Thought Wheel

Ann Chiappetta

Out And About With Verona

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Mystic with Verona
June 27-July 1, 2011

Counselor’s training began on Monday at 1:30 pm. Before that, Jerry and April helped me tour the hotel. As we went to and from Our room, Verona would stop at a door to another room that wasn’t ours. If we were going out, she’d stop and look at the door on the left, if we were coming back, she would stop and indicate the door on the right. She found our door every time, though. Silly dog. She only made a few minor errors. One was due to a dog distraction when the PTSD service dog folks were waiting to go inside the meeting room and we were coming out of the meeting room. She was supposed to go to the bathroom, and she blew by it and took me right to the dogs instead. We also had a clearance error but it was due to an overcrowded sidewalk in downtown Mystic. The pedestrian drawbridge barrier was in place at chest level jutting out perpendicular to the side walk, and it was not painted orange or striped or in a place that would allow folks to pass it on the safe side of the sidewalk. Ro didn’t see it and it caught me on the right boob. I corrected her and reworked it but the crowd was blocking us and I’m not sure if she even understood what the error was.

We did get to go to the beach and she sat beside me off-harness and let folks pet her.She also got me up at 4:30 a.m. every morning. After a long day of counseling training sessions, she’s ready to eat dinner and take a nap on the bed. One day the cleaning staff put her sheepy plush toy up on the desk, and I asked her where it was, and she kept putting her head on my lap, pushing my hand up. Then she stepped up onto the chair between my legs, and pushed my hand over and guess what? I found the sheepy. Rick Adare, a Veteran speaking on behalf of the PTSD service dog
program maintained by East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD), said that there isn’t an adequate way to describe how his dog, a black lab named Baskin, enhances his life, but he did say that with his dog by his side, he is doing things he would never do without her. Like going to a crowded mall, or into a busy city atmosphere. I identified with him, as I felt isolated when I was a cane user, and now it doesn’t matter if I’m going into a crowded mall or a quiet path in a park. Verona takes charge and keeps me safe, and has my back, just like Baskin does for Rick. Only a person who has experienced being trained with a working dog, whether it is a K-9 dog, alert dog, a psychiatric service dog, or a guide dog has opened himself to allowing the dog to handle his vulnerability along with the disability. This is profound and the general public needs to be educated on this fact along with the other FAQs, like the responsibilities and daily activities of working with a service dog. I was asked by the Disabled Veteran’s working Group to come and Speak to them about blindness. We had much in common, and I also impressed upon them that while I don’t share their veteran experience I can meet them in the disability experience. It was an enriching dialogue and I hope to keep in touch with them.

Verona is happy to be home and see our family. Next week it’s Reno, Nevada, and after that, who knows?

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