Posts Tagged vision

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


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!

Enjoy the picture!



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Carmel-mistaken identity!

Well, I found out yesterday that Carmel is not a yellow lab, she just looks exactly like one! Carmel is actually a lab/ golden retriever mix. Her father is a black lab and her mother a golden retriever, and thus we have a beautiful yellow lab with fluffly fur and tail. She is a beauty. I know, I know, where are the pictures? Everyone has been requesting pictures. It is The Seeing Eye policy that we do not send out pictures until we officially graduate from training, because the dogs are not officially ours until then. You never know, something could happen that resulted in a change of dog or no dog. It is looking like Carmel and I will definitely be going home together Thursday morning. We have a very early morning flight back to Tampa on Thursday-and believe me-I am so so ready. 26 days is a very very very long time to be away from home and those you love.

Carmel and I have continued to practice walking in a variety of situations and settings. She is still energetic and a wonderful guide. She has given me a level of independence I could not have imagined.

So, I’ll see all of you in Florida soon-and remember-don’t pet Carmel or me-unless I say so!

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Carmel the Seeing Eye dog in New York City!

Well, the trip all have been waiting to hear about-and I have been waiting to go on. Today Carmel and I went to New York City. We drove down-I didn’t drive-but Carmel co-piloted for our instructor. We parked at the Port Authority and walked to the subway and took a subway trip to nowhere in specific. Then we walked a lot-I mean a lot. Carmel did amazing. She dodged people, construction, dogs, children (I know they are also people, but they are in a category of their own when it comes to Carmel), and anything else in NYC one must dodge. It was crowded-as usual-but exhilarating. We were speeding through-and enjoying ourselves. I didn’t have to worry about bumping into anyone-well, of course we did bump a few people-but this is because it is impossible not to in NYC, and you know they weren’t looking where they were going! It was really terrific-we were just one of the crowd. My instructor told me there was quite a reaction from passer-bys. There were those staring in wonder, in fear, and I am sure those who were thinking “who let the blind people and dogs out!”

We had lunch at ESPN Zone. Had a great burger, fries and strawberry shake, and Carmel and her Seeing Eye guide dog buddies sat politely under the table and let us eat in peace.

I was in NYC a few years ago, and I went all over NYC by myself-and was impressed with how well I got around then, but it was nothing compared to today. We flew and I looked around and didn’t have to worry about running into people or falling. Carmel is amazing and I am feeling so great about my decision to become a Seeing Eye guide dog handler.

And, yes, I did wear tennis shoes, but with a super cute outfit-and I will wear the heels next time-when I don’t have to walk so far!

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Long walks and nature trails.

Carmel and I went for a very long neighborhood walk Friday and it was exhausting and awesome. I am looking forward to continuing these long walks when I return home-as it is just so relaxing to get out and walk and think or not think and enjoy the sounds and smells, and sometimes the sights if I am having a good vision day!

On Saturday we went out for a nature trail walk, which was really fun and relaxing. I love nature trails, and haven’t been comfortable on them because I have to hold someone’s arm and often end up hitting roots, etc. The very cool thing is that Carmel took me around a bunch of roots-my trainer told me she did this-I just thought this is a great trail with no roots.

In the afternoon a couple of us went to a Morristown art show/festival. It was one of those outside things with tents and lots of people and dogs. Carmel did really well. Of course I had to correct her on a couple of dog distractions, but overall a great trip. And, yes, I did have a couple of people try to approach and pet her.

I tell you-I am in great shape now with all of this walking. Even though The Seeing Eye has amazing food and feeds us constantly. I will miss such delicious meals when I go home-but I sure do want to go home. Maybe I’ll have to make more time to cook-LOL. I have even asked for a couple of the amazing recipes we have enjoyed! Thank you Seeing Eye for treating us so well, for the amazing training, and of course for the amazing Seeing Eye dog guides.

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Amazing freedom with my guide dog, Carmel.

I had my first night trip with Carmel last night and it went fantastically. I haven’t walked alone with confidence at night in many many years. As a result of Retinitis Pigmentosa I have “night blindness”, meaning I am unable to really see anything in poorly lit areas, such as at night or in dimly lit rooms. Most people’s eyes accommodate in a few seconds when they are in a darker place, and the pupil opens up so more light is let in; however, the cones and rods in my retina are so deteriorated that I don’t have the ability to accommodate to darkness. So, I have had to take someone’s arm (sighted guide) or walk very slowly and cautiously with my cane for many years to get around at night or in dim areas. Last night we were flying free. It was awesome! I felt such freedom and confidence. We walked a long way, passing people, night clubs, cafes, and other stuff on the sidewalk, and we did great! I can’t even really explain the freedom I felt-feel with Carmel. I have heard people with guide dogs talk about the freedom and independence-and the speed, but I believe this is one of those things you cannot fully express in words-it is just one of those things you have to live!

A very interesting and strange thing happened on my walk this morning-which I feel compelled to share-as it is just unbelievable. Carmel and I were trotting along-I mean walking-no trotting…

Anyway, we were going down a sidewalk with some clearance issues (meters, poles in the middle, etc.) and so weaving a bit. All of a sudden Carmel stopped, and I was immediately thinking that she must be trying to figure out how to get me around/through a situation, and I was about to check what was going on, when I hear my trainer say “excuse me, please do not pet the dog, it is working.” Now, the person who was petting Carmel never said one single word-I had no idea they were even there! Can you even imagine. What kind of person just starts petting a perfect stranger’s dog? I just do not understand what people can be thinking. Now, this has happened to almost all of my classmates as well. Prior to this I have had people ask if they can pet her-and I’ve had to say no, not while she is working. Please know that when a guide dog is in harness and working that it is very dangerous to those of us who depend on them to be our eyes. I need Carmel to give her full attention to guiding me-and every time someone distracts her by looking at her, petting her, waving at her, etc. my safety is at risk. And, repeated episodes of this will essentially untrain all of the work put into her training.

All you puppy lovers out there-please make sure you know you are awesome-but do not distract a guide dog when it is working!

We can arrange pet sessions for Carmel when she is not working! smile!

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One week of guide dog training left.

The past couple of days have been more of the same-walking and walking. Yesterday it rained, and they mean it when they say we’ll work in rain. This is important because in real life we still have to get around in rain too-and I can tell you there were many times in Miami when I got caught out in the rain at the bus stop. Fortunately I live a lot closer to work now and can get rides very easily, but it is still important to be prepared. And, you know what’s coming-the pups still have to do their business, rain or shine-which means I have to go out in the rain with her-ARG!

We went out for pizza yesterday, and Carmel behaved perfectly. She sat under tha table and didn’t make a peep. She is really doing well sitting under chairs-which is also very important because once we get home and I go back to work she will be doing this quite a bit.

This morning we went to the court house again, and this time she behaved and did not get on the security counter. We were primarily working on steps, which I am still a bit uncomfortable with. Now, all you sighted people out there-just imagine being blind-folded and walking and not knowing when you will encounter steps-that is scary. Carmel is coming through though-she stops so I can find them. I am sure that I will eventually have complete trust in her.

I will be at home in just one week! I can’t wait to go home!

I’ve enjoyed my time at The Seeing Eye and feel I’ve gotten amazing training, but 26 days is a very very long time!

I think we are all ready to go home! Just one week left for the remaining 10 of us. Today the re-trains (those who have previously had dog guides) went home.

One week and counting!

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Shopping with a guide dog named Carmel…

Well, Carmel got a little dog bug going around the pups, so last night the entire conversation was poop! And, this morning she didn’t get to eat-so we could make sure she got the issue out-LOL. She seems fine now-and I sure bet she is starving. I felt a bit guilty eating some awesome carrot cake at lunch knowing my poor Carmel didn’t get her breakfast.

But, work must go on-so we had our two normal working trips. We did shopping (I just had to have some new closed toe flat shoes-b/c I am so tired of wearing tennis shoes) and city travel. Carmel is not the easiest dog to shop with. She likes to shop-and likes to look at everything-in fact, she was so focused on something in Walgreen’s that she ran me into a pole. Of course, I corrected her and we practiced it again and she managed to get me right around that pole. Shoe shopping was interesting as well. What you need the guide dog to do is sit and “rest” right beside you while you make your selections. Carmel is not so patient. And, my trainer Brian wanted me to get some ugly shoes that again looked like tennis shoes-what does he have against cute shoes!? Finally we agreed on a pair-I had to have his approval because I want to wear them to NYC next week and they have to be shoes he feels are safe-whatever that means.

We did the escalator again-which sure makes me nervous. I just imagine that she can get her little toes caught in there-and so I just lift her right off at the end-I am so sure it is a sight! I do not think I’ll ever feel really comfortable on the escalator with Carmel-even though I felt fine with my long cane-it is just such a dangerous time for her-I will keep very diligent when on there with her. Now, I am also trying to figure out how I’ll wheel my suitcase with one hand and her with the other-should be interesting…

So, now Carmel is relaxing a bit before dinner, PARK and lecture time again-and I am catching up on work emails.

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