Yesterday afternoon was spent at Crossings Park with Alice and Josh. In many ways it was a far more pleasant walk than the one a few weeks ago at Washington Park, but it did rain and there were a literal ton of bugs out. Alice mentioned they were so thick in the air it looked like it was snowing, which is a visual I’m glad I wasn’t privy to.

Even with the pesky bugs it was a very lovely walk. We meandered our way through a good portion of the park, wandering down different paths. I’ve been to the park a fair number of times and I still don’t understand how the paths are laid out, which is probably why I’ve managed to see new things every time I’ve gone to this park. But since the goal was merely to get in Alice’s steps we were mostly choosing our direction based on the simple need to walk rather than searching for any specific destination. We actually walked along one path that had various workout stations along it, like a pull-up bar and a bench to do situps on. I don’t know how popular randomly stopping a walk outside to do different workouts is, but I thought it was kind of random.

I was a bit wary of this outing because of how Uschi had been the last time we were at the park, though, I knew at least some of that was because I’d been too hot and exhausted to really keep on her like a good handler. We saw a lot of different animals during our walk and that included quite a few dogs. Uschi was certainly aware of them, especially the little dogs, but she wasn’t too bothered by any of them and was put back on task rather easily. She even walked by an obedience class where several dogs were off leash practicing sit-stays and recalls and gave as much notice to them as they did to her. As we were leaving we ran across a cat, which we assumed belonged to someone in one of the nearby housing developments, and that was definitely an issue for Uschi. I really can’t fault her for that because they’ve been an issue for her for, um, awhile and honestly we don’t often run into random cats in our travels. Plus she’d been tethered to a picnic table while I was trying to take photos of the crane pictured above and she took the opportunity to bark her head off at two dogs walking by with their owner. I wasn’t really near enough to correct her for that and in general I don’t really care if she barks at things when she isn’t working.

Anyway, in what is truly perfect timing, Becky from Fidelco is coming today for a follow-up evaluation. I talked with her yesterday about the intermittent issues I’ve had with the animal distraction and from what she said it seems to be a common issue with Uschi’s litter. I think we’ll probably go for another park walk today, though, I’m going to suggest Central Park since they treat the lake there and it’s basically bug-free. Either way I am glad to get in more work with Uschi on this particular issue.

April 14, 2011

So remember all that stress I’ve been nattering on about lately? Well, it seems to be just fine now.

As if she were channeling a broken down car going to a mechanic, Uschi was totally and completely unfazed by everything today while in Becky’s presence. We even took a quick trip to Josh’s to see if his cats would affect her and she was anything but agitated. If anything, she was normal to the point of wanting to play with them — she even whined at them like she does with Jenn’s cat! I’m relieved, I guess, but I sort of feel like maybe I made a mountain out of a molehill? Or at the very least that everyone else thinks I’m embellishing how odd Uschi has been. I mean, she isn’t even having her random freakouts at home about nothing. I’m not complaining, but it would have been nice to not seem like I was overreacting about the situation. At the very least, I was glad to have a cat encounter under our belt and not have Uschi flip out. And if she had, it was good to have someone there who may have been able to help.

The calming cap is essentially useless, but it did give Becky and me a few good laughs trying to figure out how the contraption works. Uschi minds it to the extent that she’s aware there’s this stupid thing on her face, but she isn’t bothered by it and I think if I left it in reach she’d probably lick it to death like everything else.

I’m planning to take it with me to SWAG, since it’s at Josh’s, and I anticipate the only use it will serve is as an odd conversation piece to distract us from writing. We’re good at the distraction thing. Maybe even more than we are at writing.

Stuff and Nonsense

Yesterday Uschi and I had our first follow-up with our instructor, Jay. His timing, I must say, was rather perfect because we’ve been incredibly busy the last several days. So, Jay accompanied us as we ran around downtown Schenectady checking off my long list of errands. We even stopped by the antique shop that we wandered through during training — wherein I picked up a perfect birthday gift for a certain patriarch. Mostly, we walked and walked and walked. And other than the fact that she decided randomly to defecate whilst in harness and working, Uschi did flawlessly. Not really sure why she ended up having that accident, especially since I’d given her the opportunity to go before we’d left the house and she seemed quite convinced that she only had to tinkle. Oh, well.

We even managed to find a dog to walk by a few times to show Uschi’s improvement with her animal distraction. In fact, other than an initial startled jump at the fact the other dog was barking its head off at her, she was pretty much nonplussed by his presence. Jay seemed pleased with us as a team, which I am hardly surprised about as I’m pretty pleased with us, too.

And in continuing with our frenzied and active schedules of late, we headed off to a SWAG Write-In a few hours after Jay left. Last night’s was at Flavour’s Cafe in downtown Troy and it was the very first time I had been there. Actually, that’s only partially true as I did step all the way inside the doorway when we were at the Victorian Stroll last December, but it was completely full so we ended up going elsewhere. It’s a wonderful cafe and we were able to nab a large table in the side room to spread out our laptops, books and food. I was very impressed with the food, which was incredibly yummy! Their portion sizes are ridiculously huge, too. Quite a rarity on both counts in my cafe-going experience where usually I find I only marginally enjoy the food and/or I’m still hungry afterward because I only had enough to nibble on.

The Write-In itself was kind of a non-event for me in terms of writing since my head decided it was the prime time to be annoying. This particular migraine came with some random nausea that seemed to be directly correlated to the amount of light I was exposed to thus making it impossible to look at my laptop screen. So, I spent the majority of the night reading Rage and I don’t regret that choice at all. Actually, I’m hoping to get my copy of it and/or Hunger signed by the author tomorrow at the Empire State Book Festival, which is happening for the second year and I am beyond thrilled!

On a somewhat related topic, the other day I gave my stats a casual glance and very nearly fell out of my desk chair. I tend to ignore my stats as a whole other than to give a passing look at how traffic arrives here. Generally I check my referrers often and usually peek at my search terms. The former has led to many an interesting read and the latter tends to give me a good laugh. But what caught my eye the other day was a substantial spike in traffic. I did some investigating and discovered some chatter on the ‘net about my experiences with a certain author. Honestly, it amazes me the longevity that whole thing has had. There hasn’t been a day go by since that incident that at least one person hasn’t come to this site through some mention of the entire event and usually it’s a good deal more than one visitor. Personally, I’ve put it all behind me. Though, a few months back I had some rather disturbing confirmation that the author has not, which is a shame for her and had she not had the audacity to call me such vile things I would probably have some concern about her mental stability. But from the cursory search back it seems there are more than enough replacements for her to keep Internet drama alive and well.

I was asked recently if the whole thing had left me wishing to avoid writing reviews, especially those that aren’t glowing. Honestly, it hasn’t. For all the crazy that occurred and the slanderous things said about me and spread about the ends of the intarwebs, I have had an exponentially greater number of wonderful experiences with authors. Both those I know quite well personally and strangers alike. I think, for me, the thing that was the most difficult to get over was that small personal connection that I had with the author because there had been a dialogue there between us, albeit formal and short, which led to her sending me the a copy of the book for free. Thus I was obligated to read it and give my thoughts, which was exactly the reason for my gentle tactfulness in what I wrote, as it was only expected she would read them. So, having that blow up in my face was kind of astounding. And I’m not naive enough to think it couldn’t happen again, though, if it ever did I do hope it isn’t such a wide-scale event!

However, completely ceasing sharing my thoughts on books I’ve read (or for that matter anything else) is a disservice to those that are looking for such insights.1 There are many things in my life — especially books — that I’ve only decided to try because of the reviews that were written about them. In the end I may not agree with those reviews, but they were still an asset. As for shying away from negative reviews, I think such a thing is completely pointless and am the first to avoid sites and specific reviewers who will only do so. I find that without that comparison of things that did not appeal to the reviewer, it’s impossible to know how much their viewpoint truly meshes with mine. Basically, it’s a skewed image. So, in case you haven’t been following my sporadic reviews enough to gather, I don’t plan to cease reviewing or censor myself and only publicize the things I strenuously adore. I plan to do exactly what I’ve always done: write about things that I feel passionately about as it strikes my fancy.

  1. While I am always thrilled if something I’ve written proves useful to someone else it is worth noting that essentially this website is for me. It will forever astound me that anyone has even a passing interest in anything I write here.

Lies and Complaints

I wasn’t going to post about this until everything was said and done, but the more I think about it the more upset I get and the more I realize I shouldn’t have to stay quiet about it. A small handful of people are aware of all of this already and those who follow me on Twitter know a goodly amount as well, but here’s the scoop: I had a complaint reported to Fidelco about me.

Now many of you may note that this isn’t the first complaint I’ve received. Interesting fact, the person who sent this complaint begins by stating that she is the same person who originally reported me for having a dog in such an “emaciated condition.” And while she did give her name this time, she remains a complete stranger to me. The complainer goes on to question “why is this dog still serving this person if it is sick and if she is treating it like this?” The complaint outlines this questioned treatment by alleging that I have been observed to be mean and angry towards Yara on several occassions. She states that she has repeatedly seen me hit the dog. And on the particular date of the complaint — last Friday — she witnessed me being especially short with the dog for “crying” in the elevator and then not allowing her to relieve.

My own opinions on this are all over the map, but first I want to say that I reigned in my feelings about the initial complaint because I convinced myself they came from a good place, a place of concern for my dog. But that fact that she has the gaul to question whether Yara is healthy enough to work just infuriates me to no end. Granted I don’t know her, but even if she’s the most skilled vet in existence I’m positive that casual observation is not enough to confirm whether a dog is too sick to work in harness! I find it hard to not find the rest of the complaint hard to swallow because of this.

The response by those who have learned of this complaint, Fidelco included, has been unanimously on my side. Everyone believes it’s a bunch of lies. And for this I am thankful. Though, for argument’s sake I will admit that so far as the events of last Friday, she is not entirely inventing facts. Yara did whine on the elevator and I did reprimand her verbally to quiet. In the lobby, Yara started to drag me to the door and I gave her a leash correction to come to heel. As I was doing this, the complainer who was on the elevator with me came around from behind and sharply commented that I was “very rude to [my] dog.” I gaped at her for a beat, thinking how much I detest hearing from total strangers how to treat my dog, and then before I said something nasty, I went outside. Immediately upon exiting the front door I realized I’d forgotten my gloves and by the time I got to the corner with Yara I knew I wouldn’t be able to go the day without them. So I turned around and went back in, with a bit of protest from Yara who expected us to turn at the corner and not go back the way we came. When I came back out, with gloved hands, I just let Yara take her pee on a snowbank rather than our usual routine of walking around and/or through the park. And she did certainly have to pee quite a bit, even though she’d been out not even an hour and a half before, because she’s on steroids!

I’m beside myself about the whole thing. As I said, Fidelco was very firm in explaining that they had no worries about Yara’s health and well being. But in that same breath also stated that they will have to come out to investigate the matter. Rationally, I understand this. Especially given that the complainer also states that she expects action to be taken or she will contact other animal authorities about the issue. She goes so far as to throw Buster’s Law into the mix, which is absolutely not applicable to this situation. But still, I’m personally insulted. I can’t help but feel that I’m constantly defending my own skills as a handler. Throughout the working life of our dogs, handlers are constantly faced with the need to defend our competence with our guides. It’s a rare day that goes by that someone doesn’t make a passing remark that you are too harsh with your dog or that your dog should/shouldn’t be doing something or other. Many times these same people are those that catch you five seconds after your dog has walked you face first into a telephone pole; they see you hauling your dog’s front feet off the ground but they didn’t notice you nearly getting a concussion. I’m certainly used to that. In fact, before Fidelco had called me that evening, I thought last Friday’s encounter was just that: some stranger commenting on the correction of my dog. But as time has gone on I feel more and more personally attacked. Between certain members of my family to work and now some tenant in my building I couldn’t pick out of a crowd if I were paid to; when does it end?

Everyone keeps telling me it’s really nothing — and I don’t deny that it is basically superficial — yet the more I think about it the more I feel that I’m drowning in a sea of faults that I can’t attempt to correct. I can’t help but feel that if so many people keep seeing things that are wrong how there can’t possibly be something I could be doing better or at least differently. Maybe it’s just my own shaky confidence after last week’s debacle at breakfast, I don’t know. I just keep reminding myself that I can’t be all that horrible if Yara is this happy and confident both in and out of harness.

I really just want to cry.

“Clearly she hates you.”

Silence around these parts generally equals one of two things: (1.) nothing is going on worth the effort of blogging about or (2.) so much is going on I have not the time to post it here. In this case it’s numero dos and I can’t say it’s all good news either.

I did hear back from Dr. Gundersen that Yara’s blood work came back negative. Her kidneys and liver are fine, electrolytes are normal, protien levels are good. By all accounts she’s healthy. Nothing new there. Her thyroid test results have yet to be completed, but she’s scheduled for the next batch of blood tests a week from Saturday.1

That, of course, is hardly where the drama resides. Last Friday while I was on my lunch break, I was told by another colleague that a gentlemen came to our office “looking for someone regarding abusing their guide dog.” As there are three of us currently in our office alone that are guide dog users, she asked him specifically whom he was referring to, but he wouldn’t give her a name and I assume he left shortly thereafter as I never ran into him. My colleague seemed very concerned that it had to do with Yara, though admittedly a few other coworkers felt it may be in reference to another person on our floor, but I brushed it all aside. To be honest, I was hardly surprised that the gentlemen may have been looking for me specifically. I hear on a daily basis from friends and strangers alike that Yara’s excessively thin, like the fact has somehow escaped me.

Anyway, Monday I received a call from Becky that a report had been made against me at Fidelco. Of course, I’ve already been in contact with the school about the entire matter. In May, when I first found out Yara had lost weight, we all went to the school, had Yara weighed again and talked with Robbie about the matter. Plus, at the urging of Patty, I called Robbie last week, hoping for some insight on other Y-pups with a similar issue and/or any advice. All that notwithstanding, Fidelco still has its own obligations to meet, so Becky was coming to “check on us.”

Wednesday, I met her and Mary at my office and they both easily confirmed the obvious: Yara’s very thin. Becky observed that Yara also “clearly hates [me]” as she was doing her usual “this is my mommy” sitting thing where she leans on my leg with her right foot planted on top of my left one and stares up at me. We walked a few blocks and talked a bit about the complete standstill I’m at with what’s causing the weight-loss. Yara was quite good, save for the uncharacteristic dog distraction she was having with Vince, the dog Mary was working with. We eventually let them have a brief hello to get it out of her system, but I’ve chalked it up to the fact she hasn’t seen a shepherd since the Walk.

When we were practically back to my office, Mary asked if there was anywhere to eat where they could take the dogs in. And, of course, in downtown Albany there’s tons of places to eat and they’re all pretty used to guide dogs coming in. Becky went and “got herself a dog” from the van and we set off. Yara was hilarious during this walk as she now had two shepherds that she had to outperform. She had to be first off the curb and in front of all the other dogs. She was just so silly!

We ended up going to El Mariachi and all the dogs were really very good. Hannah was especially funny because she wasn’t really sure whom to listen to even though Becky was working her, so she’d just randomly target me or jump up when I was giving Yara a command. Vince, on the other hand, kind of reminded me of Raechel’s last puppy Spock, he just kept spreading himself out more and more. But anyway, I had a very nice time. We chatted about a bunch of stuff and I actually heard some news about Spock, which was really kind of random and funny.

After we finished, we all walked back to the van, Yara still wanting to show off and be first. Becky said she had this “wild, crazy” look on her face, too. Back at the van, she was really hilarious and kept trying to get inside and was whining so loud! I couldn’t believe it, honestly. It’s always very windy in that part of Albany because of the tall buildings and we all were practically shouting to be heard and Yara’s whining was even louder than all that!

So, in the end, while I am hardly pleased that someone reported me for possibly abusing Yara, I am glad that everyone involved is now on the same page and behind me. I still have no more answers than before as to what’s going on with my dog, but there certainly are a lot of concerned people. And if any further complaints come in regarding the issue, Fidelco can safely assure them that they’ve already investigated and found nothing to warrant abuse.

  1. The first available date that she could be fasted for twelve hours after payday (since I’m broker than broke).