Saturday, 31 December 2011

Blog 18 December 31, 2011
The End to the Beginning

It is New Years Eve and like most people I cannot wait for this year to end! The symbolism behind the last day of the year, for most is putting the bad or the good behind them and of course starting of a new. I am usually one of those people you know (type A) personality that make a list and have a plan! for what they want to achieve for the upcoming year.    We sit down make resolutions for the upcoming year and for some there resolution is no more resolutions. I never understood that because that in its self is almost impossible. The reason I say it is impossible is that you are not the only one on the planet your life is intertwined with others and they manage to draw you into goal setting be it your boss, friends or partner so when people say that they are not making resolutions that in itself is a resolution.
As I look over the past year I can honestly say I cannot wait for midnight to come. It was very hard year the loss of Eric, Jagger The loss of my best friend’s father, and our good friend who passed away not too long ago and of course not having a guide dog made this year very tough it created a lot of issues for me. I have to tell you that this year was not all bad and I am a type of person that does not like to dwell on things but as the year comes to close I want to share the highlights of this year.
The first thing was the healing of my foot injury that lasted a year and half it finally healed. The second item was that we spent a week reconnecting with an old friend of my wife’s whom became a very close friend of mine we had a wonderful time together and she gave us an incredible gift of our wedding invitations.   We got to enjoy one of our best friend’s weddings over the summer. We came to realize how lucky we were to have great family and friends. The last and I think the most important was getting married to my childhood sweetheart and my best friend which for me was the strong close to the year. It was a time that brought our family’s closer together. We had our best friends as the best man, and matron. We had our best friend marry us. We had all our kids apart of the service and wedding party. We took time to honour the people we lost and enjoyed the people that were there. We got to see as we call them our new adopted grandchildren enjoy the wedding with. We got to watch many miracles happen before during and at the end of the evening.   
This leads me to my New Year’s resolution which is very simple to live life as it was meant to be.  We are going to have more fun in our lives. We will do more things together as a couple and as a family. I am going to train more because it makes me feel good. I am going to go on more walks with my wife in the woods and by the river. I am going to go to university to study not with the hopes of starting a new career right away but for the enjoyment of learning about Theology, not just for the spiritual part but for the rich history it has. I am going to meet more people and get to know them. I will laugh more and tell more jokes. Take more journeys. I have some new projects I am working on that are fun and everyone will enjoy.  Quite simply I am going to enjoy life more.

Cheers!

Happy New-Year 2012.       

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Blog 17 December 4 2011

End of the Semester; A New  Mountain To Climb. 

It’s that time Christmas break the end of the semester. Hooray!! I don’t mind telling you it has not been easy. I have one more paper due on Friday and of course it will take everything for me to get it done.
This semester has been a big learning curve for me it has been hard to focus. I had so many things happening at the same time, the wedding, hospital appointments and a tremendous amount of reading to do, along with papers it has seemed like I have been doing papers.
I learned that I don’t enjoy walking with a cane especially in the snow, but the good news is and that’s why I am writing this blog tonight is ??? I finished my application for the Canadian Guide Dog School and sent it on Saturday, and now the waiting to hear from them begins. We sure miss having a dog in the house and we sure Miss Jags a lot, but hopefully things will work out.
A funny thing happened on the way to the post office, a lady stopped me and asked how long have I been blind, not a strange question since I get this all the time. I could tell by the shadow on her face she was wearing wrap round sun glasses ( normally worn by a person who is visually impaired) she began to tell me that she had an eye problem, asked where her cane was? She began to tell me that she was afraid to use it because she did not want people to stare at her, and she had some sight and was afraid of the repercussion of some people might say. I have to tell you that this is not the first time that I hear of this, and I have experienced this myself. I could hear the pain in her voice as she was talking to me, I have to tell you this conversation took place in French, and my French is not the greatest but we communicated ok, with each other. As I stood there listening to her, I got this overwhelming feeling that I was suppose to meet this person, as I call it a (Jabez moment ) 1st Chronicles 4:10 we talked for a few more moments she told me that someone was coming this week to show her the cane. I gave her my card with my cell phone number and told her to call me if she wanted someone to go out with and practice with her cane. I write this not to tell you about me, but the importunes of helping people. I thankful everyday for my wife and kids, my friends, my family because they have always been there to support me, when I lost Jags they were there to ensure that I got around until I felt comfortable enough with my cane. I don’t know if she will call me but even if she does not at least she knows that someone is there to help her if she wants it.      

So with that said I will keep everyone posted about the dog, and I will tell everyone  how this semester plays out.,and if I hear from that lady, I will keep you posted.

Until then look for your Adventures Around The Corner.    

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Changes

Blog 16

Changes 

October 29 2011

Well we are heading into November and as we get ready to change our clocks ahead, I had realized I have not posted a blog for a while. I thought of many things I could write about especially since the seasons have changed this time of year holds so many different meanings. November 1 will be six months since we lost Jagger. He loved fall and winter he took on different personalities in theses seasons. He loved to be outside sniffing in the park and watching the squirrels, he also liked rolling around in the snow. October 26 was 6 months since we lost our nephew Eric. This time of season he would have been well started into the hockey season and we would have been following along with him on face-book. I would speak with my sister on the phone get all the news about the kids and then we would talk about Eric. It’s still a hard time but it is getting better.  Arlene has managed to take down the wedding plan she had on our refrigerate making sure that Jags was taken out to have a break during the reception. It had been there since we had plan the wedding in January before everything happened. It was a hard moment for her.  With that said let me tell you a bit about married life people ask me how is married life? I tell them wow what a deferent’s, they say things really changed and of course I say yes because when she nags me  now it’s from my wife and not my girlfriend it’s a big deferent’s! (grinJ). We are not most newlyweds. We did not run off somewhere to have a week away enjoying time together no not us. I whisked us away to the library at the university and spent most of my time writing papers and preparing for midterms. Arlene of course started looking through pictures and asking my opinion and of course being the loving husband I am I replied “ l would love to look at pictures but I have to write papers” ahhhhhh (grinJ). We did do something special together, that a real romantic groom would do with any new bride. I took my bride to the Ocularists, to have my prosthesis in my left eye adjusted if that is not showing your new bride a good time I don’t know what is!  How many grooms do you know get to show off their false, eye? (lolJ). I would have posted pictures but Arlene would not give them to me. We did manage to go out to a very nice dinner with our best friends (best man and brides maid) at that point we all needed a break. With all hat said I am so happy that we got married I would not change it for the world.
Now that October is coming to the end (hurray) it is just in time to get ready for finals  (boo L) Arlene and I will take a weekend away in the spring after the next semester to relax and enjoy each other without the hustle and bustle of school and daily challenges. We will also be waiting to hear about a new guide dog, I will let everyone know when the application will be sent in.  For now I will get back to writing papers and Arlene will start the thank you cards.

Thanks to everyone!       

Friday, 7 October 2011

Blog 15 October 8 2011

Blog 15:  October 7, 2011

7 Days

It’s 10:55 at midnight it will be mine and my wife’s 7 day anniversary. The wedding was fantastic the service was none like any had ever seen! The music was great praise and worship, with keyboard, guitar, drums and trumpet. No one had to look for the words we had it all on power point. My wife and I with the help of my friend set a separate power point of our journey over the last 11 years including one of us at graduation in Connecticut with the trainer, and my wife and I in our Canadian shirts get my diploma and Jagger. My brother sent pictures of his family with a sign saying congratulations. I could not give just one high light of the service you laughed you cried you praised and worshiped. As I said to everyone if you did not feel the Holy Spirit or any emotions you did not have a pulse!
I know it sounds funny to hear a groom talk about his wedding like this but I have to say that I am still moved.
The readers were great our daughter read the Love poem, our two ministers friends read the bible readings, and I have to say that I have heard these readings many times before from family members at weddings, but until you heard them read with passion and love, they are just words. (I am talking from my own experience, Psalm 1and 1 Corinthians 13) I can’t talk for others. Our oldest son walked my wife down isle our oldest daughter was a brides made and read. Our youngest son who is autistic and just started reading unknown to us spent time with the minister that morning practicing reading, when it came time to for the minister to read our vows he called up our son and our son read the vows. It was a tearful time for my wife and I, and everyone in the Church. Some people count their wealth by money or possessions or who they know! We can honestly say we count our wealth by our friends and family who to us are one in the same. We were so blessed to have our best friends not only to stand as our best man, and matron of honor, but they were so much more than that. My child hood friend officiated the wedding and it was because we had known each other for so long it made it relaxed and fun joyous. My best man not only stood with me but lead the praise and worship for the service but also guided me around gave me my Q’s and made sure that I was safe, we did all the movements without a cane, I kept him hopping. His wonderful wife was the matron of honor she took great care of my wife before, during and after the service, they also did a wonderful duet for us during the signing as well as had to sign the documents. At the end of service the quire that my wife and belong to came up to sing for us, did I mention that my best man is the quire director so he took care of that as well along with his wife. I have to say it was wonderful.
The food was outstanding the soup was homemade along with everything else, we ask certain guest to cook things our best man, and matron of honors daughter did all our vegetables everything was fantastic did I mention that the best man and matron of honor made sure that happened for us!
My wife and I wanted a true Celtic wedding with people from the community pitching in. My sister made the favorites and cooked our matron of honor did all our cup cakes, her sister made the bride and groom cake it was great. We held the reception in the basement of the church for us it was community being brought together.
The theme was Brigadoon and as my wife said it was only open for one day, if you have not seen the movie I highly recommended it.
My wife’s friend had made our invitations and drove the down from Kentucky. I got to meet her and we became close friends in a short time and we look forward to seeing them hopefully soon.
The grooms’ speech was long but I got to honor a few very good friends.
When we first started the plans for the wedding Jag’s was fine and all was good, but Oct 1 was Jag’s 4 months passing, the 26 Sep was my nephew passing 4 months and in the middle of all that one of my best friends got married and we had to leave right after the service to bring Jag’s home.
We had a big picture of Jag’s in the hall, I had picture of my nephew and my best friend and his new wife was there (he officiated the wedding). I got to honor Jag’s, I honored my sister and her grandson who passed away (my great nephew) I to toast my best friend and his new wife because I could not before.
We left, I got to toast his wife for videotaping the service my brother got sick the day of, and she also helped out right up until my wife had to get dressed. I got to toast my other best friend and his wife (best man and matron of honor) who was there through everything and was always on the other end of the phone when we needed them or was at he house just when we needed to have some there. I toast to all the people in the room who have shared the journey of the last 11 years with us and most of all I got to toast my bride. She said to me a week before the wedding she waited 11 years for this day, I told her in my toast I waited 32 years. I told her when she was 15 I was going to marry her, and I am like a Pit-bull when I get a hold something in my head I don’t Quit!              the mi   food was outstanding   

Monday, 26 September 2011

Last few weeks

Blog 14 September 26  2011

The last few weeks.

These last few weeks has felt like it has dragged by. The days are long between the wedding plans and school it feels like time is standing still.
On Monday I went to the doctor’s office and I kind wish I stayed home, that appointment is for another blog session. I came home and did some home work. On Tuesday on my way to class I realized that my pace was slower my thoughts all over the place. I came across 3 blind people training with their new guide dogs, they were big Burnies mountain dogs. I thought how lucky they were. I went to class tying to stay awake and not yawn. I met a friend after class we went outside and met a man,who introduce us to his big beautiful 105lbs German Sheppard he was black and tan  his name was Rex he was so beautiful I almost cried. He asked about Jags. I explained what happen and he said he was sorry, what else could he say, but for that few minutes I got to pet a big Sheppard. 
On Wednesday I don’t remember what we did but it was things for the wedding. On Thursday I thought it would be more of the same. I dragged my way to class, I went into the cafĂ© to eat lunch sat at usual place took my hat off and my sunglasses rubbed my face and let out a sigh. The girl at the table said “it’s a long day “I said yes and it’s just getting started. I started speaking with the girl she asked what I was taken, I told her “Theology” she was so happy she said she was a Christian and was with a campus organization, we talked some more I felt better, she asked if I would go and talk at her group I gave my card I asked her, her name she said it was Joy! Wow I thought just when I needed some Joy in my spirit right about now. I went to class I didn’t fall asleep I felt awake and happy. Friday’s class was good all except the paper that’s due on the 30th of September the day before the wedding. Saturday we went to Ontario, the next province or (State) to pick up some more stuff for the wedding. We went with our good friends who happens to be my best man and brides made (not the same person) his wife and who is also the music director and my guide, he wears many hats for this wedding (and he Juggles to). On Sunday we went to church were we had a great contemporary service that we call family service that we love so much that’s put on by our friends and our church with power point it’s great. It’s Monday again I spent the day reading prepping for the paper I need to write and doing wedding vows and just doing stuff. The wedding is 5days away I can’t wait I am really looking forward to marring my child hood sweet heart my friend and love of my life.    

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Day!

Blog 13 September 15 2011

The Day!

The day has been like no other. I have started university and have been traveling back and forth without to many mishaps. My pace is slower and it’s hard to focus but today was the hardest. This is the day that Jagger and I would have celebrated our 5 years together as a guide dog team, to the day. I know it has been 3 months since he passed away but he let me know that he was still watching out for me and hanging around.
This morning on my way to class there was a lady who was walking her dog. She had one of those extendable leashes with a gentle collar the ones that goes around the neck and snout. The dog was pulling her around and she was yelling at the dog “I am fed up with this and you better start listening” as the dog plunked firmly on the ground and looked at her in that silly manner as to say what’s wrong? As she got close to me I asked if her dog was friendly, and I asked if I could pet her dog?(Buddy) she said yes he is friendly and yes I could pet him. I stretched out my hand he immediately sat to my left and just looked at me while I petted him for me it was like petting Jag’s but smaller. Buddy sat the same way Jags would sit  I would pet the top of his head and wait for the bus while I petted  the top of his head. I checked the collar and told her it was twisted up and the type of leash she was using was not a good one for that type of collar. I further explained to her that this collar is to keep your dog tight and slow it’s pace that can only be achieved if you have control.
I learned all this by having a Big Dog! Who thought he was a small puppy and as he taught me these collars are only good if you know what you’re doing.
I spent the bus ride and most of my day thinking about all he adventures at the bus stop, you might think how much, adventures could you have at a bus stop? Trust me if you knew Jagger you could understand.
It was a cool damp day with drizzle this was Jag’s weather he could work and walk for hours in this type of weather I know because we use to. On the way home from class I stopped at his favorite spot, were he could take a break sniff look at the squirrels and birds get his cookie and water get a scratch and come home to see mom and Chris and just be his silly self.
I said a prayer for him, left the park and headed to the bus stop and came home read the Rainbow Bridge poem looked at some photos and just remembered the people we met all the joy he brought to others the fun we had and all of our travels all in 5 short years.

We still miss him a lot but thank God everyday for having him in our lives. He made us laugh and everyday you could always count on a new Jagger story make you laugh if you were sad.      

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Blog 12: September 6, 2011

The Eagle Has Landed, Mother Goose is watching!

I felt like I was in a two different movies today! The first one was Top Gun, Mother Goose (My Wife) felt it so necessary to drive me to the main bus terminal so I could catch the main bus into town. Although it was nice just sitting around waiting and taking my time to get ready to head into class. I was set to do it on my own. I realized it was not for me that I was doing this it was for her so she could feel somewhat comfortable with me going out without a guide dog. The other movie is the Eagles Dare. A crack team of commandos during World War Two attack the famous Eagles nest. Upon their arrival they  had called  headquarters to report. The code is The Eagle Has Landed! Needless to say when I arrived at school I had to call Mother Goose and tell her The Eagle Has Landed. These simple code words make it fun to call because if I didn’t have fun with it I would feel like I had to report to my mom instead of my wife. The other reason is that it keeps people around me guessing on who exactly I am speaking with.  
For the most part the walk was uneventful but long. I found myself counting streets and remembering the street names and let’s not forget how many times I could stab myself with the cane, and who can forget the  people  you walk into and they give you that look although I don’t see it I can feel it! The class is hard and a lot of reading and papers will need to be done, but this is exactly what I need to pull me out of the slump. I will have a chance to work with the new Jaws program and practice keyboard commands. At the end of the class I met a couple of friends from last semester, of course they asked about Jag’s after telling them the story it was somber but they had some good tales to tell when he would stand up yawn and stretch the professor would just stop and look at him. Jag’s new when class finished; he would get up and walk to me and lift my hand off the computer and the professor would say ok Mickey say’s “the class is over” we all would laughed.
On my walks I have entertained a thought of building a hidden camera in my jacket to record people when I am walking down the street, I think this a project that will happen sooner than later. All in all it wasn’t so bad this is the first day of the first step of training for the possibility of a new dog or the adjustment of not having one. Either way it’s the first step of moving forward.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Blog 11 September 5, 2011

Starting out!

Well it’s that time! It’s time to start back to University tomorrow and, I for the first time in 5years will be heading out on my own.
I have been feeling a lot of stress and anxiety about this day, not that I am afraid to travel without a dog or to walk around Montreal with a cane. I think what I will miss the most is that companionship.
It was nice to walk with someone even if that someone was a guide. If I felt lonely and needed to talk I could say words of encouragement to Jag’s like good job when we crossed the street, or just when we would walk he would guide so good that I would say good job all the time.
These simple words that I would say to him would boost his confidence and give him encouragement at the same time it would also encourage me as well. Those simple words; Good Job was enough for both of us to encourage each other.
It will be hard when I get off the bus in Montreal the first stop we would make is the park outside of the bus terminal. Jag’s new exactly where his spot was, rain, snow, hot or cold it was exactly the same spot, when we were finished class we would stop at the same park he knew that’s where he got his treat and water and a good scratch for doing a good job.  
No going to class is not hard doing it without Jagger will be the hardest, partly because of the mobility but mainly I won’t have my friend with me!


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Getting Starrted

Blog 10 August 30, 2011

Getting Started

The past events of the weekend made me revisit the idea of waiting to start working on my application for a new guide dog.
I love my wife and friends and family very much, and when you have been as independent as I have been, it is hard to have people telling you where to go and what to do.  I have doing my own mobility for 6 years or so and it is getting increasingly harder to have someone guide me around.  The fact that my wife still talks to me after we come home after from being outside must prove she loves me.  I am not the easiest person to guide and coming from a dog to cane and a guide does not make it easier.  We went to a wedding on the weekend which required my wife  to guide me around some tight areas normally she would not bother since Jags would follow her, on command and Jags would handle that job without difficulty.  Some areas were tight so as my wife was guiding me she forgot to tell me to stop instead she pulled my arm while I was trying to walk through a tight doorway, which caused me to stumble and fall into a door.  I was not very happy about that and my reply was “Do not help me”.  I know this was the wrong answer but once again frustration took over instead of patience.  The rest of the evening was a little easier but it was still hard going around tables and coming to staircases (which she still panics about).
The next day we were at a spiritual retreat and my wife guided for a little while, we had some difficulties with steps and obstacles but we got through it.  Some of the things that happened is that my wife would tell me that we are coming to a side walk and I stopped, preparing to cross, but we are still 30 feet from the curb, or as we are crossing she would tell me that the curb is coming and I start lifting my foot but we are still 3 feet from the curb, it must look like I am trying to start a motorcycle or she will tell me to walk in the middle of the ramp or side walk, I finally just said this is not how it works.  Walking with a cane or a dog does not train you to walk down the middle.  Later on during the day my best friend guided me around and it was very different and the biggest difference is he doesn’t talk to me when we come to an obstacle he stops and tells me that we are at the stairs.  I probe with my foot or my cane and we move forward.  I had a chance to reflect during the day in what the differences are between my wife and my friend. They both care very much but my wife is protective and that instinct takes over and she wants to ensure that each step I take I won’t hurt myself, but she does not understand sometimes the more information you try to give the more complicated it gets.  The hardest part of all this is when you have a dog the communication is done by body language and probing is done by your feet and hands.  When someone is guiding you they communicate verbally and sometimes too much communication gets lost between the action that needs to be done and the obstacle. In the time of our retreat I reflected back to the first time when my she guided me around it was very hard for her then, trying to think for two people, herself and myself and do the left right thing how to open the doors and get both of us through the door without getting hit by the door, it was hard for her then and it is still hard for her now.  This also reminded me why I got a guide dog in the first place.
I had a chance to speak with my wife on Monday and go over some basic things about mobility and the most important thing I could tell her is that if you’re not sure just stop.
A few days later we were downtown Montreal at lunch time which is very busy with a lot of construction.  I know that my wife is terrified of when I go back to classes.  I don’t have a dog and how am I going to get around.  Her mind is running a mile a minute.  I asked her if she trusted me, of course the answer was; yes of course!  I then said great you will let me guide you around and you must follow without question and you can’t pull me or stop me, She was very reluctant but agreed, “ she said she trusted me”.  As we started she pulled on my arm and pulled back, I started explaining everything I was doing and how I approach a curb what I am listening for when I cross a street.  I walked her down a busy street and explained what it is I am doing and what I am looking for.  We came to a mailbox.  I explained how we check the obstacles and how to get around them.  I then asked her if she would be willing to do it blind folded she said no it was hard enough just watching me.  In all she was stressed but understood that there is a lot of technique to mobility and I am safe on the street, not as safe as you would be with a dog, but safe.  
I also thought about after the retreat weekend and why I was waiting with the wedding coming.  I took this time to start my application process sooner instead of waiting.  I know, I said; I wanted to wait until the wedding, but as I told my best friend at the retreat, if I don’t start this application process soon, the newlyweds will have to skip the honeymoon.  So I have sent off some of the reports to start getting filled out.
Lets face facts, it is not easy at the best of times guiding someone or giving directions, think back to how many people have given you directions on the phone to get somewhere and you got lost, try guiding someone around giving them directions but they can’t see the land marks or the objects in front of them.  Then try guiding someone who is highly active and independent.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Schools

Blog 9 August 15, 2011

Schools & Training  

As I receive different applications in the mail from a few guide dog schools they all ask the basic information.  Ophthalmologist report [to see if you are “legally” blind], mobility training, doctors report [to see if you can take the physical requirements of training], personal information about you and your activities to ensures that the dog will be worked; it is kind of a waste if you get a dog and you don’t go anywhere.  Some schools ask for a video and some ask for references.  It is no doubt a mountain of paper work to go through, taking time and effort, and all necessary if you want a guide dog.
Each school has a different training program and each one offers different things.  What all these schools have in common is that you are required to go to there for a 4 week training program.  This means you stay overnight, you are there for the whole 4week duration.  You can have your family visit and you can speak with them on the phone however it makes it hard.  The first school I was at, they came and trained you at home.  Now some people think this is easier, in some cases it is, yet in most respects, it’s almost as hard or harder.
The things we did not know the first time around is that nobody but the handler for the first 24-48hours can pet the dog or touch the dog this is the bonding time between the handler and the dog.  The dog is on the leash for the same amount of time and they go everywhere with the handler and I mean everywhere.  You are confined to the house for at least a week and at the end of the day you still cannot go out with the dog.  This means you stay home for 24-48hours this is bonding time.  Thankfully we had a back garden that I could sit with the dog and have coffee.  As you start your street work, you are eventually outside. It should be noted that for the entire training time you are taking care of the dog.  Your spouse may help if you have one but the whole point is that you take care of the dog because you are bonding.  Now, in my case we have an autistic son at home which made it harder.  At the end of each training day you have homework to do.  In essence you have to forget what is going on around you at home and focus on what is taking place (try that with an autistic son who loves animals!).  At the end of your training day you are tired and want to rest but you also know that things need to be taken care of with your family.  In my case, my spouse took care of a lot and it was hard on both of us.  The other distraction we had was the people in the neighborhood coming up and distracting me by wanting to talk and ask questions.
The good thing about training at home, is when you are done you can hit the ground running. You know the area; you know the routes and how to travel.  There is one thing that people don’t expect to hear.  Just because you trained in the area with a trainer, that once the trainer is gone, you know what to expect with your dog.
I can tell you from my experience although I had an exceptional dog, I still had problems, not that we did not know the routes or how to work together but we were still getting to know each other.  We were still building confidence in each other; the dog had to build confidence in me as a handler, to give the right commands.  Myself as the handler to have confidence in the dog to do what I wanted and needed him to do.
This is where I think building a team comes from the level of uncertainty in the beginning to a level of trust and respect in each other.  Once the trainer is not there to help you anymore it is up to you, the handler. Think back through all the training to take all the tips you learned and start putting it together, start taking control of your dog.  I remember the trainer telling me if your dog is not doing what you want him to do, take control, stop go back to basic obedience sit, stand a couple of times, this will bring the dog back under control.  Once this happens you can start again.  If you crossed a street and the dog did not bring you to the corner correctly do it again.  I was told something very important from the trainer, if you want your dog always to perform great and listen well, then take 5 minutes  a day to do obedience.  I did that 5minutes everyday with Jags and trust me, when I tell you that it paid in dividends, his obedience was excellent.       
As I think about having to go to a school to train, I think it might be easier, having no other distraction except to train.  To learn what needs to be done with the dog, bond, and practice the commands that the school uses.  Knowing the commands, how the dog works and getting a dog on a schedule is very important in developing a good guide dog team.  The thing I learned about training in my very early stages of life is to take every moment that you have and use it as a training time.  The other thing I learned is that when I take a course and even if I have done it before, I approach each course as if it was my first time.  I learned that each instructor has something different to offer, they bring different insights to the table.
The adventure will start to begin when all the paper work is done and submitted and accepted to a new school, this can take many months, and this will be the biggest hurdle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

changes

July 27, 2011

Blog 8 Changes

Things are never as easy as we think; we plan one thing and something else happens.  I found myself writing a blog last week in the worst possible way, out of anger. As everyone knows; doing things out of anger leads to nothing but more anger and frustration.  I had applied for a successor dog from the same school that I have been with for over 5 years. I received a call telling me that my application was declined for some reason that is still not clear to me and the letter or information that was sent about the rejection of my application had nothing to do with what was said on the phone.  I was informed that I could challenge the decision.  All I would need to do is have my doctor explain more in detail, which is okay, as long as I knew what the doctor was supposed to write.   
Out of that anger I managed to injure my foot by pushing myself to train, not smart, but out of anger.  I was lucky that my doctor was still in the office at 7pm; go figure what are the chances of that!  I went to see her the next day; she told me that I was lucky that no real damage was done. 14 days no heavy walking and a couple of treatments of laser I will be okay.  So 14 days of no walking versus 1year going back and forth to the hospital every week.   

So I come to the hard part, after 2 months, I am almost right back to where I was.  The hardest thing to deal with; is on Thursday 28th 2011, 2 months since my nephew passed away and Jagger passed away on the 1st.  For most people, one death is hard to deal with, two is even harder, then with the rejection for a new dog and a foot injury seems to be a continuous track of hardship and hurt and you would be right.  I can’t help but think of when I talk of one event, the emotions of the other come into play.  The loss of two family members so close together is hard to deal with.  
I need to point out a few things during these last couple of months that were good.  I have a wonderful loving and caring wife and family.  Through things in our past that I finally dealt with I grew closer to my brothers and sisters.  I strengthened my bonds with my close friends and made some new ones.

I placed myself in a time of deep reflection about getting another dog.  I have decided to look at other schools closer to home and at a different breed, so as not to compare the new dog to Jagger.  I have started looking but will wait for a few months; there are a few things that I need to take care of.  1) Heal my foot, my spirit; I have to make sure that I am in a good place emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 2) I want to look through the different schools and read all the applications and make sure that they are done right and I am not rushed or stressed to get them done.  3) I need to heal up for the upcoming semester at University and be ready for that, so the application will probably not be done until the end of November.
4) I feel like I am forgetting something really important oh “yah!” I have to be healed for mine and Arlene’s wedding Oct 1 2011.  If there is one person in this world that deserves to have something just for her on a special day it’s my Arlene and in comparison to giving her one day to have something special for her and I, is nothing to what she has done for me in my life.
5) I have changed my profile page to a happier time with Jagger and I in Rhode Island on the beach.  If you want to make changes in your life, the first thing you need to change is where you are in yourself.  The first thing you learn in survival school is when you are too tired to go on, it is time to set up camp were you are and once you have the strength, you push on.  The first thing I need to do is change my focus.  Once that happens there is no doubt that your next “Adventure around the corner” is coming soon.




     

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Blog 7 A New Fitness Program,


On most early mornings on TV you can find paid programs advertising items such as; cookware, Knife sets, cleaning products, revolutionary new tools, and my personal favorite, fitness equipment; something for your abs, kettle bells, 10min workout.  It seems to me that all these people who are demonstrating these products are the ones who don’t need to be demonstrating them. The women in tight outfits and men without shirts having 6&8 pack abs and biceps bigger than most people’s legs.  All claiming the same thing; this product will get the results in 90 days, act now and we will send you this nutrition guide.  You are probably wondering what does this have to do with training.
I was at the endocrinologist (Diabetic doctor) last week.  Doc said to me that you have put on some weight since the last time you were here.  Now, I kind of took exception to this as I am not what you would want to put on a poster for a gym and I don’t have a six pack, you could say it is more like a one pack, but my fitness and diet are very good.  
I jokingly said to the doc, “It couldn’t be from all the medication you guys have me pumping into my body could it?”  The Doc’s response was: “It could!”  First, let’s look at what you are eating.  As we went over my diet, doc said, well it is pretty good but we should watch for extra calories. Doc then asked “Are you exercising?” I said I have been getting started; I said not to forget that I have been recovering from a foot injury for the last 16months, and then I said that I am not going back to working out three hours a day.  I would wake up; do 10km on my stationary bike for 30min, weight train for an hour twice a day.  This did not include all the walking and climbing stairs and up hills all the while carrying a 20lb backpack all day including to and from University. I told Doc my fitness is fine, let’s look at the medication and find a better way to distribute it.
So this leads me to want to market my new fitness program, you don’t need to send money although I might charge a licensing fee but I will give it to my friends for free. Lol
First get a light weight broom handle or a light weight stick about 36-40inches long.  Get one back pack, weight 20lbs, put on a pair of running shoes (leave your car at home).  Take the long stick  point it in front of you one end pointed to the ground, tuck your elbow to your waist move the stick in a sweeping motion side 12-16inches don’t use your wrist use your entire arm to do the sweeping motion.
Here is the big part of the work out walk for a mile; I don’t mean a stroll, walk as if you have a purpose.  Walk doing that swinging motion with the stick, first in your right hand pumping the opposite arm, find some stairs and hills and once you have finished turn around and go back but this time put your stick in the left hand.  If you think it’s easier with a guide dog, think again.  I promise you, if you think after an hour or so lifting weights or running on a treadmill is hard, you will definitely find this hard.  I challenge some of these fitness people to this workout.
Every once in a while you get to test your fitness level and yesterday was no exception. Our good friend asked us if we could follow him to the garage with our car because the car he had to get to the garage kept stalling out.  As we followed him, the car kept stalling; he would get it started and drive on.  This kept going on until we were one block from the garage and the car stopped.  He tried starting it; of course it would not start this time.  So I told him, I would push it with him, I put my cane folded-up on the trunk of the car, he took the driver’s side with door open and we started to push.  Well we were on a small down grade (hill) and the car picked up momentum, my friend had to jump into the car to turn it to avoid colliding with a parked car.  I kept pushing, as the car picked up speed, I had no choice but to start jogging and pushing the car at the same time.  Well, my wife was (in stitches) laughing so hard, and my friend in the car was laughing, he said there is nothing so funny than looking out the rearview mirror seeing a white cane folded on the truck of the car, a pair of sunglasses, and a blind guy jogging behind the car pushing, all done in the dark. It’s a scene that would be in a comedy and no one would believe it.  He was not sure what to do because we had to turn a corner and he could not stop, so he figured that I would follow since I am use to being guided anyway. So you have heard of a guide dog, and using cane to guide, and of course people guide other people, and now you have heard of a guide car.  At the successful end we all laughed out loud together. ROFL
I am thinking about adding this to my workout routine! What do you think?         

test

test

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cane vs Guide dog

Cane vs. Guide Dog  

I start refreshing my mobility this week but before I got started I had to convince myself that it was not going to be that bad going out with a cane.  I started with a cane and how bad could it be, people have been using canes for a very long time and I can get back to doing this again for as long as I need to.  Let’s look at the good points.  1) I don’t need to get up and feed it.  2) It doesn’t need bathroom breaks.  3) When I walk on the sidewalk the cane would get caught in the cracks and I would jab myself with the end of the cane or my wrist would snap back (I remember when the cane got stuck in the crack of the sidewalk on Saint Catherine Street on a hot day at 1pm the sidewalk was packed and the cane fell out of my hand.  The shock of everyone around me not knowing what to do, and I was bent down trying to find the cane. I finally realized that the elastic on the end of cane is to go around your wrist).  4) Being at the mercy of the people in front of you who are totally oblivious of everyone else around them while they stroll along.  5) Coming to a construction site and not knowing it until you are on top of it.  6) The constant people bumping into you or tripping on the cane either they don’t see you or they ignore you or they are trying to get ahead of you.  7) Being in buildings is a real event getting turned around or taking wrong directions is a real treat and of course nobody asks if you need help.
Don’t get me wrong a guide dog is not for everyone.  It takes a lot of effort on both parts for a successful team.  1) You need to wake up for the dog to eat and remember whatever schedule  you put your dog on, it will be that for 7days a week, no holidays.  2) Obedience has to be done at least 5mins a day.  3) Discipline when you are out on the street, you need to be strict and keep your dog tight and the people around you in check.  4) You need to make sure that you have what you need for your dog for the day.  5) You need to think of your dog not as a dog but your partner, remember they need a break; bathroom, coffee, lunch, etc… just like you do.  I remember when I was working in an office, the manager would say; okay we have a working lunch.  I would work for my hour and then I would get up from my desk and tell him I need to take the dog out.  The dog does not know what working lunch means.
The benefits are 1) you have a greater mobility, I know some people take adapted transport with their dogs but for me it is a greater freedom to travel.  2) I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in any cracks or holes in the street.  3) There is no more being stuck behind anyone, once the dog finds a safe way to go, you move around people just as you would when you are sighted.  4) Nobody bumps into you, the dog makes sure to clear a path.  5) There is no getting stuck in a crowd if you tell your dog to find the way they should get you out.  6) NO need to worry about construction sites.  7) If you have traveled enough in a building your dog should know the way even if you don’t.  I never worried with Jagger, more often than not; he always knew where we were going better than I did.  8) No worries about someone trying to pass you or come behind you, the dog will tell you.  The best part of a guide for me is the companion I have during the day when I am out and the fun we have at home when they are not working, and the fact I can take them anywhere is great.
I will be training more and more over the summer with the cane in hopes of getting another guide dog and somehow I got a feeling that it is going to be a long hard training period until another guide dog comes, and then it will be even harder but at least it will be fun and exciting. The prospect of having a new dog is getting easier to grasp and knowing what is coming around the corner is getting better.  The excitement of possibly putting that cane back in the closet is thrilling.   


Sunday, 3 July 2011

July 3, 2011 Blog 5

Kids, Music and, Good Friends   

It’s funny how kids, music and good friends can change your outlook from negative to a positive. On Friday July 1st it was one month since Jagger had passed away.  I was still feeling out of sorts, I was still looking in the garden when I went to the kitchen sink window to see if I could see him or when I heard something jingle I would look for him.  However these feelings were slowly starting to change from sadness to remembering a better time.  Last summer Jagger and I helped to build a ship out of cardboard and other materials at our local church for the week long summer day camp that our good friends put on.  The enjoyment we felt as Jagger guided me around the tight spaces while checking to make sure nothing was coming at me or I was not hurting myself (with tools) was always reassuring.  Of course when the kids had seen him on the last day of camp they thought that he was great.  Of course you could see the pup coming out in Jagger just to be with the kids.  Being back doing another project at the same church but a different theme; being with our good friends, and having their dog run around brought back these wonderful memories of Jag’s and I last year.

On Saturday July 2 I accompanied my best friend Steve to the music store to buy a new keyboard for him and the camp. Steve and I love to pull pranks and banter back and forth in public and we have such a great time and laugh at the different things that happen while we are out in public.  Steve and Karen have supported us with Jag’s and me while my feet were healing and Arlene with her back injury, they have been fantastic friends and for us a part of our family. As Steve went to pay for his keyboard I bought a Keyboard stand for Arlene. The sales person brought me to the cash, I asked the guy to find my friend you can’t miss him he is the tall guy (Steve is 6’5”).  I finished paying and Steve grabs his keyboard and turns to me “okay blind man you got your keyboard stand”, the sale guy was so shocked he said to Steve in a stumbling voice “don’t make fun of the guy’s disability and he turns to me and said you should hit him” I said “I can’t he will hide my shoes” the guy was more puzzled and Steve and I laughed more. During the car ride we were talking about walking a mile in someone shoes and all it gets you is shoeless! LoL
That evening we shared a wonderful BBQ and laughed and joked and it started a time of healing and sharing of funny times that we shared with Jagger and all of us out in different functions and of happier times.    


           
John & Steve and Jagger in front of the ship we built after summer camp July 10 2010

Friday, 1 July 2011

Hair cut

Wow! I can’t believe it has been a month since Jagger passed away.  I started to make more headway in getting out and practicing my mobility.  It is hard because we traveled so much, everyone knew us and I keep getting the same questions.  Yesterday was different!  My son and I went to the barber shop, it was haircut time.  The first time the new owner of the shop had seen Jagger come in, she was a little scared of Jag’s because of his size but that quickly ended when she had seen how gentle and funny he was.  He would sit beside my chair while she cut my hair, she would move around him at first and then she just started to step over him.  It was easier than to walk around him (He had won her over).  His picture hangs in her shop.  On one of our visits she asked if her and her aunt could take a picture of Jag’s together with them, he had won their hearts.  After a couple of visits Jagger became a part of the furniture.  I think Jagger enjoyed the end of the haircut the best.  The barber would take the little broom to clean the back of my shirt from hair and of course she would brush Jagger too!  For Jags it was a free scratch and he always enjoyed a free scratch.  My son and I took the opportunity to walk home and practice my mobility it was not too bad it was only a mile from my house. I also remembered why I hate using the cane. When you walk with a cane you must move it side to side to detect objects in front of you which would be good except that your cane gets caught in every crack in the sidewalk and you end up stabbing yourself.  This gave me a chance to speak with my son; he said it was like the old days where we walked together everywhere. He also told me that he is looking forward to a new dog because he missed Jagger.  He is looking forward to helping me train the new dog just like he helped train Jagger.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Jaggers birthday

So as one can imagine it is a very hard day today           ! Jagger would have been 7 years old.  I sit back and look at where did the time go. I remember the 1st birthday we celebrated with him, he had that puzzled look  on his face and turning head left to right as to say what are you doing now, of course he did not understand the Sponge Bob Square Pants cake swimming in the pool it was to show how much Jagger loved being in the water. He also didn’t understand the birthday hats and why he had to have one on. Of course all our kids were there to celebrate with him as he was a member of the family. He did understand what the presents were. We opened his squeak toys and it was okay, but when he opened his orange treat ball for him that was the best present. It didn’t take much to please him scratch his tummy chase him up and down the hall, play hide and seek, but for him the best was his ball he knew that when we put kibble in the ball he had been good. It became a game he knew exactly where it was kept and if he pushed it under the bed or around a corner stuck under something, he would come and get us. It became such a routine that all we had to tell him was find your ball and he would show me where it was. That orange ball for Jagger was his birthday present and everyday was his birthday.   

He is missed very much.

Monday, 27 June 2011

First day of preperation.

Today was the first day in preparation for the new dog but also to get back into shape for a new semester in university. Part of my training program is to go out and practice mobility.  Now you are probably wondering why I would practice mobility with a cane if I have applied for a dog?
Well I remember when I first applied for a guide dog; I had to send a video that showed me walking on the street, crossing the road at a busy intersection traveling on the bus and metro, up escalators elevators basically showing my mobility skills. This time it was not required however getting back to the basics in mobility is the best way to have success as a handler for a guide dog. I need to keep my skills sharp and my wits about me.
The other reason is when you have a guide dog especially when you are a good team, you don’t need to focus on all the small things your dog helps you with that.
So my workout today was mowing the back yard and putting up the gazebo. Some people might not think this is a workout but imagine that you really can’t see what you are doing. Well it’s like this take a pair of glasses and put black tape on the left side in including the side of the glasses no peeking, and then take a pair of nylons and cut two pieces and cover the right eye. Take more black tape and leave a small opening in the middle of the glasses and now start to mow the lawn and put up your gazebo.
I forgot to mention that my grass has not been cut this year, today was the first time. The grass was almost up to my thigh. So if you think not a workout it’s like pumping iron in a weight room all day. Did I mention that it is 28 celcius outside which is 82.4 Fahrenheit so I think I sweated some pounds today.

My adventure today was during the mowing the lawn I was using the weed whacker and of course the line broke, this means going to the store and finding what I need and fixing the weed whacker. I won’t tell you what store I went to but it has some orange in the sign. I don’t know how you feel about asking a store person for help, but for me it’s a nightmare. My wife and I have figured out that if she stays in the car and I go in by myself I get better service but today was not that day.  
I went into the store and like most people on the floor they see me coming and run the other -way; they are scared that I might ask them a question. I had to go to the cash and get help, of course the cashier told me that this item that I was looking for was in the hose area, I stood there looking at her for a moment and then she said I will get someone to help you. Well this person came and the cashier said those dreaded words “ I think it is in the hose section” I thought she will take me to the hose section and not find it and tell me they don’t sell it.
I told her they do and she said she could not find it! She found someone that knew a little more about what I was looking for. I showed him the piece that I needed and said no problem and he was gone. Now I am standing there, I have no idea where he went or she went, did I mention I standing with a white cane? I start calling down the aisles and I find them about 5 aisles over, and around the corner. This is what I was talking about the small things a guide dog (Jag’s) would take care of. I would tell him to follow and he would. I didn’t worry if I was with my wife she would go her way and I would go mine and when I was finished shopping I would tell him to find mummy and he would. The floor person at the store tells me that they don’t have anymore! He then tells me that they have line for the weed whacker and it is really easy to fix. So I said great can you do it for me, and what do you think his answer was, no because the store does not allow us to repair things for clients. I don’t know about you it would seem to me that it would be in their best interest to help someone that needs help! It’s not because I don’t want to do it, but what would take 5 min to do for someone that can see usually takes me about 45 min for me, if I can get it done. Today was no exception to fix the weed whacker took 45mins.
These big stores just kill me, you go in there to buy and there is no customer service and when you ask for something it cost extra, and when you leave they charge you 5 cents for a bag they
give you the excuse that it’s for the environment but we know better. The thing that really aggravates me is that when you ask, the customer service on the floor of the store they tell you what aisle it is in so you end up reading the signs that are above the ailse to find what you want, so why can’t they do the same thing when they don’t know where something is. I would gladly find things for myself if I could and I would gladly assemble items on my own if I could these stores wonder why people avoid them like the plague.  

The biggest lesson I will be learning over the next few months is patient! I will need every lesson that I can get for my new dog. I will need to be patient with him or her, I will need all the understanding that it will take. It will time for the dog to learn my habits and style it will take time for the dog to know our routes and the things that I encounter through the day. The thing about guide dogs is that they always have patients for their handlers, so this means I will have to catch up to my dog.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Welcome to Adventures around the corner

June 24, 2011

As a lot of you know that my companion Jagger who was a 7 year old German Shepherd passed away on June 1 2011. This left me very devastated. In the 5 years we shared many funny and sticky situations. Like walking downtown during a bomb scare, or walking when students were protesting on St-Catherine Street.

The first few weeks of training were especially funny when the trainer and I were walking past the movie theater a young person was smoking  something  they should not have been.  Jagger brought me right to them. The young person threw the substance into the flower pot, he thought we were undercover police. The trainer told me what happened when we turned the corner.

He could only talk after he had stopped laughing.  It is these moments that people missed that I never got to share.

I hopefully will be getting a new dog soon! This time I will be blogging through training and of course the adventures we will encounter around the corners.