Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Tears for a Warrior

| Filed under Poem Relationships writing

Tears for a Warrior
By Ann Chiappetta

I am thinking of my friend today
Caught in the viral war,
Being forced to use the last vestiges of strength
To find safe haven in this epidemic.
Where no safety is found.

This person, this friend, this man
With AIDS, who has defied all expectations during
Another epidemic
has survived
And I wonder, with sorrowful thoughts
If he will defy Corona like He did HIV.

This man, this person, this patient
Is surviving with minimal care,
Enforced clinical Neglect cut off
from us, suffering
Wracked with fever, lumbar pain, and mobility loss
Brought upon by quarantine.

Twenty-five years ago, he faced death and came back
I will find him in the places between dreams,
Make conversation on the astral plain
This is all I can do, dream and hope
my friend Will hear me.

March 30, 2020

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.

First blog post

| Filed under blindness Poem Relationships Writing Life

My first blog post on word press was on November 7, 2008. Since that time, I’ve completed 315 posts and attracted almost 500 followers. I hope to keep going and love to blog. Stand by for some older poetry and a new book. Until then, keep reading and writing.
http://www.thought-wheel.com/task-of-the-day/

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

Old Poems Like New

| Filed under blindness Poem Relationships Writing Life

I began writing poetry in earnest after finding out I was going blind, in the early 1990s. Looking back, the poems I wrote during this dark time was a way to cope with the inevitable grief and loss I felt, and would feel, for a long time. Progressive vision loss infiltrates one’s sense of hope and resiliency,
Two emotional Aspects Which Appear in many of the poems written from the 1990s. The poems are also an inventory of sorts, and, as I become reacquainted with them, I am, in turn, becoming acquainted with my feelings and emotions during this time of fear, depression, and anger. I also discovered I’ve grown beyond these feelings and emotions and have learned to accept my disability and embrace the creativity and how much healing I’ve done since then.

Here is a song I found, written for a friend (really).

The Child Inside
Song lyrics

By Ann Chiappetta

family devotion died
the day he went away

The child inside
still cries when you sleep
The pain
makes you feel incomplete

He’s made a mess of your memories
He can’t come back into your life
And though you deny it
the reality cuts Like a knife

The child inside
still cries when you sleep
The pain
makes you feel incomplete

Don’t try to replace him
Sometimes lovers walk away, too;
discover why your heart
desires demons dressed in blue

The child inside
still cries when you sleep
The pain
makes you feel incomplete

2000

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.

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.

Maybe a Sign Would Help?

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Writing Life

Today was the monthly meeting for the Westchester Council of the Blind of New York. We hold it at a house of worship, and we are very fortunate to be getting our space for free. While we were setting up and listening for members to come down the steps to our meeting room, a man appeared,
“Are you having a meeting for blind people?” he asked, sounding a little annoyed.
Yes, we said, this is where our meeting is.
“Oh,” he replied, “There are some people coming here, and they don’t seem like they know where to go, maybe you should put up a sign,”

Yup, folks, after he left, my colleague and I broke up laughing, then shook our heads, feeling quite sorry for the ignorant sighted person. We went to find our wayward members and led them to the room.

We could have felt angry, or upset, but this is nothing unusual for us. We did not allow this man and his inadequacies or annoyances to negatively affect us.
Furthermore, I don’t know how I can state this eloquently , but, well, a sign really won’t help the blind folks, only folks like this man, who came in, did not greet us or even introduce himself; by the way he sounded, he felt somehow threatened by the “blind people”, or he would have brought them with him instead of coming to the room to complain.

If you are still reading, this is more or less an average example of what we encounter from day to day. Sometimes we fair better, some days, the ignorance and uncaring attitudes seem to be everywhere. It’s no wonder 70% of employable blind people are not working; that people who lose vision and are over 50 struggle to remain independent; why guide dog users who are blind are denied ride share services 1 of 3 times despite policies adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act laws.

We are a powerful group and yet we are a minority still grabbing and pulling ourselves up the wall of equal access and opportunity. We must help one another so we can be the change-makers, in our communities, Nationally, and worldwide.

Most importantly, don’t be like this man who did not say his name and was so off-putting with an attitude of annoyance; after reading this example, if you encounter someone who is blind, lost or looking for directions, work with them, ask how best to help, and go with it.