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.