Today my guide Dog Nyle saves me from catastrophe. When you hear people saying that their guide Dogs save their life you wonder sometimes if there is exaggeration for effect. I will describe the events which occurred today and let you make your own judgement.
Every 2 weeks Nyle assists me by taking me to Bart’s Hospital to receive injection to help control my severe asthma. This journey involves us travelling to and from the Barbican Tube station where Nyle then guides me to and from the Hospital. We have done this journey for 2 years and have relied on Underground Staff to assist us with departing the Tube and on return boarding the correct train back. Unfortunately with increasing staff cuts on the underground network it is more and more difficult to receive help at the Barbican.
Today whilst staffs were available to assist us on arrival, on our returned no staffs were present. There is a help button at the Barbican but I have never managed to receive a response.
I therefore decided today to rely on Nyle to get me back through the station. I should explain at this point that I am completely blind and also deaf. I could offer no guidance or help to Nyle in navigating through the station so I asked if a member of the public could follow us to make sure he found the correct platform. This helpful person assisted and confirmed that Nyle had found the right stairs and the appropriate platform for Liverpool Street.
This is where things started to go seriously wrong.
The first thing that happened is that I heard this helpful member of the public say “ah – here is your train coming now, it is an Aldgate train, but that will be ok for Liverpool Street.
The next thing I heard, almost immediately, after this, was a train coming in to the station. , I therefore started to move forward, asking Nyle to find the door. Nyle seemed strangely hesitant and pulled me to the right going down the platform. I kept on saying find the door, but he would not go towards the train. I grew anxious that I would miss the train so started to shuffle forward with my hand outstretched to try and feel the train. As soon as I did this Nyle did something he had never done before in the 4 years I have had him. Rather than being beside me he swung around in front of me and completely blocked my path and stopped me dead. I was saying Nyle we will miss the train but he was completely implacable and refused to move.
It was only then that a passenger on the platform said”, actually there is no train here”. A shiver went through me as I worked out what had happened.
- 1. The train I had heard coming in was not on my platform at all but on the platform opposite.
- 2. When the member of public had said to me Ah here is your train she was looking at and referring to not any train physically at the platform at all but was staring at an indicator/departure board announcing the next tube destination and arrival.
It was a situation ripe for catastrophic misunderstanding but it appears my Guide Dog was the one who was really clued up and knew what was happening.
I have no idea if Nyle has ever been trained to stop anybody falling off a platform. He has certainly never had this sort of training in all the time I have had him so if he was trained it was years ago. Whether it was his instincts to protect me, which he demonstrates in smaller ways daily, or his deep seated training I do not know.
- Either way I guess it is time to acknowledge my debt not just to Nyle but all the people who help produce this amazing, loving and clever dog. Madge and Clive Tierney his puppy walkers, Tim Howells and the other Guide Dog trainers who worked with Nyle. Without their hard work and Nyle’s commitment I could well be in Bart’s Hospital for more serious reasons tonight. My dog wants a cuddle now so I guess fair enough; I have to keep my side of the bargain.
Unfortunately as an apparent reflection in the staff cuts across the network we are finding that the Barbican station is left unstaffed with no assistance available.