Memories for Sale. Thats what the sign at the end of my street should say. Want to buy a chocolate fountain for $5 that I spent $90 for? It was a hit at my mothers 90th birthday party, 7 years ago. Want a great deal on toys and games for toddlers? No batteries or internet connection needed. How about booties for a small dog, that used to belong to Pippen and that she never wore? And heres a collection of Celtic music cds, I just had to have from the hundreds I bought through a music club, where youre obligated to buy so many per month and then you get so many free. Could you use 4 sundae glasses? I always thought I could, but finally decided they looked too old fashioned. Have you always wanted to learn to play an auto harp? Ive had this one for 30 years and never really learned to play it well, and besides, it was too hard to tune, and every time I picked it up to play it, it was out of tune. So out the door it goes, onto a table with other physical fragments of my life with price labels so modest that I expect them all to be gone by noon. And if they dont sell? Its not about the money, although having a few bucks in my pocket would be nice. Its about clearing out the clutter and coming to terms with the fact that my life these days requires fewer and fewer of these things. Its also about helping my friend come to terms with that fact too, so she can gain control over the clutter in her life. Its about sharing this Saturday together and meeting my neighbors. It means recovering a guest room that had become a depository for stuff I had no need for but didnt want to throw out. And, it could very possibly be a large donation of goods to a charity, come Monday.
Cisco, my 4th Seeing Eye ® dog, just turned 2. To celebrate, we invited Bosco over to romp around the back yard and to share a special doggy treat. Youd be amazed at the variety of frozen ice cream-like treats they have for dogs. I had a hard time making a choice, but they both enjoyed the apple and peanut butter flavor.
This isnt exactly professional behavior, but the guy cant be on duty all the time. When he has his harness off, hes almost like any other dog. People often ask me if my guide dogs ever get to play or if they guide me around the house. Play is an important part of anybodys life, even guide dogs. No, he is off duty when hes at home. The harness comes off as soon as we enter the house. There are some differences though. Cisco is never offered food from the table. His diet is dry dog food and a doggy cookie at bedtime. Hes not allowed on the furniture unless invited. I know dog guide users who never let their dogs get on the couch or the bed and others who do. Cisco is groomed every single day, twice a day in the summertime when hes shedding like crazy. When its time for him to empty as we say, I take him out in the back yard on a leash. We go out 46 times a day. Because I use a plastic pickup bag, I clean up after him immediately after hes done. This way, I can keep track of his eliminations and be confident that when I take him into public places, I wont have to worry about an accident. His feeding times and emptying times are on a pretty strict schedule. He gets his teeth brushed daily and his ears cleaned once a month. He hasnt needed a bath since we came home together in June, because I keep him clean with special combs and brushes, but hell probably get an appointment at the groomers sometime in the spring. Boscos mom, Sam, cares for him in much the same way I care for Cisco, although Bosco is not a guide dog. Thats why these occasional play dates are such fun for them both. They can do laps around my fenced in yard, chew on each others necks, and chase each other with such joy that its like a party every time.
Can you imagine a room full of kids, ranging in age from 4th grade to 11th grade, all eager to learn how to be comfortable with public speaking?
When I decided to tackle the Youth Leadership Program, one of the advanced projects in Toastmasters International, it sounded intriguing to me. This would definitely be outside my comfort zone, which meant for me, go for it.
I enjoy children, one at a time, but a roomful? The very thought was rather scary. I let it sit on my back burner for a while, several months, and then reality landed in my lap. A woman named Kim, a mother of 2 boys in our school system, approached our toastmasters club and asked if we could sponsor such a program. I had been searching for something more meaningful to do with my life than dealing with an aching back, a mother in a nursing home, and a new dog guide. And here it was. Time to roll up my sleeves. I ordered the workbooks and met with Kim and another Toastmaster, Andrew, who volunteered to help with the project, and we divided up the responsibilities for our first meeting last Friday. We were expecting 11 students, but 18 showed up. Kim told me that by the next day, there were 26. Yikes! I told her to tell the parents that the enrollment was now closed. I had been told that we might expect 4 or 5 kids. Were we ever shocked as more and more kids drifted in. Many of the parents stayed to see what this was all about. The first meeting was mostly about getting to know one another. The next meeting will be in November, and we asked for volunteers to give their first speech then. 6 hands shot up. We then asked for volunteers for December and January, and they were responding so quickly that Andrew was having trouble keeping up with trying to get all the names written down. I dont know what I was expecting, but the enthusiasm blew me away. The next day, I was on the phone, ordering more workbooks and trying to figure out how we were going to get all those speeches in. According to the Toastmasters guidelines, every kid is supposed to have had a turn to speak in the first 4 meetings. Im thrilled that so many parents could see the importance of enhancing their childrens communication and leadership skills. Im even more thrilled that the kids seemed to get it too. This could be one of the most exciting ventures I will have taken on in my Toastmaster life. Starting a Toastmasters club for adults in the community, winning speech contests, and organizing special events all have their appeal, but guiding young people toward feeling comfortable and confident in communicating with others is far more rewarding.
I am delighted to welcome you as a new member of The Transition Network, a national
organization filled with women like you who are transitioning to a new and exciting
life. This was the message that appeared in my inbox today. IT is the organization Ive been looking for and finally found. Yesterday, I paid my dues, and now Im eagerly awaiting the first meeting of a couple of small groups within the organization, which they call peer groups. I hope to be involved in the writers group and the theatre group. I have attended one meeting of the Columbus chapter group as a whole and was captivated by the energy and positive spirit in the room. The room was filled with articulate women with plans for growth, fulfillment, adventure, and learning, even though they have retired or are between careers.
When I turned 50, many years ago, I started the local chapter of The Red Hat Society. We went out to lunch, attended arts festivals, participated in 5-K walks, and went to concerts. But under my leadership, the attendance dropped and enthusiasm waned. I passed the Queenship on to one of our most active members, and under her leadership, the group blossomed into a happy and boisterous sisterhood. I was pleased that what I had started eventually turned out to be something that met the needs of these women. Sadly, it was no longer meeting my needs. I had hopes of finding new friends to do things with by starting an RHS, but I didnt have the interest in spending 4 hours on a Saturday lunch. A few months ago, I wrote about reuniting with my RHS ladies for a 10-year anniversary luncheon, and it was lovely. I almost considered joining again, but then I heard about The Transitions Network, TTN, from my toastmaster friend Anna. Anna took me to my first meeting and made sure I had people to talk to. We even went out for dinner beforehand with about 10 of the women, so I would have the opportunity to talk one on one with them, before walking into a room of 50 women. That dinner was an excellent idea, especially for someone like me, who does not do well in a large group, but loves getting to know people, one at a time. I was thrilled with the evening and was ready to write a check that very night. I sort of compulsive that way. But I knew this was exactly what I had been looking for.
The Transition Networks tag line is Embracing Change After 50. I am ready to embrace The Transition Network. You can find out if there is a chapter near you by visiting
Sometimes, you just have to kick back and let your hair down. After a long day of wearing a Seeing Eye ® dog harness and guiding around a blind woman all over the place, you need some me time. It gets tiresome always having to be a good boy, lying quietly under a desk, at her feet in a meeting, or under the table at a restaurant, without a single crumb
coming your way. There are days when you just dont feel like taking a walk around the neighborhood or walking 3 miles to the grocery store, especially when what goes into the back pack has nothing to do with treats or toys. Sometimes, you just want to be a dog. You want to tear around the back yard and bark and chase a ball. Thats why on Sunday evening, Cisco had a play date with my friends dog, Bosco. My manicurist, Sam, who works at Sharons Beauty Works, and I love to talk about our boys. We share cute dog stories and tips on where to find a good place for grooming Goldens. Her Bosco is 1 year old, a chow/Golden cross. Since I cant admire her photos, I thought Id share them with you. The boys got together for the first time on sunday and took an instant liking to each other. They chased and chewed on each other for over an hour, while Sam and her boyfriend Zac and I sipped wine on the patio and watched. As our big goofy dogs tore around the yard, we all 3 had big goofy grins on our faces. Its such fun to see the kids having fun.
Bosco gets to go to a dog park to burn off some energy, but Sam says after about 5 minutes, he is done, so we were all surprised when he and Cisco kept running and jumping and wrestling with each other. Cisco was clearly thrilled to have the doggy company. It can get pretty boring around here, just watching me read and write and do chores around the house. Even after a day of miles of walking, he seems to need to let off some steam. I do have a fenced in yard, but I dont like to let him run out there, without sighted supervision, because he is a dog after all, and he has sometimes wanted to snack on the grass or roll in something nasty. Having a play date was the perfect way to allow him the freedom to be a dog for a while and forget about being a working dog. It was fun to get to know Sam and Zac better too. As we sat inside the screened in patio, the dogs would occasionally check in on us and grab a drink of water. I could almost hear them shouting, Its too bad you guys have to sit in that cage. Its a lot more fun out here.
Before a Seeing Eye ® dog has been matched with a person, he has already had about 18 months of training. The first year or so, the puppy lives with a family, and one person in the family is the designated puppy-raiser. She or he teaches the puppy house manners, takes him out for walks in public places and for rides on public transportation. This socialization is a crutial part of the training, a foundation for the more technical and intense training that comes later from Seeing eye instructors. As students, unlike at other dog guide schools, we are not permitted to have contact with the raisers of our dogs, either before or after placement, to protect our privacy. However, we are encouraged to send anonymous letters to the puppy-raiser, via The Seeing Eye, so they have the gratification of knowing that their hard work in helping with the process has been completed successfully. Heres my letter.
Dear Ciscos Puppy-raiser,
Cisco would like for you to know that he is well and nicely settled in at his new home in Ohio. He adored his trainer at The Seeing Eye, and after a few days, bonded well with me too. Of course you know what a cuddle bug he is. I also have some other pet names for him, such as Gentle giant, Mellow Fellow, Lover Boy, and Handsome Dude. He truly does draw admiring looks from everybody around. Everything you wrote in your report about him is still true. Nothing makes him happier than carrying around one of my shoes. Hes so proud of himself. Most of the time, hes quiet and calm, but he does have his playful moments, even barking at his toys as he entertains himself with them. Because I live alone, I like it that he does an alert bark when hes taken by surprise by someone at the door, but when I tell him its okay, he grabs a toy and is ready to play.
Cisco is my 4th Seeing eye dog, and I must say that hes one of the best. He learns very quickly and enjoys doing his job well. Hes a joy to take to meetings and to church, because he immediately lies down and goes to sleep. One Sunday at church, when it was time to take communion, I worried about whether to take him up front with me or to leave him at my seat. He made the decision for me by being so sound asleep that I couldnt get him to move. So I took the arm of a friend, took communion and returned, while he snoozed away.
Weve been home for 3 months now, and Cisco has learned three quite complicated routes, one to my grocery store, a 3-mile round trip, one to my beauty shop and a coffee shop, a 3.5 mile round trip, and one fairly easy route to my church. We also walk at least 2 miles a day around our neighborhood just for exercise. He loves to hang out in our screened in patio, even when Im in another part of the house. I think he enjoys watching the birds. Last month, we visited a friend of mine who has a little black lab guide dog, and the two of them loved romping around the house together. Then the four of us went out for a walk in her neighborhood, and you would have been very proud of our boy. The next day, we went out for that same walk, just Cisco and me, and he was a champ, remembering to stop at each street and walking at a good strong pace.
As you can tell, Im thrilled with him and am so grateful to The Seeing eye for matching him with me. Thank you for all you did to help prepare him for his career as a great Seeing eye Dog.