Sponsoring Rob (39/49)

July 26, 2009

Ms. Pup had a really wonderful relationship with my father. He was very excited when I got her, and they got along famously. Even when Dad was too sick to play with her anymore, Ms. Pup would lie down by his bed whenever we visited him and watch over him. She knew what was up. When he was in the hospital, she was always able to find his room among many many similar rooms. He died with all of us by his side, including her.

Shortly before he died, I told him that because he and Ms. Pup had such a special relationship, I was going to sponsor a puppy in his name. I didn’t know how I would get $6000 together, but it was okay if it took a while. I asked him if he had a preference as to what breed, and he really didn’t mind. Dad liked dogs, and wasn’t picky about breed.

After his death, I set up a sponsorship account at GDF, and encouraged family and friends to donate in his memory. Within a few months, we had over $1000; enough, I thought, for an ear and maybe a paw or two. But there was no rush. We’d get there.

Dad died in April, and my birthday was in December. I asked that any money that would otherwise have been spent on presents for me be donated to the puppy sponsorship instead. A few days after my birthday, I was at a friend’s house for his own birthday celebration, and he handed me a card. I felt like a heel, because I hadn’t brought him a thing, but he said not to worry. I opened the card, and taped to the inside was a Sacajawea golden dollar coin. The card had tens of names in it. My friend had tracked down many, many people who knew me online, collected contributions from them, and matched them all dollar for dollar. The Sacajawea dollar was the last dollar needed for the entire $6000 sponsorship. I was speechless. Then I called my stepmother to tell her the news. Then I cried and thanked my friend, all my friends, for helping.

As it turns out, a friend of mine was a puppy walker for GDF for some time, and one of the puppies she raised became a breeder. It is my hope that when this dog has her first puppies, one of them will be a male black lab, and I will sponsor him and name him Rob. My friend and my stepmother and I will hopefully all go to GDF and pick the puppy out personally. I think Dad would have liked that.

Post #: 39/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

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Things Ms. Pup has eaten, part 2 (38/49)

July 26, 2009

Ms. Pup, like many dogs, has a number of unhealthy eating habits. For example, she loves to poke into trash cans and eat up paper towels, napkins, and tissues, the dirtier the better. Unfortunately, these items disagree with her system, sometimes vehemently. In her younger days, she ate (and then promptly ejected) a pair of my underwear at 6:30 one morning. She’s downed the occasional chocolate, which is indeed poisonous to dogs, but she’s large enough that it didn’t really affect her. She has also eaten the middle finger out of one of my gloves, and on the first day of bellydance class, she chewed up a classmate’s sock, which fortunately was not on the classmate at the time.

But her true passion is any kind of baked good. Bread, muffins, croissants, any kind of pastry, she’s all for it. I cannot leave her off tie-down at night, because the household will wake up with all of our bread gone. Seriously, it’s happened before. She has devoured most of a flat of croissants from BJ’s while we slept. She’s snatched my breakfast while my back was turned. If it contains leavening, it’s her favorite thing ever.

Note that a) she is not actually allowed to have any of these things, and b) when offered her own food, she will saunter over to it in a leisurely fashion and pick at it slowly in a most un-lab-like manner. But for people food, she’s all lab.

Post #: 38/49
Total so far: $1272.34
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Things Ms. Pup has eaten, part 1 (37/49)

July 26, 2009

This is the post about the things Ms. Pup likes to eat that are actually acceptable foods for her. She thinks her kibble is okay. She’s not all that excited about it one way or the other, although she’ll definitely let you know if it’s dinnertime and she doesn’t see any in her bowl. She doesn’t like to eat first thing in the morning, though, so I’ve taken to giving her 1/4 of her daily food in the morning and the other 3/4 at night. Feeding her once a day doesn’t work, because if she goes too long without food, she pukes up bile, and it’s really gross.

She does adore her daily fish oil pills, which help with her dry skin and chapped nose. She also loves her monthly anti-heartworm pills, which apparently taste like delicious treats. Many dogs like baby carrots or green beans as treats, but she isn’t a fan. What she really likes is canned pumpkin, which she gets frozen in a Kong on her birthday, and spooned over her food on other special occasions. Other special treats include water chestnuts (don’t ask; I have no idea), pineapple (especially canned), watermelon, and ice cubes. She used to get ice cubes made out of frozen chicken broth until she became allergic to them. For a while she got so used to those, she’d turn up her nose at regular ice cubes, but no longer. She’s also made short work of salmon skin, but she doesn’t get that anymore. I’ve also stopped giving her peanut butter, although she loves it. And for obedience drills, we use dried apples, although we don’t use food rewards often.

But her favorite thing in the world is a beef marrow bone. I freeze them so they’re less stinky and it takes her longer to eat them. She never gets more than once a week, and it takes her at least two hours to finish one, but it’s the quietest two hours she’ll ever spend. 🙂 I always put her through some obedience drills when I give her one, but it’s hard, because she gets so excited when she sees a marrow bone, her brain falls out. Seriously, she’s a smart dog, but I tell her to sit, and she stares at me, runs around in a circle, and then comes back and stares at the bone some more. It’s like she completely forgets how to do anything but beg for the marrow bone. Eventually she remembers, but it takes a while. In this case, she’s not being disobedient, she’s just completely ecstatic about the impending marrow bone.

Part two of this post will address her favorite forbidden foods.

Post #: 37/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Question question question! (36/49)

July 26, 2009

My fabulous Blogathon monitor Sohorhapsody asks:

What was your most difficult moment of training with your dog?

Wow. Good question. I think my most difficult moment was a misunderstanding with my trainer involving dog distraction, some crazy lady who let her dogs run around loose and freak out our guide dogs, and my attempting to calm my dog down in the face of all this but actually reinforcing bad behavior. It would take a long time to explain, but the instructor blew up, the crazy lady acted like an idiot, and my dog was very confused, as were my fellow classmates. The instructor later apologized to me, and in fact voluntarily admitted to the lead instructor that he’d screwed up. But I remember feeling very overwhelmed and incompetent until it was all worked out, plus there were some very upset dogs.

Also, working in 90-degree heat with a black dog kinda sucks. 🙂

But basically, in a setting as intense as guide dog school, any miscommunication or mishap can snowball very quickly if not nipped in the bud immediately. Emotions run high, and people can be pretty anxious. Fortunately, in our case, things turned out fine.

Post #: 36/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Dr. Becky (35/49)

July 26, 2009

I was going to start by saying that I am blessed with a fantastic vet, but the fact is that I am blessed with a fantastic friend who is also my vet. I knew her through friends before I got Ms. Pup, so when I moved back to the area, I started taking Ms. Pup to her.

When you have a working dog, it’s not enough just to have a decent vet. You need an excellent vet who understands the particular issues of working dogs. They can’t just prescribe something that will make a dog woozy, because that can get the handler (and the dog) killed. You need someone who is going to be able to work with your disability without making a big honking deal about it. It’s also not exactly a problem if they give a discount for service animals, although not all vets do.

Dr. Becky is very careful what she prescribes for Ms. Pup, and will tell me exactly why she’s choosing a given drug. For example, one day she prescribed something and then told me that she had chosen the more expensive option, because the cheaper drug had a rare side effect of deafness, which would be career-ending in a guide dog. I wouldn’t even have known what the options were, much less their prices and side effects, but she wanted to be sure that I knew why she had chosen the option she had. I was very pleased. She describes how to do maintenance tasks in such a way that I can do them non-visually. She lets me know how long a procedure will keep Ms. Pup out of commission, and is patient and affectionate, even with some of Ms. Pup’s histrionics.

Ms. Pup is terrified of the otoscope. That’s the thing the doctor uses to look in your ear, or a dog’s ear, or whatever. And it’s not because it hurts her when it’s used, because she flips out even when it’s used on her non-infected ear. You can stick needles in her, roll her over, thump her pretty much anywhere, or mess with her paws, and she’s fine with it. Take her temperature, and she’ll just roll her eyes and give you a look like, “Don’t you humans ever get tired of that?” But get an otoscope anywhere near her, and she’ll scream, roll over onto her back, wave her paws in the air, and scream some more. Craziness.

My only complaint about Dr. Becky is that she’s an itinerant relief vet, so she’s always traveling around. Sometimes I have to get rides to some pretty remote places to see her. But it’s totally worth it. Oh, and Ms. Pup adores her, so that’s also a plus.

Post #: 35/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Ask me a question, I’ll give you an answer (34/49)

July 26, 2009

Kelly had about eight zillion questions about the Red Sox, and I love my Sox, but I don’t think I have enough detailed knowledge of their history to answer most of them. Sorry!

Kim asks:

What was your best memory of training with your dog?

I have this great memory of coming back after our first solo night walk, and I was completely overwhelmed. I was exhausted, but had just been shown exactly how much more confident and independent I was going to be with a guide dog. Ms. Pup had handled the walk flawlessly, and I was incredibly proud of her. We got back to campus and headed for our room, and when we got there I put her on tie-down for the night. I sat down next to her to say good night, and looked down at this amazingly good, hard-working dog, and just burst into tears.

Well, Ms. Pup was quite taken aback by this, and sat right up and started licking my face. I petted her and assured her that she was a very good girl, and it wasn’t her fault I was crying.

She looked soulfully into my eyes and belched loudly in my face.

And that pretty much sums up our relationship right there.

(I also have fun memories of watching Eddie Izzard with my classmates, but that has nothing to do with dogs or training).

Post #: 34/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Ms. Pup’s people parents (33/49)

July 26, 2009

From the time she was seven weeks old until about a year later, Ms. Pup lived with her puppy walkers on Long Island. They are amazing people; I’ve met them. They taught her basic obedience and took her to lots of different settings to socialize her and get her used to different situations. They gave her love and care and structure, which helped her become the amazing dog she is today. I met them at Celebration Sunday (which is kind of like graduation), and they were just lovely. This was actually their second Celebration Sunday, because Ms. Pup had been matched with someone before me, but it didn’t work out. But they were just as excited as if it were her first time out.

The next time I was in the area, which was about a year and a half later, we got together, and they were worried that Ms. Pup wouldn’t recognize them. As if! She ran back and forth between them wiggling and kissing them non-stop for about an hour and a half. She was ecstatic, and they were so happy to see her! Of course, they were still picking her hair out of their stuff two dogs later……

I am very grateful for all the love and energy they put into raising Ms. Pup. We’re still in touch, which is great. Some pupppy walkers have trouble letting go, or are uncomfortable with the people who wind up handling the puppies they’ve raised. Most are friendly and wonderful, though, and I’m lucky that Ms. Pup’s fall into that category.

Post #: 33/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

And the hits just keep on coming! (32/49)

July 26, 2009

Kelly wants to know:

What is the one thing you wish sighted people knew?

Well, it’s after midnight, and I’m a bit punchy, so for me, I’d say that I wish they knew that they care a lot more about my blindness than I do. I do not want to talk about it all the time. I do not know every other blind person (despite the fact that I currently have 3 of them in my house). My life is not significantly different, and certainly not significantly worse, because of my blindness. And while I have nothing personal against sighted people, 90% of the problems caused by my blindness are because of other people. And they’re usually not blind. So, um, yeah.

What is your favorite Boston memory?

I….um…..I do believe I’ve been stuck speechless. Because I love Bosotn, and I can’t imagine narrowing it down to one. Can I think about it?

Post #: 32/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Happy birthday, ADA! (31/49)

July 26, 2009

It’s midnight, July 26, and the Americans with Disabilities Act is now nineteen years old. That’s right, it’s old enough to fight and die for its country, vote, go to college, and buy porn, but it’s apparently not old enough for most businesses to remember it in any sort of useful way. Because you know if they “didn’t know” about as many of, say, the health codes as they do about the specifics of the ADA, they’d all be out of business by now.

For all its faults (since when can civil rights pose an “undue burden”?), I’m really glad it’s here. The summer it was passed, I was almost rejected for a camp counselor position because the person interviewing me didn’t believe blind people could watch kids. (Some blind people even reproduce!) Fortunately, she quit, and someone else hired me instead. And from then on, I had to work for a living. Wait, maybe that’s not as good as it sounds…

So happy birthday, ADA. Don’t let the bastards keep you down.

Post #: 31/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Question-y love! (30/49)

July 25, 2009

One last question from Caitlin before she goes to bed!

If there is one trait of Ms. Pup’s that you absolutely could not live without, what would it be?

And yes, she mentioned that “good eyesight” might be the no-brainer here. 🙂

I think it’d be either her love of (and skill at) problem-solving or her stamina. She doesn’t have the stamina now that she did at two, but who does, really? I have a busy and unpredictable life, and she keeps up with it very well. I wouldn’t have a lot of patience for a dog without initiative and drive. She has both.

Post #: 30/49
Total so far: $1218.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.