Aries and I: August 10

Tuesday morning Aries and I stepped out for our first trip to the synagogue. My girlfriend picked us up at 10 am and we drove to TBS. She informed office staff what we were doing, then the fun began.

Before we started, Aries donned her gentle leader , which always calms her down a bit and allows me more control. Then Aeries and I found the stairs, ascended and went inside as S held the door open.

With her assistance, we heeled lacrosse the foyer to the sanctuary door where I heaped on the praise for Aries. Then we heeled back to the door out and praised.

Next Aries and I crossed the foyer to the sanctuary solo as S spotted us. Perfecto!

Back to the door out. Perfecto.

We did this a couple of times and it was obvious how proud Aries was of doing good work. S told me later that at first Aries was looking all around, but then got into the groove and just got down to business.

After repeating the first phase, we ventured into the sanctuary and to my seat in the second row. This we did with my friend simply coaching us, and after a time or two Aries moved to the next phase, the bima.

The bima is the platform at the front of the sanctuary where the Ark containing the Torah scrolls is the central focus. There, too, stand the two tables from which reading takes place. One approaches by way of two steps, and the handrail is centrally situated. This handrail was my target.

We practice going up and coming back to my seat to settle calmly, and Aries did a pretty good job. Then we practiced exiting the sanctuary and heading for the door outside. Great work all around.

Finally, the social hall. The area all the way across the foyer from the sanctuary, where folks gather for food after services, and for meetings and other events. Aries not only managed to take me from the sanctuary to the social hall, but to a table and chair. Talk about a proud puppy!

I was pretty pleased myself!!

We have plans to return later this week for a review. This time we’ll see how Aries does without the gentle leader.

Aries and I: August 8

Aries and I have been home for over three weeks now, and we continue to learn something new every day.

I admit to being a bit apprehensive as the date for our family barbecue approached. Aries did not seem as connected to me as I thought she should be, not as responsive to my commands at home. How could I expect better behavior somewhere unfamiliar?

In fact, I had been feeling quite discouraged at the beginning of the week. Aries was obviously infatuated with my husband. What I mean is, she thought it was a party, a time of great joy and celebration whenever he came near. After all, he was always doing something interesting–watering plants, going in and out the door to deal with sprinklers or hummingbirds,and especially the car. And speaking of the car, he was the one who made it go , transporting Aries and me to places of wonder and adventure, places like the pet store where all those amazing sights and smells abide!

For his part, J was trying very hard not to be so interesting. He kept eye contact to a minimum, and limited signs of affection. But he was with us on our walks, and everywhere else we went together.

At last, I made a plan. I shifted the orientation and mobility work to my former instructor, and asked my friend to assist with acquainting Aries with the synagogue building. Then I phoned The Seeing Eye for their wisdom.

“Trust your gut,” I was told. New guides often become overly attached to spouses who drive. Extra time and the changes I had initiated would probably improve the situation.

So with my newfound confidence in hand, we arrived at the barbecue. Family members had been notified not to interact with Aries unless I said it was okay. They did a great job of keeping their distance, and limiting eye contact. Even my six-year-old grandson controlled his urge to pet Aries.

We had a wonderful time chatting and enjoying a pleasant, sunny afternoon. Aries barked a couple of times at my son’s cat as she stalked a nearby butterfly, but otherwise remained very well-mannered and calm. When things were just about to wind up, I informed the gang they could interact with my girl.

One by one they came forward. As long as she lay quietly at my feet she was permitted to meet them, to receive their pets and sweet words. And when we got home, she was permitted to receive my husband’s affection as well.

My confidence in our team is much sturdier as this week begins. Aries is finding her place…as we all are.

Wishing you sweetness always!

Aries and I: July 24

Just in case you are wondering, Aries and I took Saturday off as well as Thursday which was the first trashday since coming home. It just seemed like too much of a challenge to deal with all those obstacles right away. But Friday when we went out, some thoughtful neighbor had left his trash can out as a bit of a test for us, and Aries did a great job. She stopped, let me check the reason, then masterfully took me around the barrier.

Today was the first Coaching trip without the gentle leader. My golden gal started out rather wildly, but toned it down to a bounce when told to steady. She did walk past a curb, and led me to a driveway once when crossing. These mistakes were reworked and the outcome was good.

And oh what a love-fest we had upon our return home!

As I write this update, Aries is now having a wonderful chew on the mighty bone.

Each day is certainly a sweet surprise with this lively canine partner of mine.

Aries And I: July 21

Since returning home last Thursday, Aries and I have been getting to know the neighborhood a little better each day. Walking sighted guide, she has followed my command to sit at curb-cuts while I heaped on the praise. We traced the route a few times heading left out the driveway, then a few more heading right.

Well yesterday, we advanced to the second stage, coaching. With Aries in harness, we walked the route together, a human coach behind my right shoulder so as not to distract my working dog. His job was merely to point out our errors, like an overstepped curb-cut or the reason for unauthorized sniffing.

Aries was a masterful guide!

She missed a couple of curb-cuts, but once we reworked these she sailed on like a pro.

And oh the feeling of freedom!

When we reached our front door at last, you can believe there was a whole lot of whooping and wagging!

We’ve only been home a week, and I can’t imagine walking anywhere without her.

*4 doggy pawprints beside 2 human footprints*

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

Some things are better left unsaid

And some are best unheard

Rocks rattling inside my head

Could likely stone some bird

A faulty syllable left unchecked

Unweighed before delivery

Can never make itself erect

Or make a claim at chivalry

Love’s hand may seek to soothe the place

Where barbs have ripped assunder

My beloved’s gentle face

But my heart breaks at the blunder

Home At Last

Home at last. And all that Aries and I have learned separately and together is now in our hands/paws to put into action.

Just as at The Seeing Eye, everything we do is a lesson. At least for a while. Meals and grooming and daily walks and interactions with new people and animals, playing and resting–everything. There are new ways of thinking: we are three now, not just Jeff and me, and not just Aries and me. There are new schedules and the need to somehow accommodate favorite activities. Scrabble and tug and homemade pizza and bone chewing and taking care of everyone’s needs and emotions. Because we are three now. Two very special partnerships overlapping and intermixing, with specific roles and responsibilities and commitments.

Yes, Aries and I are home at last. And loving every challenging moment!

The Final Stretch

We’re in the final stretch here at The Seeing Eye. Aries and I have learned routes around Morristown, had our picture taken beside the statue of Morris Frank and Buddy his guide, explored the courthouse and neighborhoods without sidewalks, ventured up and down the halls of the main building here using stairs and the elevator. We have sat quietly during lectures and meals, gotten lost over and over, and expressed opposing opinions about sitting and lying down and resting. We have growled at one another while playing tug and bouncing the ball. And we have made lots of new friends, canine and human!

Mostly we have started something truly wondrous–a relationship based in trust and love, a relationship which will keep both of us happily moving.

And when we arrive back home on Thursday, there is just one direction to go. Forward.

Wishing you sweetness always!

Independence Day

July 4

With only 10 days to go before returning home to Oregon, the idea of independence looms large for me. I came to The Seeing Eye with the aim of creating a new team for walking to and from the synagogue, around my neighborhood etc. Already I feel the bond of love and trust between my new canine partner and me. Already I feel the possibilities for continued progress in all things.

My new guide is a 2 year old golden retriever named Aries. She is playful and lively, yet patient and sweet. We have worked our way around cafe tables and sidewalk planters, across lighted and unlighted intersections, through the park and all about the building. We have practiced new modes of learning to find elevators, discovered the importance of daily behavior drills and had a lot of fun bouncing and retrieving her oddly shaped ball and tugging on her bone. Mostly we have begun to listen and respond to one another’s needs.

Independence is an amazing concept. And while it definitely assures the right to express one’s true self, it most certainly requires the responsible response to the needs of others. Real independence then is all about relationship. Maybe the word of the day is actually interdependence.

Wishing you Love and Sweetness