Thursday Book Feature: Follow Your Dog

Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust

by Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2017.

The author, blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, shares her experiences with a succession of dogs that influenced her life, focusing on her first guide dog, Verona. She describes her turbulent childhood: her parents’ divorce, her father berating her when she broke or lost her glasses, and how she found a way to escape through nature and books.

She talks about the dogs she and her husband and children had as pets before Verona came along. She explains the process of applying for a dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, about a forty-minute drive from her home in New Rochelle: why she was rejected the first time, how she applied to other schools and was eventually accepted by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and started training in January of 2008.

She then describes the arduous twenty-six day process of learning to work with Verona: her apprehension and excitement on the day she first met her, the full days of walking routes in bitter winter weather, the exhilaration upon graduation. She explains the adjustments her family had to make since Verona wasn’t a pet.

She then describes reactions of others to her dog and how Verona impacted her life until 2015 when she was compelled to retire her. She explains how she returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and obtained Bailey, her second dog, describing how Verona adjusted to Bailey doing the work she once did. She then talks about how Verona became a certified therapy dog. Inserted at strategic points throughout the book are essays, poems, and blog posts, and at the end, a list of resources for those interested in applying for a guide dog.

I met Ann over a year ago through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. I’ve always enjoyed reading her material.

I like dogs but am not interested in getting a guide dog. For one thing, I do really well with a cane, so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have one. For another, they’re a lot of work, as illustrated in the book, whereas with a cane, when you arrive at your destination, you just fold it up, put it somewhere out of the way, and forget about it until you need it again. It’s a matter of personal choice.

Since November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, after reading this book, you might want to think about adopting a retired guide dog. Verona was lucky that Ann and her family were willing and able to keep her after she was retired, but other former guide dogs aren’t as fortunate. In any case, this book would make a great gift for a dog lover or someone with a visual impairment interested in getting a guide dog. It would also be a good educational tool for anyone training in a disability-related field.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Memoir Offers Insight into Vision Loss

Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility

by Amy Bovairde

Copyright 2016

 

This Christian author and motivational speaker shares her humorous experiences with vision loss. She describes accidents she had as a teen-ager while learning to drive and even as an adult, which makes readers wonder whether she was already starting to lose her vision before she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. She talks about her teaching and world travels: visiting a spa in India, hiking in Scotland, and climbing Mount Fuji in Japan, all while denying to herself and not admitting to others that she was losing her eyesight. With humor, she describes her adventures in shopping, gardening, cooking and other activities while still in the denial stage.

She describes how she learned to use a cane and how much she hated it because it symbolized her blindness. She explains how she eventually realized that a cane equals independence despite having a visual impairment. She discusses how her motivational speaking career took off after she was asked to be the keynote speaker at a women’s retreat and how she joined a Lions Club after presenting at a benefit for the Leader Dog program.

Many of her anecdotes made me laugh, like the time she became entangled with a group of airmen on a military base while teaching there. I was frustrated with her when she described mishaps that could have been avoided, had she been using her cane. Of course I’ve dealt with low vision all my life, but when you’ve had sight and lose it, that’s a whole new ball game.

I can appreciate this book’s three powerful messages. Don’t be afraid to admit that you can’t see very well. Don’t be ashamed to use a white cane or other adaptive tool, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you’ve just lost your vision, this book will help you realize that it’s not the end of the world and that you’re not alone. If you don’t have a visual impairment, you’ll still appreciate the insight on vision loss. In fact, I highly recommend this book to non-disabled professionals working with people who have visual impairments.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

A Seasonal Parody

Summer is already upon us, picnics, concerts in the park, parades, and of course love. One of the songs I sang when I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home was about strolling down a shady lane, holding hands with the one you love and that person being your tootsie wootsie. To hear a barbershop version, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKvLCwInPGA .

I recently came up with a parody while out walking. You can click on the link below to hear me sing it. Because of my limited vision, I use a cane. Others who are blind or visually impaired walk with dogs.

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In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime,

strolling down the shady lane with my cane divine,

I hold its handle and swing as I walk, and that’s a very good sign

that it will guide me safely in the good old summertime.

 

In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime, ruff ruff,

strolling down the shady lane with my doggy fine,

I hold his harness, and “forward” I say, and that’s a very good sign

that he will guide me safely in the good old summertime, ruff ruff.

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https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/good%20old%20summertime%20parody.mp3 ***

What are your memories of summer?

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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