What day is today?

Photo collage of six images of Uschi surrounding the text "Today Uschi is SIX!"

Why, it’s Uschi’s birthday!

Welcome Home, Dolly!

One of the main reasons I hate moving is because inevitably something always gets lost. Case in point, I’ve been trying to locate a box of pictures for something like ten years now. Among the photos in this box are the portraits taken during my training at Guiding Eyes.

Well, I still haven’t found the box, but Dolly’s puppy raiser did send me this:

Portrait of Dolly in harness

I’ve been rather persistently pestering her for either of the portraits she has copies of to make . . . well, you’ll find out when the intended recipient does. For now, I am ever so pleased to say this lovely lady is hanging in my dining room.

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.

Three Years!

Portrait of Uschi and me on a white background; Uschi standing on her head in front of me

Today marks three years partnered with Uschi and she still amuses and astounds on a daily basis!

New York, New York!

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?

Cessna, Uschi and Rogue sitting in front of the dragon clock at the entrance to Gershwin TheaterAnyway, 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

Manhattan at night taken from the observation deck of the Empire State BuildingAfter 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

The Statue of LibertyYou 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.

Uschi and Rogue on their hind legs looking over the fence bordering Liberty IslandAll 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!

  1. It was too crowded in the lobby to get the top of the clock, where the dragon is climbing, into the shot.
  2. None of us is quite sure what was up with that. Rogue had jumped up on Cyndy’s bed and when she caught site of the honey packet, she started to react like it might jump up and bite her. It gave the humans quite a laugh.