Weekly Photo Challenge: Path

Me with Yara, Tom with Stanley, Raechel with Spock, and James with Otis and Scarlet walking the route

Manchester Community College’s beautiful walking paths have been the venue of choice for Fidelco’s annual walkathon fundraiser. Walkathons are a fairly common fundraising event for guide dog schools as they are a great means to showcase the work that goes into raising and training these fine dogs and the independence they provide once placed with a blind person.

This particular photo was taken at the 2008 Walk for Fidelco by Yara’s puppy raiser, Patty.

Walking for Fidelco

Ellen and James with Otis in his backpack carrier letting Spock say helloOur intention this morning was to get an early start to the day so as to arrive at the Walk for Fidelco in time for the Fosters’ Demo so that Raechel and Yancy could participate. The plan was to get to Manchester Community Collge at 9:00 a.m., so of course we didn’t get out the door until ten minutes after that. I find this laughable given that James and I got up half an hour before we’d said we would to accomplish this “getting to the Walk early” thing. Oh, well. Best laid plans and all.

We packed ourselves into the Prius with Yara, Yancy and Otis. At MCC, we met up with Patty and Tom at the registration table where I picked up my Walk stuff. Since we didn’t have much time before the Fosters’ Demo, we decided to walk the route afterwards and instead kind of wandered around a bit. Raechel and James met up with Ellen and Spock quite by accident while browsing around some of the tables and booths.

Raechel heeling Yancy during the fosters' demenstrationThen Raechel and Yancy went off to join the queue of fosters for the demonstration. I actually hadn’t seen the demo the last two times for various reasons, so I was glad when Patty found us a spot very close to the front for us to stand and watch. As it turns out, this year there was a huge number of fosters participating and they had to double up the circle to walk around the ring. The fosters went through basic stuff they do in puppy class: heeling, sits, downs, body handling, etc. Then, Sue had them switch puppies, which I’m sure is nerve-wracking enough with a small puppy class. But it seemed to go rather well. She also had a bunch of the fosters do some recalls and all of those went surprisingly well. (Ok, so the last person kind of tackled her dog who was veering off to someone else for whatever reason.) It was pretty neat to watch. :)

Afterward, we were going to watch the Trainers’ Demo, but got sidetracked a bit when Raechel and James came upon another foster puppy they’d raised, Neelix. He’s retired from guide work now, but Fidelco has been using him for demonstrations and stuff. And his new family said they’ll be getting him certified as a therapy dog. I have to say he’s nothing like the puppy I’d heard of; first he’s HUGE and second he was so very calm. It was good to hear Fidelco found him such a good home. So, after that we decided to walk through the route. Since it was so late into the walkathon we were basically alone through the route, which was actually quite pleasant. I think I got a bit sunburned on my forehead, though. But what can you do? For lunch we ended up getting takeout from a little pizzeria and brought it back to MCC to eat. We sat at some tables outside since we had Otis with us. It was quite yummy.

Yara leaping over Yancy who is on her back while Nerys chases themBack at the house we gave all the doggies their lunches and then took Dasha, Nerys, Yancy and Yara out in the pen to play. For the most part the four of them seemed to be under the impression that we’d taken them out there to graze, but eventually they all started to run around and be crazy. Poor Nerys kept being left out while the bigger girls chased each other, but she didn’t seem to mind and took every opportunity available to bite either of the other dogs in close proximity. In the case of Yancy, who often throws herself onto the ground while playing, she got chewed on quite a bit!

A very fun day and I’m so glad that the original forecast from earlier this week that it would rain was very much not true. I’m off to Sleepsville and so I leave you with many a photo to peruse.

List of Things

Thing 1: Still gathering donations for this year’s Walk for Fidelco for any of you interested and most generous folk. I very much appreciate any amount you may wish to give and kindly direct you to this here webpage where you can do so. Alternate information is given there for those of you not wishing to utilize a credit card. And again, thank you.

Thing 2: Next weekend is the inaugural Empire State Book Festival and I am so very excited for this. There are a bunch of really great panels throughout the day (which has made picking what I want to go to very hard). Also, Gregory Maguire is the keynote speaker and he’s doing a signing straight after. So, you know, I’ll totally be there with my copy of Wicked. There’s a literal ton of authors, illustrators, publishers, and other assorted writerly folk in attendance, though, personally I only recognize a handful. Still, a group of my local Nano’ers are planning to go, so should be super fun. I can’t wait.

Thing 3: Registered to attend Albacon. Doesn’t really make up for not getting to go to Dragon*Con again, but maybe it’ll start a trend of me not having to cancel my convention plans. Please? Anyway, have never been to this tiny sci-fi convention, but it’s right here in Albany (thus the clever name) and there’s one full day devoted to a Writers’ Workshop. Not to mention, I like that it’s a very small con since it will be Yara’s very first. So, really, how can I go wrong?

Thing 4: There really isn’t a Thing 4 because I need to skedaddle off to meet a friend for dinner. Sorry.

2010 Walk for Fidelco

Our entire group assembled for the 2009 Walk for Fidelco; from left to right: Sarah and Fay, me and Yara, Raechel and James with Scarlet and Otis, and Tom and Patty with Remy

For the third year in a row (2008; 2009) Yara and I will be attending the Walk for Fidelco. Please consider sponsoring us with a donation to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. All proceeds go towards helping breed, raise, and train guide dogs for the blind and aide in follow-up support for graduates of the training program. Your support is sincerely appreciated!

The Vacation Recap

In celebration of my third decade in existence, I gave myself a trip to CT and NYC. I’m super generous like that. Of course, this was after the two-and-a-half weeks of birthday celebration that went on with various friends and family. Truly, this was an epic birthday. And so, because I just know you’re dying for details and also the fact that I have a metric ton of photos, I give you the recap — broken into however many parts it takes me because even I can’t ramble that much . . . and also there really are a lot of pictures to share.

Some Highlights

  • With a few exceptions here and there, say for instance meal times, Yara did an amazing job throughout the entire trip. She wasn’t bothered too much when separated from me Friday before leaving or by all the dogs, children, and crowds at the various places we went to, and she was absolutely fascinated by Raechel’s cats.
  • My first official vacation meal ended up giving me some of the worst food poisoning of my life. That said, everything I ate during my trip was beyond awesome . . . and I’m in total shock that I didn’t end up in a sugar-induced coma from the massive amounts of dessert things I consumed. I’m also in shock that I ate so many dessert things since I rather loathe sweets.
  • I think I may have reached my walking threshold — by the end of the trip I think my feet were ready to abandon me for a little old lady in a wheelchair. Also ZOMG! but the callouses on my hand from the harness. Whoa!
  • Friends of mine meeting other friends equals friends of mine becoming friends; this is never a bad thing. Abby and Jess are beginning to scare me a little with the depths upon which they bonded and the quickness thereof. But whatevs.

Anyhoodle, onto the rambling!

Friday, May 15 – Sunday, May 17 (aka: The Fidelco Events)1

Before heading out on our long drive, Sarah took Yara for a few hours of fun time play with Fay. I’m quite happy to say that she didn’t seem too bothered by the separation and both girls were adequately tuckered out by the time Sarah came to pick me up in the afternoon. It was rather heart-wrenching to watch Yara’s mini-freak-out in the morning, though, because Sarah picked her up right before I went to work so we separated at the corner by the bus stop. I sincerely thought Yara might drag Sarah right off her feet when she realized I wasn’t walking with them. Anyway, while Yara was having a fun time with Fay, Sharon took me to Iron Gate Cafe for a birthday lunch. It was delicious, though, I would later regret the yogurt parfait dessert.

Yara lying on the floor, chewing a toy as Fay looks on behind her at Sarah'sAfter lunch I headed home and gave Sarah a ring to let her know I was ready. Turns out she was, too and so we set out a bit earlier than we’d initially planned. In the end it worked out as the drive took about an hour longer than we’d thought. Turns out traffic is the suck through MA. The dogs were pretty quiet throughout the trip, though we later discovered that part of this was because Fay was busy chewing on a piece of Sarah’s car. Uh oh! We got to Hartford around 4 p.m. and were greeted at the hotel by a few Fidelco staff of whom I couldn’t recall their names. (Sorry!) After I got all the materials for the Banquet, we headed up to Sarah’s room to chill out a bit. I had a horrific headache that I was determined wouldn’t become a migraine — since I didn’t have a clue where my medicine had been shoved in my suitcase.

The Banquet seemed a lot more low key than last year, which seems ironic since it’s the first year it was called a “banquet” and not just a “dinner.” We went downstairs a few times before Raechel and James arrived and there weren’t many people and no one really seemed to be mingling. Anyway, at 6:30 or so Sarah and I went down to the dining room to grab some seats. Soon after Raechel and James arrived and we all chatted for a bit while everyone else got situated. Not all that much happened this year during the meal — except for me discovering my headache/stomachache was in fact food poisoning from my aforementioned parfait. Fun times. Oh, and Robbie came over to say “hi” and chat with us all a bit; she seemed very pleased with how Yara is looking as compared to when she saw her last year. I know we have talked a lot over the phone throughout the past year, but it never ceases to amaze me how she can keep everyone and their dogs straight in her head!

Our entire group assembled for the 2009 Walk for Fidelco; from left to right: Sarah and Fay, me and Yara, Raechel and James with Scarlet and Otis, and Tom and Patty with RemyThe next day was far more interesting. We all got up early and got the doggies set for the day and then we packed the three of us plus Yara, Scarlet and Otis into the Prius and set off to the Walk for Fidelco. We met up with Sarah and Fay and Patty, Tom and Remy at the registration table and after a quick run around roped Jeff Mann into taking a photo of the lot of us (pictured right). We wandered through the tents, but eventually we decided it’d be more interesting to just walk the route. I will say the Walk did seem more spread out than last year, but it was still a little lacking. Anyway, the route was just as pretty as last year and it was great to chat with everyone.

Afterward we hung out for a bit in the shade of a big tree and watched the Trainers’ Demo. And then, fulfilling our traditions of the year before, took a trip to Fidelco to give Sarah a whirlwind tour (and use the restrooms!) and then had lunch down the street at Three Brothers. Everyone also got a quick introduction to Megan, the instructor who placed Yara with me, as we’d missed each other at the Walk. She wasn’t able to join us for lunch, but we did make plans for later in the week. Lunch was a lot of fun and quite an interesting experience with three different puppy raisers chatting about all their dogs and such. But all too soon it was time for everyone to separate.

Yara and Yancy playing outside in the pen; Yara is leaping into the air as she chases YancyBack at Raechel’s, after quickly checking show times for Star Trek, we took Yara and Yancy out into the pen for their first official play time. They were absolutely adorable together, except for the times they randomly weren’t playing and just wanted to eat or sniff all the tall grass. After dinner, we went to see Star Trek which was so totally beyond awesome that I actually saw it again a week later in NYC and I still want to see it again! The theater experience was a bit less awesome sadly: I’m so short when I sit that really anyone in front of me is an obstruction, but a super tall person sat in front of me this time and even more annoying was this random spot of light on the screen.

Yancy and Yara playing in the kitchen; close-up of both dogs as they are partially under the table, biting at each otherBack at the house, we let the girls have some more playtime before we all went to bed. They were still just as crazy! One thing that is really amusing is that Yancy, who isn’t exactly submissive even when playing, has this strange habit of just throwing herself onto her back. Yara takes this position as an invitation to bite any exposed area she can get at. It’s pretty funny to watch. But listening to them you’d know immediately Yancy isn’t being submissive, in fact she’s quite vocal about her playful antics!

Yara in harness, lying under the tableSunday we checked off another tradition from last year by having brunch at Nita’s. As expected it was incredibly delicious and I already can’t wait for my next trip to go back! Both the dogs were very well behaved and this is saying a lot given how many times we had kids run (loudly) by our table. Next up we headed to Yancy’s “Windsor walk” — Fidelco’s first puppy evaluation — which wasn’t exactly riveting but I found it quite interesting. It’s basically just a quick walk around and some crossings to see how the puppy reacts to things and heels. Yancy did really well, especially given Yara’s close proximity. We also saw one of the X puppies from the litter right before Yancy’s and I’m just shocked at how big all these dogs are. I can’t even imagine how big Yancy will be when she’s fully grown — she’s already almost as big as Yara and she’s hardly four months old!

Yara in the car, sleeping on the backseat with her nose resting on the door's armrestLater, we had chicken pot pie for dinner and the three of us attempted to play some poker. We eventually gave up when James nearly cleaned us all out. But the Braille deck of cards intrigued Raechel enough that we got semi-distracted with the task of me teaching her the Grade 1 alphabet. Oh, and Deb arrived home and ate some of James’s winnings . . . which led to the rest of us gorging on the lot of M&M’s scattered across the table.

Next up! Errands galore, massive amounts of Yancy and Yara playtime, lots of cooking — and eating, oh and my birthday, too!

  1. Recap continues in parts two, three, and four. See also: the full collection of photos.