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Visual Description: Joy and Roja with Joy’s husband and two daughters against a red curtain backdrop at Guide Dogs for The Blind Canine Heroes Wine Auction

It’s been awhile, I know.  Joy just keeps me hoppin’. Salt Lake. Portland. Leavenworth. San Fran. Most of those places had guide dog friends for me, though, so I’m not complaining.

Of course, on each of these trips, Joy planned a million things.  She even tried to get me on a giant bicycle in Golden Gate Park that she called a surrey.  It was terrifying!  Thank goodness her husband talked some sense into her.  i’ve always liked that guy, partly because he’s hairy like me, but mostly because he has common sense:  you don’t fit a 60 lb dog on skinny bicycle seats..

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Visual Description: Joy embracing a frighted Roja while her girls look onward on a 4 seat Surrey bicycle.

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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

by Roja Thomas (Joy’s guide dog)

When I wake up in the morning, I run in circles 90 mph until I almost fall over (don’t judge).  Joy and her kids laugh really hard when I do this, and hearing their laughter makes me prance around the house like an even bigger maniac.  I love when Joy’s kids are home, and especially when they have lots of friends over after school.  There’s nothing I love more than a house full of rowdy children.  Except when one of them pulls my tail (true story ahead!). Continue reading

Boy did I have fun with the first graders at Holy Family School!  They asked Joy questions and she let them pet me!  They were so gentle, and I felt like a furry rock star.  I hope Joy brings me back to that school again sometime!

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Joy and Roja sitting in front of a group of children seated on the floor, during a question/asnwer time at the end of the presentations.

Do you know what I DON’T like?

Antlers.

I’m assuming this is another one of Joy’s ideas, similar to the Halloween cowardly lion abomination.   I guess I’ll cooperate in honor of Christmas.  Just as long as I don’t have to pull any sleighs.  That’s where I draw the line.  Dogs have their dignity to uphold, you know.

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Roja wearing a headband with antlers sticking up into the air.

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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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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.

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My Aunt Debbie came over the other day and gave my girls the best present, a picture book entitled, What Does it Mean to Be Present?. It’s a beautiful book in a whimsical font on a topic that I haven’t seen many children’s books tackle. Lots of books on friendship and sharing and learning. But not many on “being”.

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My daughters love this book, although I’m the one who can’t stop flipping through it, hoping it will rub off on me. My mind being the hamster wheel that it is, I really struggle with being fully present. Continue reading