Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

Counting Down The Doggie Days Of Winter

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Counting Down … Guide Dog School on January 5, 2009

It’s December 1, 2008, and I’m counting the days until I report to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It’s all I can talk about, all I want to think about, and all I can concentrate on lately. I wonder what my dog’s name will be, what training obstacles we will have, and what the other folks training at GEB will be like.
I can’t wait to meet Bev and Becky, and the trainers. I wonder how big our class will be and what the food will be like. I’m also a little nervous about how I’ll get along even though I’m not a Braille reader yet and if the training materials will be accessible to me.

My employer has been generous and cooperative in terms of my time off and returning to work. Not having to worry about the potential repercussions of leaving for a month lowers my overall worry so I can concentrate on the upcoming challenges.

As for our family, I am concerned about how we will all get along once we come back home, too. I’ve only been away from my husband and kids for a few weeks at a time and I find myself saying prayers that they will get on fine without me. I just have to believe it or my anxiety about leaving for a month will be overwhelming. Keeping this in mind, I remind everyone in the household that they will be doing the dishes, laundry, and cleaning. But I worry most about how our family dog will adjust to my absence.

Since her addition to our household, she and I have bonded and although I’ve tried to get my husband to take over her feeding and morning walks, I am still the one who gets up and does it.
I fear the the sudden change after I leave will depress her, but I have to believe that all will work out so I can do what I need to do. I’ll miss the dog as much as the kids and my husband. Maybe more.
Then there is my 13 year old daughter. She always seems to have the most trouble when I go away and I hope that this time will be different. This will be a good test for both of us in terms of separation and her determination to take good care of herself while I’m gone. I know she is very capable and strong, but I also know how much we will miss one another.

As for preparations, being mindful of the capricious January weather, I’ve purchased insulated/water resistant boots, a storm coat, gloves, and hat. I also bought a set of long underwear, just in case the wind chill is really bad on training walks. I’ve been reading the GEB’s participant manual, too, and have spoken with some folks who have graduated. The

next month will probably crawl.

So, on to the holiday season, and to waiting the day my life will change for the better when I finally meet my new partner.

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The Dogs Of Selas Manor

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The dogs of Selas Manor

As most of you already know, I am a first-time dog guide handler. My immersion into the dog guide sub- culture has been both interesting and satisfying, and my most current foray in attending a local dog guide association was my first experience with an organized group for handlers and their dogs.

My good friend, Mike and his dog, Kaiser, a large yellowLabbie, met Ro and I and showed us how to take the bus into New York City. I hadn’t been in the city with Ro since last January and it was great knowing that once we stepped off the bus, Ro would keep me safe. I’m still amazed with the freedom she provides; she seems to know when I need her to be more assertive. She understands that when I’m in unfamiliar places, I’m not as confident and she takes charge.

We set off down Fifth Avenue, Mike and Kaiser setting a quick pace. Too fast for a short-legged woman and dog, but we do our best.We catch up to them at every corner and ro quickens her pace as we go. By the time we are on the long block leading to our destination, we’re not too far behind.

All goes well and we arrive at Selas Manor, an apartment building for people with disabilities and folks over 55. We sign in and go up to the fifth floor to meet Z and her dog guide, Margo, a black Labbie. We unharness and the three dogs play, sniff, and settle down after about ten minutes. There is not one instance of bad manners and this proves our guide dogs are bred and trained with superb results. Ro just falls right into the doggie group and our visit is uneventful.

Z, short for Zurline, is a wonderful hostess, and we talk until it’s time for our meeting. Her apartment smells like sweet potato pie, which she is heating up for the dessert after our meeting concludes. It reminds me of the upcoming holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas being around the corner.

The meeting is focused and our ballots for a new executive board concludes within an hour. I’m impressed by the fact that there are over 20 handlers and dogs present and no one seems to have trouble settling down for the discussions and voting in the new board members.
This shows that well bred and trained dogs demonstrate their merit at times like this. Verona and her doggie friends take a break, snoozing under our feet as we talk and complete the meeting.

Mike and I leave a few hours later and catch the bus back to Westchester, Kaiser and Verona leading the way. We manage not to lag behind too much as we walk the city blocks back to the bus stop.

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Winter Greetings

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Hello. Just got back from Greenwood Lake in Ulster County, NY. We found a great little motel/B & B right on the lake and it’s so quiet and Ro loves that she can run free. We visited Applewood Winery and tasted the hard ciders. The winery is one of only a few local establishments that grow the apples for hard cider. The apples are different than the ones used for eating/baking. We purchased a great Macantosh wine, blueberry and blackberry hard ciders and a few bottles of spiced wine. When served warm, it’s like drinking apple pie. Yum.

Last Thursday Ro and I took part in a video taping to benefit Guiding Eyes. It was great to be chosen for it and be involved in such a great project. I’ll post more about it once it’s “official”. 🙂 Ro was great, sitting pretty for the camera. I also got to hang out with another blind woman whom I love to talk to and finally got to meet. As usual, the GEB staff was great and made my participation seem effortless even though I know darn well how hark they work to promote GEB and make it a school reflecting integrity for both the students and the dogs guiding them.

Well, work is very busy and home is busy, so since it’s Sunday, I’ll finish this up and get ready for another busy week.

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