Monday, July 23, 2012

I have been making her send her food as text messages, so I get her more used to the phone as a typing tool, and she says it has been helping.... 

So sunday, as we all know, is a kind of vegging day, so she didn't really do that much.  When I asked if she was ready to come home, she said she wished we could all move out there...  That would be tough, but a nice idea....  :) 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thursday July 19

Calli has been working hard with Q, she says they do a route where she has to cross multiple 6 lane roads, and that she's becoming more and more comfortable with their skills at it together. Evidently the route is a big loop with 3 street crossings at either end and a McDonalds somewhere along it. The dogs' foster families have been coming for a final visit with dogs and their partners, and that has been good but tough. The dogs are happy to see their people again, and then a bit confused, the people are happy and proud and sad all at the same time, and the kids get some of that too. So far there have been two families come, with another scheduled for Friday. Calli has been learning to play computer monopoly on her iPhone, so we'll look into getting a board at home. It's not one of my favorite games, so I've not bought one for the kids yet. For breakfast she had eggs, I told her with the amount of walking she's doing, she needs the protein! Noodles Steak and vegetables for lunch, and corn dogs, hamburgers, and french fries for dinner. She say breakfast is at 7, Dog care is at 8 and they're out on the road at 8:30 every morning. Today I learned that the kids are learned a different sort of technique that I expected, dealing with the dog balking at an obstacle. We bought Calli a folding Cane and a holster to carry it in, but they are also taught a cane free method, that they're still practicing. Very practical I thought.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


So, it thunderstormed all day.  They did do "route" in some place she calls "the Restaurant"  Apparently, they get drinks there.  I am not quite sure what the place is, but they do their routes there regularly...

She says Q got on her bed twice, so I guess that means he likes her...

Not much else happened all day, because of the storms.
Food: Breakfast was Froot Loops
Lunch: Soup, spaghetti, and strawberry squares for dessert
Dinner: Pork with mushroom sauce, potatoes, soup, and yes, strawberry squares for dessert.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


It was a fun day.

Sent from my iPhone


It was a long day and it was a miserable one too.

Sent from my iPhone

Last 2 days

First, Q pooped!

I know everyone was waiting.

Today was a day off day, so they ended up playing Monopoly (acquired from the internet, in english)  She won,

Todays food was eggs, chicken on a stick with potatoes, and an unknown dinner.  (She didn't tell me, I forgot to ask)

She thinks that Q is possibly limping, she says that he is walking kinda sideways while walking.  When she sees the person that works with the dogs, she will mention it.

Nothing else of note, except that yesterday was exceedingly hot.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday's Update

Please put Q in your prayers tonight as he didn't do any doo today. This is generally not a good thing, dogs are usually very regular, you feed them, and half an hour later, dog business happens. She said he was very distracted, veering, and smelling a lot (which is not good) ----- Today for breakfast she had eggs, and raspberries. Evidently there are raspberry bushes at Mira, so she enjoyed fresh ones.---- Lunch was soup, ham sandwiches, with fresh cherries, raspberries, and ice cream for dessert.--- Dinner was soup, beef patty, baked potato and peas with fudgcicles for dessert.--- Today she walked around the mall, with the trainer communicating only by walkie talkie. They worked on escalator travel too. She said she can give a command that Q finds the escalator takes her there and then rests on the metal approach part. She'll then give the forward command. at the end of the escalator, she also give a command, to make sure the dog is moving and doesn't get a toenail caught.---- She'll still work hard this weekend, they have a half day on Saturday and then time off and time off Sunday, but her job is to bond with the dog. Mira is so good at what they do that they won't let an unbonded/unsafe pair leave together.


It was a long day.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spoke with MM this evening, she said that this was the first time she had to pick up "dog business," and that it was difficult.

Focus doesn't come as quickly to our child as it might to some, so this is her push time.  She know that she needs to focus on her relationship with her dog, and that it is the most important thing for her now.

Today's meals (lunch and dinner, I was cut off before we got to breakfast) were chicken and rice for lunch, with cupcake dessert, and crud I cannot remember what she said for dinner, except it started with vegetable noodle soup, and ended with ice cream.  Since the changing of the dog, her socialization time has been cut down, and the work has gotten more difficult.  Today, she said they did a restaurant route, and that was tough.

We are hoping to get more pictures back from people up there, so there will be more when they arrive.

Also, she was told that Eric St. Pierre received a medal from the government of Quebec, she wasn't sure what it was, but it was one of the highest honors that the government would bestow.



Today was a tiring day and a hot day too.

Sent from my iPhone


It was a boring day.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Not a perfect partnership - this one should be just fine.

So, Calli and Shelly are not partners any more. While they worked hard together, Shelly just wasn't doing things she needed to do, and wasn't listening to Calli as she should have, and perhaps Calli wasn't communicating well. Anyway, Mira doesn't let a bad partnership go, they work to find the right one. Calli now has a new partner 'Q'. He's a black lab a bit bigger than Shelly was, and he seems to work better with her already. Q, to me sounds like a really good match for her, and for our household. For one thing, he has a plant name, like all of our family and pets do, for another, he's a male, and our two female dogs will probably accept him a bit better. We're also very close to the Leader Dogs school, and they use a lot of labs, so people will assume he's a 'Proper' guide dog (you know how people get a picture in their brain about they way they think things should be around here, guide dogs are German Shepherds or Labs. I was enjoying the thought of Shelly looking so different, and introducing them to a new thought). Also, we like to go camping on an island, and as you most likely know, Labs Love Water!----- Calli's report She's still tired, they're walking around a lot and she goes to bed pretty early. She had bacon for breakfast; noodles, carrots, and chicken for lunch and Steak with French Fries for dinner.---- Sorry I don't have pictures!----- I can't wait to see this large dark and handsome male in Calli's life.


It was an okay day and still tired.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, July 9, 2012

It was hot and tiring day.  I walked on the streets with my guide dog.

Sent from my iPhone


Calli's phone died and she was REALLY tired when she finally called so I let Acer talk to her. He really misses her, and hadn't gotten to talk to her for a couple days as she was calling so late. She said that she'd been out all day, and had eaten and showered and that was about it, she hadn't had time for piano practice or anything. Acer was satisfied, as at this stage his phone calls are mainly about him talking to you, not so much you talking to him.----- We got 3 new Photos of Calli and S. today and I found out a bit of super information. In the first photo, Calli's posture is slumped, she looks exhausted or mad. So I found out that Mira has an ergonomic specialist on staff to work with correct positioning and posture with the dogs, and that the Orientation and mobility specialist was very good at correcting posture.
Here is Calli in the dining room. Tessa is across from her and Preston is beside her. Doesn't S look very alert, intelligent, and beautiful?
Here are Calli and S on the first day. Another picture that shows the loveliness of S, and how Calli needs a clip in her hair. Guess what I'm bringing with me this next trip?

From Mira - Sounds Great!

The kids are all doing really well and working hard. Some of you may not have heard from them as much as you might have expected. This is because they are really busy, especially now that they have the dogs. It was wonderful to see how well the group meshed even in light of the age range from 11-21 (three Canadians are with our kids and the oldest is 21) They are always talking, joking around, and assisting each other whenever needed it. Not one child is what I would call an "outsider."

Sunday, July 8, 2012


It was a good day we sat around in the house,played uno, and walked around the park with our guide dogs.

Sent from my iPhone
So, today's call (came in at 10:30pm) centered on the subject of a "day off."  They didn't do a whole lot, she said, although they played Uno (one of the only non-French, and brailled games available)  and goalball. Ian (one of the trainers) told everyone "After lunch, Calli will teach us goalball!"  They played the goalball outside, as there are no facilities indoors. 

Tomorrow, she says that they are heading out into the public spaces, to do more training.  Breakfast was egg on an english muffin, lunch a chicken pastry, with a "foot long popsicle" for dessert.  Dinner was lasagna, with raspberries for befores, durings, and afters.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Today, she called me for the first time since being dropped off, and I got to hear about a day. Of course, it was a Saturday, where the only things that they did were learn how to "heel" the dog, or how lead, not follow the dog. That is going to be one of the biggest skills that she is going to have to learn, that she is still the one in charge.

Today's food, french toast for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and pork chops with rice for dinner. Dessert was a raspberry pastry.

After lunch, they were all given free time, so she played Uno with the others, and she stated that they had brought in an electric piano. When asked if she was starting her piano practices, she said that Preston was always on it, so she wasn't able to.


Today it was a half day. I played uno with my friends. Sent from my iPhone


It is my first day with my guide dog.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rules that will be tough to live by

So, we'd wondered why we weren't allowed to share the name of the dog and we found out. Here is what we were told, except I took out proper names and substituted pronouns.---- The bonding process takes about six months to complete. We prefer that people not know the dog's name so that they won't call the dog, command the dog, or otherwise talk to the dog while it is learning to focus only on its owner. This is very important for student and the dog's safety. You can tell anyone privately as long as they understand the rules. No one, not even the parents,are allowed to pet the dog during this period. Only the Student. This is tough, but necessary. Poor Acer, he loves the feel of the Bernese Fur. It's going to be toughest for him.

July 6

Calli got her dog today, as you can see in the pictures. She got a lovely Bernese Mtn Dog, the smallest one I've ever seen. She is supposed to be a really good listener, and even walks Calli's speed.----- S. (dog name withheld until I get permission to post it) is really smart too, and has already learned Calli's place in the Dining room and where Calli's room is.----- Calli's day started with eggs as usual, and then they headed out to get their assigned guide dogs. I've been on tenderhooks waiting to hear the news, and was really glad to be able to see pictures even if I wasn't able to talk directly to Calli until about 3 this afternoon.----- They worked with their very own dogs most of the day, learning corrective techniques, and corrective commands in French. Things that need to be corrected are as big as missing the curb and as small as looking the wrong way when they are turning. They need to be corrected a certain way, and to use certain words and motions at that time. Calli will be working on these almost as much as working with the dog on navigating, so that they continue to work as a team.----- Calli is loving the food there, for lunch they had soup, noodles with sauce, Italian meatballs and chocolate pudding for dessert. We rarely have dessert after meals at all, and now, she gets two desserts a day!----- Here is a link to Guide Dog Etiquette, for when you meet Calli or another person with a guide dog.

Calli's Beautiful Dog!

I'll find out the name soon, I just got these pictures off the internet. Isn't that a beautiful dog!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The last bunch of random shots for now

Mira also breeds and trains assistance dogs, here is one girl with her person's chair!
Here are Sebastian, Lorenzo, Calli, and Maddy
Calli's Room is on the right corner

More random Order pix!

A six month old Bernese in visiting the Vet for a check up
A meeting with future foster parents
Lots of energy in that small space - Puppies all over the place!
A retiree taking it easy as the vet mascot
I love this pix, it looks like the 6 month old dog is smiling!

Pix from the trip in random order

Older Puppies, I think these are Bernese Mtn Dogs
Acer and Cousin Ian in Loblaws
It was a LONG trip
Newly hatched puppies

July 5th!

Still no guide dog assignment today :( We're having a hard time waiting here, it must really be hard for Calli!------ Eggs again for breakfast today, while I'm sure they served more than eggs, she only ate eggs. I think she ate them super fast too, because she said she had to wait around for a long time before she went out with the group.----- They headed off to the kennels and worked with dogs all day, they worked Calli with 3 different dogs with different results. All the kids have a set of Harness, collar, and leash that is their own, they put it on each dog as they work with it.----- Duff was her first dog to work with; he was alright, but he didn't walk very fast. She was then switched to another dog.----- Coraile was her next dog, and she was not well behaved with Calli. While Calli was working with her, she actually chewed Calli's harness!----- Lunch was pork with zuccini and mashed potatos and chocolate creame pie for dessert.---- Calli's last dog was Shelly. She was a better match, but seems to have thought that the curbs around were just gentle suggestions. Calli had to work with her to remind her to behave properly. At least Shelly's speed and other behavior seemed to be okay, and she didn't chew on Calli's harness!---- Calli hasn't been doing her goalball practice exercise, but says she will again. I think she thought she could stop if she wanted to, but I remeinded her that tryouts were coming up and she was not guaranteed a sport on the team. Hoping she doesn't skimp and try to not do them again!

July 4

Today I got to work with some dogs

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Report on Calli's First full day

I'm sorry, but the Paragraphs I put in as I type seem to be disappearing when I post. I need to do some research on this to figure out why. Just got off the phone with Calli and she told me about her day, sounds like a good one!----- She got up a little earlier than normal, at 6 AM instead of the 6:45 that she does for school. Breakfast sounded yummy, with eggs and croissants to fuel her for the morning. After that they worked with a puppy in training, helping get it used to people and different situations like visiting a store.----- They headed off to the kennels next, where the dogs in training stay, and worked on basic commands for the dogs. The commands are in French, so if you meet Calli's dog and it doesn't listen, it's not supposed to!----- After the kennel they broke up into pairs and one held a harness, and one held the handle as they approximated guide dog following. Calli said they called this 'The Blind Leading the Blind'----- Lunch was yummy again, with a beef, broccoli and rice combo and a brownie for afters. Sounds like Calli will not be in danger of starving by any means!----- Next they were excited to head back to the kennels, where they worked with different dogs. Calli was paired up with a girl dog first, but SuperCalli was too fast for her. (My mental picture is of Calli hauling the guide dog around by the handle, not letting the dog guide her) She was paired up with a male dog named Winch next (I think it was Winch, that is at least my version of Calli's version of the name that I'm sure was said to her with a French accent) Winch was a better match for her as far as speed goes, so she was happier, and actually remembered his name, where she forgot the girl dog's name.----- My soup loving girl was happy at dinner, they had soup, chicken, french fries, and she had a brownie for dessert. She chose the brownie because she thought the rice crispie treats would be too sticky for her braces. I was glad to hear that she was thinking and making good choices on her own!----- We made it home about 6:30, after a long hot day in the car. The air conditioning wasn't working well in when the temps were all the way up to 102! Acer was really very good for the whole trip despite the fact that it was very long and pretty boring for him. He did get two new (to him) toys to help keep him busy, and with protest he took a nap every day in the car, but he's really a homebody. He was so happy to be home after 4 days away. He's also extremely happy to be home with his blanket, as I forgot to pack his travel blanket to help him feel a bit more comfortable. All for now, will post pictures soon!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The beginnings

We have had an interesting past 3 days, at least for us. Acer has been only tolerating this trip because he has a new wonderful toy.----- We started out on Sunday, and drove to Toronto. I have cousins and friends there and we had arranged to spend the night at my Cousin Ian's house. It was very nice, really, about the first time I've spent much time with him as he's older and we've always lived hours apart. Ian coped well with the young person invasion, and Acer managed to not break any of the artworks.----- Monday we left and headed out towards Mira. Going though Montreal was very odd, we missed a turn fairly early and had to figure out where we were supposed to by from the odd and inaccurate maps given us by the provincial information center. We made it through though and ended up at the hotel, in Ste Hyacinthe, the slightly larger town to the East of Ste Madelaine which is too small to have hotels. Our hotel was odd, there was no elevator to the 2nd floor, and we had to walk a long way around to get to our room because the front desk didn't seem to realize they could give us driving directions to a door/set of stairs right near our room. There was a play structure in the Hotel though, so that was a bonus.----- Today we drove the short distance to Mira QC, where Calli will be until the 27th. We met up with the other kids, and three of their families and got the kids settled in. there are the three kids we met earlier in North Carolina, when we went down for the assessment weekend, and then there were three others from QC and ONT. There were two older boys, about 16 or 17, to go with Preston, also 17, and an 18 year old girl who is getting a guide dog who is also trained to help with her wheel chair. Tessa must have really good Orientation skills because they said they'd only ever had 3 other people with that sort of combination. I think she must be pretty special. There is one other girl, Maddy, who is 14, Calli met her at the evaluation in April. Also from the April evaluation, is Max, the youngest, he's either just turned or is turning 11, his mom will also be staying with him because he's so young. The dorm is nice, but only holds 10. The girls are in the upper floor of the dorm, the boys on the lower.---- I'll post pictures once we get back home! more later Heather
Sent from my iPhone It is my first day at Mira.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why or Why Not have a guide dog?

As I have entered more and more into the Blind/Visually impaired world as my kids have gotten older I run into paradigms that sighted people have about blind people. Some of them are, very frankly, amusing, some bewildering, and some insulting.

Today, I'm going to address one that I myself have even to this day, the one that sighted people have about all blind people having or needing guide dogs. As shocking as it is, yes, indeed, there are blind people who don't want to have guide dogs. They feel they are okay on their own, they have confidence in their own abilities, they don't want the extra responsibility of feeding and caring for a dog, they don't want to pick up dog poop. Whatever their reason, there are far more people who don't have guide dogs than who do. They go to school, hold down jobs, date, have full lives, all without a guide dog and they don't feel the lack. Another reason is that their cane work, Orientation and Mobility, skills may not be good enough. Yes, despite what you may think, guide dog users have to have BETTER than normal O&M skills.

Why is Calli getting a guide dog and why did I want her to?

Calli made the decision herself after walking with a dog a little bit at camp last year, and after reading several books on guide dogs and therapy dogs. When she came home from China 3 years ago, she really wanted almost nothing to do with the dogs. Over time, she has come to appreciate them, and learn how to care for them and love them. She's been working towards being able to care for her own dog all be herself for about 2 years now. She feeds, waters, and grooms our dogs. She walks them and pets them, and really enjoys their company now. She understands that all dogs really want to have a job, a role in the family so to speak, and really is looking forward to having a working dog who will help her explore her world a bit more.

Why did I want Calli to have a guide dog when we already have 2 dogs (okay, 1 and 1/4 dogs because Maisy is so small) at home?

Several reasons. The first is that we live near a high school and near several busy streets. That combination means I really want her to have an extra pair of eyes as she crosses. Another reason is speed, Calli is a VERY fast walker, her cane sticks out more than 4' in front of her and she moves so quickly that people trip over her cane. If she has a guide dog, the dog will be right next to her and she will be able to move at her own speed with fear of taking people out in the hallways. A third reason is the companionship that a dog brings, with our dogs at home right now, neither one has chosen Calli for Their Person, the one that they follow around and show the greatest affection for. There aren't too many kids Calli's age around, and a dog will be a great friend. One of my final reasons is that Calli is a beautiful girl, and as a parent with a child in this age of danger, the fact that she will have a large dog attached to her will hopefully cause ill doers to think twice. That, and the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lessons she takes. ;)

An Infinite loop!

Hurrah! This blog is on the front page of Mira USA's website HERE. MIra USA's website is front and center on our blog. So, it's possible to go from there to here to there to here to there. Whoa, getting dizzy there, think I'll stop thinking about it now.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another Step Down

Due to technical issues, all the posts before this that are labelled by Calli, are actually by me. This one is also actually by me, but it should now have my by line.

Because the place where the dogs are and where Calli will get her training is in Quebec, we had two choices, the first was to get her a passport and the second, because we live in a state that borders Canada is the option for an Enhanced ID Card.

We ended up deciding on the Enhanced ID card because it will be more useful in day to day life. She'll never have a driver's license, so this will be her version of that. It was actually pretty funny, it took us 5, yes 5, trips to the Secretary of State office to try to figure out what papers they actually wanted.

For most, this is not a big issue, but for Calli whose paperwork is in Mandarin, it's a bit goofy. On the 5th trip, a wonderful woman figured out that if we got her a regular ID we could simply use her certificate of citizenship and use the two pieces to get her Enhanced ID.

 Today her regular ID showed up and we shot off to the Secretary of State's office and arrived with seconds to spare. There we were able to apply for the enhanced one quickly, and it should now allow Calli to cross the border back into the US easily.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MIRA promo - Where Calli will be going for training, in French.

Mira trains dogs for more than just visually impaired children. They do excellent work!

A Story to Tell (MIRA USA)

Here is an article with a picture of last year's guide dog recipients. Check out the lovely St Pierre dogs! (and the confident happy youth!)

Assessment weekend at Mira USA in NC, the last weekend in April.

 This first picture is of Calli, with Eric St. Pierre, founder of Mira Quebec. In the background is Preston, getting his first dog before heading off to college this fall and Ian, who works at Mira.  Calli is working here with Keesha, a smaller dog. Keesha is a sweet, gentle lady like dog who doesn;t actually fit Calli's personality but Calli is shorter than Preston, so she was working with the shorter dog. Preston was working with Nahnoo, who was better suited to Calli but he was taller, so Preston worked with him.  Calli needs a dog who is faster and more energetic.
 Here're Calli and Eric out on the assessment. Guide dog users actually have to have better than normal cane work and orientation skills. Eric is making sure that the 4 youth who came, are independent enough and have the proper skills to make a guide dog pairing work.  In over 30 years of guide dog training and 20 years of training for youth, Eric has never had either an accident or a rejection. He's that good.
Here are Keesha and Nahnoo, they are both 'St Pierre' dogs, a new breed Eric has made after years of breeding for this purpose. St Pierre's are initially from a cross between Bernese Mtn Dogs and Labrador Retrievers.  Aren't they gorgeous? Mira also uses poodles for those with allergies. Mira's dogs are the absolutely best trained guide dogs I have ever seen. I was really impressed.
Here you can see the joy Calli has walking with Keesha. Calli is not short on confidence by any means, but I could see enough of a change in her that it actually brought tears to my eyes to watch her walk.  Calli will be receiving her own dog on my birthday, July 5th, after two days of observation and personality matching. Keesha had already been matched with a nice, calm, little old lady, and they were going to be meeting just a couple weeks after this picture had been taken. I bet those two are just the sweetest couple.


Welcome to Blog to a Guide dog, stories of what it took to get one, and what it's like to have one, from the owner and the owner's parents perspective.