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Disability Narratives

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Interview excerpt: An important form of support for Maria is her guide dog, Tex. But she has found he affects her relationship with colleagues and strangers in surprising ways.


Portrait of Maria and Tex, her guidedog.In the morning, a taxi takes me to railway station. And railway station in [place] and in Oxford, they know us. And it's amazing that I ask him to find the steps, he does find the steps. We go upstairs. He knows where to take me. He knows when the train is coming, he gets up so I know that the train is coming. We jump on the train, and he always finds me the seat. If there is no free seat, he stays sort of by the door, so I know that the train is full. The same when I get to Oxford. Sometimes I take the taxi, sometimes if there is plenty of light, I walk. And he takes me from A to B, and a hundred percent that I'm going to be safe. So yeah.

Everybody loves Tex. He's so friendly. One of the things that I taught our students is, please to ignore the dog. I cannot have everybody to come and pat him, because then he will stop working. Or if they do it, I let it happen for a few minutes, and then I have to order him to go back to bed, and he does go back to bed.

Just a question that came to mind. You say you don't like being ignored, and people talk to you because of Tex. When you are out with your white stick, do you notice a difference? Do people talk to you less, or?

They don't talk to me. They don't talk to me at all. No. They move out of the way. I notice that. Because of the stick. But nobody come to say - sometimes they come to say, "Do you need help?" Then, yes - I say "No thank you, I'm okay." But that's all. Nobody comes to talk to you. No, nothing. Nothing. Not, not even "Hi, good morning."

And I have to say, the only time that I don't take my dog with me is, say if I'm going to your house for a reason, and then you tell me that you are allergic to dogs. Then I'll leave the dog at home, because it's not fair. And I understand. It's not that I can say to him "Sorry, tough - I need my dog." Well no, I've got - I still have got the stick [laugh]. Which I don't like, but I still have got it. Because we, I have to be fair as well. The majority of people accept my dog, but if they have got an allergy to dogs, that's different. So I understand that. So that's fine. I have to accept any situation of whatever. But my only problem is, some people want to feed dogs without even asking. And for this dog, it's a no-no. Because say if you came today and gave him a biscuit, next time that he sees you anywhere, he will stop and remind you that he wants a biscuit. So that's a no-no. I have to say to everybody, "No. Please do not feed our dogs." So that's why they behave very well, because they are very well trained. Yeah. It's amazing. So, yeah.

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