Sunday, November 30, 2008

Counting Down The Doggie Days of Winter

Counting Down … Guide Dog School on January 5, 2009

It’s December 1, 2008, and I’m counting the days until I report to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It’s all I can talk about, all I want to think about, and all I can concentrate on lately. I wonder what my dog’s name will be, what training obstacles we will have, and what the other folks training at GEB will be like.
I can’t wait to meet Bev and Becky, and the trainers. I wonder how big our class will be and what the food will be like. I’m also a little nervous about how I’ll get along even though I’m not a Braille reader yet and if the training materials will be accessible to me.

My employer has been generous and cooperative in terms of my time off and returning to work. Not having to worry about the potential repercussions of leaving for a month lowers my overall worry so I can concentrate on the upcoming challenges.

As for our family, I am concerned about how we will all get along once we come back home, too. I’ve only been away from my husband and kids for a few weeks at a time and I find myself saying prayers that they will get on fine without me. I just have to believe it or my anxiety about leaving for a month will be overwhelming. Keeping this in mind, I remind everyone in the household that they will be doing the dishes, laundry, and cleaning. But I worry most about how our family dog will adjust to my absence.

Since her addition to our household, she and I have bonded and although I’ve tried to get my husband to take over her feeding and morning walks, I am still the one who gets up and does it.
I fear the the sudden change after I leave will depress her, but I have to believe that all will work out so I can do what I need to do. I’ll miss the dog as much as the kids and my husband. Maybe more.
Then there is my 13 year old daughter. She always seems to have the most trouble when I go away and I hope that this time will be different. This will be a good test for both of us in terms of separation and her determination to take good care of herself while I’m gone. I know she is very capable and strong, but I also know how much we will miss one another.

As for preparations, being mindful of the capricious January weather, I’ve purchased insulated/water resistant boots, a storm coat, gloves, and hat. I also bought a set of long underwear, just in case the wind chill is really bad on training walks. I’ve been reading the GEB’s participant manual, too, and have spoken with some folks who have graduated. The

next month will probably crawl.

So, on to the holiday season, and to waiting the day my life will change for the better when I finally meet my new partner.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Removal by Annie C


I am unfettered
Glass and wire left behind

I am the sightless
I denounce frames and lenses
Like false gods

I am a disiple
fear replaced by loss understood

I am the naked prophet
after prolonged oppression

I am baptized by blindness

dipped into the water
Fully submerged
The glasses wash away
Swept aside in the river’s current
Sins relinquished.

Like a prophet, I convert
Yet I rise -- a Lazarus
A Believer.

I wonder
If my eyes weren’t taken
would I still be the same?


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The first of my blindness poems

I wrote this one last year after the retinal specialist told me the macula in both eyes was in an adbanced stage of atrpphy and it was only a matter of time before I'd lose what is left of my vision.

The purpose of expressing my personal expereince is twofold: for my own benefit and to help other folks going through something similar. So, if you know someone who might find some good from these words, please pass it on.

BY Ann Chiappetta

Old ways are replaced
like the beasts Sent to slaughter
after the invention of combustion engines.

The beloved written word
the character patterns that enthralled Have gone.
Printing press and paperback are inaccessible
thoughThe desire to hold and smell books
Put the paper close to an ear and thumb the thickness
Delight in the nose-tingling swish of air
pulpy and acridRemains
akin to a craving.
The act itself
The devouring of pages
is lost to macular degeneration
physical contact thwarted by
Blurred vision, sensory affliction
The death of an eye

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Search So Far

The Search for a new Partner

The definition of intelligent disobedience, in guide dog terms, is when a dog acts to protect a handler by disobeying a direct command to avoid an obstacle. This action is the alpha and omega of guide work, the ultimate test for a service animal. It is a wonder to witness, and, I suppose, even more gratifying to experience as the human part of a guide dog team.

I’m hoping to be part of one of these teams, to be able to trust my dog implicitly and without reserve. My first attempt, however, was disappointing and it’s taken years to develop the courage to try again. The truth was that I didn’t agree with the reason behind the rejection, and it rankled me to such an extent, I gave up trying. According to the evaluator, I was still too “vision dependant; imagine hearing that, after experiencing two years of declining sight, including a second round of rehab services, not to mention coping with progressive vision loss for fifteen years.

The shock of it took months to overcome and I cried every time I thought about it. As difficult as it was to take no for an answer, to process that the school didn’t feel I was an appropriate candidate, eventually my resolve returned and I decided to try again. First, I got an examination by a retinal specialist/ophthalmologist. Who evaluated my remaining vision, informing me less than five percent of it was left? After hearing this, I made up my mind to take another shot at applying for a dog. The difference was that this time I wasn’t applying without preparation. Not wanting to repeat my earlier experience, I enrolled in a new correspondence course through the Hadley School for the Blind called “Guide Dogs”. The course consisted of five lessons; a course book and a supplemental book containing vignettes about folks and their dogs. The course promised that by the time I was done, I’d know for sure if a guide dog was for me. It also prepared me for the application process, encouraging a potential handler to apply to at least three schools simultaneously and research them before asking for an application. I learned many valuable things about being part of a guide dog team through corresponding with the course instructor. She informed me that based on my course work, not only am I ready to bond with a guide dog but also my remaining vision shouldn’t present a barrier to being accepted into a school. It was my remaining vision that caused the first school to pass me over. I told her about my experience and fear of another rejection. The instructor encouraged me to find schools that trained partially sighted handlers. She informed me that I would have to agree to be blindfolded in order to foster the trust between myself and a dog. Trust is paramount to a successful team. I’d experienced this in my first home assessment. The evaluator blindfolded me and led me a few blocks. I remember thinking how wonderful it felt to finally be free, to finally relax while walking. The instructor also encouraged me to reach out to other partially-sighted handlers and I had the perfect resource for connecting with these folks. Newsreel is a monthly audio newsletter serving the blind across the US and Canada. As a subscriber, I can record my comments, requests, and helpful hints to be included in the audio tape. I sent in my request asking to hear from other folks who trained while still having some vision. I wasn’t disappointed. I received calls from folks all over the United States, all of whom had guide dogs and trained with some remaining sight. In fact, when one woman found out I was close to the school in San Rafael California, she insisted I go visit it and apply. What the heck, I said, I was already on vacation. Why not?Mom and I arrived at the school and spent about a half-hour with the admissions counselor, then took the tour. It was wonderful. The best part was finding out that being partially sighted was not a barrier to working with a guide dog. The admissions counselor did say, however, that partially sighted trainees, for the most part, did have to work harder to elicit the trust between themselves and their dog. To counteract this, the trainer would advise me to train with dark glasses to occlude my remaining sight. This would eliminate the obstacle of my vision getting in the way of allowing a dog to work and trust to be established. I’m ready for that, I said, assuring her that even my remaining sight was no longer reliable and I was ready to give it a rest. She must have thought so, too, because she gave me an application. The next six months were the most challenging part of opting to apply for a dog guide. It’s a collaboration of my information being printed on applications, of asking friends, agencies, and doctors to fill out and return forms, of hoping that when I finally do send the application, there isn’t a snag to slow it down. Soon, I tell myself, I’ll have at least one school offering to take me. But I’m still anxious that the sight I have left will be a problem. Not all impaired folks can travel confidently with a cane. I’m one of those folks. When I go out to unfamiliar places, every inch of my being is on alert and when I’m done, I am exhausted. A dog guide would help dispel some of that hyper-vigilance. I could find the bus stop without fearing the path to it. I would be able to navigate the curved paths in the park without straying off course and twisting an ankle. I’d be able to weave in and out of crowds confidently and know I wouldn’t be tapping folks with my cane. Best of all, I’d have a partner committed to helping me live and work as I liked, tuned in to not only my needs but also my moods, I currently own a dog and I honor her devotion by caring for her as best I can. I brush her teeth and coat and try to keep her on the svelte side by reminding my husband and kids not to feed her people food. I know she would love to have another dog in the house, another warm body to share the space near my chair. I’m looking forward to making it happen, too.
Resources: The Hadley School for the Blind 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093 800-323-4238
Newsreel8 East Long Street Suite 420 Columbus OH 43215(614) 469-0700 (888) 723-8737 FAX (614) 469-7077E-mail irwin@newsreelmag.orgWebsite

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Welcome to my new blog

Today was a good day. I relaxed, cooked, got some writing done and brushed about ten pounds of hair off the dog. Jeesh, I wish I could card it and dnit a hat from it. It's a very nice grey color--at least that's what they tell me.

Since our house will be a two-dog abode once again, I've been trying to prepare for the eventuality that there will be way more hair and that means looking for a good vacuum. I think I need a monster like sucker in a small package. Hope I can find one. I wonder if there is something like this already on the market.

Friday, November 7, 2008


My task for today was to begin a new blog. That done, I now can go on and complete the other mundane things for today, like shopping, laundry, and (shiver), cleaning.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.