Today marks three years partnered with Uschi and she still amuses and astounds on a daily basis!
Today marks three years partnered with Uschi and she still amuses and astounds on a daily basis!
It would seem that all efforts to get me to produce some content here have failed. For what it’s worth I had every intention of making good on the posting thing, but with one thing and another that clearly never came to pass. Rather than bore you with all the details of my inability to blog, I’ll let Uschi tell you all about our recent trip to New York City with the Ruled by Paws gang.
The way I understand it New York City is some sort of right of passage for a guide dog. Cyndy has talked about it a bunch and seemed disappointed that I hadn’t yet accomplished this task. But, honestly, after four days there I don’t get the fuss. As far as I’m concerned New York City seems more like a testing ground for walking the pads of your paws sore. Maybe it’s more fun when you only have two feet?
Anyway, the best part of this little journey was that we were joined by my new friends, Rogue and Cessna, and their humans, Brooke and Huib. At least, I think we’re all friends. You see, we had a bit of a communication barrier. I can only guess excitedly bouncing around and loudly barking doesn’t mean the same thing in Canada because no one seemed to get that I wanted to play and play and play!
At any rate, after a rather uneventful Saturday here, I woke everyone up bright and early the next morning and we took the train to Manhattan. The humans remarked at how packed it was, but all us dogs had plenty of room on the floor. And we got plenty of attention from some of the kids in our car. Mostly I used Cessna as a pillow and slept through the ride. Our first stop once we arrived in the City was to our hotel, but before I could once again attempt to convey to my canine buds my desire to play we were out the door again for the humans to do some shopping and have dinner. Then we headed to the Gershwin Theater where the humans saw wicked music or something. The photo to the left is the three of us in the lobby in front of the dragon clock.1
After that we went to the Empire State Building and took a bunch of elevators to the tippy top. Everyone kept mentioning how pretty the City looked all lit up at night so me and Rogue both tried to get a glimpse over the Observation Deck walls. It is pretty neat as you can see for yourself to the right, but it’s also super windy so it wasn’t long before everyone was cold and ready to head to the hotel for bed.
Monday we visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. At the Met we visited the Temple of Dendur and looked around at the Egyptian exhibit. It’s one of the sections of the museum that allows blind people to touch things like a sarcophagus by the Temple of Dendur. My favorite part was at the Guggenheim, though. It’s built as a series of levels spiraling up to the top and once again Rogue and I had to check out the view, which in this case was a perfect vantage point of a fountain on the ground floor. By this point everyone was tired out, especially Cessna who had basically gone on strike and was pretty much refusing to work for Brooke. So, we spent the evening back at our hotel where I at least partially overcame the communication barrier with Rogue:
Okay, so that wasn’t exactly the epic playtime I was hoping for, but there wasn’t really enough room for a proper game of chase in our hotel room anyway. Then again, perhaps I should be insulted considering the very next morning Rogue spent a good ten minutes stalking a packet of honey Cyndy had from her morning tea.2
You can probably guess from the photo to the left how we spent our last full day in NYC. We had to take a boat to the island, which was a neat experience for all us dogs for reasons the humans found amusing since we were all intrigued by the ripples of water the rudder created in the boat’s wake. At Liberty Island, we went up to the pedestal and got to check out yet another cool view. We also went through the museum, which had a few things that Cyndy and Brooke were able to touch, like Lady Liberty’s face!
We were going to do another boat ride around Ellis Island after, but the weather was getting steadily more unpleasant so instead we just went back to the hotel. Everyone ended up taking a nap, but we managed to drag ourselves back out into the snow and rain to meet Abby at Junior’s. Or, as I like to think of it, my second nap because we were there for literally hours while the humans had their dinner.
All too quickly it seemed our trip to NYC was over. We headed back home Wednesday morning and spent the rest of the day back at our house. I got Cessna and Rogue to finally play with me for a bit, but truthfully we were all so wiped from our trip that we pretty much just fell asleep.
Thursday was Thanksgiving and it was a bittersweet day for me. There was, of course, the holiday festivities, which meant another trip to some type of excitement — and yummy goodies for me! But all my new friends were leaving just when I finally seemed to have gotten them to understand how desperately I wanted them to play with me. Cyndy says we’ll be seeing them again, though. And, of course, I have all the photos from our trip to look at and remind me of my new pals and our adventures in walking!
Today Yara is eight! It sort of boggles my mind, especially when I realize it’s been nearly three years since she retired. Time has gone by way too fast for my liking.
I’m actually going to be visiting her, and her new little brother Eli, next week, but I’ll be seeing Dad and Keith tonight1 so I’ll be sending them home with her new Lamb Chop plushie.2 By all accounts she is doing fabulous. Dad and Keith note that she’s finally starting to play with Eli, which is a big step up from back in May when she was barely tolerating him, and in fact he quite often tests the limits of her Lupine collar by grabbing onto it with his mouth and literally dragging her around.
My computer is on its last virtual legs, I think. Today while trying to compile the accessibility issues with WordPress’s Add Media panel, JAWS suddenly popped up a bunch of strange installation errors. And after trying to resolve those, my entire computer crashed. And now it’s doing all manner of odd things. I would very much like my new iMac to get here already. Seems like it’s been forever since it was ordered.
On the sort of brighter side, today I had an appointment with my rheumatologist who pretty much unequivocally ruled out nearly all of the speculated possible diagnoses I had for the pain issues, including fibromyalgia. He thinks the initial issue from last year was likely a pinched nerve from sleeping weird coupled with strained muscles and feels the continued issues are due to bursitis. So, in point of fact, my worry that working the dog had actually caused and/or exacerbated the issue were quite well founded. Though, thankfully, he doesn’t think I’m in danger of causing myself more harm by continuing to use my guide dog.
He gave me a bunch of exercises to add to my yoga routines, a script for a pretty powerful anti-inflammatory, and wants me back in two months. If I continue to have pain after all that, he wants me to have a cortisone injection. Well, actually he wanted me to have one today, but I’d rather try something that’s more sustainable since yoga has helped greatly over the last several months. Though, having said that, the poke-and-prod session has predictably left me feeling especially achy and a good part of me is regretting not jumping on the idea of an injection.
I’ve never defined this blog as being about any particular thing since it gives me the freedom to write about whatever crosses my mind, but it’s no secret that a great deal of the time I’m nattering on about one or more of my guide dogs. That’s not surprising since they are a huge part of my life and when I started blogging I’d already been working with Dolly for about two years.
So, sometimes I take it for granted that people know these dogs as well as I do, when in fact outside of my family there is only one other person who has so far1 met all three of my guide dogs. Clearly, this is an elite club, so I think we should rectify this gross oversight.
Everyone, meet Dolly.
As you can see, predictably for a Labrador retriever, she was a bit goofy. But while she certainly had her silly moments, in all honesty her personality was more a mix of serious and happy. Or seriously happy.
No, really, Dolly was a very happy dog. She wagged her tail almost constantly, from a slight bobbing swish in time to her walk to a hard drumming thump. Our favorites were the 360° helicopter whirl she had when she was very excited and the full-body wiggle that couldn’t be anything but pure ecstasy. She even carried her tail like it was a smile, held up high and curled around. One of the trainers at Guiding Eyes remarked that it was almost like a pig’s tail.
She was an enthusiastic companion, especially if water or snow were involved. During the first summer of our partnership we built her a ramp so she could get in and out of our above ground pool. That winter she saw her first snowfall and while her initial reaction was a bit of skeptical fear, she quickly learned the fluffy white stuff was tons of fun to jump through and dig around in! One of her favorite things was to sit by the driveway while we shoveled so she could get buried deep underneath a blanket of snow and tunnel her way back out.
Her favorite playtime activity was definitely Frisbee. She took the activity like she was a professional player, catching the disc while doing a backflip in the air or other assorted acrobatics. Hilariously, I never had to teach her any of those fancy skills, just encourage her when she performed them. Instead, I had to show her how to catch toys in her mouth because she instinctively would try to jump up and grab them with her front paws! She was a quick study in any task, though, learning several different “fun” skills like begging and speaking. She even knew all of her toys by name and would search the house for that specific one if asked. “Search” here meaning she would race up the stairs to my bedroom in a mad dash to find the toy as quickly as possible. And when that one wasn’t readily available, she’d bring down her Frisbee . . . or one of my socks.
While she was certainly exuberant, she was actually incredibly quiet. She almost never let out even a peep and my parents were convinced she didn’t even know how to bark until I taught her to speak on command. In fact, she didn’t even whine when she was in pain, which caused us no amount of grief at times. She did, however, snore like a lawn mower. One memory I have of college as a freshman was in a class of over 200 students in a huge lecture hall. Dolly had fallen asleep and started up her colossal snoring and around me students were giggling and snickering. Eventually she got so loud, I prodded her with my foot to try and wake her up, which she did by jumping with a great snort! Down below the professor let out an audible laugh and noted that he was honestly getting quiet annoyed with the student that was “so rude as to fall asleep in his class.”
Her defining Labrador trait was that she loved to eat and she did so with gusto. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t eat and that included a few towels and at least one pillow, but her favorite things were bananas, ice cream and bread. The bananas were a discovery her puppy raiser made and throughout the whole of Dolly’s life if someone ate a banana around her they would inevitably have to tithe a piece. For her third birthday, the first one she had as my partner, I brought her to a local ice cream shop that had a “doggy sundae” on the menu. It became a birthday tradition and there were a few during my college years that required quite a lot of finessing to accomplish. We kept it to that one time a year, though, because while Dolly loved the ice cream it didn’t love her back nearly as much. The bread discovery was made some time after we were partnered. My dad bought a bread machine and in testing it out the first few loaves came out with the tops broken, which he gave to Dolly and forevermore she was hooked on it. She’d take a piece of bread over the choicest cut of steak!
She was a creature of comfort and I partially blame GEB for this. During our month of training she developed warts on her feet, which at first was thought to be a solitary issue easily taken care of. Before we discovered how severe the warts were, though, we spent several weeks doing all we could to keep Dolly off her feet. One of the trainers graciously donated one of my bed pillows to Dolly and from then on it seemed that any pillow was the dog’s. Stuffed animals also were fair game.
Her arch enemy were tags. She ripped them off of everything: her toys, our throw pillows, a few of my stuffed animals. She even ripped the one off my mattress that very prominently stated it shouldn’t be removed by penalty of law! After the Evil Tag was removed from one of her toys, she would then methodically rip out their eyes. I once remarked about how that was kind of creepy and my father deadpanned, “Job security.”
He probably wasn’t wrong because Dolly was definitely, well, serious about her work. Or what she felt was her work. Mostly, I think, she thought her job was to parade around showing everyone what a pretty girl she was. She schmoozed any one she could into giving her some attention and praise. Which isn’t to say she didn’t take her job of guiding seriously, but she always wanted things her way and if she didn’t get them she would make it known. Often she would sit beside me giving the world her grumpy face, which is really saying something for a black dog with black eyes but she really did have the most expressive face. If she really felt exasperated with me, she’d very purposefully plow me face first into something. It started during training actually. I don’t even remember what happened, probably I’d stopped her from scarfing down something on the ground . . . and suddenly one of the trainers came running up behind me mere seconds before I was walked into a telephone pole.
Essentially she was a dog that truly approached life with joie de vivre. Everything was on her terms whether working, playing, eating, or even sleeping. And I can’t really fault her because she was genuinely a very happy girl.