Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

The Traveling Bed

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Inspired by Yellow Lab Bailey.

Bailey on round dog bed

yellow lab Bailey curled up on new round dog bed

It began in 2015, after Annie met Bailey and the two became a team. Bailey was making the transition to his new partner, a new home, and a new routine, all of which probably contributed to Bailey’s attitude about the dog bed in the office.

After the destruction of dog bed one, Annie tried a new mat, professed by the company to be “chew proof”. It was not Bailey proof, but durable. Annie thought reinforced steel mesh corners would be an improvement, but did not share this with the manufacturer, thinking it might insult them.

The next bed was almost too big for the office, but after the dutiful corner-chewing, along with numerous patch work and generous bitter apple spritzes, it survived, tattered but useful.

After hearing a few remarks from office mates asking when Bailey was going to get a new dog bed, Annie decided it was time for a change, plus she was tired of sewing and hot gluing up the corners a third time. Annie shops online, and the decision to try a round bed is like a canine-inspired epiphany.
chewing won’t occur, because, well, round beds don’t have corners.

A 40-inch polyester-filled bed is ordered. It is delivered and schlepped to the office three days later. The paratransit bus driver smiles when Annie says it is her guide dog’s new bed.

The transition does not go well; Bailey applies passive resistance, unwilling to get off the old bed; Annie must wrestle the old bed from under Bailey’s large Labrador butt, and afterward, convince Bailey the new fleece-topped cuddly bed is not a huge toy. Bailey ignores Annie’s professions and verbal coaxing, like, “You will be warmer, right Buddy?” and so on. He paws at it, finds the fabric handle and drags it from one side of the office to the other and eventually, with a few treats, and the “place” command, he takes a nap upon it. Day two is much the same: enter the office, paw at it, fling the bed around like it is a hover craft, and afterwards, decides he will take a nap under the desk instead. Okay, thinks Annie, he will go to the bed when he wants to curl up into a doggie-ball.

Day three is much like day two with one exception: he tries to drag the bed while Annie and the computer tech are troubleshooting. Annie has to take charge and put an end to the shenanigans. Luckily for Bailey, the tech is a pet lover and he approve of the tough love modality.

It is now the weekend, and Annie anticipates the traveling dog bed shenanigans will continue. Annie wonders what is going on inside Bailey’s peanut, tries and fails to think like a dog. Is he confused? Maybe he really does see the bed as a huge fluffy, dog toy? It is a sobering thought and might be a little unfair for Annie to think this about her sweet and loyal guide dog who is also a dog possessing intelligent disobedience skills.

Thank You, Manor Club

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Earlier in the week, I did a presentation about service dogs helping veterans. The location was THE MANOR CLUB, https://m.facebook.com/themanorclubofpelham/?refid=46&__xts__%5B0%5D=12.%7B%22unit_id_click_type%22%3A%22graph_search_results_item_tapped%22%2C%22click_type%22%3A%22result%22%2C%22module_id%22%3A1%2C%22result_id%22%3A1458319901116532%2C%22session_id%22%3A%22bb84a772b4a0f2cde0010ae473072f3d%22%2C%22module_role%22%3A%22ENTITY_PAGES%22%2C%22unit_id%22%3A%22browse_rl%3Ac8eff228-77e7-1485-2242-72f97b574782%22%2C%22browse_result_type%22%3A%22browse_type_page%22%2C%22unit_id_result_id%22%3A1458319901116532%2C%22module_result_position%22%3A0%7D a women’s club in Pelham Manor, New York. 30 folks were there andI opted to attend the lunch so I could get to know the members. How could I have known that one of the members was friends with a couple I also know? It is a small world, for sure, .

Because of the six-degree level of association, I felt comfortable and relaxed, a good thing when the performance anxiety is at its’ highest.

Good food and good conversation made both me and my guide dog, Bailey settle in and enjoy the afternoon. The only glitch was Bailey’s restlessness; he eventually was deemed so pathetic, a member offered her jacket for him to lay upon after it was clear he did not want to lay on the cold, hard, floor beside the podium. Even after Bailey’s disruptions, the presentation was well-received and the Q & A was even better. I hope to return to talk about my new book, WORDS OF LIFE: POEMS AND ESSAYS planned for a March 2019 release, in the new year.

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by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

12 Years Young

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Writing Life

Birthday Wishes for our Verona who is 12 years young. We have known her since 2009, when she was two years old. She guided me with focus and precision until age seven, at which time decided to let us know she didn’t want the job anymore. She comforted my clients during times of emotional pain, eased the physical pain of adults and children with pet-assisted therapy, and while she worked, was by my side for presentations and workshops.

Now she enjoys her retirement being a cherished pet and we couldn’t have chosen a more loving and intelligent dog. We love you, sweet Verona.

Verona
By Ann Chiappetta

I wait for the knock
Once it comes my life will change forever

Since I arrived
For two days and nights

For my entire life until now –

I’ve waited
Unprepared
Searching

I sit on the bed
Wondering how it will feel an hour from now
And go numb with nerves

Question scroll across the marquee of my mind
What will she be like?
Will she like me, learn to love me?

The hot red letters of doubt scroll past
Can she guide me?
Will I be able to trust her?

Then the knock comes and my heart jumps
“Come in.” I say
Hoping I can open my heart with as much ease as the door.

I hear her nails click on the floor
I put out a hand, touch her head
She licks me, tail wagging
“Ann, this is Verona.” the trainer says

I don’t really know what to say or how to feel
But her presence soothes me

“Aren’t you a beautiful girl?” I coo as the trainer leaves
We sit on the floor together

The marquee of doubts vanishes
The blocky, red letters fade
Replaced by a message of calm, canine acceptance
Dressed in ebony

She settles her head in my lap
Each stroke of my hand
Strengthens the hope, quiets the fear
The questions dissipate with the knowledge
— Stroke by stroke —
That she is the one who will lead me

January 2009

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blankEither add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Black lab Verona’s face with snow on her nose.

Oh, Canada, How I Love Thee!

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized

A public apology to our Continental neighbors following a prior post about being denied a taxi while in Ontario.
The second week of September Bailey and I flew up to Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada to meet my sister-from-another-mother, Myla, for a week of fun and what I call, “bumming around,”. The flight and subsequent driver from Buffalo airport over the Rainbow bridge into Canada were pretty much routine. The Customs officer didn’t even ask for Bailey’s documentation and we arrived at the hotel in about an hour.

The hotel staffer, Autumn, oriented me, giving me a room that was near the end of the hall so it was easier for Bailey to find. She also oriented me to the climate control in the room and walked me to the parking lot where I could take Bailey to relieve himself.

We stayed near the Clifton Hill area on Victoria and found it centrally-located, which was a good thing since we didn’t have a rental car the first few days. There was a casino and restaurants, coffee shops and tourist traps lining the entire area and it was walkable and clean.

We ate at the Hard Rock Café at the casino, and shopped in the Hershey’s chocolate shop. Awesom fudge, BTW.

The tour of the wine district was one of the best and our group got along well, no one minding Bailey and my personal needs getting into and out of the 15-passenger van. This involved sitting down on the floor of the van first, then stepping onto the ground because of my knee. I am past the humiliation of it and once I got to the second vineyard, was not feeling too bad, and didn’t care at all after the third winery anyway (insert drunken emoji).

At Lakeview Winery, I recorded the sounds of the cellar’s enormous vats. Walking into the gigantic structure and smelling the fermenting grapes took me back to my grandfather’s wine cellar and for a moment, childhood memories flooded my head. We went up the steps to a platform next to the casks and even Bailey was curious; Myla said he was looking around and sniffing, too.

While we got in the van after the final winery, Bailey decided to jump into the lap of the man behind me, it was the last winery and maybe he thought, we were all loose enough to appreciate his antics. which was correct Silly boy!

The heat wave was hard for me and I got a mild case of dehydration and had to rest and drink more water after the first two days. I listened to my body and the rest of the time I was okay, even with the heat.
Monday was the day for challenges. The taxi driver for our morning trip to Tim Horton’s refused to take Bailey. He said he knew it was a service dog and “didn’t care,”. We were dispatched a second car, which was fine. We thought it was a fluke, and I called later in the day to report the driver to the taxi company. I also called the constabulary, and wasn’t impressed; the sergeant on duty acted in a dismissive and patronizing manner. “If we come, at all, it will be hours, we’re busy,” he stated, referring to my request to make an incident report.

That evening, we went on a cruise around the Falls and watched the fireworks. We called a taxi back to the hotel and the driver refused to take the dog. Myla and I think it is the same driver from earlier in the day but it was dark and he drove off before we could snap a picture or get his cab number.

The next day Myla said we should rent a car so we didn’t have to take the chance of this happening again. I agreed, not wanting to keep having to be discriminated against.

We toured Niagara on the Lake, finding a most excellent gelato bar. We ate the best dinner at an Irish pub called Macmulligan’s. Myla had fish and chips and I had a sampler plate with three mini pies: curry chicken, Shepard’s pie and steak and mushrooms, I still can’t choose which was better, the shepherds or the steak and mushroom pie.

We found another mall, with more chocolate and I found a Marshall’s and bought a few shirts.

Next year, we are going to Seattle.
This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.Annie and Bailey outside the Hotel

Ready, Set, Go!

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized

Ready, Set, Go!
I am so pleased to announce our Lions Club is in the final stretch of preparations for our second annual DINING IN THE DARK fundraising event to benefit the services provided by the WESTCHESTER COUNCIL OF THE BLIND OF NEW YORK WESTCHESTER OF THE BLIND OF NEW YORK, along with raising funds to continue supporting causes in Westchester and in our County seat, White Plains. As the White Plains Lions President and co-host, it is exciting and a bit nerve-wracking for me. I am confident our members will make this a wonderful event. Tonight, I tested the portable PA system, and as I held the microphone in my hand I felt a frisson of anticipation — I cannot wait to welcome the guests and supporters and make the evening something to remember. Stay tuned for highlights from our event. Look up the White Plains Lions up on Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/whiteplainslions/

Join the #deniedride Campaign

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Uncategorized

Taxi Cabs Deny Blind Woman and Guide Dog Rides in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

The statement above is what I wish could be splashed across the news media for the three-minutes of attention it should receive in this time of informational and cultural news-shaming. It is most likely not going to happen. If it did, it would increase awareness and make some kind of difference. I hope by sharing this blog post, it will catch fire and gain some exposure.
On September 16, 2018, while on vacation, I was denied cab rides twice in one day. All to often, while checking my Face Book feed, I read about other guide dog users being denied taxi and CFH (Car-for-Hire) rides, making them late for work, or being refused reimbursement by the CFH company. When is this kind of discrimination going to slow down?

I want to start a campaign CFH services refusing passengers with guide and service dogs because it happens, it is unlawful, has an emotional and financial impact on passengers and it is biased and discriminatory.
I proposed the #deniedride has tag campaign and hope this can go viral. If you have been denied service by a car-for-hire like Uber, LYFT, Medallion cabs, and contracted cars for paratransit passengers, share it on Twitter, Face Book, and other social media sources and don’t forget to tag It #deniedride

Looking Back To Verona

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Hello readers, here is a traveling blog of sorts from the past featuring sweet Verona. It’s hard to believe she will be twelve and still healthy and active. Next week I will be kicking around Ontario with Bailey, and every time we visit an attraction I will be thinking of how much Verona opened up traveling opportunities I never thought were possible. Read on, and stay tuned for the post-travel blog upon our return.
THE HANDLER’S CORNER: Living and Working with Guide Dogs
by Ann Chiappetta
www.annchiappetta.com

Reprinted from The September 2018 edition of the Consumer Vision Magazine

Hello, readers. It is the end of the summer, one of my favorite times of year. Warm, lazy days, cool nights, with a hint of autumn in the air.

I’d like to share more on how guide dog handlers provide a meaningful life for a guide dog. Generally speaking, we do our best to balance a dog’s working life with its life as a normal dog. Let’s face it. We can say we have a well-bred, well-trained, and well-behaved service dog, but it is still a dog and will, at times, revert to its instincts and doggie behaviors. We anticipate and honor this by providing play time and experiences which provide our dogs with down time to prevent them from being flooded and overworked.

For instance, I attended a week-long training, and each day, I made sure my guide dog got time to play with his toy and run around a bit in the hotel room. It took only ten minutes, and I know it helped him settle down and relax. This is an example of honoring his work ethic and patience while I attended the training.

Below is an essay on how I try to provide my dog with fun and connection with the doggieness of just being in the moment that dogs love.

Dog Beach, Santa Cruz, California 2012

We navigate the way down a rocky path to the sand. The air is full of beach smells. The sounds of surf and gulls echo off the cliffs as we walk closer to the waterline. My sister unclips the leash from her Golden Retriever. I release Verona, and she trots off, her nose to the ground. My friend, Myla, tells me what she is doing and how far she goes. I call her back a few times as we find a spot near the cliffs to sit and watch the dogs play. Music, my sister’s dog, chases Verona into the water. As she turns back to chase him, a huge wave crashes down, and for a moment, she is engulfed. The wave spits her out onto the beach and she runs to me, weaving in between my legs and soaking my pants. I look like incontinence has gotten the best of me. Verona seems to say, in her best doggie language, “Hey, mom, what happened?” From then on, she doesn’t go near the waves and prefers a safer splash in the wet sand and tidal pools instead.

It’s important to me that Verona have the opportunity to be a dog; so much responsibility is put upon her when the harness is placed upon her back, it seems that this is the right way to let her know how much she has changed my life. As she digs her hole in the cool sand and flops down to dry off, my heart is content because she is doing just what she’s supposed to be doing, living a dog’s life.

San Francisco, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf

An hour after we leave San Jose, we reach San Francisco. The drive through mid-morning traffic isn’t as bad as we thought it would be, and we soon find a parking garage near the wharf close by Pier 39. Verona’s snorting tells me she’s excited by the new smells and she’s ready to go. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and soon we’re out of the garage and walking along the sidewalk, waiting to cross the street.

As we stroll along the promenade toward the pier, Verona feels as if she’s doing a little dance, and I feel her head turning left and right. A few times, we weave a bit, and I have to check her so she stops. It takes me a minute, but I finally understand what is making her dance around. Pigeons. Hordes of them walking underfoot, across our path, flying up practically under her nose. I’m surprised one hasn’t landed on her back. Myla laughs, saying, “She’s trying really hard to ignore them, but they’re teasing her.”

Thankfully the winged rats are less plentiful on the pier itself, and we spend the time shopping.
Coming to San Francisco with Verona is one of the best parts of traveling with a guide dog. At no time did I feel unsafe, even on the steep wooden stairs leading to the stores on the second level of the pier. Next year, we’re going to Golden Gate Park and Alcatraz.

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Black lab with snow sprinkled on the nose

Black lab Verona with snow on her nose

The Weekend Writer

| Filed under blindness Fiction Poem Uncategorized Writing Life

I was listening to a podcast today for the first time since I’m not sure when; it got my marketing juices flowing again, whoopee! There are weekend dads, warriors, drinkers, and the category for which I am writing this post: writers. Yup, I am proud to be a weekend writer. If I had a choice, I would write full-time and have time to put aside for marketing. As it stands, I have no choice but to cram it in from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and occasionally when I schedule staycations.

I started my writing career after publishing my first book, Upwelling: Poems, and since the success of my second book, Follow Your Dog, A Story of Love and Trust,Follow Your Dog the time for writing and marketing are feuding – not the most unique power-struggle in the universe – but it is my struggle and it is often exhausting.

I am currently working on my third manuscript, a collection of poems, essays and short fiction. It is a rewarding and time-consuming task and I absolutely love it. Needless to say, the marketing has been pushed aside by the manuscript. If I can nail down a few interviews and add in an announcement about the new book, all’s right with the world. Let’s see, it’s Sunday evening, what’s next on the list?