The Return of the Pain

If you needed some more time to get your post ready for the 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, you lucked out because I’m still taking submissions. My hope is to get the post up this weekend, but I’m making no promises.

This is because I haven’t written my own post as yet woke up with another scary stiff neck and I can’t really sit at the computer presently, which makes trying to organize the actual ADBC post something of a challenge.

ADBC Extension

I’m not sure exactly what if any specific cause there is for the lack of contributions to the 15th ADBC, but so far I’ve only received three submissions. I admit my own efforts in advertising have fallen a bit by the wayside between the holidays and a suddenly very packed schedule, so I apologize for that lapse.

In any event, I’m going to extend the deadline through to 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 7th. That’s an even two weeks from today!

15 Years (and Then Some) of Learning

Ideally, this would have been posted last June to coincide with the fifteenth anniversary of partnering with my first guide dog. In fact, it was my intention to submit it for the twelfth ADBC. Months later, Brooke even tried to “help” me finally write this in the hopes that I’d participate in the thirteenth ADBC.

Collage of three black-and-white images of Yara, Dolly and Uschi in harness

Even though it seems to have gone by faster than it should have, fifteen years is a long time. Nearly half my life, in fact.

A lot has changed over that decade-and-a-half. I’ve changed a lot over that decade-and-a-half, which seems cliché but is nevertheless the truth. I’ve written about this previously, of course, and later expanded on the profound differences. But one thing I’ve not really stressed before is just how much I’ve learned as a guide dog handler.

The key things are probably the most obvious: I’ve learned about how to work with a guide dog, what a lifestyle change it involves, and the incredible life-changing effect it can provide. My knowledge of dog training has grown in leaps and bounds and evolved along with the differences that dog training has undergone since my time at Guiding Eyes. And with fifteen years experience as a handler, I have a better understanding of my specific needs and desires in a partner.

Over the years I’ve amassed a wealth of information about public access and discrimination due mostly to personal experience. Nothing on a grand scale by any means,1 but I have been more-or-less thrown out of a few stores, had a few issues with some restaurants, and met with a fair amount of discrimination when hunting for an apartment. My favorite incident is a rather hilarious story involving a liquor store that ended with me arguing with a policeman about NYS access laws.

I wasn’t even aware of how self-conscious I was about being blind before I started working with a guide dog. I coped by trying to hide my limitations, which is practically impossible to do when you are accompanied by the most visible sign of blindness. A fact that was actually the argument more than a few family and friends used as to why I shouldn’t get and didn’t need a guide dog, which is amusing to me since that was basically the whole point for me. At the time I wasn’t quite able to explain it or maybe I was just too much of a stubborn teenager and didn’t want to.

What really stands out to me, though, is what I’ve been taught by my girls specifically. I’ve gained firsthand experience in how profound a bond there is between guide dog and handler and along the way gained more than a few insights on life: Dolly with her joie de vivre reminded me to not forget to enjoy myself, even when it was a simple and small thing. Yara’s serious attitude always makes me think of how I can better do the task at hand. And, in her own unique way, Uschi has shown me that it’s important to embrace who you are, quirks and all.

Sometimes it’s hard to separate out the specific things I’ve gained by working with a guide dog, so perhaps that’s why I feel I should have far more to say on the subject. Which only proves the point that all three of my guides have made me acutely aware of how much I have yet to learn and so the lessons continue on.

  1. Arguably, there has been cause for a lawsuit here and there, but none that have been worth it in my personal opinion.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

[UPDATE: The fifteenth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is here!]

Why hello there, gentle readers! As you’ve likely surmised from the title above, the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is now upon us!

Assistance Dog Blog CarnivalAnd once again I’m playing hostess, which means I get the supreme privilege of choosing the theme for this fifteenth1 edition:

Freedom

The one thing I’ve noticed (and experienced) in many past rounds is that whether the theme is broad or narrow there are always those who have trouble finding something to write about. It is my hope to alleviate that in some way so I’ve thought of this topic in a twofold manner.

The first being interpretations of the topic itself, such as:

  • The empowerment and independence gained through partnering with an assistance dog;
  • The boundaries and limits surpassed when raising/training an assistance dog-to-be;
  • A moment when you felt unburdened;
  • An anecdote about hindrances or restraints and/or how these were overcome;
  • A story about your autonomy in working with or training an assistance dog

Alternately, the second aspect of this topic is the actual state of being free. Meaning that you have no restrictions on what you may write about, whether it’s a previous topic from past editions or a piece you’ve thought up on your own.

[Read more…]

  1. This was mistakenly promoted as the “fourteenth” edition due to a rogue past edition, but thankfully the Internet never forgets and it was quickly discovered before it could find a fake passport and wander off into parts unknown.

OHAITHAR!

One of the most counterintuitive things about blogging for me is realizing that people actually come here and read stuff. It never ceases to surprise me that there are people out there that care so much about my little blog and it is incredibly touching when those people take the time to do little things for me like a surprise package containing this adorable little guy:

Small plush Yoshi toy

I thought it was rather appropriate for several reasons. One, this little green dinosaur happens to be the name most people mistakenly use to refer to Uschi.1 And two, since classes are in full swing my personal reading has had to be put on hold, which means my free time has instead been spent playing video games, including some old school Super Mario titles. :-) So, thank you to the generous soul who sent him my way; Yoshi is sitting beside me at my desk where he has the company of a chocobo, a metal slime and more penguins that I care to count. Seriously, guys, I have the best blog readers. <3

Anyway, there was another tactic that’s been lobbied to, uh, get some content going on here and that was by Brooke, who is hosting this round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. Tricky minx that she is, she managed to essentially create an ultimatum by which I can’t not participate in this edition. In any case, the call has gone out for submissions. This topic for this round is “lessons” and posts are due by October 30th. Everyone is welcome (and encouraged!) to participate because having an assistance dog is not a requirement. You can learn more about the ADBC by following the previous link or checking out the tag on this post. Also, please help us out by passing the link along to others!

  1. Even after I correct them!