Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

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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To purchase my books, UPWELLING: POEMS or FOLLOW YOUR DOG, A STORY OF LOVE AND TRUST, go to www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/
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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?

A Dog On The Bed

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized

While visiting Hunt Valley, Maryland last week, I posted a picture of my guide dog, Bailey, lying on the hotel roomed with his rubber bone between his paws. Yes, I know dogs are surely not allowed on hotel room beds, especially not a guide dog. In fact, I did get criticized for it after posting it on Face Book.

I felt obligated to respond to this person because she questioned the standards of my dog’s training program and implied the program was somehow lax about the “no furniture” rule for task-trained service dogs. I thought that was rude.

Not sure if this is a provable statistic but I believe the no furniture rule is about 50/50 with dog owners, whether or not said owner is a person with a disability who is working a service dog.

I choose to allow my dog on the bed. He askes for permission first. My other dogs don’t go on our bed and prefer the dog beds instead. It really is a matter of preference and only occurs after the bond and mutual trust has been solidified. Right now, as I write this blog post, my sweet Bailey is under my desk with his head on my foot. He is with me, must be assured we are a team and proximity is the key. He is ready to go at a moments notice, loves to work with an indomitable spirit to match.

What the picture does not say is how tough it was for him at this training, how uncomfortable he was lying for 8 hours on a cold, tile floor during the training. Allowing him on the bed to chew a rubber bone was my thanks for enduring the discomfort for four days in a row.

Is the bed thing really that important? It is a matter of preference and I believe it has nothing to do with whether a chosen program is lax or if the handler is using poor judgment. It is about balancing love with discipline and a competent handler knows when to apply one or the other, depending on the circumstances.
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Photo description: Yellow lab on white bed with red rubber bone between paws.

On The Road Again

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Tomorrow me and Bailey are boarding the Amtrak train to Baltimore, Maryland. From there we will be taking ground transportation to the Holiday Inn Express in Hunt Valley. The only part of this trip that worries me is the car service – will I encounter ride refusals because of my guide dog? I am prepared as much as I can be, I hope.

As for Bailey, he’s ready to go, like always. After reading this post, please send out good trip Juju. I think I will need it.

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, .

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

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.