Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Guide Dogs In Rochester

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Uncategorized Writing Life

Jerry, Bailey and I rode the Amtrak up to Rochester, New York to attend the 2019 American Council of the Blind National Conference and Convention from July 4-12. The train ride was pleasant and allowed Jerry to relax, sparing him from the 7-hour drive. Bailey slept the entire time, except for guiding me to the lavatory. Once we arrived, the walking shoes went on and the convention navigation began. We walked a familiar circuit from one hotel, then on the skyway, and into the convention center and the sister hotel. We also found it quite pleasant to travel on the street level, crossing the streets to go from one location to the other. Bailey was happy to do some street work and did a great job recalling the often turn-heavy and difficult routes to the meeting rooms. Jerry, bless his heart, scoped out the area and made his opinion clear, “don’t go out alone at night,”, due to the higher indigent population. The police presence during the day and evening hours while the convention center was open, while necessary, wasn’t very reassuring.

We had a sleep number bed, a spacious room; our key cards didn’t work for more than a few days at a time. The food was good, but the restaurant choices was sparse, and we got snacks from the multi-dollar store down the street and Jerry walked to Dunkin’ for coffee in the morning. The fridge and microwave helped us save some money on expensive meals.

I was asked to co-host the Friends in Art musical showcase, and I said, “OK”. What was I thinking? But I am, admittedly, a closet performer, and the evening was fun and a confidence-builder.

The exhibit hall also allowed me to meet folks who had read my book and allowed me to connect with new readers as well.

My good friend, Cheryl Lawyer and I received awards from GDUI for being advocates for the guide dog movement. More on that later.
Next year is Illinois and I being not sure I will attend, but I do know we will go home with fond memories and a lot to laugh about and remember.

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A Great Way to Wrap-up 2018

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Thanks to Kim Charlson and the Perkins Library for the Blind, the memoir I wrote is now an audio book for listening through the National Library Service, or NLS. Expressing how it felt to listen to my words for the first time was emotional. It was immensely gratifying and powerful. A few weeks prior to the email notifying me the book was in the final editing stage I listened to the introduction I penned for GDUI’s A HANDBOOK FOR THE PROSPECTIVE GUIDE DOG HANDLER (4th Edition), also recently released as a free digital book available via the NLS talking book and braille library.
Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust DBC11582
Chiappetta, Ann. Reading time: 4 hours, 27 minutes. Read by Ana Maria Quintana. A production of Perkins Library, Perkins School for the Blind. Animals and Wildlife. Drawing on her skills as a poet and a therapist, the author of this candid memoir explores her life-changing relationship with her guide dog. The book is also available on Bookshare and all eBook sellers as a digital book and print soft cover. Go to www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/

The GDUI Handbook’s catalog number is DB92557 and it is also available from Bookshare.

Here’s to a book-filled 2019.

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.

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

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