Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta


| Filed under Guide dogs


By Ann Chiappetta


Verona and I follow  the wide sidewalk in downtown White Plains.  It is a route we traverse every  work day. She puts on the brakes so hard I’m jerked to a full stop. Whoa, I say out loud, put out my foot and feel  some kind of construction barrier. My hand feels the Yellow warning tape strung out above it.

I praise her and say forward. She hesitates briefly, sizing up her options. Then, she pulls me to the left and slowly eases us through a clear area between a large tree and the broken walkway. We skirt the barrier with careful steps  and when we’re clear, I stop and praise her , rubbing her ears and letting her know just how much I appreciate her work. I imagine her satisfied look, as if to say, I know, Mom, don’t worry, I won’t let you down.” After three years, I still get blown away by her ability to keep me safe, make judgments  and decisions that would otherwise have me at a serious disadvantage if I was out there with a white cane.


On the way back, with lunch in hand, we face the barrier again. This time, since the clearance is more tricky going in the other direction, she takes me out into the street,  parallel to the curb, and back onto the sidewalk when we are past the barrier.


I think to myself, as we go, I hope someone was watching. I want to tell everyone how special she is and I know that there are no true obstacles  a dog and a person cannot overcome with perseverance, practice, and patience. I wish the other  human interactions and  challenges in life were as simple to solve.

For instance, sometimes days blur into one another and  routines dull our senses. Fortunately, working a dog guide limits the dullness of repetition, and, a good example of this is today. I wish I could take away the lesson I learned of working past the barricade and apply it to some of the other concerns at issue in my life right now. I wish I could heal the problems facing me and those I love. Most of all, I want to share that feeling of complete trust and unconditional love and the solid bond felt between me and Verona and hand it over to those I am at odds with, to show them that if we allow it, working around barricades like misunderstandings and communication failures  can be overcome.

I want to tell them, what could be more important than working together to work past a hole in the ground? That if we allow it, we can work around the road blocks of life, just like a guide dog team.



by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

A day in the Life

| Filed under writing

A Day in the Life of a Guiding Eyes Graduate


By Ann Chiappetta


I’ve often written about paying it forward. Some folks call it giving back; others just keep it simple and say they volunteer. Whatever it is, when it happens we feel great about ourselves when we do it. Most of my volunteering is done on behalf of blindness-related organizations. I am a blind person who feels it’s spiritually satisfying to help other blind people. For example, I was asked by the staff of Guiding Eyes for the Blind to come and greet other volunteers and I jumped at the chance. Guiding Eyes gave me back my independence by teaming me up with a guide dog and I do whatever I can to pay it forward.


At 9:45 a.m. Verona and I met Linda, the corporate giving coordinator and rode to the White Plains training house, aka, the lounge. Students use this house six days a week for four weeks while training in downtown White Plains, New York. The lounge is outfitted with   an outside relieving area big enough to accommodate two dozen dogs in training and a mud room for providing a safe place to allow them to drink. Additionally, for the two footed variety, there are two seating areas, bathrooms, an instructors’ office, and a technology room so students can write email and pass the time between training walks. Most importantly, the dining room is equipped with booths so students and dogs both get familiar with how this is done. New students who have never worked a guide dog are especially open to being exposed to these things because it helps them prepare for the time when they go out alone as a team.


Lunch time at the lounge is met with a collective sigh of relief: hot food, drinks, and a time to relax until the afternoon training walks begin. Volunteers come in and go shopping for students as well.


The lounge gets more than its share of use and abuse. Imagine a dog coming in after walking along route in rain or snow, shaking off and sending it everywhere. Get the picture?

Cut to the scene where I am standing with Guiding Eyes staff and Goldman Sacks volunteers in the summer sunshine.   They are at the lounge to paint the interior walls and wash down the inside windows. What a nice bunch of people.  Before working, they need to meet two little 7 week old yellow fluff balls who might make it to being future guide dogs. The little female, Jamie tries to nurse from Verona but she just ignores the pup. The little male, Jerome, is dignified and takes it all in with quiet curiosity.

I tell my story; express how much Verona has made it possible to soar, to have no limits, to keep me safe. I get choked up just talking about it.

After a few moments, we all are laughing, and they get to work.

I love this part, where we share a common goal, a passion for helping one another and for helping Guiding Eyes. This is the best part of what it means to be here, to share in the human canine partnership and educate others about what it means to live and work with a dog guide.

by Ann Chiappetta | tags : | 0

where my mind goes

| Filed under writing

This comes under the tag line of “I write to find out what I think” a la Stephen King.

Being a  curious person I find it interesting that , as I lose my vision, the ability to interact with others adapts and changes as well. For instance, I am less tolerant of crowds, loud noises, and my startle reflex is much more pronounced.  I have become the type of blind person who loves tactile information but also gets irritated if it’s not on my terms. Not sure what that’s about, but a recent incident with a sighted person has stirred this up.


Long story short, I was being spoken to by someone who was angered by a series of events in which I was involved. These events were in a public place and I was one of the presenters. What I said wasn’t good or bad, but this person didn’t like  how I answered his questions and approached me once  the meeting ended and I left the podium


When he began to say things that were fueled by anger I tried to end the conversation. I heard his voice, recognized the stuttering as a sign of his being so anger that he couldn’t speak clearly. This scared me and I tried to leave. Then, this person grabbed my arm and when I turned to leave, he squeezed it, hurting me.


What did I do? I  told him he was hurting me and for him to let go. When he didn’t,  I removed his hand and left the room. I was so focused on getting away from him, I panicked and didn’t call security or the police. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered how upset I was by it. Yet, I still didn’t report it. Now, I’m paying the consequences of my inaction. I was the victim but because I didn’t report it right away, I can only hope to resolve this internally and there is no hope of an apology or consequence by the person who hurt me.

I find this wrong on so many levels  and  am reminded of the basic humanistic  conduct code of “treat others as you wish to be treated”. This   comes to mind first. Then there is the intimidation of a man hurting a woman. And, lastly, I was at a disadvantage because he was sighted and I wasn’t.


The last item seems to get mixed responses from people who are blind. Some say that the offender sunk lower than an ant’s knee because I was blind. Others said that it is an offence on another person and being disabled isn’t part of the equation. Then the gender piece comes into play and I’m sure each and every person who reads this can identify and sympathize with at least one of these three points.


I’m blogging this because I need to validate it happened and not be afraid to talk about it. One thing I do know since this happened, however, if I am harassed like this again, I will fight the urge to flee and call the authorities. I won’t be ashamed that I panicked and fled or that I fell right into this person’s trap because I didn’t actually see it coming. I honestly didn’t expect to be treated so rudely by an acquaintance. Creepy.