Posts Tagged low vision

Happy Birthday to Carmel-my 2 year old guide dog

It’s Carmel’s birthday! Carmel and I have been together for about 4 ½ months and every day she gets better and better. In our 4 months we’ve had so many experiences. We’ve traveled to Little Rock, ARK., Washington D.C., and Cincinnati, Ohio. We’ve gone to lunches and dinners galore. We’ve attended meetings, and done lots of office work just hanging out in my office. Carmel and I walk every day about a mile to keep in shape and build her skills-and mine.

We’ve had some challenging times-but overall I see our relationship getting better and better. She is awesome!

So, Happy birthday to my sweet, smart and funny Carmel girl!

Sylvia

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Carmel and I after 3 months at home-guide dog doing great

9/18/10

It is amazing to realize that Carmel and I left Morristown and The Seeing Eye 3 months ago. What is so amazing about it is that I can barely remember what it was like pre-Carmel. Carmel and I have slipped into a routine. I apologize to all interested in us out there for not blogging as often as I had planned to-the thing is-there is just not much to blog about and we are so incredibly busy. Carmel and I have a pretty “normal” life. On weekdays we get up, go to work, come home, do stuff and go to bed. But let me try to go over a few of the normal things and let you know how Carmel is doing.

Early on Carmel and I were really good about taking two walks a day, morning (before work) and evening. However, I have to admit that as the summer progressed and it got hotter and hotter in Florida, more often than not we ended up doing only our evening walks. Sometimes if I can get up early enough before it gets too hot and on weekends usually-we do walk in the morning. We are doing about a mile route. Carmel initially really walked fast, but she now has realized she can be a bit lazy, especially towards the end of the route. Yes, I know she is trying to manipulate me into thinking we should not walk so far. But, she is still looking great and muscular and I now the walks make a difference. And, another benefit of our walks is that we are continuing to work on skills. Yes, Carmel still gets distracted, especially by other dogs, birds and children. But, at least now I have learned to read her well, so I know when something is around. I know she just wants to play, but I manage to get her passed most of the distractions without too much drama.

At my office Carmel usually spends most of the day hanging out in my office. However, I do have quite a few community activities each week to go to. She is doing wonderful at sitting under tables when we attend meetings and luncheons. Now, she is a bit excited when we arrive at networking events and have to walk around talking a lot-sometimes it is hard to control her. When we need to follow someone, she does a pretty good job too. I have to say we are still having regular issues with people talking to her and petting her out there. It still amazes me how bold people are to just go up and pet another persons dog. Hello! I have decided that I need to get one of those little signs to put on her to say don’t pet. I have to research where to get one. One of my fellow Seeing Eye classmates uses a “don’t bite” (pretending to talk to his dog) as people approach-hilarious!

Carmel and our other workplace guide dog have done very well together. When they see each other in the office or have to be n the same office for a meeting Carmel distracts herself and looks the other way. After about two months we let them play off harness together for a few minutes. They loved it. We haven’t done it again, but I am sure will sometime soon. They know when it’s time to work though and we are glad for that. It amazes me that as often as other dogs distract Carmel-she is nothing but professional with Heidi. How funny and smart they are.

Carmel and I have had a few trips. She is not the best airport and plane traveler. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that on our last trip she pooped in the Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. I hope she wasn’t trying to make a political statement! Ha, ha. Carmel is a space hog, and thinks she doesn’t need to curl up under the seat, so she wants to be under the entire rows feet. A friend told me to relax about it and just let her that most people probably love having the opportunity to interact with her during the flight. I think he’s right about that so I will try to relax a bit more.

We have two trips coming up in October, and I hope all goes well. It is great to have Carmel on trips for the most part because I feel so much more confident and we walk so much faster than I could with a cane, but the flying part and getting her to relief areas is always a challenge. Everyone tells me this will all get easier and I am looking forward to that. Practice makes better-so we will keep getting in lots and lots of practice.

Carmel is great with my family. She and Olivia are crazy about each other. It is so funny, but at bedtime Carmel waits right by her crate for Olivia to give her a hug. She will not go in until Olivia gives her a hug and tells her she loves her. About sleep-I have the most perfect dog for me-she gets tired early, so when I say ready for bed around 8:30 p.m. Carmel is ready to go-she just heads right to the bedroom.

Carmel is great and we are doing great. And, I know things will only get better. I will try to blog more, but no promises. Things are so busy, but we’ll try.

Be sure to visit our Lighthouse website to learn more about what we are doing! www.lvib.org

Enjoy the picture!

Sylvia

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Carmel takes a flight

Well, it seems like it will always be eventful with a guide dog. Carmel behaved very well overall at the conference, better than I thought she would. But, I have to be honest-it is really hard traveling with a guide dog. I know however that this will get better. Several friends have told me so. And, of course as Carmel gets older she should calm down somewhat. Wait, that hasn’t worked with me-the older I get I get more enthusiastic. LOL. Anyway, here’s the bad thing that happened, since I am trying to keep it real. On Friday evening as we were headed back to our hotel Carmel decided she wanted to go a different direction than I was going-and she led me right down a flight of

stairs. Fortunately I have some pretty good balance, because I managed to keep myself to

only falling down the first 3 or 4 steps, and got myself sat down so I would stop falling. I couldn’t say how it all happened, it happened so fast, but Carmel was very upset. She was shaking, and right in my face. So, before anything, I found myself calming her down and letting her know I was okay. After I made sure I was okay, my ankles were both hurting, but I was able to get up and walk fine, we proceeded on. Now, I should have retraced our steps and made her do that again, but it was just not the time for me. I went back to the hotel room, fed and parked Carmel, took a long hot shower, and ordered room service. The next morning when I woke up I was fine. Thank God.

The trip home from Littlerock went better than the trip there. Carmel behaved much better-even though it was a much more stressful day. Saturday morning we went over to the conference center to say our goodbyes, especially to our friends at Seeing Eye, who were exhibiting and presenting at the AER conference. We arrived at the airport a couple of hours early and I managed to return some emails. Then we met some colleagues from the conference and talked a lot. They told me tht Carmel put a smile on everyone’s face who passed by.

Our flight was delayed, so I was concerned about Carmel needing to relieve herself. I asked the gate agent if I could just take her outside of the jetway area and they said no. It was just too far and long and complicated to take her all the way out to the front of the airport-and to repeat security again. So, as I was boarding the plane (Carmel again went into the cockpit to look around), the flight attendant asked if I had taken her out. When I said no he said he would see what he could do. A few minutes later he came back and told me the pilot said he would take her out if I would let him. So, I handed over Carmel on her leash. The entire plane watched Carmel relieve herself. It was hilarious because they were saying, she’s doing a number one, she’s doing a number two—hilarious. The co-pilot came on the loud speaker and said-we are ready to go as soon as our pilot and last passenger board. Carmel raced up the aisle to me-so excitedly.

The flight went fine-Carmel acted a lot better.

Once we got to Atlanta, we had very little time to make our connecting flight. We ended up racing through the airport, with a wonderful lady we had met in Littlerock (who also attended the conference), and we got there to be at the back of the line that was boarding. Now, when we got on board Carmel greeted every single passenger as we went down the aisle. I finally said “everyone, it seems my dog would like to greet all of you, I apologize to you all, she is just so excited to meet new people”. They all seemed really happy to meet her too. It was a bumpy flight and we ended up spending about an extra hour in the air circling til a storm passed in Tampa, but finally we got home.

Sunday we relaxed all day. I didn’t even take her out for her normal long walks. I was exhausted and just wanted to rest.

Overall traveling with Carmel provided me with a greater feeling of confidence and independence, but it was a lot of work too. I am glad to be home. I now know a few things more that will help for the next trip.

I did tell someone that this past week really was beneficial to me though because I do believe it helped me build a greater level of confidence in traveling with a guide dog and enhanced some of our skills. Becoming a guide dog handler was the right choice for me-and that becomes clearer with experiences like this trip.

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Carmel in Littlerock-and doing a great job!

I know everyone is wondering how things are going in Littlerock. I am totally exhausted. The days are very long, but packed with great information. I have also had the opportunity to meet some major leaders in our field. Today I went in search of a doggie relief area, and a major researcher in our field came up and introduced herself and offered to help me locate one. I just couldn’t believe it. She laughed when I told her how famous she is. She was all over my Master’s papers, and here she was showing me to the doggie poop area. And, she even said there was nothing she would rather be doing. How humble and sweet. However, I was a bit bored in the sessions too, ha, ha.

Now, on to the topic you all really care about-Carmel. Carmel is doing an amazing job, let me say that again. CARMEL IS DOING AN AMAZING JOB!!! It is wonderful. We are zooming around the area, a several block area on the riverfront in Littlerock. She is sitting/resting through long sessions. Now, I am sitting more this week than I have in a month combined-so I know this has to be hard on her. But, she is handling it like a pro. There have been no more barking incidents, in fact, she is doing quite well with the other guide dogs around. We’ve had a few incidents, especially with little kids, but she comes back as soon as corrected mostly. It is great.

Now, the conference is at the Peabody, which is known for their ducks. Yesterday Carmel saw the ducks outside and was fascinated. When we went out to the veranda where they had been from then on she kept looking for them. She is just convinced they have to be there somewhere. It was like the dogs in our office a few weeks ago. She just remembers and can’t let it go. Hilarious.

This evening I was speaking with a colleague who told me he has been considering the guide dog route for some time. He asked me a lot of questions. Also, then his wife and daughter came along, so the whole family got information. I very much enjoy sharing information and encouraging guide dogs for those who I know have the right mobility skills and needs-as I know it is really life-changing.

I have the interesting perspective that I was here in the same area a couple of months prior to getting Carmel, and then now here with her-and it is radically different I feel so much more confident.

Seeing Eye representatives are here and I went to one of their sessions. A good reminder of a few things. The session was designed for orientation and mobility instructors, but very good for me to hear again as well. Of course, then later that day one of them saw me totally messing up-not knowing where I was going. I hate that-I was doing so great and then right when you mess up there they are. They were encouraging and told me it looks like we are doing a good job though. And, I am feeling more confident in this every day. I was nervous about this trip, but it is working out-and I think Carmel and I are developing greater levels of skills as well. I know I am feeling more trusting of her. This really happens when you are in an unfamiliar area, and this is sure one of those.

Well, here is a cool thing. Somehow I lost Carmel’s portable water bowl-it’s just a plastic thing that unfolds. I must have accidentally left it at home. Now, did I mention prior that half of my suitcase is Carmel stuff. I don’t even think I have enough clothes this time. And, I usually have way more clothes than I actually need. But, of course I had to bring dog food, her brush, her treats, so there wasn’t much room for my stuff-and I wasn’t going to check my bag-no way.

Anyway, I had heard somewhere that you could use a shower cap as a water bowl-and I have been doing that-and it has worked out great. That is my tip of the day. If anyone has other cool tricks like this please feel free to share. I did bring a real bowl for the hotel room, but I am using the shower cap to take to the conference-for between sessions.

So, I am very tired now-and Carmel has already fallen asleep, and I am ready to do so myself. Good night to all!

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24 hours in the life of a traveling guide dog and her handler…

Carmel and I set off at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday for our AER conference in Littlerock. We arrived at the airport and got a drop-off at Delta curb side check-in, which is always where I check in. Well, I should say it was where, because I was told that with a service animal you must go to the check-in counter-at least that is the Delta rule at Tampa International Airport. I told them I should not have to go there-as I had an electronic ticket. They insisted, so not to prolong things I just went. Now, this happens to persons with disabilities all of the time-we just end up having to do things like this even though the rest of the world doesn’t because otherwise we’d have to stand our ground and fight (advocate) and possibly miss our flight or something else, so we just give in. We all wish the world would just realize we do sometimes know what we are talking about-and if it involves issues around access or adaptations, believe me-we know more. Anyway, I caved in and went to the ticket counter and waited in the long line-and thought the whole time-this is a waste of my time-and I guess I won’t be getting a coffee after all-and I really need one. Of course when I finally got to the ticket counter, the agent says, “you don’t have anything on your record about traveling with a service animal.” Well, I told her I don’t have to have it on there and whipped out my Seeing Eye I.D. card. She proceeded to ask me for papers-what. Inside I was sort of panicking. I didn’t have any papers on me-I thought the I.D. card would be more than sufficient. That is at least what I told her and it seemed to have worked. Yes, then she tried to re-seat me in the bulkhead, which I declined nicely and told her I wouldn’t have as much space. Now, after 30 minutes or more-I was on my way to my gate, with a skycap, who never left my side, well, Carmel and I followed him while he lugged along my roller bag. Carmel did a relatively good job in the airport-she did get distracted a few times. I took the gentle leader out of my bag and started to put it on her, and immediately she got that dejected look-so I took it off, and she was indeed better after that.

We got on the plane, with our seat way in the back. Got there without any issues.
Then I realized we had an aisle seat. I recommend to everyone out there to never get an aisle seat with a guide dog-you will spend your entire flight pulling and pushing them. Pulling them out of the aisle, using your feet to push them back in, etc. By the time we got to Atlanta, my back was killing me from all of the work. And, we still had to get to Littlerock. Now, I need to get someone to walk me to the next gate-always seems to be an issue. It was a major issue in the Atlanta airport. It seems no one likes dogs-all are afraid. I had to listen to arguing about who was going to walk me. Finally a nice man did and he seemed fine. But then he only took me to the edge of the concourse and said he couldn’t go to the concourse I needed to get to. So, I got sat in a waiting area to wait for a shuttle. See note above about getting stuck doing things no one else has to do. Ugh. ARG! Finally the shuttle arrived, and the shuttle driver freaked out. She informed I had to sit in the back because she is afraid of dogs. I did ask her to stop off at the dog relief area (a grassy area on the road side). She got out of the van on her side and then told me to get out-so she would be away from the dog. Amazing. Of course I took this opportunity to educate her about the training Seeing Eye dogs receive and assured her I understand about being fearful of dogs (I myself am), but that guide dogs receive exceptional training and are at no risk to people. We finally arrived at our gate. Got on the plane and realized we were in the bulkhead. I will have to say here it was a small plane, but wow, there was no room for Carmel. I spent that entire flight keeping her under my feet. I did reward her with some ice cubes, which she loved. Finally we arrived in Littlerock, got the shuttle to our hotel (DoubleTree) and got to our room. And, I was ready to totally collapse, but Carmel wasn’t. She was ready to stretch her legs.

So, we set off for a walk and some lunch with a business colleague I had run into at the airport. We ended up exploring the market place area and finding a great restaurant, I think Whiskey River, and eating a great meal. I am thinking of lunching there again today. Carmel did a great traveling in town. I felt so confident walking with her. She is funny about those grates on the rod though-she always has to go around them, which confuses me because I am never sure what she is doing. I am still learning to just trust her, and know she has quirks too, just like people.

We got back around 3 p.m. local time and took a short rest-I returned work emails. Then at 4 p.m. we had orientation. The conference provides individuals to help orient the attendees who are blind to the hotels ( I am staying at a different hotel than the conference is), and the area. Now, by this time my feet were absolutely killing me and I mean killing me. By the time we finished this orientation I was ready for bed-and it was only 6 p.m. local time and 7 my time. I spent the next hour or so trying to get Carmel to park-but she wouldn’t. So, I told her we were going to bed and she would just have to wait til the morning.

So, in the middle of the night-3 a.m. local time-Carmel woke me up to tell me (she has a specific noise she makes-sort of a whine) that she needs to go. Now, I felt so bad but told her there was no way we could go-the area was locked up for relief-the Double Tree has set up a nice and convenient area for dog relief, but it is locked from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. I felt so bad for her. I needed to go myself and tried to not go-since I felt bad I wasn’t taking her, but eventually I just went myself. Anyway, I justified, I wasn’t the one who refused to go last night. Now, I also must say here, I contemplated all the things I could do. I thought, I could take her out the front door (no-too obvious to front desk/security, put newspaper in the bathroom-no, I don’t have any newspaper and that would create a bad habit, let her go in the bathroom-no way. I just hoped she would hold it til I could take her out. So, at 5:30 a.m. local time-our normal time to be up by-usually a bit earlier-she had had it and let me know we needed to go now. I called the front desk and asked if they could unlock the back door-and they did. Carmel went immediately. So, now we are back in the room and I am writing this up and then going to get ready for the day.

Oh, I forgot a big thing. Carmel barked at another guide dog yesterday. I was so embarrassed. Before when I’ve heard dogs bark at conferences/meetings I have honestly thought the handlers were not good handlers. Now, it has happened to me-oh my goodness. The person giving me the orientation said Carmel was wagging her tail when it happened, so I am thinking she just wanted to play, but there is no way I can let her get into barking. I corrected her immediately. I am so so hoping she doesn’t do that again. I am hoping to talk to someone from Seeing Eye to get feedback on what I can do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. How embarrassing.

All in all the past 24 hours have been exhausting, but Carmel is performing well. She is doing her job, and I am feeling more confident and independent traveling than I ever have.

So, now we are off to a full day of conference activities, and meeting new people and other guide dogs. Everyone pray we do well.

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Carmel’s guide dog journey continues

The Carmel Journey continues…

Well, Carmel and I have been home from The Seeing Eye for over 2 weeks. Things are going very fine. Carmel and I continue to take daily walks-2 when weather permits, and thus our skills are continuing to develop. It is amazing how I am starting to notice more and more through the harness handle-starting to really read her well. Also, over the past week I’ve noticed that she is needing less and less correction. IN fact, she has only received a verbal correction/reminder over the past few days. She is such a good guide dog.

We are really doing just normal life. We get up every morning, take a walk, go to work, come home, play, go for a walk, relax, and go to bed. How boring-we need to take a trip. We do have a couple of business trips planned in the next month-so we’ll see how we do. I know for my part getting around will be easier and I’ll feel much more confident.

I guess that is about it for now. If anyone has any specific questions-feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer the best I can.

We are getting ready to go to dinner and then to the mall. We went to do a little shopping (2 hours) this morning and left Carmel in her crate-because she is not the easiest to shop with, but we’ll give her a try this evening. It felt very strange to be without her-I’ve only left her in the other room a few times to build up to leaving her for a bit. I kept worrying that she was lonely. She was so excited when we got home-wagged her tail for 10 minutes straight.

Wags from Carmel.

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Carmel at home

I know you are all wondering how the flight home went with Carmel. It all went fine. My instructor Brian took me to the airport and walked me through security and to the gate. At security they gave Carmel a pat down-which of course she loved and wagged her tail.

Carmel had a chance to say goodbye to her trainer, Brian, who I tell you-she loves so much. He had a nice talking to with her-and told her to take care of me. It is amazing the bond that trainer and dog develop-and to see it is beautiful. I know she will miss him, but I promise to give her a great home and life. Also, thank you Brian and the entire Seeing Eye team for great training and the amazing gift of Carmel.

Brian asked the flight people to give me a window seat and block the seat next to me-to give me a bit of extra space for our first flight. So, they gave me an entire row-I guess they think people who are blind take up more space. Of course everyone who passed by and saw her commented on how beautiful she is and well behaved. Hello, what about me-I think I deserve some of those comments-smile!

Carmel was fine on the flight. I reassured her a few times that all was fine, especially on take off and landing. Overall though she was fine. Yes, the dogs fit fine right under the seat in front. Now, I know this because I have stuffed some rather bulky carry-on bags under there before.

I was so thrilled to see my family. My Olivia ran and gave me a hug. She and Carmel have gotten acquainted, and are developing a wonderful and playful relationship. Carmel loves to bring her toys and have them thrown-over and over again. She is quite insistent too. We have gone on several walks, and she is doing great. Except, she is pooping on route-big problem. I am assured by others that this will resolve itself-and believe me-I am correcting her. Today I am so sure Brian, my instructor, would have been proud, because I gave a correction that was exactly what he told me to-my “you better not do this again” correction. Of course, a minute later she was getting all kinds of praise for choosing to take me through a sprinkler path instead of a dangerous sidewalk drop-even though she hates to get rained on. What a good girl for taking care of me.

Today we also went to work. My Lighthouse team were wonderful-even though they were all excited they didn’t touch or look at her until I gave them the go ahead-off harness. She also met Heidi, our other dog guide resident. I think we might have some jealousy between the two. Heidi is such a great dog-also from The Seeing Eye-so I told Carmel that Heidi is her role model. She can learn to be a bit more calm from her.

So, after work we took another long walk, and are now getting ready to enjoy a nice weekend at home. We have all realized that life with a dog is quite different from our previous pre-Carmel life-relaxing doesn’t have the same meaning to Carmel! It reminds me so much of when Olivia was younger! Hopefully we can get Carmel to do a bit more than Olivia does-big smile! Olivia is currently trying to teach her to “pick up her toys and put them in a basket.” Let’s see how that goes.

And, the Carmel saga will continue…

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