Thursday Book Feature: Campbell’s Rambles

Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life

By Patty L. Fletcher

Copyright 2014.

 

In 2011, Patty Fletcher, a totally blind single mother, acquired Campbell, a black Labrador seeing eye dog, from the facility in Morristown, New Jersey, and brought him home to Kingsport, Tennessee. She first explains how a friend with a guide dog and an incident in a shopping mall inspired her to apply for a dog of her own. She then talks about her boyfriend’s initial reaction, a good foreshadowing of what’s to come. She goes on to describe, in great detail, the trip to New Jersey and the rigorous training process, made more difficult by her fibromyalgia and side effects from her medications. She discusses how one particular trainer influenced her during her training and afterward.

After describing the arduous trip home, she gives the reader a sense of what it’s like to acclimate a new guide dog to new surroundings. She details her disintegrating relationship with her boyfriend, including some instances of abuse, and touches on how that and her bipolar disorder affected her relationships with family and friends. The book has a positive ending.

Once I got into Campbell’s Rambles, I couldn’t put it down. Many anecdotes about her training experiences made me laugh, and I felt her frustration and depression when she messed up. Close to the end of the book, I was virtually on the edge of my seat.

Patty is a remarkable woman. I’ve known her for years, after first meeting her through Behind Our Eyes, an organization of writers with disabilities to which I belong. After acquiring Campbell and her experiences with domestic violence and bipolar disorder and other medical issues, she now runs Tell It to the World Marketing, promoting writers and other entrepreneurs. She has a blog, Campbell’s World, and other social media pages where her clients’ writing can be found. She’s written a second book, Bubba Tails from the Puppy Nursery at The Seeing Eye, and is working on a third.

She’s a survivor. If you take anything at all away from Campbell’s Rambles, it’s this piece of advice her dog trainer at The Seeing Eye repeatedly gave her. “Take a chance. There’s a fifty percent chance you’ll be right.” This applies to all aspects of life, not just the use of a guide dog.

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My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

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Re-Blog: Forward

On this anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington D.C., I’m pasting below a post I wrote several years ago about Michael Hingson and his book, Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. Since this will be the topic of discussion by my regional talking book library’s group this afternoon, I thought it would be a great time to share this remarkable story once more.

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Forward

We’ve all heard accounts of people killed or seriously injured during the events of 9/11. Here’s a remarkable story about a man and his dog who survived at Ground Zero. Michael Hingson, blind since birth, was working in his office on the seventy-eighth floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 when the first plane hit. The plane crashed into the opposite end from where he was, and as a result, the tower tipped, then righted itself. If I were in that situation, the first thing I would have done was panic, but not Michael. After shutting down his computer, he took up his guide dog Roselle’s harness and said, “Forward.” This is the universal command guide dog owners issue to order their dogs to move in that direction. Along with co-workers and others, he proceeded down seventy-eight flights of stairs amid the stench of smoke and jet fuel and exited the building. As the towers crumbled and fell, he fled in the wake of dust and debris.

In his book, Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, Michael Hingson talks about his 9/11 experience and his life growing up in a society with low expectations of the blind. When he was born in Chicago in the 1950’s, a doctor suggested his parents send him to a home for the blind, but they refused, determining that Michael would be raised like any other child. As a kid, he rode his bike in the streets. He taught himself to detect obstacles by listening to his environment. When he was in elementary school, his family moved to a community in California where the school district suggested he be sent to a school for the blind. Again, his parents refused to have him segregated just because he couldn’t see, and eventually, the school district hired a resource teacher to help him learn braille and other skills. In high school, he acquired the first of many guide dogs and was banned from riding the school bus with his dog. His father argued his case before the school board, and when he lost, he appealed to California’s governor who intervened on Michael’s behalf. As an adult, despite many obstacles he faced in a society not set up for the blind, he managed to eventually acquire a sales job with a six-figure salary for a prestigious firm, the offices of which were located on the seventy-eighth floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center.

A year after the events of 9/11, he became a public affairs director for Guide Dogs for the Blind in California where he’d acquired his own dogs. In 2008, he formed the MichaelHingson Group to continue his career as a public speaker and consultant for organizations needing help with diversity and adaptive technology training. He still travels today, giving speeches in which he shares his own experiences and talks about blindness in general.

The book’s introduction was written by Larry King, a CNN talk show host and one of many journalists who interviewed Michael about his experience. Not only does he talk about his life in Thunder Dog, Michael also provides a wealth of information and resources about blindness. The book is available through Amazon and other online retailers. For those needing it in a more accessible format, it can be downloaded from the National Library Service’s braille and audio download site as well as from Bookshare.

After reading the book, I had an opportunity to talk to Michael Hingson when I attended a conference call meeting of a writers’ group to which I belong called Behind Our Eyes. He said that he originally wanted to call this book Forward. Instead, the publisher suggested the title Thunder Dog because of a thunderstorm that woke and frightened Michael’s dog Roselle the night before September 11th. There’s irony in the fact that a dog terrified of thunderstorms calmly guided her owner out of a burning building.

Thunder Dog isn’t just a 9/11 story. Although Michael’s experience during that time is a big part of the book, his story is about someone with a disability who faces curve balls society throws at him head on and says, “Forward.”

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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
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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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Review: Upwelling

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Upwelling: Poems

By Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2016.

 

The poems and essay in this collection cover a wide range of topics. In “Line by Line,” the author reflects on the process of writing poetry. In “The Marriage Pot,” she compares an ordinary pan to her relationship with her husband. In “Verona,” she takes us through the labyrinth of emotions she feels when meeting her guide dog for the first time. Other topics include death, eroticism, and a disturbing dream.

I could relate to the material in this book. It was all straightforward, down to earth, surprising, and heartwarming. I met Ann through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. In the dedication at the beginning of the book, she acknowledges our organization, calling us the “Blue Grass Pals” which is actually the name of our email list server.

Ann isn’t the only one who writes poetry based on her life experiences. The poems at the end of each chapter in My Ideal Partner were inspired by my six years of caring for my late husband Bill after two strokes paralyzed his left side. I think you’ll find it just as much of a good read as Ann’s book.

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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.

 

Over the Bridge and Along the Creek

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Here’s a little ditty I wrote recently. Years ago when my grandmother was alive, I enjoyed walking to her house, even as an adult. Now, our town boasts a series of connected cement walkways that would have provided a scenic route from my house to hers if she were still alive. The following is set to a familiar tune we associate with Thanksgiving. To hear me sing it while accompanying myself on piano, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/over%20bridge%20along%20creek.mp3 . Happy Thanksgiving!

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OVER THE BRIDGE AND A LONG THE CREEK

Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My cane knows the way. I will not stray as through the leaves I go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house I spy.

Hurray for the turkey, stuffing, and yams and Grandma’s apple pie.

Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My dog knows the way so “Forward,” I say as along the path we go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house we spy.

I must insure my trusty guide does not eat Grandma’s pie. Ruff ruff.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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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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