Monday, January 5, 2015

The Journey continues: My last semester of graduate school

Tomorrow begins my final semester as a Master’s of Social Work student. It is hard to believe I’ve been in the program for a year and a half. It has gone by so fast.


It has been an exciting year and a half. I have had opportunities to do things that I did not know I was capable of doing. I know my learning is far from over. This final semester will be an exciting one for me.


I will be taking four classes to further my knowledge of the field of social work. My internship will continue to be a valuable source of knowledge for me. I am learning so much at the Division of Blind Services. Being able to help others who have vision problems is very rewarding. It is nice to help others who struggle with many of the same things I do.


This semester I will begin an exciting new program for the Division of Blind Services. I have researched and developed a job skills training program for the clients of DBS who are seeking employment.


With the guidance of my task supervisor, I will begin teaching the first class next week. I am excited, and a little nervous, about beginning this exciting journey. It will be interesting to monitor the progress of the clients and evaluate and modify the program as needed.


So here’s to an exciting final semester of graduate school!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

As another year begins, I am reflecting back on 2014. A lot happened during 2014. I am still in the social work master’s program. I completed my first four-month internship in May 2014 and began my second internship at the Division of Blind Services (DBS) in September 2014. I am enjoying the work that I am doing there.

There have been some sad events over the year. My guide dog Diesel began having problems with arthritis and bone spurs. Due to his sometimes limited mobility, I have made the heart-breaking decision to retire him in May after I graduate. I do not want to retire him, but I have to do what is best for both of us.

I am excited about what the year 2015 will bring. I also have some trepidation. I will be entering a new chapter in my life where I will not be a student anymore.

Even though I am saddened about Diesel’s impending retirement, I am excited to begin the journey of working with a third guide dog. I will be going to a month long training program at a guide dog school to train with the new dog. Once home, the dog and I will continue to grow as a team.

 I will use this blog to chronicle my journey over the next year. I want to document the wonderful experiences I will have as I expand my horizons.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Very Special Day

Today is the third anniversary of when I flew home with Diesel. That day was one of rejoicing and of new beginnings.


Diesel and I have grown so much over the last three years. When he first came home, he was a very high energy dog. He was only nineteen months old. He is now four years old and much calmer.


Walking alongside Diesel has been an adventure. There have been moments of laughter and tears. But regardless of the emotions, it has been a wonderful three years.


Diesel and I have done so much together. He helped guide me through the remainder of my undergraduate studies. He is now helping me navigate the exciting world of a Master’s program in social work.


Our bond is strong. We now work well as a team. Experience has helped Diesel become a wonderful guide dog. His skills are superb. Add in his hilarious personality and it is a journey to remember.


I hope to have many more adventures with my lovable and goofy guide dog!


Today is special to me for another reason. Diesel’s homecoming fell on my best friend Jill’s birthday. This is significant to me because she believed that I would have a guide dog by her birthday. I did not think that was possible. Not only was it true, but I flew home with him on her birthday. So happy birthday Jill. Thank you for bringing me hope when I thought there was none!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bristol's Legacy

It is difficult to believe that it has been three years ago today that my beloved first guide dog Bristol died from cancer. That time in my life was one of the hardest. Upon reflection, there were also a lot of good moments.


Bristol touched the lives of almost everyone he encountered. It was only after his death that I truly understood the magnitude of Bristol’s presence in the lives of everyone he met. Everyone loved Bristol. Bristol helped give my sister the inspiration to get her guide dog Beacon. He comforted people by simply walking into a room. His goofy facial expressions and personality made almost everyone he met smile.  


I am calling this post “Bristol’s Legacy”. Bristol’s work continues three years later. He gave me my first experience of freedom in April of 2006. Through Bristol, I learned that I could navigate the world independently. He taught me to trust. He was everything to me.


I was devastated when I found out he was dying. He died with dignity. During the last month of his life, he was able to do many of the things he loved most. He was able to be a guide dog. He visited many of his countless friends.  On the last day of his life, he played fetch with my dad. Playing with a tennis ball was one of his favorite things to do.


Bristol gave me so much during our five years together. Even in his death, he gave me a remarkable gift. It was through his death that I got to know my best friend Jill. I credit Bristol with how quickly we became such close friends.  Bristol’s final gift to me is still an integral part of my life today.


Bristol brought my family together. My family banded together to cope with Bristol’s cancer and eventual death.


As many people know, Bristol was an awesome dog. I want to thank everyone who helped train him over the years. The trainers at Southeastern Guide dog did a wonderful job with him. I want to thank his puppy raisers, Carolyn and John. They dedicated two years of their lives to raising him from a puppy to a confident two-year-old guide dog to be. Without their hard work, the trainers would not have been able to hand me a wonderfully behaved and superb guide dog.


I still miss Bristol. I will always miss him. He was my first guide dog.  It was through my wonderful experience with Bristol that I had the courage to get my second guide dog Diesel. Bristol’s legacy is Diesel. Diesel continues what Bristol began. Diesel and I have a great working relationship thanks to all that Bristol taught me over the five years I had him.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interactions with guide dogs

Over the years, people have had various reactions when seeing my guide dog. I want to take the time to tell readers about the best ways to interact with a guide dog handler.


Guide dogs are not in public places to entertain people. They have a special mission. The guide dog helps a blind or visually impaired person navigate independently. How the public responds to a guide dog team can either help or hinder them.


Guide dogs are supposed to be ignored when they are working. This is not to be mean to people, or the dog. It is for the safety for both the handler and the dog. If a guide dog is distracted by another person, he or she may lose focus and the handler and/or dog could be injured. People may ask if they can pet the dog. Each guide dog handler responds differently. Some are strict while others are more lenient. Please do not be offended if you are told that it is better if you do not pet the dog. The decision has nothing to do with you.


As for me, it depends on the situation I am in if I allow my guide dog to interact with people. I do allow people to pet my dog in some situations.


Another thing that frequently happens to me is that people will address the dog before speaking to me. Some people do not even acknowledge my presence. Keep in mind, the dog would not be in front of you if the handler was not there. So please acknowledge the owner and ignore the dog. As already stated above, if asked the owner may allow you to pet his or her dog. Please do not assume that it is okay to address the dog by name or reach down and pat the dog on the head.


Many guide dogs are affectionate. My guide dog is very loving. He receives plenty of attention while out of harness. While in harness, the dog still receives attention and praise from the owner. The dog loves to help the handler so please be courteous and help the dog successfully guide the owner.

In upcoming posts, I will write about other questions that I receive about working with a guide dog. If you have a question about guide dogs, feel free to comment on this post, or any future posts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Two Years Later

Wow! Has it been nearly two years since I last wrote on my blog. A lot has happened in those two years. My relationship with Diesel continues to improve. He is now a wonderful guide dog and comical companion.

In May of 2013, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in philosophy. In the fall of 2013, I entered the Master’s program in social work (MSW). I am currently a year into a two year program.

I will use this blog to tell stories about my journey with Diesel. I will also share my experiences in the master’s program and any other interesting life experiences.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Diesel: The Dog Who Continues My Independence

A year ago today, I flew home with Diesel, my new and very energetic second guide dog. At that time Diesel and I were still trying to figure each other out. One thing I knew for certain was that life with Diesel was not going to be dull. And I have been right about that.

Diesel was only eighteen months when I received him from Pilot Dogs. When he was first given to me, he was very difficult to handle. He did not know who I was and as a result acted like a wild animal. Thankfully, a lot of his out of control behavior diminished some after a few days of being together.

Once we got home last summer, we immediately had to begin working on my college campus. A new dog and a difficult path to a class meant that I had a difficult and interesting few weeks.

The biggest challenge however, was not the new school year, but adjusting to Diesel. He is so different than my first guide dog. Bristol was so calm. Diesel has a lot more energy and has a tendency to get over-excited. But with time, some of that over exuberant behavior has calmed down.

A year later I am beginning to enjoy working with him. The bond was slow to come this time. I know that part of that stems from losing Bristol so suddenly. I didn’t have time to grieve before I had to begin training with Diesel. My heart was not in it at first.

In fact, I questioned last summer whether I was ready for another dog. But I knew that without a dog, my life would be more difficult. A guide dog gives me so much more freedom than a cane does. My friend Jill has helped me to understand that I have to think of the positive aspects. Yes, I will inevitably have to go through another devastating loss. I hope that that is years from now. The reward of having a guide dog is stronger than the painful loss though. I know that throughout my life, I will have many dogs to keep my life interesting and fun.

So how has Diesel changed in the last year? As I’ve already said, he is calmer. When I first came home with him, I couldn’t touch him without him going crazy with excitement. Today I am able to sit down beside him and pet him without being jumped on. He has also become more loving. At first his excitement level prevented much affection between us. Now I can reach down and hug him.

One thing that has not changed, and I’m glad it hasn’t, is his fun personality. Ever heard of the class clown? That is Diesel wherever he goes!

The last year with Diesel has certainly been a fun one. We both have changed in so many ways. I hope to have many more anniversaries with Diesel on August twelfth.