I caught Tom red tongued, gently picking pea pods off the vines. And here I was blaming the chipmunks!
The program that trained and matched Tom and I, the Guide Dog Foundation, recently posted an Amazon Wishlist for the puppies and guide dogs in training in their kennel. If you’re looking to make a future guide dog’s day, take a look!
Tom and I will be sending those hard working pups some nylabones, Tom’s favorite (well second to his squeaky plush KONG Wubba but those aren’t a kennel approved toy, so we will stick to the nylabones on the wishlist)
This little yellow lab x golden cross future guide dog puppy is named Thomy. Doesn’t he make you’re heart melt? Sooooo cute!!
Each May for the past number of years ACVO sponsors free veterinary ophthamologist exams for working dogs. It’s a wonderful program and one I am grateful for.
Yesterday Tom and I headed in to the Angell Memorial Veterinary Hospital in Boston for Tom’s annual eye exam. I felt like I had a transportation fairy on my shoulder, the various transit we had to navigate to get there and back went smoothly in a way I usually only dream about. A friend offered us a ride to the train station, she was wonderfully on time, train arrived on schedule, the conductor actually clearly announced the stops, we caught a subway within minutes of arriving in the station, there were people around who quickly and easily answered my “which side of the platform” question, the .7m walk from the subway station to the hospital was a breeze so we arrived for the appointment with 5minutes to spare. Going home the travel fairy was also magically there, even to where as we were walking home from the train station just as I noticed Tom was starting to get hot about a mile from home a friend who happened to be driving by and saw us, called to offer us a ride. Magic I tell you, magic!
Anyway, back to the exam. It was good we went. Tom now has some mild age related changes to his eyes. The vet described them as very typical for a dog Tom’s age and nothing to be concerned about at this time. The vet anticipated likely in 2-3 years those changes will adversely affect his vision, but now they don’t and Tom is good to safely guide me. We will go back again next year as the vet recommended, see if there has been any further progression and go from there. So good, not great, news and more importantly good data to have so we can make the best decisions for Tom and for our safety as a team as time goes on.
Last week on May 1st, I mentioned an event Tom and I were going to later that day. One I knew he was going to be excited about and enjoy. What I didn’t realize was how much I was going to enjoy it.
Last Tuesday we headed in to Boston to meet up with an incredibly nice group of ladies who also have guide dogs from the Guide Dog Foundation. There is a GDF Graduates group on Facebook where we realized there are an awful lot of us in the Boston area. We arranged a time to meet up and 5 of us were able to make it last Tuesday evening. A couple of the folks had met each other before through other avenues in their lives, but a few of us, myself included, didn’t know anyone in person. We ranged in ages, life styles and types of vision loss. 4 of us had guide dogs, 1 was between dogs.
It was really nice not to feel like an outsider.
What do I mean by that?
Well, for example we, as a group, changed tables 3 times. Why? Because we were all suffering from the angle of the sunlight and glare that continued to move depending on the time. No one thought twice about it. No one had to explain themselves. Or justify it. Or argue about it. It was simply, “Hey let’s move” and we all said “Great!” We all knew why, we all knew what would be criteria for a suitable next location, we all simply got up and moved.
That might sound like a little simple thing, and it was, that’s what I mean. Never before have I been in a social group where I wouldn’t have had to internally wrestle with myself before saying “hey can we change tables?” because I’d know someone would want to know why, or make a big deal about it, or make an apology for choosing a spot with bright light, or say something rather personal about me to the wait staff, or ask me ‘how about here? is this good? why not? what about this spot?’ Where changing tables would be a reminder that I was different, asking everyone in the group to disrupt and move because of me. Last Tuesday, none of that happened. We all just got it.
It was really nice to be around people who just plain ‘get it’ but who do so without making a big deal about it. Blindness and vision loss was just a part of life for each of us. It was really nice to be around a group of educated, intelligent, very interesting people who also get fully life with disability.
As a bonus, their guide dogs were lovely too.
Upon reading “It’s in the Bag” over on LA’s blog, I laughed. It was a great post! As I go around with my backpack as standard attire, people are often asking me, “What’s in that bag?” As in “Isn’t that heavy?”
For me, the backpack is part hands free convenience and part occupational therapy. The added balanced weight of it helps with proprioception when I’m walking. Without it I often feel like I’m falling through space. That said, for the first time in my life I am currently researching a smaller purse type option for when hubby and I are out together. I’ve never purchased a purse in my life, and my fashion friend S. is already excited to help. When you are not a fashion person (my mother refers to my preferred style as ‘frumpy’. I prefer the terms ‘utilitarian’ and ‘comfortable’ but ‘frumpy’ works too), I have learned it is always good to have at least one friend who’s eyes light up at the idea of shopping for you.
My current backpack I was surprised how much I like it and how well it has held up over the past nearly 2 years of daily use in all weather. The one prior was falling apart and this one was a reasonable price, good Amazon reviews, seemed to fit my criteria and had free returns. Sold! I would buy another in a heartbeat.
So what’s in it?
As my back pack is what I grab to go whether I’m walking, taking a Lyft, getting a ride, going on the train, it carries the things I use nearly daily and other more emergency but still often used things.
In 1 side pouch are 2 tennis balls, in the other side pouch is a small dog treat bag, in the front strap is a lightweight set of ear bud head phones.
In the main section:
In the smaller zippered section
The things in my bag have over the years earned their place in their degree and frequency of use. Stuff for me, stuff for the dogs, stuff to help ensure I can get myself safely to and from.
So, what’s in your bag?
7 years ago today, May 1st, I met Tom and he met me! I arrived at the Smithtown, NY campus of the Guide Dog Foundation just a few short hours prior, had my juno walk with our trainer and then got to meet Tom for the very first time! I remember being awed at his size, he was much larger than I had anticipated for a lab x golden retriever cross, and so glad his fur was comfortable for me to touch (texture stuff, many lab coats I can’t stand they are too spiky feeling). He’s still a big moose and still lovely to pet.
Today we went on a great walk with friends at the state park. And this afternoon we have an exciting event planned. Stay tuned for that adventure, I plan to write about it later this week. Tom’s going to be so excited when he realizes what’s in store today!
Here’s hoping for many more years with this guy leading the way.
As it’s International Guide Dog Day, I thought I’d balance out the walk in the park video I did the other week with a walk through town video. I was feeling a bit talkative, as this video was shot the day after my voice returned from the 4 days I was sick with a cold. So there are a number of my pet permanent pedestrian vs privileged people with a driver’s license rules of the road rambles. All sorts of gems, like “How it actually works when you press the walk signal button at a lighted crossing,” “How to not be a moron driver when you notice a pedestrian waiting to cross the road,” “When stopping for pedestrians actually ends (it isn’t once the pedestrian has passed only your car), “Why I hate middle turn lanes on suburban roads,” “Zora’s puppyhood feelings on creepy children statues” and more! I also had fun with the video editing software…lol
And this is what Tom and Zora did once we were home that day. Neither felt our 4 mile walk through town and back was sufficient. “please sir, I want some more,” channeling Oliver Twist and all.
All last week I was asked over and over “Zora looks thin? Did she lose weight?” Or “Tom’s looking skinny, did he lose weight?”
This happens like clock work twice a year. Spring and fall.
The answer is no, neither did. Actually at the vet appt a week or so ago I learned Tom has actually gained 1.5#. Not lost at all.
So, what happened?
I brushed them. Seriously, that’s it.
We could have had a 3rd dog with the fur that came out between the 2 of them. Shedding season is upon us. Yippee, my hands hate shedding season. At least the dogs look good and fit.
Tom and Zora posing for a shot on a recent walk.
Monday the dogs and I took a lovely walk. Everything felt as fine as it does this time of year, which isn’t great but is manageable. Fibromyalgia hates the spring transition. I puttered about my day from there. Around 2p I sat on the couch. At 3:30p I tried to get up and OMG where the hell did that come from? The muscles around my right hip were on, pardon my French, F&#*@*& fire!
I have learned in my years with this condition, the last thing I should do when a part of my body is screaming that loud in that way is do nothing. If I do what most people would thing is reasonable and stop moving and rest it, the muscles will freeze up, lock further and then it takes excruciating sessions in PT to get things moving again. Instead I have to immediately start stretching while remembering to breathe and try not to pass out. Fun.
Oh and I have to text the Pain Lady. My clinical massage therapist. Why do I call her the pain lady? Because for the hour I see her I spend it remembering to breathe and forcing myself not to crawl off her table. But the hour of torture is always worth it when I then get a week of being able to walk, use my hands, turn my head and stand up straight with minimal pain. I usually see her once a month.
Thankfully she knows if I’m asking for an extra appointment I really need it and she does what she can to fit me into her insanely busy schedule. She found a spot for me Thursday. I spent the week gimping around willing Thursday to hurry up.
She is the reason I was able to run agility today at the trial. Grateful for her expertise, knowledge and care. The pain on her table is worth the gains. A relief my leg muscles are no longer screaming fire.
How Zora felt about my gimpy week…bored.
To add to the stress of the week, Wednesday afternoon Tom began acting off. On closer inspection I realized one of his eyes was bothering him. As I depend on him having more reliable vision than I on a daily basis, any chance of an eye thing is worrisome. I rang our vets office pronto, and miraculously they still had an open appointment for that evening. A stressful couple of hours until the appointment but we survived. An exam later the vet felt Tom might be getting an eye ulcer but because I’d brought him in right away, it hadn’t yet fully formed. Eye meds 3x a day and she was hopeful we could prevent it from becoming a full blown ulcer. Now that we’re nearing the end of day 4 of treatment and his eye seems to be back to normal I’m finally breathing again. Grateful to our vet and Tom for telling me he needed help.
It’s been quite a week around here. Glad things seem to be, knock on wood, settling down. Fingers crossed.
It’s been a while since I did a walk video so here’s some footage from today’s walk with friends at a state park. It was chilly and a bit windy but a lovely day for a walk. (ok now it’s freaking snowing, 2″ this afternoon they say. You’ve got to be kidding me!)
Because I’ve not before, I added some starter clips about how we get ready for our walks. The dog’s goofy antics once they know it’s walk time! Tom is going to be 8.5yrs in just a couple of days and we’ll be a team 7 years May 1st. It makes me so happy that he’s still so gung ho about our walks.
While on the walk my friend and I had a conversation about guide dogs and overhead obstacles. This was after Tom didn’t notice some branches at my face height and thwack. And I did my “What the hell?!” startle slight stinging that hurt as thin branches whipped my face response. Tom is bad, consistently bad, at overhead clearances. Ok I can amend that, he is bad at overhead clearances that are not consistent. Obstructions that are always there, he remembers. Ones that magically appear and randomly are there or not, like branches at certain times of year or after a storm, yea not his forte.
My friend had watched a PBS special recently about dogs and in it it was mentioned how challenging it can be to teach guide dogs to recognize overhead clearances. James, my first, was pretty good at them. Better than Tom is at least. Tom doesn’t really look up. So for him to reliably tell me about an overhead clearance he goes off of other environmental cues that are at his height. For overhead obstacles that are always there, he remembers. And for ones that go up at an angle he seems to reliably get even if they are new to the situation. But overhead obstacles directly at my face height that show up out of the blue in spaces we’ve been, we usually have to rework. After the rework, he’ll remember that spot. Though he still isn’t cuing off the fact that there is something at my head height. Because the next couple of times we hit that spot, even if the overhead is now gone (like someone trimmed back the branches) he will still stop despite that the obstacle that is now long gone. After a few more trips on that route with the overhead gone, he’ll go back to not stopping. That pattern of his clues me in that he’s not actually looking up and figuring out it’s about something at my head, as much as “last time something made her upset. We stopped, then reworked this, and when I stopped at this spot, she reached up and touched something then I got praised and told I was right that time, so I guess it’s about stopping in this spot to let her reach up and she’ll be happy, praise me and I might get a treat or a good boy pet.”
So while Tom is still Mr Perfect, he does have his flaws 😉 Overhead clearances. Not his cup of tea.