Tag Archives: guide dog

Randy’s Magic Boots

22 Feb

by Jeff Flodin

Yesterday, half an inch of snow fell on our town. Shopkeepers spread rock salt to an equal depth.  Good for pedestrian footing; bad for Randy’s tender paws.


Today, Randy submits to dog boots.  His predecessor, Sherlock, flailed around like a four-legged hip hop dancer.   Randy remains stock still in the doorway, head bowed and humbled. I coax him into the great wide open.  He lifts his leg on a tree. 


“That’s strange,” I say.


“What’s strange about a dog peeing on a tree?” asks neighbor Bob.


“He normally squats,” I say.


“There’s snow on the ground,” Bob tells me, like I’m the village idiot.  “On top of that, he doesn’t want to pee in his fancy boots.  Ever think of that?”


What I think is that neighbor Bob is a jackass.  What I say is, “I leave analysis to you, Bob.  I just feed the beast.”


Down the block, we meet Molly and her four-year-old, Courtney.  “Oh, those bootsare just the cutest!” Molly gushes.  “Courtney would simply love boots like that, wouldn’t you, Honey?”


“They’re beautiful,” whispers Courtney, as if beholding Joan of Arc.  And now I have one more fear: covetous preschoolers stealing Randy’s boots.


We press on.  No rock salt. Randy progresses, workmanlike.  Sherlock would have gyrated out of his boots and buried them in a snowdrift.  I take inventory:three boots and one bare foot.


I admit, here and now, to sputtering obscenities so vile as to snap Courtney from her rapture. I conclude with, “And what the hell am I supposed to do, go back and look for the missing one?”  Instead, I manage a laugh.  Bitter, but a laugh nonetheless.  Oh, blindness, you cruel mistress.


At work, I call around for replacement boots.  The fancy ones run $70 a set, enough to dotwo yuppie toddlers proud.  Then I hear about the disposable ones.  But are they any good?  Won’t the rock salt cut into them?  That’s what I ask the guy at the pet shop on the way home.


“The rubber is heavy duty,” he tells me.  He lets me feel one.  It’s thick all right, like a short, fat condom.  “And they stay on,” he adds.  I stretch the super tight elastic open end.


“I’ll take a dozen,” I say.  At eighteen bucks, a bargain. I stuff Randy’s left rear size twelve into the disposable rubber boot.


Randy leads homeward. Still no rock salt.  I take another inventory: two fancy boots, one disposable boot and one bare foot.  ”That’s it!”  I shout, yanking the fancy boots off Randy’s paws.  Liberated, he prances in the snow like Bambi.


Nearing home, rock salt crunches under foot.  It’s neighbor Bob sowing seed.  I drop Randy’s harness handle and steer him through the soft snow on the parkway.“Old Man Winter sloughed a little dandruff,” says Bob.  “Just enough to remind us who’s in charge.  Hey, where’s Randy’s fancy boots?  And what’s that thing on his back foot?  Jeez, looks like…  On second thought, don’t tell me.”


So, I don’t tell Neighbor Bob what’s on Randy’s foot. I leave analysis to him.  I’m satisfied knowing those ugly rubber boots have staying power. And I’ve got eleven more in my pocket.  I’ll hand the surviving pair of fancy boots to Courtneygive the kid reason to believe. Randy and I have found disposable boots.  Bring on the worst that Old Man Winter and neighbor Bob throw at us!


Jeff Flodin began this story at home with half an inch of snow in Chicago and finished it with a foot and a half of snow in Vermont.  His Vermont stay is courtesy of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Access Writing Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT.  February in Vermont encourages writing—indoors, warm, dry and well-fed.  Who says creativity requires suffering?  (You can also learn more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.)


A Little Blind Humor

17 Apr
(“The best medicine in life is laughter.”  This one is for you, Jeff!)

Non-seeing Eye Dog

A blind man was seen waiting at a street corner with his guide dog. After a short wait the dog started leading the blind man across the street against the red light.

First a car comes screeching to a halt inches away from him, but still the dog leads on, then a bicyclist almost wipes them out and curses as he goes by. Finally in the last lane a truck swerves and barely misses them.

After they reach the far corner the blind man reaches in his pocket and pulls out a cookie and offers it to the guide dog. At this point another person who has watched the entire episode interrupts asking why he was rewarding the dog after the dog had endangered his life and almost got him run over by a car, bicycle and truck.

The blind man responded: “I’m not rewarding him, I’m just trying to find out which end is his head so I can kick him in the ass.”

Fresh Fallen Snow

3 Oct

by Lindsay Bridges

Smell evokes memories and emotions in a way that no other sense can. The intensity and vividness of memories elicited by imagining a particular scent is attributable to the plethora of visual, auditory, taste, and tactile sensations associated with it. Specific smells bring forth a celebration of the senses. Take the icy smell of a winter’s first snowfall, for

Essentially crystallized water, some people say snow is odorless, but to me its mineral scent conjures one of my most profound memories. When I think about the smell of snow, I am overcome with emotions. Joyfully, I reminisce about the first snowfall I saw, in all its glory.

It was during my sophomore year of college at a Michigan university. How is it that a woman born in the Midwest sees her first snowfall at age nineteen? Of course, I had experienced countless snowy days before, but being visually impaired my attention was always focused on using what little vision I had to navigate my surroundings. In a way, my visual sensory experience blinded me from my other senses.  Walking down a snow-covered block required so much visual bandwidth; the smell of snow never crossed my mind.  ragments of falling snow, mentally pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, had always been my understanding of a snowstorm. This day, when I was nineteen, differed because it was the first snowfall I could smell, taste, touch, hear, and see.  Liberated from my visual impairment and sensory blindness, I experienced it all with my guide dog by my side. No longer trying to navigate the world with my broken eyes, I was able to walk with my head held high, breathing in the cold, crisp smell of winter’s first snowfall. My eyes focused not on where we were going, but on the most beautiful scene! Fluffy white snowflakes danced across the blue sky, catching in my hair and tickling my nose. Each breathe I took embraced the sharp, cold scent of freshly fallen snow.

Lindsay Bridges lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children. She has Retinitis Pigmentosa and is legally blind.

My Left Foot

17 Sep

by Beth Finke

I swim laps two or three times each week. Tapping the lane marker with every other stroke keeps me swimming straight, and limiting myself to the crawl stroke means I always have one arm in front of me — my head never bangs the end of the pool. Swimming has always been a safe form of exercise for me. Until last Thursday, that is.

I finished my laps that night and was heading back to the desk to fetch Harper when I slipped and fell back into the pool. My left foot must have gotten caught in the gutter as I took the plunge. It broke. In three places.

Can you tell which foot was broken?

“That cast is huge!” my friend Jenny’s 20-year-old daughter Claire exclaimed while we shared iced tea on their deck late Saturday afternoon. “It looks like the kind of Santa Claus boot we would draw when we were little!” The image made me laugh — one of many laughs I’ve shared with friends and family after my fall. All to explain how it is I am able to sit here and publish this blog post today. You know, rather than curling up in the fetal position in the corner to spend my days whining about my inability to swim or dance or walk or do much of anything until August.

Mike helped me hobble into the car Friday morning and accompanied me to Midwest Orthopedics for the diagnosis — and the cast — that I had dreaded. The first call we made once we got home was to the Seeing Eye so Mike could talk with trainers there about what he could do to help keep Harper on track during my recovery. Doug Bohl from the Seeing Eye encouraged Mike to take Harper on long walks for exercise. “But really, you all should focus on getting Beth’s foot back to normal rather than worry about how Harper will perform once she’s better,” he said, describing one Seeing Eye dog who had to quit working for four months when the person he guided got hurt.  “That dog did fine after that. These dogs don’t forget their jobs.”

Mike uses a leash on walks, and the two of them stop at each curb, just like I do when Harper is on harness. Mike follows other Seeing Eye rules, too: dog lovers can’t pet Harper, and Mike doesn’t let Harper lunge or sniff at other dogs during walks, either.

Harper was supposed to lead me to the train to Glen Ellyn for their Bookfest Saturday. My friend Jenny’s husband was working in downtown Chicago Friday and offered to pick Harper and me up and drive us to Flo’s. My sister Cheryl was there waiting with a bottle of wine when we arrived. We shared some wine and laughs with Flo, I stayed overnight and slept like a baby.

Jenny’s sister Jill picked Harper and me up and took us to breakfast near The Bookstore the next morning: Harper’s first ride in a convertible. I hobbled with them to The Bookstore after breakfast and spent the afternoon seated at a table (foot up, per doctor’s orders) visiting with friends, signing books for customers and using my slate & stylus to poke out children’s names in Braille for them as they passed through the store. Bookfest 2011 was a hit.

After the Bookfest, we sat outdoors (my foot elevated, of course) at Jenny’s, sharing iced tea and stories with her and her family. Mike drove in from Chicago and joined us for a while, then helped Harper and me into the car for our ride back home.

Being with Mike and all of these other loving and supportive people the past three days really lifted my spirits. This is only a broken foot, after all. It will heal. And in the meantime, I’ll read books, work on a story assignment from National Geographic School Textbooks, brush Harper, watch White Sox games on TV with Mike, attend lectures, see a few plays (I have tickets for Porgy and Bess at Court Theatre), play fetch with Harper, check my blood sugar levels, get more comfortable using my iPhone, work up some jazz tunes on the piano, sit and share stories with friends, practice my newly-repaired accordion, publish blog posts, write a few books…as Flo would say, “I’d better get cuttin’.” There’s not enough time in a day to accomplish everything I need to do while this cast keeps me off my feet!

Beth Finke has been an NPR commentator and is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist. She also happens to be blind. Beth’s memoir, Long Time, No See was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s favorite non-fiction books for 2003.  Her children’s book about seeing eye dogs — Hanni
and Beth: Safe & Sound
– published in October, 2007, won an ASPCA Henry
Bergh Childrens Book Award in 2008.  This essay has been shared with us from Beth Finke’s blog: www.bethfinke.wordpress.com.

Observing the Blind

18 Jun

By Jeff Flodin

From my vantage point, the problem is obvious: the blind guy wants to go up the stairs and his big, black dog wants to go down the stairs.  The solution is being negotiated – the guy’s nose to nose with the dog, wagging his finger in the dog’s face.  He’s really giving the dog an earful, but I can’t hear a word, being inside looking out.

From my window, I look down on that skeletal staircase connecting Upper and Lower Michigan Avenue.  It’s more of a ladder with a handrail, really.  Cast iron exposed to the elements.  This blind guy trudges up the stairs, grabbing the railing with his right hand while his left holds onto his dog.  The dog’s pulling the guy – I guess they call it “leading” – when all of a sudden the dog does a one eighty and heads down the stairs.

I don’t know why the dog decided to head down the stairs – food, probably – but he almost takes the guy backwards, ass over teacup.  And the guy’s hanging there, all splayed out like Christ on the cross ‘til he gets his footing and he lifts that dog’s front half off the ground by its harness and puts him back so he’s facing up the stairs again.  But no sooner does the guy put his foot on the next step up when, don’t you know, that dog swings around and heads down the stairs.

So, now I’m starting to wonder if this guy and this dog can ever agree on anything.  And I wonder what the guy’s going to do now.  Well, instead of giving the dog what for, with the finger wagging and the dog lifting, he sits down on the step and puts his head in his hands.  And I’m thinking the guy’s either going to crack up or start crying and I’m wondering if I should call the cops or the SPCA.  But the guy reaches into his pocket and pulls out this strap and fits it around the dog’s nose and fastens it behind his head.  And he does it all real gently, all the while talking to the dog, which I can’t hear, but I know that’s what he’s doing.  And the dog sits down and licks the guy’s face.  Then, they stand up and the guy takes the dog by the harness and they walk up the stairs together and they get to Upper Michigan Avenue just in time to catch the 147 bus.

Well, I see lots of things from my window – drunks, lovers and thieves.  And I’m putting them all in my novel.  But this guy takes the cake.  I’ll write a whole chapter about him and his dog and whatever invention it was that he took out of his pocket.  I like to think that, once he stopped the rough stuff and used that magical strap, how he got through to that dog.  I like to think there’s a lesson there.  I’ll put it in my novel so other people can get the message, too.

Don’t forget to check out Jeff’s own blog, www.jalapenosintheoatmeal.wordpress.com to read some very insightful pieces.