Running Blind

We’ve been kind of wrapped up in High School Track lately. A couple of our grand boys are track stars and have just wrapped up a stellar year.

IMG_1595There is a young lady that they encounter at track meets that has caught my attention. I first heard about her when they were running cross country earlier in the year. And now she’s been competing at the regular track meets in running events and pole vault. The thing that is fascinating to me is the fact that this girl is legally blind. (Click this link for more info and a video of her.)

When she runs cross country her teammates wear bells on their shoes. When she’s on the track she runs on the inside lane so she can distinguish between the track and the infield grass. When she pole vaults, she counts steps. People are so incredibly adaptable! I have heard of cross country runners running with guide dogs. I have read about blind people climbing mountains and hiking the Appalachian Trail with a guide dog.  And I’ve read about and seen people with all kinds of obstacles thrown in their paths who manage to live full, inspiring lives.

I come from a heritage of working dogs who are bred to provide support and encouragement to people who are visually impaired. I’m proud of that. Because of that history, I am forever connected to the blind community. We sometimes raise guide dog pups, we have friends who raise guide dog pups, we have friends who use guide dogs. And all those dogs are MY friends! It’s an inspirational world.

At my house, we have quite a library of books about that world. Blind people vaulting over life’s hurdles and climbing life’s mountains. Guide dogs doing what they were bred to do. Guide dog pups learning the ropes. I’ve picked one to share with you that is pretty special. Partly because it’s a good story. And partly because it has Braille overlays!

IMG_1814IMG_1817

The View From Under the Pew was written by Diane Winters Johnson and illustrated by Margaret Freed. It was published by Abingdon Press in 2008. This is the true story of Ms Johnson, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, and her guide dog Walter. Walter is a golden retriever whose job is “to guide Pastor Diane through her day so she can do her work of caring for the church.”

The book is a look into a typical week of Pastor Diane’s busy life. As a pastor, Ms Johnson spends time in her office visiting with various people about life issues and church issues and other office things. Walter sleeps under her desk. Pastor Diane also goes to hospitals to visit with sick people. Walter goes with her and helps her navigate the busy streets and hospital halls. They go to church meetings and bible classes. Potluck dinners and quilting bees and choir practice. Walter waits patiently under desks and tables. When Sunday comes, Pastor Diane and Walter go to the front of the church where Pastor Diane stands on the pulpit and Walter stays under the pew. Walter has a view of the whole congregation. All the people that he has seen all through the week. It’s a special view of a special place.

This is a very good book that gives a view of what life is like for a working team of dog and human. And as I said, it is also in Braille. Each page has a plastic overlay with Braille print. Braille is a special way of writing text so that blind people can read with their fingers. I can’t read Braille myself, but it’s pretty cool to look at. Some blind people don’t use Braille and some do.

You can find out more about Braille from the National Braille Press here,

You can find out more about guide dogs from the National Association of Guide Dog Users or Guide Dog Users, Inc.

Here are a couple of videos of interest —

Looking Good!

I had a big day this week! I had an eye exam!

IMG_1792IMG_1791

Every year the ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) Vision for Animals Foundation offers free eye exams for service and therapy dogs. So this year the Mom Person decided that seeing as how I’m starting to get up in years, so to speak, we might as well take advantage of the offer. And Dr. Beaumont says that I have some beautiful perfect eyes! Yay for me! (I had trouble not laughing when she put on those funny goggle things!)

But the experience put me in mind of my long lost days as an almost Guide Dog and a book that we have that is one of the Mom Person’s favorites that always makes her cry and that she gives to just about everybody she knows. It’s about a Guide Dog puppy. The book is called Through Otis’ Eyes, Lessons from a Guide Dog Puppy. It’s written by Patricia Burlin Kennedy and illustrated by Robert Christie.  It was published by Howell Book House in 1998.

This book is kind of an adult picture book, but we have read it with kids of various ages and had some great discussions about the life lessons that it presents. I think that ultimately it is suitable for all ages!

IMG_1811

Otis was a guide dog pup that Ms Kennedy raised for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc., a guide dog school in New York. This book is a thoughtful journey through her year with Otis and a look at the things that she learned from him.  It begins when Otis is a wee pup with “Through Otis’ eyes I see the wonder and excitement of experiencing the world”. It moves on to “that sometimes the needs of others are greater than my own”. And ends with “Through Otis’ eyes I see that finding a purpose beyond myself makes life truly rich”.

Ms Kennedy is a very wise woman and I think that she had a very special bond with her Otis.

IMG_1813IMG_1822

There are 97 pages in this book. On each spread is a simple lesson and a beautiful picture of Otis. And at the end of the book is a list of all the Guide Dog Schools and Associations in the United States. (I know that there are also Guide Dog Schools in other countries around the world). Ms Kennedy and Mr Christie both got it all absolutely right. And the Mom Person is crying right now just thinking about Otis.

So if you don’t mind a few tears, I highly recommend this book!

For more information about guide dogs visit  the National Association of Guide Dog Users at their website.

You can find teacher resources and activities about eyes and vision at the American Optometrist Association website.

Be sure and check out more great picture books and resources at Susanna Hill’s!

And now lets see what the world looks like through a guide dogs eyes —

Paint Spatters

img222

I’m going off road a bit today and looking into the art world. My live in buddy and work partner, Walker, is quite the artist and recently spent some time with some 2nd graders splattering some paint around. So I thought I would tell you all about Walker and his world.

Walker is a 5 yr old black Lab who, like me, was career changed from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. in Palmetto, Fl.  He was career changed because he was evidently being a fool with some of his dog buddies and hurt his knee bad enough that the trainers and veterinarians at the school felt like it would limit his working life. So he came back to live with us.

Walker hurt his knee,( which is perfectly fine now ), but his tail works overtime. He is one happy boy! So one day the Mom Person decided to put his tail to work, and the artist was born.

dec 2012 walkerIt takes a lot of preparation to create his masterpieces, so he doesn’t paint often. He uses acrylics or water colors on paper.  He says he gets a little nervous painting in front of a bunch of kids. But laughter makes him happy and it’s hard to rein in that tail!

This class had read a story about an elephant who paints. Their teacher, who happens to be the Mom Person’s daughter, asked Walker to come do a painting demonstration for them. So, Walker painted for the kids. They will all get their very own Walker originals after he signs them all. Then the kids did some pictures for Walker! Now isn’t that cool!  So I’m sharing with you some of their artwork as well. It’s just an artsy day!

img223

img224img225img227img226

We ended this artistic trail with a fabulous blog post from Kristin Nador. She has a great post about “getting your creative groove on” with a fun, fun video of the television painter Mr. Bob Ross. I think you should visit Ms Nador and check it out!

Now go get your groove on and do something creative today!

Looking Out for Sarah, a guide dog’s job —

Today we’re going to be joining Susanna Leonard Hill and her Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I want to introduce you to my favorite book – Looking Out for Sarah. This book is written and illustrated by Glenna Lang.

Here are some other useful details from the book:
It’s a non-fiction book published in 2001 by Charlesbridge Publishing. It would be suitable reading for kids in kindergarten thru elementary school. And for dogs who care about their people!

My Mom Person got this book for me when I was a wee pup. She read it to me often and told me that this is what my life would be someday. Things didn’t really work out that way tho. I didn’t become a guide dog. But I have an important job just the same. Looking out for my Mom Person!

The book, Looking Out for Sarah, tells us about Perry, the guide dog, and his days taking care of his person, Sarah. It begins in the morning as Perry is waiting for Sarah to wake up. I like when it says, “A wag filled Perry’s tail and traveled up his back.”  He loves his Sarah. Perry guides Sarah through her very busy day, ignoring yummy food on the sidewalk, watching out for obstacles and traffic, and waiting while Sarah does the things she has to do. They go shopping, ride the train, and visit school — just like me!!  But the book isn’t just about how Perry takes care of Sarah — it’s also about how Sarah takes care of Perry. They are a working team, dependent on each other.

This book could provide a good opportunity to have talks about blind people and other people who might be different in some way. They still do all the same stuff everybody does.  There might be a guide dog school near you with puppy raisers or trainers who could come visit your school. We have some puppy raiser friends who love to talk about their pups!  You could get some really good info about blind people and all the cool stuff they have to help them get around in the world from the National Federation of the Blind  . You could also have a talk about our senses and how if one doesn’t work too well, you have to rely on others. You know, dogs have a really really good sense of smell! And here’s one more link to a site that has a lesson plan using another book about a guide dog, Safe and Sound.

Look for Looking Out for Sarah at your library! And check it out! You’ll be glad you did!

A Word about Rhythm

Guide Dog pups in training

The Mom Person is taking to the keyboard today. We went to visit an obedience class for the DFW Area Puppy Raiser group of Southeastern Guide Dogs. And since This was at one time a big part of Rhythm’s life and is a big part of who she is today, I thought I needed to write about it. Rhythm was bred by and born at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Fla.  SEGDI pups are placed with volunteer puppy raiser families when they are 8 – 10 weeks old. We were Rhythm’s puppy raiser family. It was our job to socialize her and teach her good house manners. With that goal in mind she went most everywhere that we went and became quite famous around our small town.

When she was about a year old she went back to SEGDI for her guide dog training. Sending your pup “off to college” is a very hard transition for the raisers and sometimes for the pups as well. Rhythm began having chronic ear infections and eventually the decision was made to “career change” her and she came back to Texas to live with us forever.

She needed another job. To keep her busy I got her registered with TDI, Inc. as a therapy dog and she now works in several facilities doing Animal Assisted Therapy. Rhythm holds a special place in our hearts and the hearts of our community. She’s a hardworking, caring, special girl.

To learn more about Southeastern Guide Dogs and their puppy raising program visit their website — http://guidedogs.org/

To see what the Dallas Area puppy raisers are all about visit — http://northtxpuppyraisers.blogspot.com/