When I began this challenge, I told myself that I wouldn’t discuss Covid-19 and its effects on me or the impact that it has made around the world. I like to dwell more on the positive, but I also realize that since this is my blog, it is important to me that I am honest and authentic. With that said, please take care of you. If you don’t want to read about this, don’t worry. I’ll probably have something a little lighter tomorrow. Continue reading “UBC Day 2: Standing By, All Hands on Deck”
It’s that time again. The time for the Ultimate Blog Challenge that comes around every quarter. In this challenge, my goal is to put up a blog post every day through April 30. I hope I can make it. Continue reading “UBC Day 1: Okay So We’re Doing This and Oh God What Are Words Anyway?”
Book challenges are often the bane of my existence, but then I read a post by Wendy the Super Librarian about the TBR challenge. TBR, or To-Be-Read pile is often a monolithic-sized obstacle that we as readers swear we’ll stop adding to while we continue to buy or add titles, swearing we’ll get to it someday. Between the books that I have in Voice Dream Reader and the Kindle app, I think I have plenty from which to choose.
Continue reading “TBR Challenge: The SEAL’s Second Chance”
What do romance novels and blogging have in common? Both require the use of words to take the reader on a journey. Both are widely read by many, and both need to hook the reader in and not let go until its conclusion. Continue reading “UBC Day 2: Bloggily Ever After”
Challenges fill me with a wild mixture of hope and dread. The hope comes from the idea of starting something new, trying something different. I am not the most competitive person. I don’t like competitions or having to pit myself against someone else. I’d much rather collaborate instead. Continue reading “UBC Day 1: Who Needs a Comfort Zone, anyway?”
I want to take a moment to be very vulnerable and tell a story about last year. I didn’t plan on doing this at all as I have kept pretty quiet about this in some respects, maybe because there is still a small part of me that is ashamed that I hit such a low point.
Today is World Suicide awareness day, a day where different events are held to offer hope, advice, and awareness about this topic. While I was on the bus tonight, I kept mulling over where I was at last year and where I am now. Often, what we hear is that we never knew that a person was considering suicide, or they seemed so happy. Continue reading “World Suicide Prevention Day: Someone stole My Chariot of Fire”
It is very late and I don’t know how I am going to do all of the things that need to be done. Every time I sit down to do something important, I become easily distracted.
Today was relatively easy. Obedience went extremely well with all the toys squeaked, balls thrown, treats tossed, and dogs running about while I gave Treble commands. There was a noticeable difference in her attitude and willingness to follow commands. I felt very good about today’s session.
After breakfast, our final report was read and Treble and I received positive remarks and some things to continue to work on. My instructor was excellent and I learned so much from her. Treble and I were well matched!
We practiced going through airport security. The way that I like to do it, which consequently lines up with the way the school teaches it, is to put the dog on a long leash and go through the metal detector. The dog should be sitting at the entrance of the detector. Then once you are through, call the dog to your side. When they go through, the harness will make the metal detector go off and then said puppy gets the pat down. It works like clockwork, but sometimes TSA employees don’t know the process or may ask to hold your dog. At no time will my dog be outside of my control, which means that no, they don’t get to hold her leash.
Then we practiced getting the dog in the perfect position for being on the airplane. I have always struggled with this, but ideally, if not in the bulkhead section, their butts should be beneath the seat in front of me and their head facing me. I have long legs so it can feel chaotic. I plan on having dog treats for my one-time bribery of Little Miss Trebsie.
We worked on getting in and out of cars. Treble sometimes needs a little boost, but I think the best bet will be for me to remove her harness before getting in to a vehicle, which seems like a pain in the butt, but I’ll do it. The handle is a long one and it’s difficult for long legs and long handle to reside in the same place.
I spent some time doing laundry and packing up half of what I need, but I somehow need to figure out how an eight pound bag of dog food is going to get packed in to my suitcase. I’m trying not to stress out. I’ll try to do a little more packing before I head to bed.
After dinner, we had dog massage training. I already know how to do this, and this is my least favorite part of class. I think it’s a lot to ask to have 12 students and 12 dogs sitting on a floor. Some dogs handle it better than others, but it feels very chaotic. Massage itself is extremely beneficial to dogs, but I really dislike the logistics. This also may have a lot to do with the fact that my 2nd guide dog ran out of the session, leading eleven other dogs to short lived freedom, but who’s asking anyway? It was about eight years ago but it definitely colored my experience.
Tomorrow is graduation and that is exciting. The culmination of hard work will pay off. We got our going home packets that included a whole lot of information, including Treble’s puppy raiser. I really hope she is able to come to the graduation. I want to meet her and have a great conversation with her. I want to profusely thank her for raising and then returning such a beautiful, vibrant, amazing, incredible, sassy, stubborn, cuddly, focused, sweet guide dog. I hope that she is extremely proud of herself.
before I close, I want to reiterate that this experience has been amazing. Being able to share the good and bad moments has helped me put so much in to perspective.
I want to make it very clear that this experience is solely my own. I cannot speak for anyone else. There are so many experiences that can happen when one goes to guide dog school. Sometimes, people go home without a dog because it just didn’t work out. Sometimes, the first match doesn’t work during week one and there needs to be a dog switch. I have never had that happen, but it can take place. I have never participated in the Action program, which is a program that has someone in class for two weeks and then receive home training. I have never home trained with a dog before, and so that experience would be very different. I have only ever attended guide dog schools, rather than owner train a dog. I have attended two guide dog schools in my life, but there are others whose philosophies and training methods would mean that the outcome would reshape the experience in a new way. People often think that one size fits all, when it comes to getting a guide dog but that is not the case.
I can only speak for me, my experiences, and what I have learned. I am not perfect, but this partnership is going to be sound. I can feel it.
Breakfast: bacon and cheese sandwich
Lunch: Grilled Cheese sandwich
Dinner: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and delicious red velvet cookies that one of my classmates made. I ate some of the batter and I’m still here! You can’t take this raw cookie dough away from me!
This morning’s obedience session was like trying to make it past the mini-boss before getting to fight the big boss on challenge mode.
Treats were flying, Chestnut the black lab of distraction was running around, and someone tossed a ball right at Treble while I was giving her commands. Yet, she was expected to do all that I asked of her quickly. I gave her lots of treats and tons of praise.
After breakfast, we headed to PetSmart so that they could get practice guiding and being heeled inside of the store. Now, I personally don’t like to go to pet stores with the expectation of my guide dog guiding me around. To me, it feels like someone giving me an Amazon gift card, setting me loose on the site, and telling me not to buy books. It would be a tall order. I can only speak for myself, though, and if I want to stop at a pet store for something before heading home then there is that expectation. I typically like to hang out in the front and ask someone to get what I need, though.
I left the school without my purse, so no toys for Treble. One of my classmates came back with a shopping cart full of toys, food, and a couple of dog beds. I made certain to give Treble plenty of praise though because the guilt was strong.
I have ordered a dog bed for her for work, one for home, a crate, and a couple of toys. I have to make it up to my girl, especially after I scared us both by accidentally closing the door on her paw last night. The squeal of pain that reverberated down the hall is nothing I ever want to hear again.
After lunch, our supervisor set up the nature path with bicycles so that Treble could navigate around them. This was to simulate the lack of courtesy that many who ride bikes from bike share companies display by leaving them everywhere, parked haphazardly, sometimes lying on their side, or in a huge cluster of chaos and inconvenience for pedestrians.
Treble did a great job. The supervisor also rode her bike, cutting Treble off to see what she would do. Treble was having none of it and apparently was giving her some dirty looks. My girl has plenty of personality.
We said goodbye to one of our classmates today who had to leave early due to circumstances beyond his control. I’m sad that he won’t be at graduation, but I’m so glad to have met him. I will miss his sense of humor and wit.
Tonight is pretty quiet. I hear squeaky toys in the other room and treble keeps running to the door of our room and whining, so I’m going to take her down for a vigorous play session. Three more sleeps and I’ll be heading home!
Breakfast: Pancakes and bacon
Lunch: chicken strips and fries
Dinner: Ravioli and bread pudding
Today was the big day where we use all that we have learned and set our sights on Manhattan. It is said that if we can navigate Manhattan as a team, then we can do anything.
I am not really a city girl. Seattle can be busy, of course, but I don’t associate that level of busyness to say, a city like Manhattan. There are so many sights, sounds, and scents. Everything that we have been doing has culminated in to this moment of experiential learning where we get to find out what we can do as a team.
Spoiler alert: It’s all the things our instructors have been telling us all along!
I was in the group that went to Manhattan this morning on the train. my instructor was working with another student, so I got to work with someone that I did not know. She was really wonderful and I enjoyed her. She has such a great sense of humor and helped me feel comfortable. I wasn’t feeling anxious, really, except that subways really freak me out and I was a little worried about being overwhelmed.
We took the subway, which was packed. Treble lay at my feet, her chin resting on one foot. The ride was nice and she cleared me of the doors perfectly.
Let me tell you about this rock star and our walking portion of the route. This dog knows how to move around pedestrians. People weren’t paying attention to us. Often, they were on their phones or not looking at us and Treble walked around them. She walked on narrow sidewalks with delivery trucks that were unloading. Cafe tables blocked our path. Sidewalks were often very narrow and of course, there were throngs of people.
There were also a *lot* of dogs, and this little girl can be very dog distracted. I’m learning to figure her out, though, and find what is best in refocusing her. sometimes, I can find myself correcting her several times and then realizing that I need to change tactics. In the moment, it feels frustrating, but the guest instructor reminded me that I was working with Treble using a lot of consistency and that I always seemed to know what to do. This made me feel very good about my dog handling skills.
Her curb approaches are fabulous. Her crossings are wonderful. during one such crossing, a van blocked the middle of the street and there was construction happening as well. She had to take me all the way to the left, behind the van, and then back to the right. She was flawless.
We rocked the shit out of Manhattan! There are probably a lot of obstacles that I don’t even know about, but she really worked very hard. We both did, and I am so proud of us. This girl is solid, through and through.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we headed back to campus. We had equipment sales, which I opted not to buy anything at this time.
I chatted with classmates tonight and am starting to turn my thoughts toward packing, home, and acclimating Treble. We’re about to start a new journey, but right now? I am not worried about anything. We handled Manhattan, and thus, we can do anything.
Breakfast: Toast and strawberry jam
Lunch: brown sugar wings and fries
Dinner: Cobb salad where I opted to take out all that makes it a cobb. Also a red velvet bar wrapped in white chocolate that a classmate brought for us from a place called Empire Cakes. Wow, that was a whole new, delicious experience!
I should have written this last night but at some point, I hit a wall and was just too tired to even start this post. But, here we are!
After the usual of park, feed, water, and park again which is also known as Meka’s attempted extended nap time, Treble and I dragged ourselves in to obedience where they are pulling out all the stops when it comes to distractions. Treats are thrown, loose dogs are playing, Treble’s favorite toy ball is thrown. It’s a jungle out there!
It is a lot harder to get Treble to focus on me but I’m remaining consistent in my work and once she does focus, she is all in. We often have to redo commands. It’s very hard for her because she knows what she should be doing. These setups are very good for us because it’s great to see how we both work under specific pressure. I always try to be sure that we end things on a good note before making our escape.
In White plains, We did a street route and rode the bus. I have to say that I’m so glad that I have been blogging about this experience because there is written evidence of our beginnings and the confidence that I feel now. Usually, it’s all a big blur, but this has been very helpful.
after lunch, we headed to a train station to practice platform work. When we are on a train platform, the dog walks between us and the edge of the platform. We use shorelining techniques that I mentioned in another post to make certain that we are near the wall. If it is a double platform, we move carefully. There are light rail and commuter trains in my town but I don’t take them often. However, I never know what the future holds and so I am very careful to never say never and to prepare for any contingency.
Finally, we practiced attempting to walk to the edge of the platform so that we could know what our dogs would do. Treble curled in front of me, pushing me backwards and turning to the right. It is such a heady feeling to know that if I am in a situation that is dangerous and I’m giving a command that might put the both of us in jeopardy without my realizing it, Treble knows how to disobey.
After returning to campus, I hung out with my classmates for a good long time.
Our lecture was about access issues, and here is where I’d like to talk to you about some things that guide dog owners face in 2019.
Our school issues an ID with our names and pictures on them to show that Treble is a guide dog. While it is illegal for people to ask to see ID’s in their establishment, some may show them in order to help smooth the way. There is nothing wrong with that, but I am not generally that way. Probably because I tend to lose the ID, but also because it isn’t something that I *have* to show. We can face denial of service in restaurants, business establishments, hotels, ride shares like Uber and Lyft, cabs, sometimes housing, etc. Here we are in the year of 2019 and people still are not aware of what the laws are and what their rights entail. We can, obviously, be asked to leave if our dogs are not in control or if they are unkempt. We also face a lot of people who bring their pets to the store even when the store says that they are not allowed. People will quickly claim that it is their service dog. Yet said dog is often barking, lunging, growling, and generally being awful because their owners allow them to be, yet some store owners won’t get involved because they assume that if they ask that person to leave, they will be sued.
These access issues are frustrating and it can be hard to know what to do when you are in that situation. The first edict of staying calm is very difficult for me. I can stay calm but my anger goes from 0 to 100 when I know that rights are being denied due to lack of knowledge. I don’t mind explaining, but once we get past the threshold of having explained once, that is when I get cranky. I already know it’s going to be a lot harder to get an Uber and Lyft now, even though their policies state that we should not be disallowed rides. But once it happens, it requires reporting the driver, having them cancel the ride, waiting for another ride, hoping that the next driver doesn’t inadvertently cancel, etc. In the meantime, my time is being wasted and I have to expend even more energy. I do not say these things to be a downer, but this is part of making that decision to have a guide dog once again. I know that many of my friends will find this unbelievable, but it totally happens and I haven’t even tiptoed along the tip of that iceberg. Because of my involvement in a consumer organization, I know how to advocate for myself and to be more assertive, but it is easy to talk about it in the abstract and a hell of a lot harder to handle when you are in the moment. Along with outcry comes backlash, as I witnessed when someone recorded a restaurant’s refusal to serve an individual and her friends. It went viral and the comments were horrible. So, I’m not quite looking forward to jumping in to all of that. I am not a pessimist by any means, but I just know how reality worked when I had my last guide dog and I’ve watched my friends still go through it. Still, I wouldn’t change my decision to work with a guide dog for anything.
One of the highlights of my day was having a surprise visit from Lester’s instructor, Woody. It was so awesome to see her and catch up. We talked all through dinner and I got to introduce her to Treble. It was so fantastic. I gave her big hugs and I’m just so thrilled that during my time here, both she and Chrissy have come to see me.
After dinner, I spent a lot of time with my classmates laughing, telling jokes, chatting, and simply enjoying their company.
Breakfast: Toast with strawberry jam and bacon
Lunch: pasta with a vodka sauce? I think that’s what it was. It was delicious, but next time I’d like more vodka and preferably some cranberry juice.
Dinner: Jerk chicken, coconut Rice, and broccoli