27 May 2009, 4:42pm
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Guide Dog Chronicles: Trust My Life to a Dog?

Trust My Life To A Dog?
by Kate Chamberlin

Personally, I would have preferred a Guide Cat when I went blind, but they just weren’t available. A rare eye disease had reduced my vision to only a little light perception in one eye. I was getting used to saying to my husband, “Dave, did you bring in the mail?” or to Marion, our teenage daughter, “Would you run this over to Sherry’s, please?” And I was doing well enough with cane travel, but I noticed that people felt a bit awkward when I’d ask to hold their elbow. So my family and I decided on a guide dog. Since I’m not necessarily a dog person, I wasn’t sure how I’d do.
I researched the ten accredited guide dog schools and chose Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, six hours away from my home in Walworth, NY.
I had to live at the center to learn how to tap into the dog’s training. I was devastated when my husband left me in the foyer at Guiding Eyes. Did my three children feel like this each time I merrily said, “Oh, you’ll have a wonderful time at camp. We’ll see you soon.” And off I’d go. Now, I was the one being abandoned and I felt hot tears of desperation, isolation, and the absurd feeling that I didn’t belong here.
In my stern Mom voice, I told myself, “It’s only for a month. Just apply yourself. If you don’t like the dog or he doesn’t like you, you won’t have to keep him.” I also felt quite intimidated by the 13 other students. They all seemed so much better adjusted to being blind than I was. I didn’t know where to begin, so I sat in the nearest chair and asked the fellow next to me what he did for a living.
During the next 2-1/2 days, the instructors interviewed us and we interviewed each other. We felt comfortable as a group, and now we were all anxious to meet our dogs. When they told me my dog was an 18-month old Golden Retriever named Future Grace, my mind flashed back to my Mother’s Golden, Nicky. He would guide you all right … right into trouble. He was the dog who jumped against the storm door when a leaf blew past. It required 15 stitches to close the gash from the broken glass. He was the dog who ran in front of a delivery van and sheared off the end of his tail. He tried it again a week later and ended up in a body cast. Trust my life to the likes of Nicky? I was ready to go home – alone.
One by one, the instructors called us in to meet our dog. It. was my turn. I walked into the Campbell Lounge. A split second after I’d said, “Future, Come,” I was knocked over by a furry tan blur of energy with puppy breath.
Future had been lovingly raised by a family until she was about 14 months old. Then, she was returned to the training center for intensive work. Three trainers and their supervisor had spent the three months before I arrived training her.
I found out later that they leave the dogs alone in the kennel for several days before a new class comes in. The dogs are well cared for, but their trainers don’t work them during that period. When they meet their new owners, a lot of pent up energy is released.
So, there I was, with a wriggling mass of fur and slimy kisses all over me. The schoolmarm in me issued forth a “Future, Sit.” To my amazement, she sat.
The proper ‘heel position had been explained to me – leash in my left hand, dog’s shoulder at my left hip. It seemed a simple enough concept, but when I said, “Future, Heel,” she took off at such a fast pace, that she was way ahead of me. The trainers assured me that her neck muscles were so thick and strong that using the leash to correct her wouldn’t hurt. But, it would remind her to tuck back into proper heel position. I yanked on the leash. Future looked at me as if to say, “Oh, sorry. I forgot.”and heeled properly.

The first few days were spent finding out if we could accept each other. She seemed to like me at first lick. I liked her too, but could I trust my life to a dog? This dog, who had just knocked me over?
I thought Grooming would be a good way to start the bonding process. How different could brushing a dog be from brushing my children’s hair? I found out! There’s a lot more hair on a dog – and it comes out all over the place! I took her out next to a fountain near the building each morning for grooming. As I brushed and combed her, I talked to her. I knew she had a limited vocabulary, but perhaps my feelings would get through to her. One morning she put her head on my lap. She seemed to be telling me that everything would be all right.
Future wasn’t a finicky eater like my children, and she seemed hungry all the time. But the trainers said she was getting the right amount of feed for the amount of work she was doing.
Piddle time was no problem, but picking up poop? How does a blind person find the poop pile so she can pick it up? Well, I learned that when Future selects the right spot, she stops and goes. I follow the leash to her neck. If I gently run my hand a little way down her back, I can feel what she’s doing: straight back for piddle; curved back for poop. If it’s the latter, I put my foot near her flank and wait for her to get up. I praise her (without moving my foot). With a plastic bag over my hand, I scoop the poop and dispose of it.
Future and I went everywhere together; she even came into the bathroom when I took a shower. “Right,” I groaned. “Just when my kids get to the ages where I can go to the bathroom alone, I get a dog that has to go in with me.”
We had all our meals in a simulated family-style dining room. We’d sit with three other Guide Dogs and their people. Future was supposed to sit with her rump under the table and her head next to my chair. But with four dogs and four people, there wasn’t enough room under there. So she curled up to the left of my chair and was still out of the way.
When I’d put the harness on her for training walks, all I had to do was to hold the buckles out of the way and she could practically get it on herself. She’d use her nose to position her head in the harness and then give a little jump. She loves wearing her harness and leash. They’re made of sturdy leather with shiny silver rings and hooks. One thick strap goes on her back just behind her shoulders and buckles under her. A double strap goes across her chest, This is the one she leans into to pull me along. The harness handle is fastened to both of these straps so it lays along her back when it’s not in use. I hold the harness handle in my left hand when we walk. As her shoulders go, so goes the handle, and I follow her lead.
Many people don’t realize that a dog in harness is on duty and should not be petted or distracted.
After a week of practicing, Future had to stay in our room on tie-down while I ate one of my meals. She barked as if she was worried about me. To tell the truth I felt a little lost without her, but we were training the dogs to know that, if we left, we’d come back.
Future had her work cut out for her when we began to train on the city streets. She was much more comfortable with the hustle and bustle than I was. She’d stop at a curb so I could feel for the edge with my foot. I’d give the command to go and she’d take me to the opposite curb. Once there, she’d wait for me to feel the curb and give the command. Then off we’d go.
Going down stairs worries me. There’s something about stepping off a cliff! Future will block my path if I give her a command to go forward, but it isn’t safe to do so. This “intelligent disobedience” was hard for me to learn to trust.
We both like riding in elevators. When we get near the elevator door, I put out my right hand and say, “Future, Hupup,” which means “Show me.” She walks me up to touch the elevator buttons with my outstretched hand. I suspect Future could push the button with her nose or foot, but I like to do it.
Once the button is pushed, she guides me two steps back so that people getting off the elevator won’t run over us. As soon as we’re in the car, she swings around to face the door, Most elevators now have the floor numbers in Braille.

We also trained on a big city bus. After Future finds me a seat, she sits with her tail tucked under her so it won’t get stepped on. I count the stops and tell her when we should get off’.
During one of our training walks, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. We had just left the curb and were in the middle of the street. Suddenly, Future started to backup, pulling hard on the harness to get me backward. As I wondered
what the heck she was doing, a van careened around the corner. If Future hadn’t pulled me back so quickly, I would have been road pizza – or so I thought. It was explained that we had just experienced a ‘traffic check.’A supervisor, in complete control, was driving the van.
The day before our review week began, we went to the Puppy Raisers Party. My husband and daughter came for the day to take photos and meet my guide dog. The family who had raised Future as a puppy walked up to us. Future gave them a light sniff and turned away. Then, she did a double take and bounded back to them, whimpering and wiggling all over. She couldn’t contain her joy, and stood up on her hind legs to hug and kiss them.
At one point, Future tilted her head back to look at me. She seemed to say, “Thank you! Thank you I Thank you!” We all hugged and cried and promised to keep in touch.
Finally, our month of formal training was over. My husband had brought our tan van to take home my tan guide dog. She hopped in and curled up next to my seat. During the long ride home, her feet would occasionally twitch and she’d give little woofs in her sleep. I like to think she was dreaming of all the adventures we would have, such as walking the Freedom Traill in Boston, flying to San Antonio to experience the River Walk and feel the emotion inside the Alamo, mall cruising, church, and school.
Future Grace provides me with the independent mobility needed to make the little things in life count. Now when my husband asks, “Is the mail in?” I can harness up my dog and say, “I’ll bring it in
on my way back from Sherry’s.”
(©) 1994, 2009 by Kate Chamberlin

24 May 2009, 5:49pm
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Another new beginning

We are experimenting and finding it very frustrating when you can only use keystrokes. Thank you for your patience. Bye for now.

24 May 2009, 4:14pm
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New Blog, New Beginning

    Well, today is May 24 and it must be summer.  Dave has opened the pool andthe ice cream truck went up and down our street with its little bell dinging.

23 May 2009, 10:18pm
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Silberstern at DAR

Henry Silberstern was the honored guest speaker at the Col. Wm. Prescott Chapter of the NSDAR on Wednesday, May 20 at 1:00 PM in the chapter house, 119 High Street, Newark, NY. Silberstern’s powerful story about being in Nazi concentration camps evoked strong emotional responses and questions from the audience.

Eight-year old Henry Silberstern’s life began to change in 1938, when France and Britain signed the Munich Agreement. This agreement ceded an area of Czechoslovakia called the Sudeten Land to Germany. In 1942 Henry was sent to a camp for the first time.

It wasn’t until April 15th 1945 that an Allied convoy of a Canadian contingent of the British Army liberated prisoners of Bergen-Belsen. It was Henry’s 15th birthday.

The deprevation of food, water, clothing, and privacy evoked a mother’s question: How did you survive? Silverstern reflected that the children’s priorities are, quite naturally, different from the adults’ priorities. He mentioned that not being allowed to go to school, he thought it was great; however, his parents understood the significance of what was happening. When asked if he’d ever returned to see the camps, Silberstern remarked that he remembered every thing as dark and dirty, but when he returned with his wife and several students, the camp had green grass, trees, and was all spruced up. He said that upon viewing the barracks and bathrooms, he could still smell them, even though years had passed.

Silberstern has kept in touch with many of the boys who survived the Holocaust. Some of the survivors never got over what happened to them; others have put it in perspective and have gotten on with their lives. One of the boys is more like a brother to Silberstern, who had no family after the war.

In response to a question about history repeating itself and could the holocaust happen again, Silberstern said: “Well, I don’t think we’ve learned much.”

Silberstern Has noticed an increase in the demand for speakers on the Holocaust and that first person accounts by survivors are getting fewer. Speakers can be contacted through:

Center for Holocaust Awareness and Information

Jewish Community Federation

441 East Avenue

Rochester, NY 14607

Ph. (585) 461-0490 x250

Fax (585) 461-0912

Bonnie Abrams, Director:  babrams@jewishrochester.org.

23 May 2009, 10:17pm
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Native American – Victor, NY

The featured speakers for the Walworth Cub Scout Pack meeting on March 06-09 were Tonia & Michael Loran who work at Ganondagan, who would be speaking about the oral traditions and ceremonies of indigenous people.

Michael’s people are of the Northern Peyote tribe in Nevada and shared with us how, instead of wearing badges, patches and pins on a uniform, his ancestors would tattoo their accomplishments on their skin. He told of his ancestors’ rites of passage for boys to become accepted as men to hunt and provide for the tribe. To be come accepted as a hunter, a boy would use his bow and arrow to kill small game such as squirrels and rabbits, to give to the elders who were no longer able to hunt. Then, when the boy was about 13-years of age, he would go without his bow and arrow where the deer are to wait in a tree or perch, perhaps for days, for a deer to come near enough for the boy to jump on his “brother’s” back and strangle him. The elders would sacrificially butcher the deer and the boy would have to crawl under the up-turn antlers to signify passing through to manhood.

Lacrosse was not played as a sport with protective padding and a small playing field. It was a means of keeping your body fit and trim. The playing field may be many miles wide, such as from Canandaigua Lake to Seneca Lake.

Michael told how the gift of maple syrup was mis-used, so the gift was altered to only come in the early spring and the people would have to boil 40-gallons of the maple sap to get one gallon of sweet maple syrup.

Tonia’s people are the Mohawk and her clan is the bear. She introduced her children and noted that it is the belief of her people that during the ninth month of pregnancy, a woman should not eat meat to ensure a healthy baby. Also during this time, the father runs every day for the same reason. Apparently it is a good custom, because her children seemed healthy and happy.

Tonia told a story of how her people believe the sharks came into the waters and how butterflies were given as gifts from the Gods.

When she told the tale of the Grass People and the Chief, she came alive and truly became part of the story. As her clear, pleasant voice pronounced in accented English the Grass People taunting the chief, saying: “I am better than you.”, her words flowed into the melodic, undulating sounds of an Indian.

After the Chief vented his rage by grabbing hands-full of grass and eating it, his tummy began to rumble. Flatulence began to launch the chief all over the place, until he conceded that, indeed, The Grass People were mighty. Evidence of this can be found in the shape of the Yellow Poplar that the chief held onto to keep from being launched thither and yon. As you can imagine, her sound effects were fabulous as they got louder and louder, totally captivating her laughing audience.

Michael and Tonia invited everyone to visit the The Ganondagan State Historic Site: Preserving a Past. Providing a Future:

P.O. Box 113, 1488 State Route

444, Victor, New York 14564-0113

phone:  (716) 742-1690

www.ganondagan.org

23 May 2009, 10:14pm
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Yikes, Grandma’s Coming

Yikes! Grandma is coming to live with us. Now what do we do?

multigenerational households may be an increasing trend, they can enjoy opportunities many families will never have if potential problems can be headed off before they happen. Keep in mind that Grandma is probably thinking: I don’t want to be a burdon to my children. I still want to be independent, but I can’t afford to be on my own any more. How will I ever fit into their active family?

First of all, talk together and identify potential rough points.

`Identify “personal space” for each person or age group. Even if Grandma has only a corner of the family room to call her own or a teen-ager has his own room or Dad can have cave-time in his basement workshop. Each must respect the other’s personal space and wait to be invited in.

`Perhaps Grandma can help out with latch-key school aged children, but not be expected to babysit all of the time.

`Be realistic about how much the grandchildren can participate in elder care based on how much or little Grandma wants/needs and the willingness and competency of the grandchildren to meet her needs. It is also important to acknowledge that Mom can’t possibly be every thing to everyone in the family.

`Discuss how kitchen duties and other household chores can be shared. Sometimes a chart can help organize large families and reduce the “I did that yesterday. It’s your turn. Types of flare-ups.

`A calendar with large squares is a great way to keep track of youngster’s play dates, teen-agers sports events, parents date night, and everyone’s doctor’s appointments. When drivers are in short supply, it is important to be very organized.

`Sticking to a basic schedule as much as possible, such as bedtime/quiet time, meal time, and time to visit with friends will enable everyone to get the needed rest, nutrition, and energy to be up to life’s challenges.

`Don’t be too proud to call in professional care-givers if you all are getting over-whelmed.

Multi-generational families have a real opportunity to share and learn from each other, bond, and creat wonderful memories together.

`Set up a card table or special spot to put out a 5000 piece jig-saw puzzle for everyone to work on whenever they have a few minutes. Lots of non-confrountational conversation happens as the puzzle unfolds.

~Research your family tree and put it together with anecdotes and photos. The youngsters can show-off their cyber-surfing skills.

`Bake holiday cookies together using old family recipes mixed in with favorites that will become your new tradition.

`Tell family stories, maybe tape them or jot them down in a scrapbook.

A multi-generational family under one roof certainly isn’t the end of the world. In fact, our country grew great and strong when the nuclear family was strong. I suspect a lot of it is in your attitude. It will work, if you want it to work out well.

23 May 2009, 10:13pm
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Kate’s Cornucopia: Town Clean-up

This year our town will not run its town-wide spring clean-up. A few years ago it stopped doing the annual curb side pick-up and now it has dropped the tab for taking one vehicle per family load of stuff to the dump.

Basically, I applaud this move as it indicates less dependency on government, no new tax, and encourages individual initiative. So the stuff is in our court, so to speak. What are we going to do about it?

Every Ssaturday, years ago, my husband would load the trash into the trunk of our little Nova, the boys in the back seat, and off to the dump they would go.

A little family outing that the older boys still talk about. We might do that again. Perhaps a neighbor with a truck could pool his neighbors stuff and split the dump fee. Perhaps we’ll think twice about buying the product that is “over packaged” and/or not in a re-cycleable container; locate or start up an outfit to re-cycle pieces and parts of old computers, refridgerators; use re-chargeable batteries; and donate some items to places like Open Door Mission or VOA.

What suggestions do you have?

23 May 2009, 10:12pm
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Kate’s Cornucopia: Demise of Gato

Our beloved mighty hunter, Gato D., succumbed to the injuries he sustained during an encounter with a coyote. He was 15-years old, living the past 9-years with us.

When I first met Gatos, as he was then called, he was living in an apartment with our son. Gatos never went out; although, he often tried to escape. Some of the stories we heard about this crazy, fat cat, led me to think I’d never want a cat like that.

Then, our son moved to another apartment and the cat came to live with us. We kept him confined to one, large room for a few days until he became used to us. Then, his home enlarged to our whole house, and eventually, the out-of-doors, too. Gato D., as he became known due to being our fourth cat, calmed down and slimmed into quite a good cat with a unique “cat”ality..

I know what goes around, comes around and he did leave numerous trophies on our doorsteps, but, somehow, I’m glad he didn’t become some *?!* coyote’s dinner. Gato made it home, but, alas, his internal injuries were too much for our old, mighty hunter to survive.

I suppose I’ll miss him the most, as it was my lap he’d jump into whenever, where-ever I sat and stretch out just like a human baby. His arm would stretch up to touch my chin or he’d nuzzle his head into my arm. He is gone, but not forgotten. We’ve been offered another cat and, maybe someday another cat will come our way, but for now, I want to savor my memories of Gato a while longer.

23 May 2009, 10:10pm
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Kate’s Cornucopia: Gato vs Coyote

When we let our cat in this morning, he was moving very slowly and his neck was swollen. Another cat fight with the neighbor’s cat? Not unheard of, however, we’d heard coyote yips and howls two nights ago. I checked on him periodically, but by afternoon Gato had gone into hiding. I feared the worst. At dinner time, we located him and noticed that he was still bleeding. My husband took him into the vet’s office PDQ.

The vet said the wounds were not consistent with a cat fight. The cat had been picked up by the neck/head and shaken and was now severly dehydrated.

Needless to say, Gato is spending the night in the hospital and possibly the weekend. I’ll phone in the morning to find out when our poor old Gato can come home.

23 May 2009, 10:10pm
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Kate’s Cornucopia: Bandimonium

Last evening we attended a band concert by all the bands in our school district: Two 5th grade bands, the 6,7, 8th, and hisgh school bands. As the individual bands entered and exited, the Senior High School Jazz Band played. The jazz musicians’ confidence in their musical abilities really shone through as they went through tunes old and new. It was wonderful to hear the progression from beginners to accomplished.
Our 5th Grader looked really sharp in his white shirt, tie (that he tied himself.) and nice dark slacks; not to mention how great he did on his French Horn.