All posts by joanmyles

About joanmyles

Poet. Writer. Check out my blog at

Life With Ari 2

Learning to Trust

You know how it is: trust is not something you just give away, it has to be earned.

It’s the same way when a blind person trains with a guide dog. You don’t simply meet the dog, grab the harness handle and instantly entrust your life and safety–no matter how charming and adorable the canine.

Learning to trust takes time, and a whole lot of practice. It takes walks at dawn and walks after dark. It takes dealing with sidewalk obstacles, areas without sidewalks, rainy weather, sunny weather, freezing weather, crowds of people, barking dogs and even an occasional squirrel.

Of course, when we started, Ari and I had the protective eyes of GDB trainers looking out for us. But eventually it was up to us, just my buddy Ari at the “wheel” and me as navigator.

After a month of supervision, we came home to Salem and started learning to trust each other in our neighborhood. We practiced walking to and from Temple Beth Sholom for services, learned our way around the sanctuary, the social hall, and the classrooms downstairs.

We became a pretty efficient team, Ari and me, but we weren’t perfect.

Street crossings were no problem, and Ari was spot on when it came to finding the mailbox on 12th street. But he was a dog after all, and a Lab at that. And Labs love food.

At GDB Ari passed every kind of test. He alerted me to low-hanging branches which might have smacked me in the face. He pulled me out of “danger “during a training exercise involving a reckless driver.

But he failed ham. Yes, when the trainer offered him a piece of ham which he was supposed to refuse because it came from a stranger, he grabbed it. He grabbed it with husto and delight.

Oh my, I just thought of something. Do you think he understood he was going home with a Jewish gal?


Well, be that as it may, I’ll never forget the Friday evening when he actually stood up–yes, on his hind feet, fully standing–as we all recited the blessings over the challah (bread) and wine.

“Down, Ari,” I whispered urgently.

He obliged me with his usual air of innocence, and settled sweetly at my feet. But he never lost his love for challah.

In fact, at one of his last Saturday morning services before retirement, he was standing beside me in the social hall when I realized something was going on. Ari was chewing.

“Lou,” I said to the 90-something year old man on Ari’s other side, “did you give Ari a piece of your challah?”

“Of course,” he replied.

If it had been anyone else, even on Ari’s last visit to TBS, I would have corrected them both–Lou more gently. It takes a community, after all, to keep a good working team good.

It takes a community, a lot of practice, and a whole lot of love and trust

Good thing Ari was such a master pupil!

Life With Ari

First Meetings

Maybe you remember how it is to go on that first date: you’re all jitters, you want to make a good impression, and you sure don’t want to be a fool.

And maybe you even know how it is with a blind date: you’ve heard what he’s like from a mutual friend, and he’s supposed to fit you to a tea, and again, you don’t want to be a fool.

So you do everything you can to prepare yourself: you talk up your confidence, get ready to fall madly in love, and brace yourself for a complete dud.

So it was for me in March of 2008.

Our mutual GDB trainer Caroleen brought me to the office, left me alone with my thoughts for a few moments, and went to fetch the canine fellow who was supposed to be just right for me.

I’d like to say it was love at first sight, or rather touch. But we were both a little shy. When Caroleen left me alone with Ari, he didn’t romp over right away and lick my face as I had read other guides did with their new teammates. He simply wagged politely, and sat at my command.

I remember thinking how big his head was on my lap, how sweet his velvety ears.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t love but I definitely had a huge crush on Ari right away.

And it sure wasn’t long before gentille courtesy developed into true companionship and dedicated teamwork.

The very essence of love.


Darling Friends,

Just to let you know, J and I escorted Ari across the Rainbow Bridge yesterday afternoon. Despite his remarkable recovery, things took a sharp decline a few days ago, and I was forced to face Ari’s readiness to move on.

We moved our mattress to the floor Saturday night, and called Ari up with us for the first time ever. And yes, just as I had always predicted, all night he tried to push me off the edge.

We spent our final day delighting in simple pleasures–parading together to the front door and back, relishing orange bits and peanuts, and all kinds of cheeses.

And now that the house is too, too big, and the silence almost unbearable, I thank you for your kind company and generous appreciation of my amazing canine teammate, soulmate really.

Wishing you sweetness and love, and wags and kisses from Ari.

*For Ari the WonderDog, who led me in ways practical and mysterious*

We must have walked ten thousand miles

Between the earthe and sky.

Adieu, my darling Ari,

It’s time for you to fly.

We crossed the Rainbow Bridge today,

Embraced with but a sigh.

Adieu, my darling Ari,

It’s time for you to fly

Like The Sun

*Wishin you sweetness and light during these difficult days. May you and your beloved ones find Shalom beneath Shabbot’s canopy of Love, my darling friends*

Jewniquely Myself

Let me rise in the morning like the sun in the east,

let me rise in the morning like the sun

with my face bright with purpose for the work to be done.

Let me rise, let me rise, let me rise.

Wrap me in the hues of mitzvot,

pink and orange, all shades of blue.

May I be Your emissary

in everything I say and do.

Let me sing Your praise at noonday like the sun as it stands

at the zenith of intention, let me praise.

And with the innocence of childhood, may I seek Your ways.

Baruk atah Adonai.

Bending knees, I bow before You.

May I subjugate false pride

as I partner in Tzedakah

with my people,by Your side.

Let my heart be filled with mercy like the sun as it sets,

let my heart be filled with mercy like the sun

as it makes the…

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Blame The Sun

Jewniquely Myself

blame the sun
if I’ve spent my day
and blinking
and wanting to play

blame the sun
and the blue
blue sky
if I lazed about
Dazed about
with only a sigh

for the winds will be commin
dark days keep me bummin

every day will be rainin
everyone a-complainin

let’s ignore dust motes sailin
and write poems braillin

in this moment
that’s scarcely begun
let the wind kiss your cheek
fiercely love
don’t be meek
blame the sun
blame the sun
blame the sun

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Book Review: Lilac Girls

Dear Friends,

I admit readily, and you above all others know, that I strive to dwell among sweet and gentle things; that my thoughts and words focus on the delights of this world found in Nature and that I seek always the hearts of fellow human beings.

But I assure you that I do not turn away from the brokenness of this world, the cruelty and misdeeds that pass as human interactions. All people of conscience, all people of heart, all people who seek to be nourished by and to nourish our beloved world, must not turn away from the good they can bring to their small circle of influence. It is these small circles, radiating out and out into the broader world, into the expansive and expanding universe, which are our gifts to Life, to Love to one another and to the future.

With that in mind, I present this month’s Book Review, a reading selection unlike my usual fare. It is a prod to your memory and conscience, to recall not only the fate of Jews during the Hollocaust, but the fate of many many more innocent folk then, and since then, whose lives have been snuffed out by the fear of the other, by the lust for power, by the greed of some to consume what is due the many.

May your hearts remain open to the good and sweet things of this world, and may you never cease to defend and protect the innocence within yourself and others.


Lilac Girls

by Martha Hall Kelly

copyright 2017

DB 84356

A fascinating read!

Caroline’s charity work for French orphans becomes ever more urgent as Hitler’s army marches into Paris. And as European cities fall like dominos to Nazi control, she deepens her involvement, her life eventually colliding with the lives of two other women–a Polish resistance fighter, and a German doctor.

Narrated by way of three distinct voices, Kelly masterfully recounts world events from 1939 to 1959 as well as their inevitable human toll. The author sweeps readers into the action, into the hearts and minds of characters real and imagined, proving herself careful in research and storytelling.

And while my preferred mode of reading is Braille, I found this professionally produced version of Lilac Girls particularly difficult to set aside. The three main characters, Caroline, Kasha and Herta, are presented by three different, distinctly American, Polish and German readers. The result is more like the unfolding of a movie than a book.

**While not extreme in language, descriptions of sex and violence make Lilac Girls more suited for mature readers.

Thirty Years with Leader Dogs: Part 1. Keller

*Ari and I are delighted to share Alice’s remarkabel memories of her devoted canine teammates. Thanks for joining the jurney!*


WORDWALK Presents a Month-long Salute to My Four Leader Dogs:


Part 1. Keller–the Spring of My Four Seasons, Thirty Years, with Leader Dogs


By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

During this entire month of March, my blog posts will be “dog posts” because I will be celebrating thirty years of working with Leader Dogs. The exact magical and memorable date is March 21, 1990, when I received my first Leader Dog Keller, a stunningly beautiful reddish Golden Retriever. After my two pet spaniels, I loved grooming Keller’s long hair. Once, I measured the “feathering” on her back legs: her longest hairs measured fourteen inches.

Throughout these past three decades, my life has been truly blessed with my four guide dogs. “To everything, there is a season….” [Ecclesiastes 3:1] I can easily think of my four Leader Dogs as the four seasons of my life working with guide dogs. When I…

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