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
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 Verona with snow on her nose