Archives for December 2010

Saying Goodbye

Somehow I know, we’ll meet again
Not sure quite where and I don’t know just when
You’re in my heart so until then
Wanna smile
Wanna cry
Saying goodbye1

I’m not much for chronicling the year just because a new one is on the horizon. Especially since I did something very similar to that for my guide dog’s anniversary. A lot happened in this last year and there is a lot I am expecting for next year, including training with my third guide dog. However, while I am a very big fan of goals, I don’t really subscribe to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Though it could be argued that the last two years I have made a resolution, but I do think that the ideas of self-evaluation and goal-setting shouldn’t merely happen because of a date on the calendar.

All that said, one can’t deny the harmony in timing that the end of year brings with my current situation in retiring Yara. It’s sad and it’s hard and there is a not small part of me that could pass for a temper-tantrum-throwing child that does not want to deal with any of it. However, after struggling so hard to find a permanent home for Yara to live out her post-guide dog career, I am so very pleased with the outcome.

So, where’s my lovely girl moving to? I’ll give you a hint:

The above photos were taken by photographer Jean Hawthorne. And they remain some of my most favorite pictures of Yara. Anyway, for years now she’s expressed her desire to take Yara in as a pet of her very own, but given how often I hear that from various friends and acquaintances alike I can’t say I ever took her seriously. Long story short, she’s been entirely serious and will be welcoming Yara into her household within a few short days. By all accounts it seems like this will be an ideal situation for Yara. But we’re both accepting the possibility it won’t work out and I do have a fallback if that situation does arise. Though, if positive thinking is enough to solidify the outcome, Jean and her family certainly have that covered!

I’m filled with about a thousand different emotions at the moment, but the main one presently is relief. It’s been a nearly all-consuming burden of stress and made a very difficult situation exponentially more so.

Of course, there’s still a lot to be done and a terribly short time to get it all accomplished in. I need to finish getting everything ready for the Hawthornes, which means finishing up writing the necessary letter of information and determining what dog stuff goes with Yara aside from a bag of food and her enzyme supplements.

And honestly, I have to actually come to terms with the fact that this is all really happening. I feel like I’ve been shielding myself from the finality of it all for so long because of the obvious ambiguity that was attached to Yara’s retirement date and new home situation that I can’t quite comprehend the reality of it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like my heart is physically in a vice and I’m rather sure the irritating tension headache I have had for the last week is very much related to this stress. But it all seems so unreal, like I’m trying to figure out the meaning of a dream I’m in and the more I focus on it the less sense it all seems to make.

One thing is for sure, I’m quite a busy me!

  1. Excerpt of “Saying Goodbye” lyrics from The Muppets Take Manhattan.

메리크리스마스!

Best wishes this holiday season and for the new year to you and yours!
2010 holiday card
[Going clockwise from the top the images used in the above card are: Yara and me sitting together by a pile of gift boxes; Yara giving me her “paw;” and, me laying my head on Yara’s, who is resting her chin on a gift box.]

I’d like to say I totally planned to use three images for the holiday card as a commemoration of the wonderful years being partnered with Yara, but it was completely coincidental and had far more too do with the fact that there were just too many beautiful photos to choose just one. It does seem fitting, though, being this was our last card.

The Call

There are many events in life that are momentous. Guide dog users have a few that are unique to handlers; one of which is the call.

That’s right, folks, they have a match for me! As usual I have precious little notice before my January 6th date to begin training. But I’ll give them props this time: when I was called about Yara, it was the day before Thanksgiving and Dave couldn’t remember her name! So, I spent the entire long weekend going out of my mind with curiosity until Megan called the following Monday.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re all dying to hear the details about Guide Dog #3, so I’ll just spill the beans. She’s a two-year-old sable German shepherd.1 She was described as “small and sturdy” so take that however you like, I’m imagining a barrel with dachshund legs, but I think I’m drunk on the giddy.

Oh, and her name is Uschi. Pronounced “yoo-shee.” I don’t quite know how I feel about it. A quick Google search has shown me there is a singer and a model with the name and that it’s origin is Latin, but used most often in German as the pet name for Ursula. This last bit seems oddly fitting given the sparse description I have of her as yet.

Before you ask, I’m still waiting on some details to be finalized regarding Yara’s retirement, but I will have an update posted on her shortly.

EDIT: Thanks to Alan, via Facebook, I have a picture of Uschi from a newspaper article about a Fidelco “Watch Me Grow” event:

Uschi at a Fidelco "Watch Me Grow" event, lying on the floor in harness

  1. Jason felt the need to add the last bit, so I’m doing the same.

Three Years

Time is a strange thing. There are moments when it seems like three years has gone by in a blink of an eye and yet others when I feel it was more like 300. And to complicate matters more it always seems like it’s nonexistent when you need it most, which certainly is a contributing factor to this anniversary post going up more than two weeks late. Not that it’s the first time; I was a day late for our first year.

Portrait of me and Yara on a white background; Yara is standing beside me with my arms wrapped under her bellyThis last year has been a mixture of good and bad for us as a working team. Yara’s had several relapses with her EPI, another bought of SIBO, and developed severe allergies, but also had the most lengthy times of stability in her health, too. And it was this ongoing struggle that ultimately led to the decision to retire her.

It remains one of the single most difficult things I’ve ever done, which is saying a lot because if there’s one thing I’m not known for it’s being decisive. Having no assurance whatsoever of exactly when a new guide dog match will be made, I’ve spent the last six months trying not dwell on the less pleasant aspects of this. Instead, I’ve done my best to celebrate the time we have left. We had a round of professional photos taken at Washington Park. Three times, in fact. Some of which were chosen when Yara was featured at DailyPuppy.com! I even broke down and got a cake to celebrate her birthday in rare form! I’ve also tried to get in some time with all of Yara’s pals one last time, which of course has included photos.

We’ve done a lot of fun things that haven’t had any involvement in my neurotic and roundabout preparations for Yara’s retirement: we went to the Empire State Book Festival, the Tulip Festival, and the Victorian Stroll (which I still intend to finish a post on). All of these were firsts for Yara — and aside from the Tulip Festival, for me as well! We also took a trip to visit Raechel and James, which included attending this year’s Walk for Fidelco and a trip to Mystic Aquarium for my birthday! Speaking of the Fidelco walkathon, we had Jean take some fabulous photos that became our thank you cards for donors.

Headshot of Yara lying in the grassOh, and we also moved! Which actually did fulfill my hope from last year that this year’s anniversary would be at a much less drama-filled abode. Yara now has an entire house to clomp around in.

More recently, we’ve been preparing for the holidays. Yesterday we even went caroling! Of course there is the usual card, which will be sent out tomorrow barring that my fingers can get through the last 30 or so! The house is all decked out and Yara’s matured enough that I’m not constantly finding ornaments strewn about. In fact, so far the only ornament that’s been knocked off the tree has been by me and that was while decorating it. Unlike last year, we actually managed to get to stores to do some shopping without any unfortunate incidents, though, that hasn’t seemed to help me actually get gifts.

Yara and me lying in the grass togetherYara’s been an amazing addition to my life: a phenomenal guide dog and an exceptional companion. Even though the time wasn’t perfect by any means, I wouldn’t trade the experience. Rather, looking back over the last year — and the two before that, I find myself feeling cheated that our time as a team will be so short. There is so much I had planned to do with her by my side, so many things that I am sure she would have enjoyed and even more that I’m intensely curious as to how she would have reacted. I think, for me, the hardest part of letting go is that I didn’t expect it to be so hard. I’ve done the retiring thing before and thought I knew what it entailed and for more reasons than I am able to articulate, this is so very different than before and so much more difficult.

Short as our time has been, I’ll certainly not soon forget how powerful I have found it to be.

Holiday Portraits

And lo there came unto the world a great abundance of adorableness and the world did rejoice for it was awesome. Behold:

And, of course, my favorites of the bunch:

In short: I’m entirely thrilled by the photos. The card was very hard to decide on because I just liked so many of the shots, but I’m very pleased with the end result and hope everyone who’s getting one for the holidays enjoys it.

For now, I’m off to bed.