Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Introducing The Handler’s Corner

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Reprinted and brought to you from The Consumer Vision email newsletter published by Bob Branco
Email: [email protected]

The Handler’s Corner: Living and working with guide dogs
By Ann Chiappetta

Happy New Year to all of you and your two and four-footed family members. Since this is the first article I am writing for Consumer Vision, I am excited and about being here and want to thank Bob for agreeing to give me a byline.
A little bit about me: In 2009 I was matched with my first guide dog, Verona, a black Labrador retriever from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Back then, my vision was deteriorating from retinitis pigmentosa and I began feeling less and less confident using a white cane. This was a life-changing experience for me.

I retired Verona in late 2014 and resumed traveling with the white cane until March 2015, whereupon I met Bailey, my second dog, a large yellow Labrador retriever also from Guiding Eyes. Additionally, Verona has just earned her animal assisted therapy dog certificate from The Good Dog Foundation and we will soon be visiting folks in hospitals, nursing homes, and other pet assisted therapy programs. I plan to share these events with you all as they come.

During the first five years of being a guide dog handler, or guide dog user, as some folks might say, I also became more involved in advocating for the rights of guide dog teams. Discrimination and ignorance towards people who are blind and guide dog handlers is still common; I’m sure any guide dog handler can tell stories about being refused access or feeling a bit tired of answering questions from strangers regarding his or her disability or dog. When I experienced the ignorance and access refusals, after dealing with the situation, I remained so upset, I made it a personal goal to learn how to advocate and do my part to change things to benefit access rights for guide dog users in the U.S. and internationally, if possible. Over the years, I worked with a few advocacy groups, volunteered on a National guide dog organization board of directors for five years, made presentations, and helped out other guide dog handlers who graduated from Guiding Eyes while being a member of the graduate council.
I also continue to serve on the board of our local guide dog users group focused on upholding the rights of guide dog handlers in my home State of New York. I participate in monthly presentations at elementary schools among other activities focused on educating the public about blindness and guide dogs.

Moreover, Verona opened up a world of independence I did not experience with my cane and as I became more confident my friends and family realized how much a guide dog could enhance my life. When she retired, our family felt it, not just me — this is proof that our four-footed partners are just as valued as any human family member. Now that Bailey is guiding me, we have opened our hearts to another dog and the unconditional regard he provides us, and I feel extremely fortunate to have his dogginess and canine loyalty as a partner while working and traveling.

I hope to share the journey of this path of independence with all of you, our readers, and welcome comments and questions. Being able to share this journey is an honor and I hope you enjoy it. As we say in guide dog land, “forward!”

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

A Mixed Doggie Bag

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized Writing Life

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about being out in public with a guide dog. After writing my book , I have to fill up the repertoire, having used most of the material for Follow Your Dog a Story of Love and Trust and in 2016, following the release of Upwelling: Poems. Not sure about other book writers but I felt quite depleted after publishing each book. I did not write much and found I wanted to read more, write less. I honored this urge and have read about five books since releasing Follow Your Dog in October. But I digress.
Onto the dog story …

It was a mixed bag last week, and I will try to show you why in this post.
I was scheduled for a routine ultrasound test. Bailey and I find the door to the waiting room, and I poke my head and ask if this is the right place. The building does not have braille or raised print on any of the doors so I have to ask. A few folks say yes and we enter. I step inside and hear, “She’s got a dog, I’m scared of dogs,” and then I hear, “She’s not coming in here, is she?”

A quick wave of anxiety rises, then I tell it to go away, that I should not be intimidated by what this person says. I should be used to it by now, but after almost ten years of working a guide dog, it still triggers some anxiety.

I ask where the counter is and direct Bailey forward, he stops. I determine there is not enough room for both of us to walk between the chairs, so I begin to shuffle past the patients sitting there, tucking in their feet to let us pass.

I tell Bailey to lay down while I fill out and sign paperwork and hear the same person say, “They shouldn’t let dogs in these places, people have allergies, you know,”. Thankfully no one responds.
To make matters worse, the receptionist treats me like I am a plague victim. She barely touches my hand to help me get to the line to sign my name. I ask her to direct me to a place so my dog won’t be stepped on, as I notice the chairs are very close together. She misdirects me twice, and tries to push me over to the chair instead. I lose my patience, saying, “The chair is not in front of me, the chair is to my right,” She retreats behind the counter, and I can feel her relief of not having to help me anymore.
as it happens, the safest place for Bailey to lie down is the farthest from the radiology room door. I have to walk back around the entire line of people to get to the technician when my name is called. Thankfully, she is helpful and actually loves dogs, allowing Bailey to lie wherever he feels comfortable once I am settled.

I end up waiting after the test for the return trip and pass the time in the waiting area. Bailey takes me back to our chair. Before leaving, I risk a trip to the bathroom. I direct Bailey and because the room is so full, I can tell where the turn to the bathroom is and trail my hand on the wall to keep oriented. Unfortunately, I don’t know that there is a line of chairs against the wall leading to the bathroom door and almost pass my hand across the face of a man sitting there; I apologize as soon as I realize what my fingers touched and urge Bailey on to the bathroom. The reluctant receptionist appears as if by magic, saying, “The bathroom is really small, I don’t think you will fit.” She tries to block me but I just smile and say I think we can fit. I let Bailey go in first, and I go in, then she helps me close the door, as if I am unable to figure it out for myself. I exit the bathroom without incident, Giving Bailey the command to the outer door and we are clear of an uneventful test and I sigh with relief that we have survived that receptionist. Yuck.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

The Authenticity Gnome

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I picked out another fossilized pine needle from my sock; it was so dry I thought it was a tooth pick. How did it get in my shoe, then poke through my sock and the my tender tootsie? I believe it is the curse of the authenticity gnome. Yes, the bug-eyed eccentric mini-man is related to the elusive cousin, the elf on the shelf and looks similar to its country cousin, the garden gnome. It takes the needles from the old Christmas trees and sprinkles them into the radiator, the closet, and the bowl of water left for the dogs. This nefarious little creature also infuses the needles with a special energy that pushes them out from under the vacuum and broom.

You see, it does these things to keep us from deciding to opt for a fake tree, what is now called a fiber optic tree. It works like this: when a human is picking the old pine needles from the clogged vacuum, the human thinks, I should really buy a fake tree so I don’t have to do this anymore. Then the human looks off into the distance, recalling the many holidays, the smell of fresh balsam and gifts given that brought smiles and thanks and as the human sets down the unclogged vacuum, the thought of the facsimile tree is wiped from the human’s frontal lobe by a magical flick of a stubby authenticity gnome finger. Classic reverse psychology and it works. I wonder if they get kick backs from the tree farms.

A Kiss From Arrow

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The photo depicts Arrow kissing my face.
What could be more comforting than puppy kisses? This is what I thought as I held yellow lab pup Arrow. She wagged her tail the whole time I held her and she tickled my cheek with her warm tongue. Every time I get the chance to hold a puppy, I think, is this pup going to grow up to be a guide dog? A detection dog? A search and rescue dog? The only fact I can rely upon for a pup like Arrow is this: no matter where it goes, it will be loved and cared for and given a rewarding life, whether it guides or is given a place in a forever This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.home. Thanks to Guiding Eyes, A pup like Arrow will learn to develop its innate traits so it can grow to become a well-rounded and confident dog.

As someone who has marveled at and given much thought on the psychological growth of puppies, knowing a purpose bred pup like Arrow is nurtured and encouraged to embrace its true potential is amazing; every pup has a gleam of potential and when graduation time comes and I hear their name I send up a huge thanks to those who have contributed to make it happen.

May you and your loved ones share a happy and peaceful holiday season and Merry Christmas from all of us here at Castle Chiappetta

December Engagements Whoopee!

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Hi folks,
I am so excited to announce the official launch and first book signing event for FOLLOW YOUR DOG A STORY OF LOVE AND TRUST. The signing will take place before and after the graduation ceremony at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. The date is Saturday, December 9 from 12:30 to 4 p.m. and the address is 611 Granite Springs Road, Yorktown Heights. 10598. Go to for directions. Why not come on by and pick up a copy and while you’re there, take the kennel tour or stay for the graduation ceremony, you won’t be disappointed.

If you can’t make the book signing, there is still more than enough time to order it for the holidays from Amazon, just go here:
I hope we meet you there – Bailey would love for you to take his pawtograph.
Please read on for other opportunities to hear about the book.
On December 7 at 6 p.m. Central time, I will be a guest on the Disability and Progress radio show being broadcast from Twin Cities Minnesota. The Disability and Progress show information is KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis 106.7 FM ST. Paul and the website is

If you can’t tune in, on December 11 at 7 p.m. eastern time, I will be the guest author on a telephone conference broadcast called Branco Broadcast, go to for the call-in information. If you miss the shows, no worries, listening links will be added to the interview page of my author’s website

Thanks for reading and here’s to a blessed and happy holiday season.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

More Thanks To Go Around

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello readers, I wanted to send out this acknowledgement to the Xavier Society for the Blind . Once again, XSB, as we like to call it, has supported the release of my next book with braille copies ready to be borrowed in their lending library. Just like with my poetry collection, receiving FOLLOW YOUR DOG A STORY OF LOVE AND TRUST was thrilling; I opened the box, took out the first of two volumes and, in my slow but steady way, read the title with my fingertips. Thanks, XSB for supporting my efforts and thanks even more for this loan library, filling in the gaps for so many braille readers worldwide. Just go to their website to find out how to become an XSB loan library patron.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Being Pawsitive

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Thanksgiving is about staying connected and sharing love and companionship. For guide and service dog teams, it means so much and more – here’s to our partners and how much we appreciate their unconditional regard, trust and protection of us.
Whatever you bring to the table, Bailey, Verona, Nikka, Titan the cat and the humans in our home wish you all peace and warmth.

Read on for a book update.

Well, readers, since the last post, FOLLOW YOUR DOG has taken off at a solid trot. It seems like just about every time I’ve asked businesses and other entities to consider a partnership the answer is YES. I am pleased and just a little bit intimidated by it. Don’t worry, though; I have been practicing for this for what seems like years and Bailey and I are ready for the attention. I hope, gulp.

Go to to fill up a stocking or two with the new book.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind has been gracious and supportive, too, which is an added bonus. If you are reading this blog post, consider them as one of your organizations of choice for monetary giving. Go to

If you are in the Yorktown Hight’s neighborhood on December 9 for the Guiding Eyes graduation, I would be happy to personally sign your copy of the book. Stay tuned for more information on the event or visit my personal website to find out more about other events to promote the book:

Author Update

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Hello all,
I’d like to share an author’s update. Today I received 50 copies of my new book, “Follow Your Dog a Story of Love and Trust”. My goal is to sell all of them by the end of December. If you haven’t purchased a copy, go to

How did I get there? What motivated me to write and publish a book? The creation of the book merits another post entirely, therefore this post will start at the point shortly before I sent the draft to the editor.
To begin, part of the promotional plan began six months ago. I was thinking about how to improve my promotion since my first book was not as successful as I thought it would be. Poetry doesn’t sell as well as other genres.

The good thing is the new book is nonfiction and appeals to more than just poets and writers. I put the finishing touches on the manuscript and decided to follow advice from other professional authors to create a personal website. I made the decision based on what I wanted to accomplish with this book as well as how to expand my visibility in general. I made a list of what I’ve been doing when volunteering, like being a public speaker and newsletter editor for other organizations. I was also a copy writer for a few organizations, helping with writing content for new websites, membership letters, brochures and social media posts. I have 15 years of coordinating programs and small to medium sized events, too. I’d spoken to audiences from pre-k to seniors on topics like disability, guide and service dogs, mental health, military cultural concepts, PTSD and trauma, rehabilitation, art and literature and fundraising. I thought, why not utilize the experience and talent alongside with the literary arts? I decided to tie it all up in a pretty bow and become a consultant. is now live and offers a robust menu, including a speaking engagement form, biography and links to interviews, presentations, and awards. My blog is also linked and the DLD Books author’s page directs folks to it as well.

Which entities or businesses and other promotional contacts have I pursued? Here is a list: guide and service dog schools and programs, Labrador breeding magazines and groups, both my undergraduate and post graduate colleges, local bookstores, bookstores in other States, pet stores, pet groomers, service dog equipment suppliers, social media groups on Face Book, radio stations offering disability-related programs and shows, podcasts and other media outlets. .

I have one book signing planned which will hopefully get media attention as it is being planned with the guide dog school from where I graduated. I have a recorded phone interview and a radio show interview planned as well. I also have been trying to find where I could sell books on consignment and will be saving up for a few magazine ads after 2018, if all goes as planned.

What, one may ask, is on the wish list? A table at a few crafts fairs, a few speaking engagements for National Poetry Month, a weekend writing retreat, and being able to attend the annual Indy writers conference. Also, being able to put my book in the big box bookstores like Barnes and Noble and a book signing at The Strand in NYC would be absolutely crazy-cool. A book signing at The Strand would be like being on Broadway. This brings me to a fanciful thought: what if my book could be adapted as a play or movie script?
Thanks for reading and see you on the pages.

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Ahead of Schedule!

| Filed under blindness Fiction Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

For Immediate Release

Contact: Ann Chiappetta, author 914-393-6605 [email protected]

Writer tells Compelling Tale, and it is all for the love of dogs
New Rochelle, New York — October 24, 2017 – Local author and poet, Ann Chiappetta, celebrates the release of her second book, a memoir titled, “Follow Your Dog: a Story of Love and Trust”.
Legally blind since 1993, Chiappetta received her first guide dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in 2009. The nonfiction book tells of her struggles growing up as a visually impaired child and learning how to cope with progressive vision loss while working and raising her family. Throughout the book, her relationship with each dog in her life at the time shares a prominent place.

“It’s all about the dog,” she says, summing up being out in public with her guide dog, adding, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The latter half of the book focuses on the human and canine bond that develops when matched with a guide dog. Chiappetta writes, from the back cover: “With this book, I hope to take the reader on a journey of understanding: learning what it’s like to overcome the darker side of disability by walking the path of independence with a canine partner. “
Chiappetta will be scheduling book signings and readings throughout the United States, beginning with a book signing at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights on December 9. The book is available from popular eBook and print on demand booksellers.

To purchase Ann’s book, go to
Or, to access Ann’s schedule of book signings and interviews, past interviews, or request her as a guest speaker, go to

To find out more about the publisher, go to
To find out more about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, visit

Almost There!

| Filed under blindness Fiction Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello readers, below is a plug going out to help prepare for the launching of my second book. Please share this post and visit my new website. The new book will be ready for sale very soon.
Poet, author and consultant, Ann Chiappetta, M.S.

Home Page

Since 1990, Ann Chiappetta’s writing has been featured in both print and electronic publications, most notably Dialogue magazine, Reader’s Digest and Matilda Ziegler online magazine. Her poetry has been featured in small press journals like Lucidity and Midwest Poetry Review, among others. Ann’s fiction has been featured in literary journals including Breath and Shadow, Magnets and Ladders, and local collegiate publications. Her articles and essays are featured in a regular byline in the Consumer Vision digital magazine.

Her debut self-published book, a poetry collection titled, “Upwelling: Poems”, has been well received. Ann’s second book, a memoir titled, “Follow Your Dog: Story of Love and Trust is being released in November 2017. To read more about Ann or to purchase her books or to request Ann as a guest speaker, visit her on the web at:


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