Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

Grad Council Weekend

| Filed under writing

Grad Council weekend
April 7-9, 2011, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Yorktown Heights, New York

We left White Plains at 1 pm Thursday afternoon, arriving at Guiding Eyes around 1:45, just in time for lunch, grilled cheese and tomato soup. After dropping off our bags, Ro and I walked over to the Kennel for her annual vet visit. We reunited with Lily, the clinic’s resident kitty, who loves Ro. Unfortunately, Ro’s experience wasn’t routine. The growth on her nose was biopsied, and once her lyme and borditella vaccinations were given, she was subjected to an intense ear cleaning due to ear gunk. Once the vet determined it was yeast, Ro was given an anti-inflammatory injection, ear drops, and we were loaded up with various treatments and sent on our way.
While in our room, Ro apparently decided to christen the bed, so we had to move to another room. How embarrassing. I kept her off the bed and on the tie-down the rest of the night, sensing she was overwhelmed and was just not herself.

After the reception dinner, I let her run off some energy in Alumni hall, then put her back on tie-down in the room and hung out for a while with the other grad council members. When I returned later, she had regurgitated her dinner and the water she drank, and I spent 20 minutes mopping it up.
Friday morning she was fine and we spent the day in meetings, followed by a group run in the planet dog yard and a kennel tour.

Clicker training was at the end of the day, a fun obedience task for Verona and she was smiling as we took part in it. We also were shown the new prototype harness and I must say it is like a Coach product for dogs. Rich, sturdy harness leather and solid brass hardware, updated and classic. I can’t wait to get one.

Friday night we hung out and let the dogs play while we talked and laughed, shared the stuff that makes us a family. At one point, Verona and Tanya, a yellow labbie, went up to the second floor to explore the offices and neither Dick or I could persuade them to come back. We ended up calling them for five minutes until finally, they sauntered back down the stairs, pretending to ignore our anxiety that neither of them came when called.

We all had a good laugh with that. Then another grad was furminating his dog, getting the hair on his beard and face. The instructor who was hanging with us dust busted his face, which sent us all roaring with laughter, as we all know how dog hair gets into everything, including beards. Another grad played hide and seek with his dog.

What really helped me the most was the candid conversations with other blind people, sharing what others cannot unless they, too, live with blindness. We laughed over having “retinal farts” and eye spasms, fearing the dark, sunlight, and new places. We shared our aspirations for our careers, family, and health concerns. It was one of the most enriching times I’ve ever known and I will treasure it for the rest of my life.

The night walk was the most exhilarating part of this for one reason: I am scared of the dark because I’m a total at night. No visual information, just twinkling lights on a terrible, velvet curtain; no top, bottom, left, or right, Darkness in a bubble.

I wouldn’t let anyone else know how scared I was and when an instructor offered to take us out, I jumped at the chance. There was a moment when I thought, are you nuts? The anxiety tightened my chest so much I had to use my rescue inhaler, but I refused to opt out. I had to do this no matter how hard it was;this is the last barrier for me.
I set off with five others, was proud of my little Verona, she guided me without incident and I came back knowing the dark was no longer the fear it had once been.

So, what did grad council do for m I’m not sure I can adequately state what I’m feeling right now, as I write this – but I do know that I am stronger, more confident, better able to accept all that life rolls out for me because I have the companion who helps me make sense of the sighted world.I also now know I also have the comraderie and understanding of others like me.

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