Highlights From Guide Dog School #1

March 6, 2011 Day of Arrival
Greetings from Leader Dogs in Michigan. It is snowy and about 30 degrees. It was a close one getting on the plane in time because the train broke down at the airport. I think they were holding the plane for me! But all has gone well since then. I just met the other students at dinner. We are 5 men and 3 ladies from all over the US. I am the only “first timer”…all the rest have had as many as 7 dogs! They all speak very highly of LD and the whole experience. My instructor is Kevin ūüôā and he will just have 2 students. So I think it will be great training. We begin in earnest tomorrow after breakfast. Kevin did tell me that my dog is “very lovable” I cannot wait to meet him/her!!!
So are you proud?…i figured out MAGIC all by myself and am using it right now…look out world, here I come! So I will be able to email after all so please everybody write me so I know what is going on while i am out of the loop. And thank you all for your support in this new adventure. I hope it will also be a good experience for the ones I love at home. Take care, love Me, Mom, Audrey
March 7, 2011 The Excitement Builds
Hello all! I will begin to send out daily news from Leader Dog training now. Today was our first day and it was a great day! Of course we are beginning with the basics-feeding, watering, and parking the dog (lingo for going potty). I practiced with a real dog how to walk on a lead and do simple corrections and obedience. Then we learned the equipment; care and use of the harness and special leash. The coolest thing of all today was we received our own GPS devices. It is also a MP3 player that has all the lectures on it. The device is called the Kapten¬†and we are the first class to receive this state-of-the-art equipment. It is really going to be wonderful to use. It will tell you where you are and how long it will take to reach your destination on foot. You can enter landmarks and create your own routes. Very slick! Well, I woke up at 5:30 this am and did not sleep well-I guess because I am excited ūüôā I also woke up with a catch in my back that has gotten steadily worse today. I am hitting the Naprosyn and ice tonight to see if I can’t head it off. It would be a bad time for back pain while handling a large, excited dog!
The instructors are young, energetic and very passionate about what they do here. They are taking great care of us and making it fun. The weather today was sunny and crisp-invigorating really…I enjoyed being outside. So one more day until dog day-woo hoo! Everybody is excited to meet their dog and the instructors are being very tight-lipped about our dogs-no hints-even though we keep trying to pry info from them ha ha ha Write when you can…I am going to hit the hay now…much love and hugs to all, Audrey

From Puppy to Professional

Sophie as a puppy with her puppy-raiser family.

Sophie as a puppy with her puppy-raiser family.

¬†¬†It will soon be the third anniversary of when Sophie and I became a working team. I have been reflecting on all the ways she has changed and enriched my life. We have come a long way both separately and together in our respective journeys. Sophie has worked very hard to become a confident and competent professional. Much time and effort¬†went in to training and preparing her to be an elite service animal. Receiving¬† such a guide dog from Leader Dogs has been among the greatest gifts and blessings in my life. A special thanks goes to her loving and dedicated puppy raising family, the Gaeckles of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They nurtured and invested in Sophie for the first year of her life, giving her every opportunity to be a successful guide dog.¬† And then…they gave her up so that she could change my life….a selfless¬† act of service, indeed. I am forever grateful for this incredible creature who guides me, keeps me safe, loves me and is completely devoted to me. There is no other relationship like the special bond between a service animal and their owner. And it is a great privilege¬† to be¬† Sophie’s recipient/owner/momma.¬†I thought it might be interesting to¬†share “Highlights from Guide Dog School” in honor of the upcoming anniversary. This will be a series of posts which were emails I sent home to family and friends while I was at Leader Dog to get my first guide dog (Sophie).¬†I left them casual¬† and largely unedited on purpose. I will let them speak for themselves…enjoy!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Lions Club Presentation

Lions Club Presentation

Lower the Standard???

My husband is a wise, clever and loving man. He once told me to ‚Äúlower the standard‚ÄĚ and it was one of the most loving things he has ever said to me! Over the years, this loving suggestion has freed me from the tyranny of perfection and saved me from my over-achieving, over-striving self, time and time again.

One of the hardest things to accept as you lose your vision is the reality of new limitations. Vision loss slows you down and it is impossible to be as efficient and productive as you were when fully sighted. In the early years of learning to live with low vision, my days were filled with frustration, set-backs, and mishaps. One no-good terrible day, I decided to clean the refrigerator. I knocked a carton of milk off the shelf. As a white river began to flow across the floor, I leaned down to clean it and bumped into another shelf which sent a jar of bright, red maraschino cherries and dill pickles crashing to the floor. The dogs sidled up to lick at the colorful, sticky mess. Hurriedly, I shooed them away and felt around for  the broken jars and shards, cutting my finger. Angry now, I threw the pieces in the sink and broke a glass pie dish. One step forward, five steps back…not an atypical day! Many days were punctuated by a succession of searches for lost items-glasses, magnifier, dropped earrings or ice cubes that skitter just beyond my vision but in clear view! I rarely seemed to be able to get everything done on my ambitious to-do list and would end the day tired, defeated, and feeling guilty. During this time, I was juggling the demands of work and meeting the needs of my family. I struggled to figure out which things were most important and what things I had to let go. True to my nature, I wanted to get everything done and do it well.

One day, upon arriving home from work, my husband found me haggard and the house in chaos. Tearful, I apologized that I did not do a better job of ‚Äúholding down the fort‚ÄĚ and he quietly said ‚ÄúLower the standard honey‚Ķit won‚Äôt kill us to eat on paper plates tonight.‚ÄĚ This was revolutionary to me! I do not mean to suggest that blind or visually impaired people cannot be efficient, productive and organized. Nor do I suggest that there should be a lesser standard for the blind. That would be offensive. Through the process of vision rehabilitation, we become quite skilled, resourceful and competent in managing our lives. We learn to adapt and adjust the pace of life to match our skills, goals and priorities. Some become the ‚Äúsuper-blind‚ÄĚ and the ‚Äúuber independent‚ÄĚ. I myself have had to fight this temptation because it is often accomplished at great personal cost. Most of us just want to live normal lives and keep up with the demands and responsibilities of the lives we have carved out for ourselves.

Now in my fifth decade, I better understand what is most important in this life: relationships. That is where I choose to invest my time and efforts. It matters not that the house is spotless or that I am caught up with the laundry. There are many things that can wait until tomorrow. What is important to me is that I make the time to nurture family, friends and myself.

Maybe ‚Äúlive by your own standard‚ÄĚ more clearly states the concept. What is important to you? Be realistic about what can be accomplished in a day and stick to the important stuff. Give yourself a break, lighten up, have some fun, learn to relax, recreate and give these gifts to others as well. Keep it simple, remember to breathe, and eat off paper plates once in a while.