Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Something During the Covid Pause

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs writing

I’ve got a few things going on which I will share in another post. But I wanted to share a fun moment with my guide dog, Bailey. The pictures are of the mask with the logo of Guiding Eyes for the Blind taken by an Aira agent. It was less than five minutes of fun, but it keeps me smiling even though the smile is hidden by the mask. Enjoy!

Annie with pink mask and Bailey  close up

Ann and Bailey on bench: Both looking straight on

Catnip Anyone?

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem Relationships

Our daughter, April, moved out six months ago. We are now empty nesters, at least most of the time. Wouldn’t you know it, April and her partner, Danny, decided to practice parenting by adopting a kitten. His name is Noodle because he loves to eat ramen noodles.

He’s now about eight weeks old and is black with a little white patch on his chest. He’s at that funny stage where he runs sideways and gets scared after he gets up on something, cries until he’s rescued. Adorable.

Right now, as I write this, he is stalking us around the Livingroom, shooting out from under the furniture and popping at our ankles or doggy noses, no claws, thank goodness. Papa is not sold on the little black demon, mewing his distress. He is getting used to Noodle, though, coming up and sniffing him. May wants to mother the kitten, sometimes a little too much and Bailey is just a huge doofus who doesn’t know his own strength of curiosity. We caught him trying to nibble a tiny paw, so he is on the watch list.

Noodle loves boxes and the laser pointer is the only way to get him out from under the bed when we want to catch him. We are careful with it, as the dogs also love the laser pointer.

I think with time Papa and Noodle will get along. We are not forcing interactions and taking it slowly. He’s a lucky little kitty and he is already well socialized, likes to ride in cars, goes willingly into a carrier, and has come to trust our dogs.
Play
By Ann Chiappetta

Ebony kitten stalks its prey
Amid discovery of
each day. Fearless hunter dives
tags the target, then
hides to find another.

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Noodle in a box looking up at the camera.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 2

Home is Where the Bark is

| Filed under Guide dogs Relationships

Sometimes one of the dogs does something that is funny and openly undignified., at least that is how we humans view it. We love them for living in the moment and finding opportunity to fulfill their doggy drive for affection, comfort, and sustenance. Below is a photo of yellow lab Bailey foregoing his training, and his timing is perfect.
PD: Bailey sitting on the bed behind Annie, who is also sitting on the bed eating a yogurt. Bailey’s head is on her shoulder, staring fixedly at the yogurt.
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Over the Rainbow Bridge

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs

Verona Chiappetta

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Verona and I on a bench outside


November 24, 2006 – May 31, 2020
Guiding Eyes 2V406
Beloved pet and retired guide dog, black Labrador retriever, Verona, died today of natural causes and expired peacefully with compassion and care with the assistance of a veterinarian, surrounded by her loved ones.
Known as Happy Pants to the Guiding Eyes staff instructors during training, Verona has forever touched the lives of her puppy raiser family, her handler and family and countless others.

Verona worked as a guide dog and as a therapy dog for trauma patients. After retiring from being a guide dog, she helped children read through a program for the Good Dog Foundation.

Verona’s favorite pastime was watching the waterfowl on Greenwood Lake and walking in the woods. She loved cats and other small animals.

We will miss her soft, velvet ears, gentle kisses, and good nature. Thank-you, sweet girl for being the best canine ambassador, for helping Jerry hunt the turkey and keep him company upstate. Most of all, thank-you for helping me learn to fly.

Over the Rainbow Bridge

There is a place of rainbow dreams, of lush green grass, and silver streams. It brings me comfort to know you’re there, playfully romping without a care. Always happy, the freedom to roam, peaceful, joyful in your new home. You never criticize, you never judge, you were always there for me to love. Though you live on in my heart I know, it’s just so hard to let you go! I know someday we’ll meet again, you’ll run to greet me, my best friend. Together forever we’ll finally be, over the rainbow, just you and me…
Verona's face with snow on her nose

International Guide Dog Day!

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs

Ann and yellow lab guide dog Bailey
A message from Guide Dog Users of the Empire State (GDUES)
April 29, 2020

It’s International Guide Dog Day, a day set aside to recognize the work that our loving and loyal canine companions do for us every day. Each year International Guide Dog Day is celebrated on the last Wednesday of April.

It takes a village to raise a puppy and help it gain the necessary skills to become a guide dog. Every year staff and volunteers from training organizations around the world breed, raise and train guide dogs and partner them with blind handlers. Our dogs are our heroes, and today is a way to let others know just how much we appreciate them.

Now that we have raised some paws and wagged a few tails to celebrate, we also want to share what it is like to be blind and out in public with a guide dog. During this year of worldwide crisis GDUES wants to share a few tips about how you can help people who are blind maintain social distancing.

When you see a guide dog team, please don’t pet, feed, call or distract the dog. Speak to the handler. It is important for the public to know that guide dogs don’t know about physical distancing. Our dogs are trained to move around obstacles, not to stop six feet away from a door, or in line at the supermarket or pharmacy. It’s important to understand a blind person using a white cane or a guide dog cannot always accurately measure distances or see lines on the floor.

Since we might not hear you come out of the store as we go in, a quick “Hello,” would help. Or, “Hi, you are at the end of the line.: or “Hi, you can Move up a few steps,”. When passing a guide dog handler outside, saying hello will help us keep required physical distancing by hearing where you are in relation to us.

We want to follow the same health and safety precautions as everyone else, however, we might require a little more information than normal. We are all in this together.

The mission of GDUES is to advocate for and support guide dog teams living and working in New York State. Learn more by going to www.gdues.org

Dogs Help with Social Distancing

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships writing

The past two weeks has provoked many powerful and uncomfortable feelings for our Nation, our community, and our families. We are being globally challenged by what some say has been a biblical portent, aka, the “plague”.

Being a skeptical person, I am not yet ready to agree, however, I know the world has changed already, evident by, well, by how we are acting, reacting, responding, and feeling.

I was just sharing playtime with my three dogs, enjoying the calm petting session with my elderly black lab. I watched my other two dogs play, and as they tugged and wrestled, was struck by an intense feeling of relaxation and peace. I thought, that if I must distance myself from other humans to protect myself the hidden gem in this is having more time to spend with my dogs and husband.

On that note, today I received a call from a staff person named Kate from Newsreel Newsreel magazine magazine. She said she was “just checking in with my New Rochelle people,”. Now, that was very kind and equally unexpected. Thanks, Kate!

This time of crisis should bring us together in gratitude and kindness, not isolate us. A phone call or email could bring a bit of relief to a neighbor or relative.

For example, the Next-door app has had folks volunteering to help with shopping for individuals who are quarantined here in New Rochelle. Folks are helping out with dog walking and other tasks.
In the wise words of a writing friend, Carol Farnsworth, Carol Farnsworth wrote on her blog, https://blindontheliteside.com/ ,
We as a nation, are only as strong as our marginal members. We will be judged not by what we have but how we care.

Thanks, Carol. Agreed.

The Spirit of Dog

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships

This is a post written for, in part, the puppy raising and guide dog community. It explains what a real service dog is and how it develops. Indulge me for one more paragraph before we get to the subject line of the post. There is an ongoing issue here in the United States regarding people posing pets as emotional support or service animals to ride in airline cabins. It is called the ACAA, or the Airline Carrier Access Act. I am not going to explain the actual FAA and TSA notices and the rule making discussion, but I will say that a genuine, trained service dog will do it’s best to behave in places of public accommodation. For example, a hearing alert dog will sit quietly on its handler’s lap and not disrupt anyone’s experience. A PTSD service dog will lie quietly between its handler’s feet during a train ride. Any dog brought into the public that barks, lunges, urinates, is unkempt, is not under its handler’s control or is not tethered is not a real service dog and can be asked to leave. It’s all in how the dog and the handler behave and interact. I hope this helps folks understand what is at stake and the real service dog handlers are at risk of being negatively effected by those who break the law.

Okay, back to the original post.

Once a puppy reaches an appropriate age, usually around 18 months, the dog is returned for advanced training. By this time, the puppy raiser has imparted all the socialization, love, obedience, care and discipline to allow the dog to continue the rigorous and challenging harness training and hopefully exhibit the required qualifications to become a guide dog.

Yup, folks, it is canine college and the dog will graduate with an advanced degree in intelligent disobedience. What this means is a dog will disobey a command given by the blind handler if it is unsafe. Think of a car coming out of a driveway as the team is walking toward it. The dog will see the car pulling out and stop, then continue when it has judged it to be safe. If the handler tries to give the command to proceed before the dog judges it safe, the dog will ignore the command.

This is, of course, after months of formal harness training with a qualified GDMI – during which time the dog learns how to guide and learn other commands, like directions (left, right, forward) and targeting (to the door, steps, bus, elevator,) among others.
One time Bailey even stopped to show me a fiber optic wire hanging from the ceiling in the hallway leading to our office. Avoiding an overhead obstacle is the most difficult to teach a dog, I was impressed, for sure.

But, for the second time in this post, I digress.

Today we made the hour-long bus ride to visit Guiding Eyes For the Blind’s main campus and visit Bailey’s first Mom, Pat Bailey Webber. He just about lost his mind, spinning and doing some excited barking. He carried on, yodeling, rubbing, and licking Pat for at least ten minutes. This is the person who he bonded with, who saw him through all stages of puppyhood, some of it pretty gross and annoying, if I must say so. 😊

Witnessing the bond with Pat is just so special, so rewarding, I believe it makes my bond with Bailey even stronger. While he loves Pat and would go with her, he also willingly comes to me and does his job. He switches his attention, applies his training, and has the adaptability to get it done.

I have written before about the Spirit of Dog, what it means contextually; this is an example. The Spirit of Dog is loyal, adaptable, and talented. How could a person not admire these qualities in an animal? How could I deny Bailey the pleasure of visiting with his first family? I am honored and humbled after these visits. I am a recipient of a very special gift; it is the spirit of dog that brings people together.

Smashwords book sale

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Writing Life

Words of life book cover

Tranquil photo of stacked stones beside circular pattern in the sand.

End of Year Holiday Book Sale
Looking for a unique eBook for a special gift for a fellow reader? Do you belong to a book club and need to find a low-priced eBook with a beautiful cover and meaningful content? Do you like to load up your book reader with great titles for the wintertime? Look no further, This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.Smashwords has what you want.

Take advantage of the Smashwords book sale from December 25 to January 1. All three of my titles are discounted at checkout, no hunting for discount codes. Here’s the link to find out more: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnChiappetta

Guide Dog Lifestyle: Is This What You Want?

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Writing Life

Annie and Bailey outside the HotelWorking with a guide dog brings along perks, like being offered the aisle seat at events, being given the extra leg room seats on trains, and pre-boarding when flying. These, of course, are the obvious advantages.

I would most likely be presented with most of these as a white cane user when traveling without a guide dog, although, perhaps the extra leg room seats would not be part of it. Traveling with a disability can be challenging enough, thank-you.

My dog guides me safely while also assisting in softening the stressors of traveling. A dog also helps with engaging in social events.

A few of the little-known perks are humorous, along with being practical. For instance, my dog, like many other guide dogs, is an expert at finding friends and family during parties and in crowds. Both my current dog and my retired dog have found my husband or other guide dog users countless times. They are creatures of habit and will most likely show the handler familiar locations and individuals. I think of it as, “Hey, is this the door you want? Or Hey, we know this person, maybe you want to talk to them again so I can say hi to their dog?

The most recent time I recall being surprising as well as useful was during a convention. Upon exiting the elevator, Bailey began pulling harder and I knew he was on a mission. He brought me up to my friend and her new dog. The same friend who trained beside us for two weeks when I first got Bailey. It was very smart, for a dog. 😊 I didn’t even think he would remember her, but he did. We also had this sneaking suspicion Bailey and her new dog, (not the one who trained with us) and Bailey knew one another from the kennel, acting like old friends.

Some folks say being a guide dog user is too-time consuming, that it’s all about the dog, and the extra attention is difficult to manage. Personally speaking, I prefer the social and travel advantages my dog provides. It far outweighs the annoyances.
Annie and Bailey outside the Hotel

New Routines

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Writing Life

New Routines

It’s been 3 months since I’ve stopped working. The first month was the hardest, trying to make sense of things, second guessing myself and clinging to what was left of my self-confidence.

Month two was filled with phone calls, meetings and interviews, followed by the realization that at my age and because of my disability, I might not ever work again. I began to tell people I am semi-retired and it is still what I am sticking with as I write this blog post.
Month three is starting to be the new routine: stay up late, sleep late, write, and mix in job trolling, meetings, and motivate myself to do the mundane household tasks. Sigh.

The most interesting pieces of being home, other than the nagging holes of time, is how our animals have adjusted. They appear to like it, especially my 13-year-old lab, Verona, and the cat, Titan. For instance, Verona expects a walk around 2 p.m. It doesn’t matter if she went out at 10 a.m., when 2 p.m. comes around, she’s panting and poking at me.

We have also gotten into what I will call treat-time. Titan and Verona appear at my desk chair. I get poked by the dog and the cat jumps up on the desk. This means the human must dispense treats. A Few Kittie crunchies for the cat and a few low-calorie treats for the dogs. Yes, Bailey is there as soon as he hears the cat treat bag open. Piggy boy. Our third dog, May, is usually with our daughter, so she loses out until later.

At 3-ish, we go for walkies and May and Bailey play after May is walked. The human is bothered again by piggy boy Bailey for dinner at after play time. If the animals weren’t here to keep me busy, it would be much harder to stay focused.

I find it ironic that the day has conformed to what I refer to as Zoo time. Maybe I can find employment at a kennel instead.