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One year ago today, Roja and I graduated as a team from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA, and life hasn’t been the same since. In addition to getting Roja, this past year has been full of both amazing and difficult changes. From moving across the country and being apart from dear family and friends to growing in confidence as a mom, writer and teacher, Roja has been a constant companion who shows unconditional love (and licks!). Continue reading

photo description: Joy speaking on stage at GDB Legacy Luncheon with Roja by her side.

photo description: Joy speaking on stage at GDB Legacy Luncheon with Roja by her side. [Photo credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind]

Just when I thought Joy was finished with all her little surprises (i.e. relocating me from Santa Barbara to Chicago, dressing me in lion costumes, and parading my stellar guide work skills all over schools), she pulled out the big one: a stage.  Yep, an actual stage with a bunch of humans staring at me (more than usual, that is).

The bonus?  It was back where I was born. In fact, we even stayed in a room that looked just like the one I first met Joy in, back in training (if I weren’t at the top of my game, I would have been nervous she was exchanging me!  But nope, she needs me too much. Yep, I’m THAT good….) Continue reading

 
1. You hear yourself telling your 5-year-old to “Hop up!” when she is lagging behind.

2. While doing sighted guide with your spouse you find yourself patting him on the arm at every corner, saying “Good boy!” 

3. You open your wallet and, instead of cash, find kibble.

4. When you pick up your cane you instinctively give it a “forward” command.

5. You tell your friends you are going to “do your business” as you head to the lavatory.  

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Yellow lab, Roja, wearing a furry lion’s mane.

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Husband Ben dressed as Scarecrow, Joy in tin woman costume with guide dog Roja, dressed as cowardly lion, standing next to Elli, age 5, dressed as Glinda, and Lucy, age 9, as Dorothy.

So I was just starting to really like this Joy person.  Sure, she’s a bit chatty and won’t stop commanding that phone of hers to do different things, but she plays tug-of-war like a real champ and even lets me win sometimes.  And her kids are awesome…they let me snuggle with them as they fall asleep, and whenever Joy says it’s time to get them from school, I race to the front door to put my harness on!  But Halloween really made me question the entire Thomas family, even Joy’s chill hipster husband with the big beard.

They put this furry lion’s mane on me, and as if that weren’t embarrassing enough, they added this badge labeled “courage.” Then they all got in weird costumes too.  After getting all gussied up, they took me to this dog parade where there were tons of dogs and treats, but they had the nerve to expect me not to sniff around!  I figured it was payback time for the mane, so I barely listened to a word they said.  I’ll teach Joy not to pawn her strange human traditions off on me!  I’m a serious working dog, after all.  I can’t be bothered with this hullabaloo.

I saw Joy pack up all the costumes yesterday, though, so I’m thinking this was just a one time thing.  I’ll let it slide this time, especially since she took me to Chicago yesterday to hang out with some fellow working dogs.  I got to see Anja, who I used to play with when I lived in California.  We pawed each other like we were small pups and then snuggled next to each other in our harnesses on the floor of some taco joint they took us to.   I also got to meet a new friend named Cabrillo, and he was super friendly.

All in all, I still think Joy is a decent handler, so I think I’ll keep working for her.  Plus, she just got these new lamb treats that I really can’t pass up.  You should see the drool that hangs from my mouth when I catch a glimpse of these things!

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Jane, Joy and Pam, with guide dogs Anja, Roja and Cabrillo.

Hi there!  Joy is finally letting me, Roja the guide dog, speak for myself!  Joy brought me to school for the first time last week, twice!  Last Thursday, I showed off my skills in Mrs. Cardiff’s class at Nicholson Elementary in Montgomery, IL, and I’d like to give a special shout-out to those 3rd graders because they were awesome!  Every time Joy asked a question, those kids’ hands went up, and after they answered, Joy let them pet me!  And some of them even got to feed me a treat!  I sat there with my harness on, acting all calm and chill, but inside I was like “WOO HOO!  SCHOOL ROCKS! I LOVE KIDS AND TREATS AND DROOLING!!!”  Don’t worry, though, I totally played cool, and besides a bit of drool, I’m pretty sure I convinced those kids that I’m the most gentle, obedient dog ever!

Then the next day, I got to go to my very own family member, Lucy’s, 4th grade class in Naperville, IL.  Her teacher, Mrs. Fawell, was so nice, and the kids huddled around me, asking all sorts of interesting questions about me.  I just got to sit and enjoy the attention, as shown in the picture below.  Joy did most of the talking…boy can she yap…blah blah blah blah blah…but I got to show off my guide dog work when the kids made an aisle for me to guide Joy down, complete with a chair obstacle and all!  I’m not trying to brag, but I was pretty much the bomb-diggity guide dog of the year, and those kids loved me!  They stared at me and petted me and applauded for me.  But don’t worry — again, I played the cool card and didn’t get all crazy, even when Joy took off my harness and played tug with me.  I did wag my tail, but that was only because I wanted all the kids to know I was happy to meet them!  Thanks, children!  I can’t wait for my next adventure!
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View and share “DoubleVisionBlog Fight Song” Video on Facebook

Hi DoubleVisionBlog friends! I’ve been secretly working on this video for the past month as a surprise for Jenelle. Happy Blindness Awareness Month!

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In honor of Blindness Awareness month this October, Joy shares her journey of shame, vulnerability and courage. With both humor and insight, Joy and her twin sister, Jenelle, share their stories of life with RP at doublevisionblog.com. Continue reading

Jenelle started me thinking about stories with her post last week. Awhile back I wrote a post that I was too embarrassed to publish, due to the vulnerability involved in sharing my lack of confidence at the time.  In light of the confidence I’ve gained in recent months, I’d like to share it here now, with some new insights.

I can see her.

Confident. Calm. Kind. Self-assured. Unassuming. Strong. Inviting. Gracious. Intelligent. Witty. Playful. Peaceful. Attractive. Insightful. Carefree.

She’s standing on the corner, cane in hand, waiting to cross, and she looks like she knows where she’s going. She’s approachable and aware. She accepts people the way she has accepted herself, fully. There is a lightness in her footsteps because she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She sees life as an adventure and not an emergency.

Continue reading

Roja's puppy raisers, Jack and Linda, have raised 38 puppies and gave me the gift of Roja.

Roja’s puppy raisers, Jack and Linda, co-raised Roja with the Swart family. Puppy raising is a selfless act, and I’m grateful to them for their care of Roja as a puppy.

Graduation from Guide Dogs for the Blind seems like eons ago, though the interactions with Roja’s amazing puppy raisers that day are still clearly etched in my mind. In fact, the entire day felt magical, from the after effects of the shock of my sisters surprising me  to eating mouth-watering Indian food with friends who drove 14 hours in one day to celebrate with me and Roja.

Roja relaxing on my lap while driving through Golden Gate Park Continue reading

The anticipation was almost more than I could bear. I had been planning the surprise for 4 months, and it seemed August 8th would never arrive. I nearly ruined the surprise on several occasions, and it began to feel like it could burst out of my mouth at any moment without warning. I told very few people about the surprise in hopes of containing it.

Finally, the date arrived, and my younger sister, Jillian, and I set out on our trip to unveil the big surprise. Continue reading

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I procrastinated getting a guide dog for about 2 years, turning down 3 different training dates offered to me after being accepted to the program, all because of fear.

My fears? (in order)

Poop. Allergies. Dog Hair. Drool.

None of these 4 excuses that I spent 730 days fixating on ended up being issues. Continue reading