29 Sep 2010, 9:38am

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Football Fans

High School Football Fans
Our 12-year old son is on his 7th Grade modified football team, so, we’ve been attending all his scrimmages and games. They actually won a game…The first one in three years. Then, the coach said they should march in the Homecoming Parade to show school spirit and support. Of course, there was a Varsity football game afterwards, so we attended that, too.
It was actually an exciting game. The visitors pulled ahead early in the game to 6-0 and stayed that way for most of the first half. We noticed that our Quarter Back wasn’t really good at throwing passes, but he knew how to scramble for a QB Keeper. We suspected he was a Senior and the coach wanted him to play, being his last year in high school. Late in the third quarter, another Quarter Back, possibly a Junior, came in and absolutely fired up the team. He threw for long yardage and completed passes. It was fabulous and the multitude went crazy. The 2010 Wayne Homecoming football game ended in a 7-8 victory for the home team.
The only unpleasant aspect of this high school sport event was the unsportsman-like behavior of several parents in the stands. Two blokes next to us, who were probably in their mid-30’s, were overly loud, foul mouthed, and obnoxious. Perhaps he was angry his son didn’t get to play in this game. Maybe his nephew got called on being off-sides. I’ll never know, but maybe, too, his son was the one the people behind us said was a good player, except for his bad temper and foul mouth.
The bloke left early and I hope that the first, unclaimed 50-50 number for $188 was his.
Copyright © 2010by Kate Chamberlin. All Rights Reserved.

25 Sep 2010, 6:55am

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Modified Football

Modified Football
Did I mention our 12-year old is playing on his 7th grade modified football team? It isn’t something I’m particularly in favor of him doing. He is not as big as many of the other 7th and 8th grade boys, but he can really catch and is fast on his feet. I imagine him not being quite fast enough, getting tackled by the bigger boys on the visiting team and seeing him not get up off the field.
I understand that a mother must relinquish her dreams and aspirations for her child, when they begin to have dreams and aspirations of their own. Therefore, I shut my mouth and go to every scrimmage and game. I suppress the groan from the pain in my knee as I climb to the top of the bleachers and swallow my agony of not being able to tell him: run to your other left! I don’t voice out-loud that I really don’t mind his just rooting from the side-line, instead of being in the may-lay.
The away games are fun, because we know that the folks in the visitor’s bleachers are all “on our side”. Some of the other parents in the bleachers are parents of the experienced 8th Graders and kind of lead those of the first-time 7th Graders’ parents as to when to yell “Go D!” I assume D means defense. “Push ‘em back!” “Block that wedge!” “He’s going up the middle!” and other spur-of-the-moment comments.
When one mom yelled “Hit ‘em hard!”, She turned around to ask if that was okay to say. I couldn’t resist saying “Not if it’s my kid!
After each game, we go out to eat and talk about the game. At one point, our son asked, “Did that bring back memories.” My husband and I both said yes, but I suspect for different reasons. lol
Copyright © 2010 by Kate Chamberlin. All Rights Reserved.

23 Sep 2010, 4:33pm

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Washington Cathedral

Washington Cathedral

I stood at the back of the large tour group. The tour guide was excellent. Her voice projected to me in precise diction and grammar as she described each feature of the large organ.
“Do you want to feel it?” an unfamiliar man’s voice whispered into my right ear.
Adrenalin crashed around in my body. I reached for my guide dog’s harness preparing to bolt to the left.
Before I moved, it dawned on me. He meant the awesome pipe organ the guide was describing during our tour of the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C.
After assurances that I wouldn’t get arrested for touching things I’d grown up knowing I wasn’t supposed to touch, the second tour guide literally let down the barriers for me to experience our National Cathedral.
I stood in the display and eagerly explored the nooks and crannies of the models used to make the gargoyles and grotesques that adorn the top of the massive seven story stone building.
I found the drain pipe that distinguishes the gargoyle from the grotesque.
I stood on a chair and stretched up to feel the intricately carved wooden panels behind an altar.
I passed the fencing and stroked the Canterbury Pulpit from which so many famous speeches and sermons have been given.
I counted the coarse, nubby lumps as I felt an ancient tapestry representing the Good Shepherd and His sheep.
When I got down on all fours to feel a tapestry runner, Future thought it was finally time for her to play!
I gingerly traced the edge of Helen Keller’s sarcophagus in one of the lower levels. I carefully read the Braille plaque commemorating her life and work.
The National Cathedral was a world opened to me by a well trained guide in an enlightened institution that let down the barriers to this person with a handicap.
From the euphoria of being above the flying buttresses with the gargoyles to the claustrophobic sensation when standing between the massive pillars in the lowest catacomb; from the profound silence in the tombs to the bone marrow penetration of the huge pipe organ’s music; from the pageantry and reverence of the past to the hope of the future, it is an experience I wish on everyone.
The Washington National Cathedral (The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul), Massachusetts and Wisconsin, Washington, D.C. Phone: 1-202-537-6200.
If you have special needs, call ahead to make specific arrangements.
I’m looking forward to your postcard.
NOTE: A version of this essay was originally published April 26, 1996, Wayne County STAR Newspaper. Copyright © 1996, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin. All Rights Reserved.

14 Sep 2010, 2:31pm

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A Touch of Malory

Guide Dog Chronicles: A Touch of Malory
by Kate Chamberlin
“Mom, can I bring Malory home for Thanksgiving?” my college son, Paul, asked several years ago.
“Sure,” I said calmly trying not to let my excitement show.
Maybe he’d found Ms Right? What does she like to eat? I’d better get new sheets for the guest room and other such thoughts rushed into my mind.
Malory turned out to be quite short and stocky with brown hair so dark, it looked black. She had a really bad attitude and was quite the bitch.
The vet pegged her to be a mix of Doberman through the head and legs, Shepherd or Black Lab through the torso and Husky in her hind-quarters.
The hyper-active little dog came ramming through the front door with our son and immediately piddled on the floor when my husband, Dave, bent down to pet her. She jumped and yapped so persistently at my gentle, Golden Retriever guide dog’s face that Future Grace growled and snapped at her to shut her up.
Malory whined and barked through dinner, bit Dave’s shoe and parked on the living room rug. I kept telling myself to remain calm. I didn’t have to be in control. Malory was Paul’s dog and his responsibility to clean, feed and care for.
Behind closed doors, Dave and I agreed it was a good thing that dog was only visiting. She’d never last long living with us.
Malory spent her formative years growing up in Paul’s car and college fraternity house. While Paul was on the road driving 18-wheelers cross-country for Schneider, Malory was welcome at the Frat House, but as the fraternity brothers were graduated and Schneider’s policy is to have no pets in the cabs, Malory began spending more and more time in a vet’ s kennel. Malory had no home.
Well, you know that saying about “never say never”? We agreed to a two week trial of her living with us. If she got along with my guide dog and our elderly cat, we’d keep her for a few months until Paul could get 100,000 “Malory miles” to qualify to lease-to-own his own cab. Malory could then live and ride with him in the truck.
Malory came to live with us on July 21, 1997. At the age of three, she was no longer a yapping little dog. But she was still hyper-active. She followed my husband every where when he was home and paced from room to room when he was gone. She wouldn’t stay still long enough for a hug or even to be petted. There was no such thing as brushing or bathing her.
The first morning Dave had to go to work, he took her up to our bedroom after breakfast and put her on ‘tie down’ (a length of leash attached to the bed leg), just like we do if we were going to leave my guide dog. He left and Malory started a hue and cry of pure anger and frustration.
Within five short minutes, she had managed to scratch, rip and mutilate the bed spread, blanket, two sheets, bed pad and the eyelet bed ruffle.
When she repeated this behavior the next morning, I decided that if we were going to live copesthetically, her Frat House behavior would have to be extinguished. I would have to become the alpha dog. The only way I could do that was to keep her on a leash with me the whole time.
Future Grace was trained to be on my left and, fortunately, Malory had a penchant to being on my right or ahead by a leash length.
I had to laugh at some of the situations this training method got me into. She would race up the stairs while Future stopped at the foot to let me ascend safely. More than a couple of times, I found my right arm would be fully extended up the stairs, my body almost laying on the steps with my left arm extended backward holding Future’ s leash.
Going down the stairs was especially dangerous with both girls on leash! She never caught on to “stop at the top of the stairs” but in time, she did pause long enough before charging down the stairs to give Future and me enough time to safely descend the stairs.
After Malory had been with us for four months, Future was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma and expected to live only two months.
During the first month of Future’ s retirement at home, Malory taught her lots of dastardly doggie deeds. When the doorbell rang, they’d both bark, but, Future would come sit next to me while Malory charged toward the door to defend the realm. They’d clean out the cat’s cookies every chance they got and scavenged the kitchen floor. Both girls enjoyed the freedom of roaming around the house without a leash on. Definitely not things found in the GEB Russ Post Book of Guide Dog Etiquette, but they had become good friends.
When I’d call “Girls, out”, Malory would race to the door and wait for Future and me to get there. I felt each back and tail go out the door. Occasionally, I’d feel the back and tail of an exiting cat, too.
After giving them time to piddle and park, I’d call them back in. Future usually responded quickly to my call, but Malory would linger.
One snowy day Malory showed up at my call but not Future. I sent Malory back out with the admonishment “find Future”. Within a few minutes, they came jostling in together.
When Future’s joints became too painful and stiff to move easily, Malory would bring a bone to Future and flip it within her reach. Malory then got a bone for herself and they would happily chomp away together.
One time, I knelt beside Future and Malory came to sit on my right. She looked at Future laying with her head on her crossed paws and slowly slid down with her paws out. She looked at Future again and put her head down, too. Malory was learning patience from Future.
Malory also became friends with Milo, our daughter’s black and white kitten. They had a couple of spirited chases, but it was usually Milo who started it! There were times when Malory didn’t move a whisker while Milo sniffed her face or played with her tail.
Malory treated our elderly cat, B&W with deferential respect. I was amazed (and thankful) that these four “strangers” got along so well.
Malory provided a touch of companionship that only another dog could give to Future Grace during her last days.
Malory seemed to take on a calmness and responsibility as Future’s strength waned. Malory would be the one I felt when I absently put my hand down by my side. It was Malory who popped up when I got out of my chair. If I picked up her leash, she’d walk slowly to the stairs and stop.
The morning after Future Grace died, Malory methodically checked each room as if looking for her friend. Not finding Future, she came and laid down on my feet. From time to time she’d poke my leg with her nose as if to say; It’s okay. We’ll get through this together.
She brings me back to life. When she wants to go out, she picks up her leash and puts it in my hand. When she wants to play, she won’t take no for an answer and will continually put a prickly nyla bone in my lap until I pay attention to her.
When its close to Dave’s time to come home, Malory paces back and forth from where I am to the kitchen door.
She brings new meaning to ‘jump for joy’ when He comes in the door.
In the evening, if she thinks we’ve been watching TV too long, she’ll start flipping her tennis ball between us on the couch until we laugh and throw it for her. She is really quick at retrieving it, even if its hidden.
I know the day will come when Malory will return to her rightful place with Paul to ride shotgun. They’ll stop in from time to time for a visit and I hope she’ll become friends with my new guide dog.
Until then, as I brush Malory Grace’s luxurious, dark brown fur, gently hug her strong neck and plant a quick kiss on her soft nose, I’m thankful for this brief touch of Malory.
(versions of this essay have appeared in “Good Dog! Magazine, Wayne County STAR Newspaper, and Wayne County MAIL Newspaper. Copyright © 1997, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin. All rights reserved.

11 Sep 2010, 6:09am

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Many businesses closed early; the big Job Fair at the War Memorial was cancelled; after school events and evening meetings were postponed. Prayer Circles were hastily convened amid the eerie silence that fell across America.
From my porch perch the usual sounds of the late afternoon rush hour on Routes 350 and 441 were missing. There were no sounds on Orchard Street. No planes cut through our appalled shock and disbelief, even the birds seemed to respect the enormity of the silence.
When you say the date 9/11 as: nine-one-one, it has a sharp double edged significance. A true emergency. The wanton murder of so many people and destruction of property by crazed zealots who abused our country’s faith and trust for their own hollow victory by flying hi-jacked airplanes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center was/is over-whelming.
Too over-whelming for me to think of in its entirety: the ripple effects it will have on the thousands of immediate families and for years to come on all of us.

My thoughts turned to the individual victims and their families. I wondered how they took leave from each other that fateful morning. Did any of them say, “I love you and wish you enough”?
It is one family’s traditional parting comment. Whenever members separated, they would say: I love you and wish you enough.
It was understood what “enough” meant, because the saying had been handed down for many generations. The original author is, therefore, lost in the annals of time.
I think it is very poignant and would like to share it with you.
“I wish you a life filled with just enough good things to sustain you. I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough
“Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”
Well, Gentle Reader, since you just never know what will happen next, here’s a hug from me to you. I love you and wish you enough.
(09/20/2001 Wayne County STAR Newspaper)
Patriotic Cornucopia: A collection of Essays from Cornucopia by Kate Chamberlin Published in the Wayne County STAR Newspaper, 1994-2004
All rights Reserved by Kate Chamberlin 2010.

8 Sep 2010, 11:26am

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My Eyes Have Four Legs

Guide Dog Chronicles:
My Eyes Have Four Legs
By Kate Chamberlin

Trust my life to a dog? Here I was in my prime (that’s 40, you know) and had just begun to trust my husband as a sighted guide. Due to a rare eye disease, I went from 20/20 to legally Blind within a few months. During the next year, I went to a little light perception in one eye and nothing in the other.
it was a whole new way of living. I didn’t want my new handicap to also handicap my family. We discussed what it would mean to have a “working dog” rather than a “pet dog” in the family. The decision to go with a guide dog was unanimous.
With my family’s support, I pushed through my nervousness and went to train at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York. I was paired with Future Grace, an 18 month old Golden Retriever.
The trainers spent several days interviewing each of the students. They had been training numerous dogs for the previous three to four months and wanted to match the personality with the “dogality” for maximum team efficiency. I think they did a good job with Future and me. We’re both well educated, beautiful, and love children.
It was hard for me to trust her, at first. She was such a fast walker that I didn’t feel comfortable. Future really had her work cut out for her. She had to prove how dependable she could be.
The turning point came during a training walk in White Plains, New York. We were standing on the corner waiting for the traffic light to change. A big delivery truck turned the corner a bit too sharply. His rear wheels jumped up over the sidewalk. If Future hadn’t Pulled back, and pulled back really hard so I had to go with her, I would have been part of the pavement! She’d earned my trust.

As I learned to relax, being part of a guide dog team became less awkward. After graduation, I brought her home with me. She quickly bonded with my husband and three children as litter-mates. I’m the alpha dog.
I take care of her and she takes care of me. We go everywhere together – to school, to church, into town, and even grocery shopping. We go grocery shopping once a week. The three children rotate coming with us.
After Dave parks the van in the market parking lot, Future guides me into the store and straight to the Bottle Return. Dave gets a cart and meets us there. Sometimes he’ll let us out at the far end of the mall and we walk from there to the Bottle Return inside the store.
After we get our bottle money slip, Future is at heel, I hold onto the cart handle, and Dave pulls the cart from the front, so we can discuss what to put into the cart without getting separated or bumping into anything.
When there aren’t a lot of people in the store, I pick up Future’s harness handle and work her. She knows that from the Bottle Return we go to the Deli number dispenser and wait in line. When we have our package of great smelling ham and cheese or roast beef, we head over to the doughnuts. We wait out of the way while Dave chooses a dozen doughnuts. It’s important for Future to get me to a safe spot because people have to serve themselves in the bakery department. They have a tendency to rudely jostle each other to get to the freshest doughnuts. Most of them still have their carts with them and neither Future nor I wants to get bumped.
From the bakery, it’s simple enough to follow the outer wall cases. We stop at vegetables here and there, then go to the meat section, bacon, soda, milk, and eggs. I can tell if we’re in the right area because it’s cold along here. As Future stops at each place, I feel and choose which item I want. Walking through the flower section is always pleasant for both of us. The dirt smells fresh if they’ve just watered the plants. The fragrant lilies are my favorite; roses seem to be Future’s.
The bulk food section smells pretty good, too; lots of cinnamon cookies, popcorn, and granola. The frozen food cases are too cold and a bit boring, except that the workers’ wheeled dollies make it like broken field running to get around them. It takes a lot of concentration to maneuver along safely.
Sometimes people will stop and pet Future and she’ll quickly put her nose into my hand. It’s her way of tattling on them. I explain that when she’s in harness she may not socialize. She’s on duty; working to keep me safe. It isn’t really all their fault, though. Future likes to look pleadingly at people with her big, soft, brown eyes and they instinctively reach out to touch her. It’s at that point that she puts her nose in my hand.
Going up and down the aisles is the dangerous part. Future walks slowly as Dave tells us what we’re passing. If we need something, we stop and pick it up. One time, we were stopped in front of the cappuccino and a fellow banged right into Future! I quickly said, “Future, Tuck,” but she already had me as close to the right-hand side as we could get. She was okay, but it was a pure case of hit and run. The guy never even said he was sorry! After that, Future was careful to check behind us, as well as in front.
Future must be most vigilant at the end of each aisle. That’s where other people come rushing around the corner. Where their minds are, I don’t know, but we’ve almost been hit
several times. Usually it’s safest to let Dave push the cart first. He can use it as a protective shield. Future tracks him while staying close in his wake to keep us safe. I don’t remember having to do such planning when I was sighted!
When we’ve worked the whole store, Future tries to find the extra-wide handicapped check-out line. For some reason, this one is cleaner than the others and she’s not tempted to scavenge. As Dave unloads the front of the Cart, I unload the back section. Future always watches this procedure closely – she doesn’t want the cart to roll back on her! I keep my foot on the wheel to make sure it stays put. The time Future was hit by a car in the parking lot was really scary. We usually need two carts to get the bagged groceries to the van. We had loaded them up as usual: the first cart being pushed by Dave, the second cart being steered by Dave with me pushing it. Future was at proper heel position. We stopped just outside the door at the crosswalk. A car stopped at the stop sign. We proceeded into the crosswalk toward our van in the handicapped parking slot. As we were walking, I heard a man yell very loudly. At the same moment I realized that the man was Dave, I heard a thump and a yelp. Future was hit hard on her left flank and thrown to my far right. As Dave continued to yell at the woman through her closed window, I immediately took off Future’s harness and made her lay down.
I checked her over pretty thoroughly, and felt that she was okay. A stranger guided us to the van. Future was able to ‘walk there on her own and hop inside by herself. We were rather upset, to say the least.
It’s very upsetting to go blind, period. I won’t see my sons as they graduate from college or begin to go bald like their father. I won’t be able to design and sew my daughter’s wedding gown, as I had planned. I’ll never see my grandchild’s little face. But I do look forward to the independent mobility my Guiding Eyes guide dog provides me. She’ll get me to my sons’ graduations and march this mother-of-the-bride down the wedding aisle. And, I dare say, we’ll even take that grandchild for walks in the park, though, perhaps, not grocery shopping!
NOTE: This article appeared in “Good Dog! Magazine” November/December, 1993
Copyright © 1993, 2009, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin

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