilities; more pedestrian crossings and acoustic lights, wheelchair accessible businesses and bigger street signs with contrasts, to name only a few things. I recently wrote a blog post on how giving each bus stop an individual name and announcements on busses would improve Galway’s public transport system, not only to visually impaired users but also to visitors.

What it Means to be European

I like the concept of Europe, because theoretically, it means I can be German and Irish at the same time. It would be great if Europeans didn’t need to decide a citizen of which country they want to be, but I suppose that wouldn’t work for legal reasons. I find applying for anything in Ireland rather cumbersome. It’s all so bureaucratic. If you have documents in a language other than English, you have a real hard time. But I suppose that’s the same in every country. It would be great if it became easier to resettle within Europe, especially when it comes to insurance and state benefits.

First published: www.galway2020.ie