Good Citizen Meets Jerk Neighbor

In all my years of walking my Seeing Eye ® dogs around my neighborhood, I have never had any trouble with a neighbor until yesterday. Oh, I’ve had to scold a couple for letting there dogs run free when they would race up to my dog with barking, growling, or just wanting to play, but usually, they either would make no reply or would apologize.

but yesterday, this woman, who lives on Deerwood, a couple of streets away was downright rude. We were walking along, when suddenly, Dora felt a need to urinate. She pulled over near the street and squatted. No harm. Urine from a dog cannot be detected, smelled, or seen once it seeps into the ground. I knew that she had only urinated and not defecated, because I had been taught by the Seeing Eye instructors how to tell which form of elimination is happening. It’s a little secret that not many people know about, unless you’re a guide dog handler. I put my hand on her back, and if she’s defecating, her back will be humped. If she is merely urinating, her back will be straight, like a ski slope.

On this particular walk, she chose to squat very near a driveway, where the owner of this driveway was just pulling in at that very moment. She stopped the car, jumped out and screamed, “You’re going to pick that up, aren’t you.” I replied, “I’d be glad to pick it up, but it’s only pee.”

“Oh no it isn’t,” she argued. “I saw her do something else.” Again, I said, “I’d be glad to pick it up, but you’ll have to show me where it is.” I was confident there was nothing to pick up, but I waited. I waited while she took some packages into the house, returned for more packages, went back into the house, and then closed the garage door. I waited some more, expecting her to come charging out, but after several minutes, I realized that she was not coming out. My guess is that she looked again, saw nothing to pick up, and chose to let me stand there waiting for her. She did not have the you know what to say to me, “You’re right.” I wanted to give her all the time she needed to do so, but no acknowledgement, let alone an apology was forthcoming. Finally, I moved on. I always pick up after my dog, and I proudly carry that little plastic bag down the street as a badge of good citizenship. Not all dog guide users are so considerate, just like not all sighted people are jerks, so I encourage anyone reading this blog to give us the benefit of the doubt. If you see a blind person waiting for her dog to finish her elimination, wait before you scream at her. It might take a few seconds to get the bag out of her pocket and unfold it, but give her a chance to be the good neighbor and citizen that she most probably is.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at


Be Smart. Get a Mammogram

Because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am inspired to write my own opinions and experiences on the subject. It’s not very dramatic, so you can skip this one if you want, but I celebrate the fact that it’s not dramatic at all.

Years ago, I received a kit that demonstrated exactly how a woman should examine her breasts. It included a cassette tape with instructions and a lifelike model of a female breast. What made it different from mine was that it contained 3 or 4 lumps that were firmer than the rest of the breast, so I could detect them and identify them as cancerous lumps. Often, when you’re doing a self-examination, you’re not sure what you’re looking for, so I found this to be very helpful.

Some controversy has been brought forth over the efficacy of this annual procedure, especially in older women, but I prefer to go with whatever is available to me. Not doing so could result in breast cancer. Because my insurance makes it free, and it only takes a few minutes, it’s foolish not to take advantage of this simple test that might save my life.

Yes, it is uncomfortable, but only for a few seconds, and I’ve had blood pressure readings that hurt more than this. Yes, it’s a little uncomfortable to stand in front of another woman with your full breast exposed, but we must remember that in this setting, it’s only tissue, something that needs a thorough look with the help of a machine that has no sexual feelings.

I sat on a panel a few years ago with some other women with disabilities, and our audience was a group of mammogram technicians, although they had a fancier title than that. They asked what they could do to make our exams more comfortable. Other than telling them not to squish our breasts, we had some practical advice that varied with each disability. Here was mine.

I think it’s silly and time consuming to have to go into a little room, take off my top and bra and stow it in a locker along with my purse, lock the door, put on a gown that opens in the front and return to another waiting room. When I go into the room where they do the exam, I have to take the gown off just one shoulder, so it exposes only one breast. All this rigmarole is unnecessary and time consuming, so when I get to the little room for the disrobing, I always say, “Just let me take off my top in the exam room. It’s a lot simpler.” I have never had a technician argue with me, because it makes so much sense. when I’m done, my clothes are right there on the chair, and so is my purse.

When I did this last week, I asked if I should still be getting a mammogram every year at my age. She recommended continuing until I was 80 or so. Looks like I have a few more years to take about 20 minutes out of my day to do something smart that could save my life.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at

Can dogs read a smile?

One of the first questions I’m asked about my Seeing Eye ® dog Dora is “Where does she sleep?” I guess they expect me to say that she sleeps with me, or that she sleeps at the foot of my bed. Nope. She doesn’t like to sleep with me. What’s more is that I don’t even know where she spends the night, but I think she has chosen the guest room as her own, but not on the bed.

Recently, when the weather cooled off, I took off the cotton quilt and put the downy white comforter on my bed, thinking to myself, “Now is the time she’ll decide to get on my bed of course. All summer long,, I have this cotton quilt that I can easily throw in the wash, and now that I have this down-filled white comforter that I don’t know how to wash, now is when she’ll decide to sleep with me”

Sure enough, the other night, as I sat on the end of my bed to put on my slippers, I felt something soft and warm at my back. I reached back, and there she was, looking guilty as could be. She lay stock still, waiting to see my reaction. I leaned back, so I was face to face with her and said in a very calm and non threatening voice, “What are you doing on my bed? Do you think this is your bed now?” I let a couple of seconds go by, and I could tell she didn’t know if she should jump off and pretend this never happened or if I was going to be cool with her being up there. After I let her sweat for a couple of seconds, I smiled at her without saying a word. and if you’ve ever doubted that a dog can’t read a smile, you should have seen this. Sshe gave me the tiniest of licks on the face and lay back with a sigh of relief. Then she reached her front paw out and clumsily touched my cheek.

“Whh,” she said. “That was a close one.”

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at

More of Mary’s Grammar Gripes

School is finally in session for everybody, so I’ve been inspired to inflict upon you another one of my grammar teacher wannabe lessons. These pointers come not from formal education as a teacher,, but from observations I’ve made while listening to conversations and ads and reports on TV. It’s getting to the point where if I hear the correct use of the pronoun “me,” I want to write in and say “good job. You paid attention in eighth grade English class.”

Here are some phrases that have set my teeth on edge over the past month.

“I remember him saying….” In this phrase, the object of the verb is “him,” but it should be “his saying,” with “saying” being the object, and “his” being the modifier.” This mistake often shows up with “I appreciate you participating.” It should be “your participating,” because it’s not that I appreciate you, but I appreciate that you participated. So again, the object of that sentence is “participating,” and”your” is the modifier. It’s just as easy to say “your” as “you,” so even saving time is a poor excuse for incorrect grammar here.

This next one is a personal peeve, and I might even be completely wrong about it, but it bothers me, and this is my blog, so here it is. Shouldn’t the past tense of “text “be “texted?” So many people say “text” as if that were the past tense of “text,” which of course is wrong. I just checked with Alexa, and she agrees with me. *****

Here’s one that we often addressed in Toastmasters. A book is not “entitled.” It might sound more sophisticated to you, but it’s wrong. You are “entitled” to your own opinion, or you have ownership, but a book is “titled.” that is, it has a “title.”

I had a sort of argument about this one with a friend, only because he thinks that rule has changed. It’s about “fewer” and “less.” If a quantity can be counted, it’s “fewer than,” not “less than.” e.g. “If we have fewer than 5 people present, we can’t take a vote.” Please don’t say “If we have less than 5 people present….” If the quantity can be measured but not counted, you can say, “If you have less sugar in the batter than the recipe calls for….”

Here’s the last one I’ll pester you with today. It has to do with subject verb agreement. Say “Neither of us has a college degree,” not “Neither of us have a college degree.” Remember that “us” is not the subject. (Us can never be the subject.) So it does not require a verb that agrees with a plural subject. The subject in that sentence is “neither,” which is a singular subject. Thus the bare bones of that sentence looks like this. “Neither has degree” —subject, verb, object. On the other hand, if you are saying something about both of us, you should say “Both of us have a college degree,” because both is a plural noun, and “have” goes with the plural noun.

When I put this page through spell check, it practically went crazy. I hope it didn’t make corrections where I didn’t want it to.

Oh darn. I’m almost to the end of the page, so it’s time for me to quit for today, and I was having so much fun. But never fear. I always have an ear out for grammar goofs. Do you have one you’d like to share? Bring it on.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at

How I Met Kevin Bacon

About 200 people, many of them with their dogs, participated in a very warm and humid 5K race/walk for Friends of the Shelter last Saturday. My friend, Dan, and Dora and I were among them. As you can imagine, Dora really strutted her stuff as we passed many of the slower walkers. And I’m very pleased to say that after being mostly sedentary this summer following my spinal fusion, we walked the 3.1 miles in an hour. Our official time was a little longer than that, because we stopped twice for water and once to meet a pet pig named Kevin Bacon. I had petted pigs at the State Fair, but never had I met one on a fund-raiser walk. He was a very placid fellow, and his human was quite willing to answer all our questions. Kevin was a rescue. Who woulda thunk?

My thanks to Dan for sponsoring me and for accompanying Dora and me on the walk. Get ready Dan. Our victory in completing that walk has only whetted our appetite for more walks around town.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at

Summer Rain Soothes the Soul

Listening to the rain has always brought peace to my soul. Fond memories of being a kid, lying on the feather bed at my grandmother’s house and listening to the patter of the big fat rain drops on her roof linger, even now, so many decades later. Whenever lightening strikes close to where I am, my memory immediately takes me back to a summer afternoon at my grandma’s. We all were crowded around the front screen door, watching the show in the sky and trying not to act scared out of our wits when the thunder cracked suddenly, seemingly right in the front yard. In truth, that afternoon, it actually did. The old oak tree in the front yard was scarred by the lightening, and the car in the driveway was lifted right off the ground. no damage to the house was done, but the rest of the storms that summer weren’t quite as fun. That day, we learned that lightening could be dangerous and very frightening. No wonder dogs tremble and hide under the bed. God gave them the sense to get to a safe place. The rest of that afternoon and for years to come, we reminisced about the day the lightening struck so close. Even so, a favorite summer pass time was watching a thunder storm from the safety of the front porch, until an especially loud and surprisingly cloase thunder clap sent us squealing into the house. We peered out the windows and were awed by how dark the sky had become, as if it were midnight.. Then when the storm moved on, and the darkness lifted, we rolled up our pants and ran out to the street for a special game reserved for downpours in the city. Memories of playing with home made paper boats in the gutters in front of my own house are treasures. Even city kids could enjoy the wonders of nature.

Today, when it “rains right down,” as my family used to say, I forget about the air conditioning, and open the front door. I love to hear the rain as it pommels the earth. I call Dora over to the door to enjoy the smell of the rain, but she is not impressed. She correctly guesses that there will be no game of fetch out in the yard today, so she ambles over to her favorite place to nap while I write. Thanks for letting me share a memory or two with you. I’d love to hear your memories of summer rain.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at

A Poem I Understand

Poetry is not my thing, because most of the time, I don’t get it. But I just had to share one that was recently posted on a list called Behind Our Eyes. Here’s what I wrote to the author.

This was one of the most thoughtful and relevant poems I have read in a long time. It’s sad to think of the inconsiderate and waistful ways we have used up God’s creation without thought of preserving its beauty and life.

My apologies to Leonard for removing the blank lines, but I needed to try to make it fit in a smaller space. My apology to you the reader for making it 2 pages, but I hope you read all the way to the end, because I think that’s the best part. What do you think?

Legacy, by Leonard Tuchyner

I am a space time wanderer,

looking for a place to dwell —

a land of prairie grasses —

verdant, shadowed woodlands —

rushing, tumbling crystal streams

flowing to ponds and lakes,

abounding with fish and fowl,

living oceans vast as skies,

that twinkle with firmament

in dark of sacred nights,

and rains to wash all anew.

“Go, my son,” my father said.

“Travel where my time is done,

and take this land in times to come.

The future belongs to you alone.”

In gratitude and expectation,

I mounted my waiting flying steed,

who carried me through passing years,

swiftly on his timeless wings;

so quickly I could not perceive

the landscapes changing under me.

When the sweeping Sun and stars

cease their pinwheel streaking swirl,

I look down upon a wasted world,

where forests once stood, a burned-out grit

festooned with stunted plants and bugs —

prairies silent of beating hooves —

deserts sweltering in heat of night —

wormed-out mountains of barren rock —

streams and lakes, long now, oily dead —

oceans reek with the smell of death,

in embrace of a torrid wind.

I scream out to the sickened land,

“What, in God’s name, has happened to you?”

And Earth answers in gasping breath,

“Your father took faster than I could give.”

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at