Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

The Three Ps for a Fist Pump

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

Since I began my journey as an independent author and presenter, I knew it would take time for folks to seek me out to be a guest speaker.

More than a year has gone by and I finally was asked to present at a local women’s club . In fact, the contract came in the mail yesterday. The best part, when I was asked how much I charged, I replied what the fee was and when she said, “that’s reasonable,” I broke into the cheesyest grin and thought “score!”.

I made the 3 Ps a mantra in this part of my life, thanks to a speech I heard by Rock Legend, Jon Bon Jovi. He was asked what helped him push through and achieve success. He replied, Practice, Patience and Perseverance. Thanks, dude, .

The Proof is in the PIzzle

| Filed under Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

The Proof is in the Pizzle

This morning I did the usual, stumbled from bed to feed the dogs. Life is very interesting living with two senior dogs and one head strong service dog. OH, and the cat, too. But I digress.

I fed the dogs, then went to brew a k cup. While I was in the kitchen, I heard a crash. I walked into the office and found the shopping bag with the humane society donations on the floor, its contents scattered. I scooped it up, then noticed the bag of discarded Pizzle sticks I didn’t want my dogs to eat ripped open. I was not happy with how they made soft stool for the dogs and decided to give them to the kennel instead.

My first thought was that Bailey, my service dog took initiative and got into the bag. I went into his crate, and after some rooting around under his paws, found a small Pizzle. I put it back in the bag and as I turned to go, heard the unmistakable sound of another dog knowing on a Pizzle. I went over to the ginormous dog bed (yes, Irish Wolfhound size) and found my elderly yet spunky beagle mix, Nikka, grasping the biggest Pizzle in her little paws chewing it like a canine lollipop. I took it away, trying not to laugh as she gave me a little lip for my trouble. then I was struck with the thought that since she had the biggest one, she must have been the thief and Bailey, bless his heart, just joined in the fun. If he had been the thief, wouldn’t he have picked the biggest Pizzle? One can only hope.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

A Newsletter of Note

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello all. Just wanted to share the link to the American Council of the Blind of New York’s newsletter, INSIGHT. It is one of my ongoing editorial projects. I enjoy it very much, mostly for the way it taps into all the people resources. If you would like to catch it when it it comes out via email, email [email protected]

We send it out biannually, and sometimes I can squeeze out a third issue, depending on how much content folks contribute. If you would like to contribute or know someone who would like to write about anything touching upon the blindness community, please email us.

Whithout further ado, here is the link:
http://www.acbny.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/summer18newsletter.pdf

For bob and Pete

| Filed under Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I hope what the psychics say is true – that somehow, the spirit of our loved ones who have gone over can watch us through the veil of life and death. Both our sets of parents are gone and my husband is now the patriarch of his family tree, being the oldest. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it. We just continue as if it doesn’t really matter. So much time has passed and yet I feel like I’ve been standing still since I turned 21; where has the time gone?

Dad, if you are listening, you already know I miss you; for my father-in-law, Pete, I hope you are tuned in, I am hoping you have been watching your only grandchildren grow into kind and competent adults, too. Missing you both is part of being human, and loving you and your memory keeps me going.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

The Bestest Question

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello readers. I alluded to revealing the number one question asked by a kindergarten student in today’s FB post and now I will tell you all what it was – drum roll, please —
It wasn’t “Does your dog fart?” or “why is he licking his privates?” In fact, it was a very astute and concrete question from an adorable little girl.
The question: “If you can’t see, how do you clean up after the dog goes to the bathroom?”
After I thanked her for the most interesting question, I answered her keeping to age-appropriate euphemisms and language. When one of her classmates also asked for a special post card, I said, not everyone gets a special post card. I know, maybe I should have said something else, but the devil in me blurted it out, after all, this little girl deserved recognition for asking the best and boldest question, and there really can be only one winner, at least that is what I was raised to believe.

Purpose, Impetus, Momentum

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

I am a person living with blindness but it does not define me. I am also a wife, mother, sister, friend, author and professional. I am a human being and, like all humans, I want to know how it feels to proceed through my life with dignity and meaning. I want to matter.

So often, as folks like me progress through daily tasks, we encounter barriers. Every time I log into the network to record my productivity, assistive technology bridges the accessibility barrier. When I cross the street the audible signals help me do so more safely. When I harness my dog to lead me to and from work, I know I am doing it because of others who, in the past, have blazed a path for it to happen.

Web accessibility has improved but it is also still, at times, an impassible wall of impossible heights. Service dog access is another mountain at times, as is the bureaucracy of installing audible signals in much needed locations.

Onward I climb. While I climb, I know there others like me who take on the difficult journey, too. We do make a difference. When one of us is ready to give up, we give her a boost, tell him to keep going, lend a courageous voice so those at the top of the cliff can hear our cry and make the changes.

I am waxing poetic here, folks, but this is what we do. While, many times, it feels like I am alone in my struggle, I am not. I don’t know if this is the intangible effects of faith or fate or the influence of the Big Man Upstairs, but whatever it is, when I overcome a personal barrier, it fuels the possibility for more good results and outcomes for others.

Handler’s Corner

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

The Handler’s Corner
Living and Working with Guide Dogs
By Ann Chiappetta, M.S.
Previously printed in Consumer Vision, April 2018 (c)
Hello readers, it is finally Spring and thanks to daylight savings time, my dogs are confused about what time the kibble feast begins. Thankfully, dogs are experts at adapting and I think another week and all will be well.

Speaking of time, I often wonder how dogs interpret time. Is it set by only feeding times or do dogs possess a highly developed body clock? We humans take our time cues from a highly advanced episodic time framework, which is one of the most unique characteristics of being human. Experts say that dogs have also developed a similar type of episodic time framework. Another cool fact is a dog’s unique circadian rhythm; humans tend to sleep in longer periods and mostly at night. Dogs, on the other paw, tend to sleep in shorter, more frequent periods during the day and at night. How cool is that?
Experts say a dog keeping track of the time is also behaviorally focused, like knowing the kibble feast will begin soon after the sun is up and the birds begin chirping. My dogs know after the 7 a.m. bus passes by, it’s time to eat and they become restless. This is an example of pattern recognition, and the canine is an expert when interpreting patterns and making associations. For instance, we pick up the leash and the dog goes to the door, connecting the object to the result, getting to go for a walk.

Patterning is a very useful tool for any working dog team. Guide dogs learn routes and destinations along the routes. One of the best tasks is being able to target the hotel room door or knowing just where the coffee shop is. I taught my dog a route from the office to the bank, and to the sandwich shop and back to the office. Once a dog learns a route and it is used frequently, one phrase will get you there.

I think animals have a deeper connection to time and we could learn a thing or two about being reliable and punctual, especially when it involves tasty tidbits.
The article I referenced is; https://www.petcentric.com/articles/training-and-behavior/can-dogs-tell-time/

Ann Chiappetta, M.S. is an independent author and consultant. Her books, UPWELLING: POEMS and FOLLOW YOUR DOG A STORY OF LOVE AND TRUST can be purchased in both eBook and Print from www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/. Ann’s personal website is www.annchiappetta.com
Follow ann’s blog: www.thought-wheel.com
Face Book: Annie Chiappetta/Twitter: Anniedungarees/Linkdyn: Ann chiappetta Iona College/Instagram: annie_bird_c

Hold It Up Proudly

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Bailey stood, signaling our para transit bus was pulling to the curb. I praised him with a “good boy!” and he guided me to the door. We stepped up, and as I asked the driver which seat was open, a familiar voice greeted us. Bailey, being the most curious dog ever in the world, decided to try to sniff the passenger’s bag and I corrected him and direct him to back up into the space where he would be safe and away from temptation.

The passenger, whom I will call Sonya, announced she was going to my guide dog school to observe a graduation. She has been thinking about a guide dog for the past year since her vision has deteriorated. Whenever we meet on the bus, she spends the time asking me questions. I answer them. This time she asked the most familiar questions, the ones I asked all those years ago, when I first began the exploration of applying for a guide dog.
Questions like, was she blind enough for a dog? What if, on some days she walked a few miles and other days she just cleaned the house? Would a dog be able to be part of her life? She was also trying to describe a new harness my school used for running guides that resembles a Y with an adjustable handle. All these questions and she was finally going to a graduation to see for herself just how much a dog can enhance someone’s life and get a person back to being more independent. I was so happy she was taking a chance and evaluating her choices. Part of her reluctance was, how would a dog fit into her life and her family? How would she be able to show the dog what she wanted? Would the dog be able to be part of her extended family and be good with her grandchildren? Our conversation took on a very serious connotation, as if she was ready to make the commitment and apply or stick with the cane.

After she got off the bus, I thought about how, like Sonya, I got to a point of extreme frustration with a white cane, being exhausted from the mental vigilance and finding it a laborious tool, that, while helpful, also had its limits and had let me down. I think folks like us, who have lived with vision and then gradually lost it, are just unequipped to make a complete and successful transition to exclusively using a cane because our brains have aged and aren’t as flexible. I also hit my learning ceiling with braille in a similar fashion. I studied braille for six months with an instructor; After a 20-minute session of reading braille, I was mentally exhausted and could not move past the phenomenon. My fingers would get numb and my head felt like it was going to explode from concentrating so hard. For me, and many other folks who lose vision later in life, the adjustment to progressing from simple tactile reading to reading a novel is just too much for the brain to handle. Moreover, folks like me have already learned how to read and write visually; later on, as we lost more vision, thanks to computers and assistive technology we were able to transition to listening the way we had been taught to with sight. Folks like me just want to be able to manage vision loss and not be overwhelmed by it. But I digress.

Back to the dog or the cane discussion. Why is, one might ask, using a dog less stressful? A dog takes the adjustment to a different level, allows a person to share the mobility experience and be less vigilant. The handler relies less on constant tapping, stopping and realigning a path; with another sentient being, walking down a street goes from a singular effort a team effort. The partnership takes the stress off the person, and the experience of being out and about in public becomes more pleasurable and less isolating. The dog is the teams’ eyes, does the shore-lining, the obstacle avoidance, the targeting. The handler follows, directs, and keeps track of the team’s location.
I smile and think — how many times have I found myself talking to my dog? How many times have I thanked the Powers that I was a guide dog user after being redirected from a dangerous situation? How many times has my dog kept us from being hurt or worse? How many times did my dog find our way from a situation where I got lost? How many times has my dog comforted me, my clients, and provided unconditional regard to whomever needed it?
The answer is simple: I trust my dog and we are a team and no matter what we face, we will work through it together.

As for Sonya, whatever she chooses to do to manage living her life with vision loss, I hope that she stays active and engaged. Adjusting to losing sight takes time and I think Sonya is a brave and focused person for exploring all her options.