March 19, 2011

The Star Wars marathon is on a temporary hiatus because it seems that somehow my Empire Strikes Back DVD is cracked in two. I suspect this came about during my move last September, but as I haven’t watched any of these films in ages I can’t truly be sure when or how this happened. Anyway, will have to replace the DVD before we can continue on with the watching.

Instead, I have been attempting to rid the house of dog hair. I say attempt because not only is this a futile effort but also because I took a rather lengthy break to watch The Prestige, which I found surprisingly good. I don’t know why I’m always annoyed with myself for liking a Christopher Nolan film, especially since I generally do enjoy his work, but I always am. I think I still have anger from The Dark Knight. I will say that I did find the ending almost a cheat, but having not read the book the film is based on I can’t say if I really can blame Nolan for that. Anyway, it was an interesting film and even if it weren’t there was more than enough eye candy to keep me interested.

Anyway, on a marginally related topic, I saw the features for The Lord of the Rings extended edition Blu-ray were unveiled and I’m quite happy. Obviously, the entirety of the DVD release is there, but also the Costa Botes documentaries are included. These were part of the double theatrical/extended edition release that I staunchly refused to buy since I already owned two copies of the films. But because of that I have never seen these bonus features. So, while I doubt there’s anything that I haven’t really seen and/or read about, it is a nice addition.

Aside from all that things here are quite boring. Uschi’s been on an intermittent food strike; probably I jinxed things when I was said how well she’s been doing. She did pick at her food a bit today, so hopefully she’ll be hungry enough later tonight or tomorrow morning to get back on a normal schedule. The warmer weather has brought with us more opportunities to take some leisurely walks, which I think we’re both rather enjoying. I really want to do more in downtown Schenectady, but the crossings there are set up in such a superbly asinine way. The traffic buttons are usually far removed than the actual crosswalk, so using them is sometimes pointless. However a lot of the lights change very quickly! I’ve been focusing on downtown Albany where the crossings are more routine and I can leave myself to pay attention to other things, like Uschi’s animal distraction or propensity to sniff. All in all, she’s doing a fabulous job for our lack of extensive curb-to-curb work. Along with this better weather comes the option of calling Jay, our Fidelco instructor, and having a “make-up” day of training. I don’t really feel an strong need for it and so have been going back and forth about bothering to call and set it up. We’ll see.

Card and Contract

Fidelco ID card which has an image of Uschi and me to the left of the school's logo and contact information

Arriving in today’s mail, just one day shy of three weeks post-training, was our contract and identification card from Fidelco. Things aren’t official until the six-month mark, though, but it’s nice to have the paperwork in my hand that says Uschi is mine. Unfortunately, I think I dislike this photo even more than my last one. But it is our very first photo together. And, of course, there’s always a slew of professionals to take pretty pictures. In fact, as you might have guessed, my friend Jean took a few last weekend. I’m still waiting on the full images, which is why I haven’t yet shared them all, but they should be here in the next day or three, so I promise you don’t have to wait long.

On a totally different topic, for those of you on Facebook you really need to read this note. Apparently, once again FB has decided to change things without any notification to its user base, so if you don’t have the option set to see everyone’s posts, you can’t see updates from all of your friends. Way to fail, Facebook. *sighs

EDIT: It seems the note has been removed — as well as any FB links to the note. Nonetheless, to fix this option and/or check your settings: go to the main Facebook page, scroll to the very bottom and click “Edit Options.” There at the top is an option to “Show posts from” which should be set to “All of your friends and pages.”

Charlie Kaman

Charlie Kaman kneeling next to two German shepherds

Early this morning Fidelco co-founder, Charles Kaman, passed away.

As Charlie’s health was failing for several years prior to my involvement with Fidelco, I never had the privilege of meeting him. I do know that he was a great inventor and entrepreneur and given his, and his late wife’s, impact on my life through their work, I will forever be indebted to his selflessness. I’m truly bereft of words at this news. All I can say is that I am entirely certain he will be greatly missed.

EDIT: Statement from Kaman Cooporation and Charlie’s obituary.

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.

“Home” Interview

Following up with yesterday’s announcement of Yara’s retirement, I’d first like to express my gratitude to everyone for the thoughtful comments, tweets and emails. I can’t begin to keep up with replying back, so please don’t think I’m ignoring you, but as you can surely imagine there is much going on and I’m a bit spent.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m also reapplying for my next guide dog. Fidelco’s process is pretty simple for graduates and the requirements are quite basic: up-to-date medical forms filled out and submitted and a home interview. I already had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Wednesday and figure I can have that all sorted then.

The home interview took place yesterday. Sort of randomly at that. I’d taken the day off because of Yara’s eating strike and the fact that my eyes were hurting a lot and I figured I was getting a migraine. By mid-morning I’d convinced her to eat her breakfast and decided to run a few errands with my free day. This required a visit to Crossgates Mall and while I was wandering around I got a call from Dave who was in the area and wanted to know if I was able to work in my home interview.

I had been anticipating a call from Fidelco, but this one took me quite by surprise as I was expecting my interview to be with Mary sometime next week. She and I had talked last week and in fact she was the one who finally helped me ultimately decide to retire Yara. I’m quite familiar with her and, as she was planning to be in the area over July 4th weekend, had suggested conducting my home interview. Anyway, I told Dave all that and basically expressed some mild confusion as to what to do. In the end, with Mary’s blessing, we all decided the best course of action was to get this all moving as quickly as possible. Or, at least, everyone else decided this and I mostly babbled in confusion, which seemed to be taken as some form of affirmation.

And so that was how I found myself at Friendly’s with a kiddie straw feeling a might jittery. I don’t know exactly why, since I’m fully behind my decision to retire Yara and equally so with getting a new dog. But something about confirming that and having everything, well, just happen is vastly intimidating in some intangible way. I spent most of the time waiting for Dave trying to distract myself with pestering friends via text message. Mostly I think I was just freaking my waiter out with how jumpy I was. He was pretty sweet about it, especially when I briefly explained what was going on and why my nerves were strung so tight.

Anyway, after waiting for about an hour, Dave finally showed up. Turns out he got turned around in the mall and had a bit of trouble locating Friendly’s. He didn’t waste any time and immediately started asking about my reasons for retiring Yara and the specifics of her health issues. He also inquired about my plans for Yara in the interim and post-retirement. To which I reaffirmed my desire to work her until I have a match, stressing how very much I didn’t want to repeat such a lengthy wait between dogs as I did with Dolly. And I explained my two as-yet-unconfirmed options for Yara’s post-retirement home, noting that I won’t have any specifics for a few months. Yara busied herself with discretely sniffing every inch of him she could reach without moving from her spot camped on my feet. After, we walked back through the mall so Dave could observe us working inside. And then we then drove to my apartment and chatted some more about my needs in a subsequent guide and what would best work for me with training. I gave him the very condensed version of my issues at work with time off as well. Dave seemed fairly confident that a match wouldn’t be available until at least the end of this year, which we both agreed is both good and bad. He’s made many placements in this area during his career and is quite familiar with the harshness of training during winter. And that’s not even factoring in my bad weather curse when it comes to guide dog training! Though, he did say that an alternative to taking off two weeks from work would be to start on a Friday after work and train the full nine days following. Thus I would only have to take off one week. Personally that sounds fine and great, but I’m not exactly thrilled about ending a day of work only to train for ten days and then go right back to work the very next day. We’ll see.

When Dave was through taking notes on all this, we headed back outside into the lovely summer day and walked through my neighborhood to Price Chopper and back. I joked to Dave while we were out that with my luck in terms of guide dog training and weather they’ll most certainly call in December/January when it’s freezing and snowing or next July/August when it’s sweltering and humid because I’ve yet to train in weather as pleasant as yesterday’s. Anyway, once we were back home Dave concluded that “[we] look really good together and seem very much in tune.” He expressed sympathy that it wasn’t going to work, but he very much understood the reasoning behind the decision and fully supported it.

That was basically it. Once my medical forms are submitted my file will be presented to the selection committee and I’ll officially be on the waiting list for my next guide dog.

It’s all a bit much to grasp for me just yet.