Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

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.

Whiskey Boy, Where Are You?

| Filed under blindness Relationships Uncategorized

I love games, especially card games and dice games. When I began losing my vision, I transitioned to large print playing cards, then braille cards. I learned to play some games on my computer, though in the early 1990s there wasn’t much to play except solitaire and a few others. When mobile technology finally leveled the playing field, I tested out dozens of games on my iPhone. The one I enjoy the most is Dice World.www.diceworldgame.com It was the first game I played with other players in virtual time and I am a loyal “dicer”. Geek squad here I come,

It’s been about 8 years now and I have been playing with another dicer whose handle is Whiskey Boy from New Zealand. We play Yahtzee. We play one or two games simultaneously and we even tied which is like winning the lottery in terms of dicing games. I really wanted to chat our unique status when it happened but I didn’t; I am trying to figure out why I didn’t in this post. Historically I don’t use the chat option. I want to play and not get caught up in wasting time dictating messages. I think I only chatted with my sister and only did so a few times in as many years. Maybe I don’t want to take the chance at being rejected or disappointed and probably shouldn’t be making any huge assumptions. Yet, there is part of me that wants to know more about this person from down under with a really cool handle and who has tied me, which has only happened once in over 500 games. Maybe I’ll just send him the link to this blog and let him decide.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0