Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Remembering Verona 2006 – 2020  🦮

| Filed under Guide dogs pets and people Relationships

 

It’s January, a month of memories.  I look back upon those who have died and I also look forward to keeping them close to my heart through recalling the special times we’ve shared together. My Dad, Bob, and his being a neat freak and a talented carpenter and mechanic and lover of nature. I also recall my mother-in-law, Carol and  the way she loved my kids and feeling blessed I survived her erratic  driving and feeling relieved  I did not have to see  the close calls because I am blind. 😓😱 .

 

Although we lost both my Dad and Carol in successive January  dates, both on the sixteenth of the month, I want to also celebrate the life of another family member, my first guide dog.

 

In  January 2009 I met and trained with my first guide dog, Verona and this post is being written and shared to honor her life. I am fortunate to be part of the Guiding Eyes graduate community and because of it I take part in  occasional grief and bereavement  Zoom meetings.  We share how much our dogs mean to us, the bond  of trust and love and how much they mean to us even after they die. I always feel better after one of these meetings because I spent the time with other handlers who understand the lifetime bond developed with these incredible dogs and the indelible  imprint they have upon our hearts.

 

Here is one of my favorite stories about Verona, a sweet sixty lb. black lab. My husband, Jerry, took over her care and handling once I retired her and submitted my application for a successor dog. She was seven years old and  full of energy but she developed  cysts in her eyes and it began effecting her ability to guide me. One day Jerry took her upstate     during turkey hunting season. She was a great field dog and not a bit gun shy. He set up the blind, telling Verona to lay down. He soon shot the turkey and  got out of the blind, saying “Let’s go get it!” and Verona ran out of the blind and ran for the turkey,  grabbing it’s neck.  He asked her to let go and she did but  kept trying to grab it. After he called me and told me the story, I laughed and   between giggles, said, “Well,  you told her to go get it and she’s a lab, what did you expect?”

 

Verona lived a great life, succumbing to old age in February 2020 at age 14.  I could not have had a better first guide dog and  since  walking our first  route together I haven’t  looked back. Thanks, sweet girl for being able to give me back my independence.

If you want to read more about our adventures, pick up my memoir,

Follow Your Dog a Story of Love and Trust .

 

close up of Black lab with snow sprinkled on her nose and head. She is looking at the camera with large, brown inquisitive eyes.

close up of Black lab with snow on her face

One Dog’s Life 🦮 💖

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs writing

Second place winner! this essay will be in the December 2022 issue of the National Federation of the Blind’s  Writer’s Division Literary magazine, Slate and Style.

 

One Dog’s Life

 

2011

 

Verona and my daughter play in the lake for an hour. the funniest thing is the way Verona blows water from her mouth after dropping the stick. It makes a loud, spitting sound that can be heard from the patio.

 

When the assorted waterfowl horde realizes she is visiting, it waddles   in masse from grass to the lake weeds beside the dock. Labrador nose dilates, a front paw lifts, instincts override even an offer of a cookie. for just a little while she is the retriever, the soft-mouthed hunting companion, not a guide dog.

 

Each and every year we have together is a blessing, a time for me to feel unfettered. I try to think back on the way life was before training with Verona but my mind veers from those dark moments and I let them go. We are here, being warmed by the late afternoon sun. We are dog and woman, partners for however long time and fate permit.

2013

Four humans and two dogs fill the little red sedan. I sit in front, along with Mom, who is driving. In the back seat, Music’s furry butt crushes my sister, who, until now has suffered in silence.

“Thank God it’s a short ride,” I hear her mumble from somewhere behind us.

 

We reach our destination, extract ourselves from the little red sedan. Verona’s excitement is palpable. Once inside the gate, loose dogs run up to us, but I make her ignore them and sit until I’m ready. With a word she’s off. We claim a bench in the warm California sun. moments later Verona lopes by us, a pack of dogs giving chase. I listen for the pack to turn back and run past us again, Verona in the lead.

 

California 2013

Pebbles and shells litter the meandering path to the beach. The air resonates with surf and sea birds. I release Verona and she lopes off, nose to the ground

 

Music, my sister’s Golden Retriever, chases Verona into the water. As she turns to give chase, a huge wave crashes down and for a moment she is engulfed, Sucked away by green sea and foam. my heart skips a beat in arrested panic; The wave spits her out onto the beach and she runs to me, weaves in-between my legs and soaks my pants. I look like incontinence has gotten the best of me.  Thereafter, Verona avoids the waves and prefers a safer splash in the wet sand and tidal pools instead.

 

It’s important that Verona has the opportunity to be a dog; so much responsibility is put upon her when waring the harness, it seems that this is the best way to let her know.   As she digs a hole in the sand and flops down to dry off, my heart is content because she is doing just what she’s supposed to be doing, living a dog’s life.

close up of Black lab with snow sprinkled on her nose and head. She is looking at the camera with large, brown inquisitive eyes.

close up of Black lab with snow on her face

 

 

 

Stepping In It 💩

| Filed under Guide dogs Poem

I thought I’d share a slice of life with our best friends.

Poo on a shoe

By Ann Chiappetta

 

 

The day began in good faith and plan

Rising at six a.m.

Busy with brewing dark roast

coffee aroma disguising the odiferous

Tang of poo

Deposited   along my route to the office

Unknowingly I cam across it

And tracked the goop hither and yon

And blithely carried on

 

It was the second time that did it

My sneaker stepped in the middle

Of the big pile with a   squelch

And  , slip and slide

Then the smell arrived.

 

Dog shit on my best Merrills

And stuck in this muck

What was I going to do?

I, of course yelled down the hall for my husband

And as we coordinated the clean-up

With gagging and nose plugs

He said,

“Honey, why did it have to be you?”

Dedicated to the family dogs, Bailey and May

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann M. Chiappetta, M.S.

Making Meaningful ConnectionsThrough Media

914.393.6605 USA

Anniecms64@gmail.com

All things Annie: www.annchiappetta.com

 

 

Reactions like this are Real

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships

We walked into the holiday party. I was already anticipating a good time with friends after the imposed bouts of social isolation as a result of Covid.

 

We were greeted and directed to our table by a pleasant staff person. Bailey, my guide dog, was excited to see our good friends and greeted one of them. I pulled out my chair, settled my coat and bag and asked Bailey to lay down under the table when the two women to my right became hysterical upon noticing him.

“I can’t stay here, the dog will eat all my food,” and “That dog is going to bite me,” and “I can’t relax with that dog so close,”.

My heart sunk and I put on the blank face.  The face that tries to hide the disappointment and frustration brought on by ignorance and fear of my guide dog by others.

 

My friend tells them the dog won’t do that, it’s trained. Still they go on and I feel the anxiety build. Will I have to leave? I do my best to ignore them, but one person continued to go on about “that dog, will bite me,” “I can’t stay here with that dog,”, etc.

I grope for my water glass and wait it out.

I don’t want to be here, don’t want to eat, I feel like these people just stole it all from me.  I almost got up to leave, was close to tears but I refused to let them see me cry. I had a right to be there, too, and because I am blind, my guide dog did, too.

 

a person sitting on the other side of our table spoke to the person who was now almost yelling about “that dog,” — and quieted them.   It took me some time to refocus on my meal and my friends. My guide dog curled up for a nap under the table.

The rest of the afternoon was fun thanks to a stranger who knew how to handle another stranger’s fear of dogs.

 

The thing is even though I stayed quiet, I was angry. Being subjected to reactions like this, while infrequent, still happen and still affect me in a powerful way. I felt confused and hurt by their reactions.    I hope they will remember how “that woman with the dog,” kept her cool and shared a meal. I hope they will one day understand how much it cost me personally to shelf the feelings and get past their outburst.

Annie with pink mask and Bailey close up

Ann and Bailey on bench: Both looking straight on

 

 

Artificial Divide Anthology

| Filed under blindness Fiction Guide dogs

Hi readers, check out a new #OwnVoice anthology by authors with visual impairment, the first anthology to include one of my short stories plus over twelve other authors. Read the description and you will understand why it’s a pivotal collection. Thanks to Robert Kingett and Randy Lacey for making it possible, along with Renaissance Press.

I hope you and your friends and colleagues support it by pre-ordering the collection. Thanks for your support, we cannot be a success without readers like you.

Release date is September 15, 2021, order now, why wait?

Artificial Divide Anthology by Renaissance Press

 

Step into a world of rogue screen readers, Braille in fantasy worlds, a friend meeting an acquaintance after several years, and more.

This #OwnVoices anthology features fiction by Blind and visually impaired authors showing readers how they thrive, hurt, get revenge, outsmart bullies, or go on epic adventures. Artificial Divide is an own-voices story collection that captures the many layers of Blindness and, for once, puts visually impaired protagonists in the driver’s seat, letting us glimpse their lives.

When we think about it, we’re not really divided. Stories by Eunice Cooper-Matchett, Anita Haas, Rebecca Blaevoet, Tessa Soderberg, Laurie Alice Eakes, Melissa Yuan, Innes – Jamieson Wolf, Ben Fulton, Felix Imonti, – Niki White, M.

Leona Godin, Ann Chiappetta, Lawrence Gunther, Heather Meares, and Jameyanne Fuller. Artificial Divide book cover, featuring bold white letters on a black background. A rolling cane tip slashes through the title diagonally, from the top left to the bottom right. Each I has a round cane tip replacing the dot

 

Links for preordering the paperback, eBook and Audio formats

https://tinyurl.com/b8mk6wxb

 

https://tinyurl.com/s2tz367e

 

Acrostic Poem for Guiding Eyes

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem writing

Hello all-

It’s always a pleasure to put my writing and performing skills to good use, like when helping out Guiding Eyes for the Blind www.guidingeyes.org . Here’s  something I wrote to help them out.

Hi my name is Ann Chiappetta and I am a Guiding Eyes graduate.

I’d like to share what Guiding Eyes means to me

In the form of an acrostic poem.

Guide dog mobility instructors who are the best in the business

Unparalleled   and internationally recognized brood and stud program

Increased independence

Doggone bestest puppy program

Excellent follow up services for graduates and their dogs

 

Developing programs for athletes

, active older adults, and people with additional disabilities

Organization who believes in the potential of it’s clients

Graduates like me who

are recipients of

confident, capable  and loving canine partners.

Thanks for listening.

Click here for the audio:

 

 

 

 

A Match in March

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs

 

This post is for my best friend and buddy, Bailey. He’s full of heart and  has cream colored fur. He’s got a big head and beautiful brown eyes. People say his face is puppy like and his big brown nose and ears make him look both regal and goofy depending on the situation. He is a 75 lb. yellow lab from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. His first family and puppy raiser are from Maine. He loves to swim and play.

 

He loves my hubby and daughter and shares our home with another dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Last night the cat curled up beside him, it’s paw on his back. 🐾

He’s kept me safe and guided me through so much in life and has been there during some of the darkest moments of it.

 

The unconditional regard of a dog for it’s partner is felt and expressed through the ebb and flow of life and I will do my best not to take this for granted because it is a gift to be honored, cherished and earned.

Here’s to 6 years together, Bailey.

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. yellow lab Bailey in our livingroom

 

 

Celebrating National Guide Dog Month

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem writing

Hi all,
Below is a link to the ACB Voices blog. My audio and text of the poem titled “Verona” was featured today in celebration of National Guide Dog Month. Please visit and share the post with other guide and service dog handlers, friends, family and dog lovers.
Hi Annie, Thank you so much for submitting this poem, it is beautiful and the audio is such a nice touch. We posted this to the ACB Voices blog, which you can access through this link: Vinterviewveronaacbvoiceseronaacbvoices

Black lab with snow sprinkled on the nose

Black lab Verona with snow on her nose

Home is Where the Bark is

| Filed under Guide dogs Relationships

Sometimes one of the dogs does something that is funny and openly undignified., at least that is how we humans view it. We love them for living in the moment and finding opportunity to fulfill their doggy drive for affection, comfort, and sustenance. Below is a photo of yellow lab Bailey foregoing his training, and his timing is perfect.
PD: Bailey sitting on the bed behind Annie, who is also sitting on the bed eating a yogurt. Bailey’s head is on her shoulder, staring fixedly at the yogurt.
This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.

Over the Rainbow Bridge

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs

Verona Chiappetta

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Verona and I on a bench outside


November 24, 2006 – May 31, 2020
Guiding Eyes 2V406
Beloved pet and retired guide dog, black Labrador retriever, Verona, died today of natural causes and expired peacefully with compassion and care with the assistance of a veterinarian, surrounded by her loved ones.
Known as Happy Pants to the Guiding Eyes staff instructors during training, Verona has forever touched the lives of her puppy raiser family, her handler and family and countless others.

Verona worked as a guide dog and as a therapy dog for trauma patients. After retiring from being a guide dog, she helped children read through a program for the Good Dog Foundation.

Verona’s favorite pastime was watching the waterfowl on Greenwood Lake and walking in the woods. She loved cats and other small animals.

We will miss her soft, velvet ears, gentle kisses, and good nature. Thank-you, sweet girl for being the best canine ambassador, for helping Jerry hunt the turkey and keep him company upstate. Most of all, thank-you for helping me learn to fly.

Over the Rainbow Bridge

There is a place of rainbow dreams, of lush green grass, and silver streams. It brings me comfort to know you’re there, playfully romping without a care. Always happy, the freedom to roam, peaceful, joyful in your new home. You never criticize, you never judge, you were always there for me to love. Though you live on in my heart I know, it’s just so hard to let you go! I know someday we’ll meet again, you’ll run to greet me, my best friend. Together forever we’ll finally be, over the rainbow, just you and me…
Verona's face with snow on her nose