31 Aug 2010, 11:59am

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Dog Bath and Buns of Steel, Guide Dog Chronicles:

Guide Dog Chronicles:
Dog Bath and the Buns of Steel

I was really sore after I gave my dog a bath! The prolonged heat and humid weather had combined with her food allergies to produce quite a bad dog odor. Of course, the fish breath from sneaking the cat cookies didn’t help either.
It isn’t proper guide dog etiquette to have B O or should I say D O, so I felt I should give her a bath.
I put a towel in the bottom of the tub so Future Grace wouldn’t slip. I didn’t worry about scratches. It’s the kind of one-piece molded fiberglass shower and bath unit that was popular in the early 70’s.
A few weeks after we’d moved into our home, I noticed how badly scratched it was.
The manufacturer’s rep came out and pronounced, “Hey, Lady, this unit is a factory reject and never should’a left the yard.”
Now, 24 years later, I figure as long as it doesn’t leak, what do I care if it doesn’t shine!
Future stepped into the tub with no problem. Perhaps she realized that since the door was closed, there was no escape.
The shower head is on a 6-foot long hose. It either hangs on a bracket up tall or is held in your hand. It isn’t as noisy as the regular shower or the tub faucet.
She stood very patiently as I soaked her and then lathered her all over. I knelt first on one knee and then the other. I put several towels under one knee and then the other. I knelt on both knees and bent forward.
My dog patiently submitted to my crooning as I rinsed all her nooks and crannies.
I used my hand like a squeegee. The water cascaded off her body like the soaking rain our yard needed.
I pulled the shower curtain and told her to “Shake!” She did.
I put a big beach towel on top of her as she stepped out of the tub.
“Shake!” I said, but she had anticipated my command. The towel went flying. The room was soaked. I was soaked.
I sat on the floor in a yoga position to towel dry her. Then we went into the bedroom. I squatted down next to her to blow dried her. I thought if she hung around all day in a wet coat, she’d smell sour.
My guide dog was beautiful again–and no odor.
The next morning, I felt severe pains in my rear cheek muscles! I was sore all over from the unusual postures I’d needed to shampoo Future.
Since no one would listen to my complaints, I adjusted my attitude.
Instead of pain and agony, I decided I’d just taken the first step toward having (ta-da with a drum roll, please): BUNS OF STEEL!
Copyright © 1995, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin

25 Aug 2010, 10:57am

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No Doubt About Patriotism

Patriotic Cornucopia
A collection of Essays
from Cornucopia by Kate Chamberlin Published in the Wayne County STAR Newspaper, 1994-2004

No Question About Patriotism
September 17, 1997 WCS
Kate’s Blog Aug25-2010

Jeopardy is one of my favorite TV shows.It gives you the answer and you have to come up with the question.
Okay. Here’s the answer. Remember to phrase your response in the form of a question:
“BLANK is more than a sentiment; it is a conviction based upon a comprehension of the duties of a citizen and a determination loyally to perform such duties. Patriotism is love of country, come of familiarity with its history, reverence for its institutions and faith in its possibilities, and is evidenced by obedience to its laws and respect for the flag.”
I’m sorry. The answer took up all your time, so, what is your answer, er, I mean question?
The correct response is PATRIOTISM.
The above definition is found in a book called
AManual of Patriotism@. It is a book, authorized by an Act of our New York State Legislature and was published in 1900. it was compiled and edited by Charles R. Skinner, then State Superintendent of Public Instruction at that time.
It contains many patriotic writings and songs that are still used today in our public and private schools.
Patriotic is often an adjective used to describe members of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution and they’d be correct.
The Col. William Prescott Chapter of the NSDAR., located in Newark, NY, opens its meeting with a ritual of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, a reciting of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States and singing The National Anthem.
The bonds that DAR members have, just by virtue of their ancestor fighting–and some of them dieing–in the American Revolution, provide a strong empitice toward being patriotic. They have family members who felt strongly enough to lay down their lives for the ideal that is our daily life now.
Constitution Week is September 17 through 23. When was the last time you read through the constitution and flown the American flag? Do you stand when the American Flag passes by in a parade? Guys, do you take off your hat when our National anthem is played?
It’s a matter of practice what you preach. We can’t expect our children to be patriotic if we don’t role model courage, strength of character and determination.
Here is one final Jeopardy answer: Red Ribbon Week is October 23 through 31. Even before a single red ribbon was worn in response to the death of a drug enforcement officer, red ribbons were sewn onto our BLANK.
There is no question about it. It’s our American Flag.
Copyright © 2010 by Kate Chamberlin. All rights reserved.

23 Aug 2010, 4:47pm

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Trust My LIfe To A Dog?

Guide Dog Chronicles:
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

11 Aug 2010, 5:28pm

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Mystery In The Tank

Mystery In The Tank
By Kate Chamberlin
Copyright © August 10, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin

I’d just sat down to take abreak from folding laundry in our back bedroom, when my guide dog put her head on my lap. I reached down to pet her, but she jerked her head away and stepped back. A sure sign that she wanted something.
I explained that she’d already been fed, watered, and parked, so she needed to wait. I returned to folding more laundry. Then, I heard what I thought was her lapping up water from the toilet tank in the front bathroom. A definite no-no for my guide dogs.
At the bathroom door, I sternly commanded her “Out”, but did not hear her nails clickety-click on the linoleum floor in a hurry to get out of there. I approached the toilet feeling around for her, but as I realized she wasn’t in the bathroom, I heard flip-flopping in the toilet water. I quickly closed the toilet lit, flushed the toilet, and closed the bathroom door behind me.
Peyton Grace came to me from out of the boy’s bedroom and I felt her chin. It was dry. She hadn’t been drinking from the toilet, but she did want me to notice whatever it was that was cavorting in the tank.
That evening, my husband checked out the bathroom. the drowned squirrel was no longer cavorting in the water.
It is just another wonderful story of how we can trust our fabulous canine guides in every situation.

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