Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

Dog Blogumentary Part 7: Settling In

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Dog Blogumentary Part 7: Graduation
Hello readers, it’s the Sunday after our official graduation and we are doing great. Bailey is snoozing in his crate, a half chewed Budda bone lying next to him. This morning we went out in the cold (when is it going to get warm?) and practiced obedience and targeting the relief area and the path back to the building in harness. He did great. My recuperation is still a work in progress. Today I am fatigued and aches and pains are plentiful. Sigh.

Yesterday, though, I was energetic and ready for a full day of emotions and excitement. Our action instructor picked us up and drove us to the Yorktown facility. We got to let the dogs in the class play in the community run. Wow, it was interesting. The instructors were alert and ready for anything. The dogs were like pogo sticks and racehorses; running, jumping, wrestling, and doing it with complete abandon. After that, we went to lunch, leaving our dogs in the rooms to rest before the big event. At 1:30 we were ready to go, were escorted into Alumni Hall for the ceremony and Bailey and the dog next to him taunted one another and we had to practically wrestle them into position under the chairs. Then, Mr. Houdini tried wriggling out of his harness but didn’t make it all the way, thankfully. We met his raiser, one of the regional managers for Guiding Eyes’ puppy raising areas in Maine, for whom he was named. We got some pictures and talked about Bailey, his personality and how he responds, etc. I learned he is a strong swimmer, has been riding in cars and boats and travels well. He prefers his crate/kennel and is socially excitable with people but can quiet down with firm direction and handling. Nothing I didn’t already figure out while training with him. I also discovered he prefers to return a ball when the person sits down in a chair rather than standing up. He needs to work on his off-leash recall. This is all very workable and he is not even 2 yet – his birthday is April 25th.

Thank you, Guiding Eyes, Pat Weber, and all the people involved in Bailey’s development. This is my second dog and he is as different as I needed him to be. He and Verona get along very well, he tolerates Nikka as if he has known her for years and he and our cat are learning to give one another the personal space a cat desires for peaceful cohabitation. Thanks for reading and enjoy the upcoming holidays.

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Dog Blogumentary part 6: Reunion

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He is sweet, yellow

A big fluffy fellow


Toasted darker

On ears and tail tip

Gives a nibble and a lick

Golden eyes

Better than cash

He comes with a snow nose

And personality to last


It’s Bailey



Hello again, readers, this blog entry will spread over a few days which I will call reunion week. It will begin with preparing for Bailey’s return as well as his introduction to the Chiappetta pets and humans, then it will wrap up with graduation. So, get out the tissues and be ready for a long post.

Monday, March 23: This morning was good. I felt much better and feel like whatever has had its hold upon my chest is slowly leaving. The doctor gave me a checkup and sent me home with a note stating I was ready for work and training once again. I left the office so much happier than I’ve been in days. I was depressed, moping around like I lost my favorite toy. It was like getting my sea legs back, and now I’m feeling even better.


I got home and contacted Guiding Eyes. An hour later, the instructor called me and we agreed that Mr. B will come to work on Wednesday around noon time. We’ll get started a bit around there and then go home and introduce him to Verona, Nikka, Titan and April. Jerry will be working and not get to say hello until later that night. The rest of the week will get planned out with the instructor depending on what I need to catch up on, etc.


Saturday will mean a lot of excitement and, yes, tears. They will be for me, the warm and appreciative kind; I can’t wait to finally get to be with Bailey again. I can’t wait to meet his puppy raiser, for whom he was named. So, I’ve been puttering around, getting food bins arranged, grooming tools and supplies organized and thinking about how good it will feel to hold that harness handle.


He’s back. Our reunion was wonderful; he nibbled my chin and licked my face. We settled the office and went out for a walk. It was great, we took off where we left off. Got a cramp halfway through it but Bailey slowed down and accommodated me. This, to me, is amazing. Verona, as good as she was, only had one speed. This boy, well, he has two speeds and I really like this about him. He is also patient when I need a breather.


We got home and the animal reunion was intense but good. However Titan decided he didn’t want to be introduced and Bailey barked and that was that. Nikka and Verona were good and now, a few hours later, as I write this, mostly they are all settled. Titan and Bailey will work it out just like Nikka and Titan did.


So, will write another post after graduation. Thanks for reading.


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Dog Blogumentary Part 5Dog Blogumentary Part 5

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Well, folks, I am home early without my dog. I contracted viral pneumonia and couldn’t finish out training. I knew things were bad on Saturday when I just couldn’t catch my breath and saw spots before my eyes and a deep pain near my diaphragm. Nothing helped, not even the inhalers or the prednezone prescribed by the clinic on Saturday . Monday night I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and the xray found it, thanks to a very good radiologist. So, I packed up, said so long to my dog and cried. The nurse was very empathetic and when I grumbled about rotten luck, she said rotten luck is a broken leg, this is just a blip in what will be a unique and memorable training experience. We laughed and she hugged me and somehow I found the resolve to come home with at least half of a smile on my face. Now, though, I am once again feeling sorry for myself. It doesn’t take away from the frustration and impatience I am feeling. I just want the days to pass as quickly as possible until Bailey and I can once again walk together without so much as a gasp. I am wheezing and I’m restless and I just can’t settle down. I wonder if he is like this back at the kennel. It was going well, we were learning the dance and suddenly we were cut off from one another and it really is frustrating. This sucks and I am unhappy and hope this doesn’t drag on for any longer than a few more days.

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Dog Blogumentary Part 4

| Filed under Guide dogs writing

working and playing together


Friday we learned how to work a route with another team. It was fun and rewarding. Bailey took me around a bunch of spilled tomatoes on the ground on the sidewalk as we passed the food bank. Thanks to that accidental opportunity I learned more of his body language and corrected myself and learned how he problem solves. Good stuff. Next. We got to know one another even more in a private play session. We worked on recall “come” and treating him when he returned the toy or just came to me. We do need to work on this, though. I then went to Pet Smart and found the toys he preferred. A wubba, a canvas tug toy and a nuylabone that looks like a crazy wish bone. Since I felt really horrible when we returned from our morning trip, I skipped the Saturday session and stayed in bed. Today I caught up today with backing up and a mini-traffic check with a shopping cart indoors. This helped me understand how he moves and gave me some much needed practice on following him even when it’s really awkward. What a good boy.


Today was bootie time. Also another potentially awkward task. We did okay, will need to practice  putting them on. But he walks very nicely in them.


One thing I really wanted to write about is how much the students here help one another. Sharing the student experience has helped me tremendously. I have heard a lot of second dog stories, good and not so good. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I went into it with no expectations, only a positive frame of mind and this has suited me well thus far. Now that I’m one week into this experience I think I’d like to describe it like this: it’s like a first dog only better. It’s just as demanding physically (maybe even more so since I’ve aged 6 years) and mentally and emotions run high, too. There is, however, a level of adjustment unique to already having been a handler. The struggle with the equipment, while still a little awkward, isn’t as intimidating. The husbandry part is familiar and grooming and the dog-centric knowledge is comforting, too. The movements are like an ever so familiar dance and it feels good when it happens so quickly, unlike the first time. Knowing what to do helps the transition.


There is a woman in our class that is here for her first dog at an age when most folks wouldn’t even consider it; I’ve grown a fondness for her. She is experiencing much of what I did the first time. The doubts, tears and questioning if she’ll ever get how to turn, pivot and learn all the skills. It is overwhelming at first — that is a fact. I keep saying  to her that I want to be the first one to congratulate her on graduation and that her doubts are normal and healthy. If she wants it badly enough, she will do it and be there with us on graduation day. Today I watched her and the instructor practice her turns and I recalled how I had to do that, too. I assured her, later, after dinner, that her goals of increasing her independence and working on being more active are worthwhile and achievable. She will have a loyal and steady partner at her side to work with her and that is the best part of it, doing it together.







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og Blogumentary part 3

| Filed under Guide dogs writing


First Solo Trip

Morning Obedience was good; my new partner responded well with only a few blips, which were amusing and not at all frustrating. It helps that the instructor has a great sense of humor and that the dog is a big goofball.


So, after this routine, we pack up, put on the harness and drive to downtown White Plains for training walks. It didn’t help that I woke up with a migraine and it took half the morning and some powerful medication to keep it at a level where I could work my dog. I did it, though, and the morning walk went as planned with the training lead and the afternoon walk went even better without the training lead. I like this dog’s pace, pull, and size. It felt wonderful to be out and walking again in a way that makes me feel like I’m flying, like I can see again. Altruistic, perhaps but this is how I feel when my dog is doing its job and we are in sync. We did have a few challenges other than the usual distractions but I think they will resolve themselves once we figure one another out. I can say he is more strong-willed than Verona. He is a different dog, after all.


As the bonding process progresses and I give over the trust and affection to him, he, too, is learning to accept me. How long this will take and the exact point in which I will know can’t be predicted but I will do my best to do everything in my power to encourage it.


Tonight we got to know one another a little better by some grooming time. He seemed to like it and became very happy when I brushed him and when we were done; he seemed to say, okay, you passed this test, too.


Tomorrow, more walks and more positive reinforcement like treats and praise, and also corrections. Each day the ratio of corrections and praise will shift and corrections will lessen until they are only necessary when there is an extreme circumstance occurring. An example would be, let’s say, a dog distraction or a temptation of food on the floor, etc. Practicing daily obedience will help reinforce positive outcomes, too.


The rest of the week will build the trust and routine and help us and the other students in class create a successful human/dog relationship. Not sure if it is an exact science but it doesn’t matter as long as I am getting the opportunity to work toward getting to know my dog better.


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Dog Day and wiggly Yellow Labradors

Tuesday early morning:

Okay, folks, before I announce my new partner, I want to describe a little bit more about things during guide dog class. The first thing I’d like to say is that life here for the next ten days for me and the other students in residence is structured. We get up at 6 a.m.; meet the instructors for morning obedience practice and other instruction depending on the day. Prior to getting our dogs, we learned about the equipment and practiced with simulated dogs either acted out by the instructors or on a stuffed, life-sized dog. Today, for instance, we got up, met for instruction, then drove to White Plains, took one training walk, half with the instructor being the dog, then an actual dog taking us back to the training lounge. This is called the Juno walk; when the instructors pretend to be the dog and the test drive when the actual dog takes you along a short route. I huffed and puffed up the hill but even though I had to stop twice, it felt great to be moving again.


So, tomorrow morning I will know if the dog I met will be my buddy. There could be a change or the dog could be matched with me. I won’t know until Tuesday afternoon. So, come the morning my life will change and a dog will be meeting me. Will it be the wiggly, yellow, male Labrador who walked me up that hill and back to the lounge? Only time will tell.


Tuesday Afternoon

Yes, folks, it’s a male yellow Labrador. I can’t reveal his name to promote bonding and until we know for sure the match is a solid one. He is larger than Verona, different as cheese and chalk and that’s totally fine, I wanted that. A dog too similar would confuse me more, lol. Right now he’s lying down at my feet and hasn’t whined for his trainer in at least 20 minutes. This is good. I am growing a fondness for him already.   Our first training walk along a quiet street on campus was great and I can’t wait until my stamina returns and we can walk until our hearts’ content. Verona was so slow, I hadn’t realized I was walking at a snail’s pace until now.


Stay tuned for more adventures, when I may possibly reveal Mr. Wiggley’s real name. Until then, woof!




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New Dog Bllogumentary: part one

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What to bring to guide dog school

I’m making the list, checking it twice. I’ve stuffed enough underwear and socks and clothes in my suit case for ten days. I might add a bottle or two of wine and the essentials, along with my laptop and mobile devices. I didn’t want to train in the cold weather again, but, even though it is March, I should be okay. I’ve packed two pairs of boots and will hope for the best. My breathing should be okay since it most likely won’t fall below 20 or so and I have extra medication just in case. At least it’s not January, like the last time. I think I was chapped in places I thought couldn’t get chapped.


xcSo, I will be ready and not ready.

Guiding Eyes will pick me up on Sunday. It’s only a 40 minute ride from my home. I’ll settle into my room, familiar with the facility — since being on the graduate council, I’ve stayed here a few times since training the first time.


I will bring my hope for a good match; I will bring all that I have learned in the six years since being handed my first dog. Perhaps the most important part of this blog is to say what I am not bringing. I am not bringing my dog. I’ll take back her harness empty. I will cry, I will not want to leave Verona and I will doubt that I’m doing the right thing. I am told this is normal and that I will do just fine and be okay once I begin with another dog.

So, constant reader, come with me on my second dog journey and read what this successor dog thing is all about. I’m not quite sure how and why it seems to work, but I am willing to trust in my instructors, and most importantly, my new dog.


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