Take Two Characters... With Chris Manby

Posted on 12th November, 2021

This week we're having a Take Two Characters blog with a difference. Usually, my guests chooses two fictional characters, but Chrissie Manby has written something different and utterly wonderful, which I hope you'll love.


You may remember my review of Chrissie's latest book, Saying Goodbye to Tuesday, from a few weeks ago. In that, I said: "It is a deeply touching story, filled with emotion - hope, fear, despair, courage, humour - but above all, with love. . . because this is a story told by a dog whose love for his owner and her baby knows no bounds." One of the characters in the book is a guide dog called Zena ... and that's Chrissie's cue to get started with her blog.


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When Susanna kindly asked me to contribute to her blog, writing about a favourite character and that character’s influence on my latest novel, I knew at once who I wanted to write about. The only problem was that the character isn’t human. Neither is she a work of fiction, though she is the star of a book. Kika, the yellow Labrador at the heart of Dr Amit Patel’s memoir, Kika and Me, is a true canine heroine. She’s a guide dog.


Amit was an ambitious A and E doctor, newly-married to Seema, when keratoconus plunged him into blindness. His memoir charts the horror of realising that his sight was gone for good and the physical pain and psychological despair that followed. Amit was convinced that the life he had hoped for was forever out of reach. Seema would surely leave him. He’d never be able to work again or have the family he longed for.


What came next was a long and difficult period of adjustment as Amit learned to navigate the world without sight. With Seema’s unwavering support, he learned how to read braille and mastered the art of walking with a white cane. But when Seema suggested that he consider putting himself on the waiting list for a guide dog, Amit balked at the idea of letting an animal be his eyes. How could he put his trust in a dog, who might drag him out in front of a bus on the promise of a treat on the other side of the road?



It’s a valid question, but as Kika And Me reveals, guide dogs are the canine elite, chosen as puppies for a training regime that lasts many months and costs many thousands of pounds to deliver. By the time Kika was introduced to Amit, she had completed the equivalent of a doggy doctorate, learning how to respond to dozens of commands and take the initiative when she saw danger ahead – like a car blocking a crossing or a low hanging branch. When, during their first intensive training course together, Kika kept Amit from entering a bathroom with a floor left dangerously slippery by a leaking tap, he realised that he could trust her.


With Kika on the team, Amit’s horizons were dramatically widened again. He went back to work as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant and is now a well-known media personality. Most importantly, with Kika on side, Amit and Seema’s dream of becoming parents suddenly seemed like a possibility again. They now have two children – a boy and a girl – to whom Kika is a furry “big sister”. As Amit says in his book, Kika has “changed his world”.


The fascinating story of Kika’s training (including her rebellious puppy days) and the difference she’s made to Amit’s life, inspired me to create Zena, the guide dog in my new novel Saying Goodbye To Tuesday. The story is narrated by another dog – Stupendo – who has recently been killed in a road accident (stay with me!). For some reason, Stupendo has not “crossed the rainbow bridge” but while he’s stuck in limbo at the house where he once lived, Stupendo’s humans – his owner Tuesday and baby William - can no longer see him. Animals can, however, and guide dog Zena is among the creatures who help Stupendo to solve the mystery of his death and make sure that Tuesday and William are happy before he moves on to canine heaven.


Zen  is a German Shepherd dog. People usually think of Labradors when they think of guide dogs but many other breeds are trained for the role, such as labradoodles, who can be trained to work with people with pet allergies. As I was writing Zena, I could hear her “voice” in my head and imagined her to be much as I imagine Kika: diligent, sensible, but with a wicked sense of humour (apparently Kika will occasionally walk Amit through a puddle).


I hope that when people read Saying Goodbye To Tuesday, it will pique their interest in the world of guide dogs and their owners and point them in the direction of Kika’s story to learn more. Having had the chance to meet Kika and Amit in real life, I’ve seen first-hand what a wonderful team they are. Kika and Me is a great place to start if you want to know what it takes to make a guide dog and, just as importantly, the kind of courage it takes to trust one to be your eyes.


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Stupendo the dog has died. But that's just the beginning of his story.
To love and protect. The code of the good dog is clear. When single mother Tuesday took on mongrel pup Stupendo, she made a friend for life. Through the best and the worst of times, Stupendo has been there for her. Ever faithful, ever loyal, ever true. Nothing could break their bond. Until last week.
Stupendo doesn't know why Tuesday is suddenly ignoring him or why his doggy antics no longer seem to soothe Baby William. It takes his worst enemy - the cat next door - to break the news that Stupendo has become a ghost.
Somehow left behind on Earth, Stupendo knows he has unfinished business. Enlisting the help of the community of animals in the neighbourhood, Stupendo must get to the bottom of the very human sadness that hangs over his old home and keeps him from saying goodbye to Tuesday.


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Saying Goodbye to Tuesday on Amazon


Chrissie's Twitter page


Her author page on Facebook


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Dr Amit Patel on Twitter 






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