Category Archives: blindness

My trip to Germany!

It’s hard to believe 2 weeks ago I was on an airplane coming home. I want to talk about my trip to Germany and things I learned about blind people and the culture there.

I was excited to go, but also nervous since I was leaving Frasier. I think the longest I ever left Robin was 4 days, so this is now the new record. I put Frasier in his crate and caught a Lyft to the airport. The plane ride was long by the end my hips, legs and butt were all just like lets go. We got to Germany at 7:20 local time which is 6 hours ahead of Eastern time. Going through customs was easy they actually opened a new line for us so the blind people could get through quickly.

We caught a bus to the hotel and the stops were spoken in German and then English. The hotel was connected to the airport and employed 90 thousand people so it is a pretty huge building. Anyway I got checked in and started noticing differences from the states. I caught an elevator and there were no bells or audible information what floor you moved to. All week I just guessed or asked people. A few times I got off on the wrong floor. Once getting off the elevator the next surprise was nothing had Braille. In the elevator the buttons were arranged vertically so I could count to my floor, but there again no Braille. In fact the entire time other than the conference program I observed no Braille. Thankfully my room was two from the end, so I could find it easily.

One morning I woke up and ventured around on my own to see what kind of trouble I could get in to. I found the breakfast place and it was 30 euros for a hot plate. I said no and walked back to my room. When doing this I went to the ground floor and to get back to my room you had to use your key card on the elevator to get it to go to your floor. I stuck the key in backwards or upside down it just didn’t work. There was a guy who said I need a way to figure out what side was the top on the key card. Normally I put tape on it, but hadn’t yet. He actually chipped away some of the top layer so I could feel a little notch. I thought this was cool and something he didn’t have to do. He I think was a worker at the hotel but props to him for doing this. I met him in the elevator, but he used what he had to make something accessible. I just thought it was cool.

We went out and walked around Frankfurt and things I observed were the following. My god it was so quiet. We passed several outside diners and folks were just laying on the riverbanks and the noise was so minimum. In are cities noise is so crazy loud. The food I had in Germany was amazing. My favorite was curry worst. The beer was also really good.

I went to a dinner hosted by another company and it was decently loud. Thankfully I sat near a couple from Belgium, and we talked the entire evening. It was neat to learn about there company and family. She had a guide dog named Bootsy trained in Belgium. Hopefully one day Abby and I will go see them! We exchanged contact information and I really enjoyed the evening and getting to know them! I only saw 3 dogs though the entire time, and honestly the stress of everything I am glad I left Frasier. It was hard, but I knew he was safe with Abby.

On Saturday we had a free day, so we went to Heidelberg and viewed an old castle. It was really accessible to touch and explore. I will say this I thought a castle would be tall, but this was more compact and spread out. It was cool to have that much access to something so old.

One funny story in the town we stopped by a gummy bear store and Dave asked what can I get here you don’t have in the states? The lady replied we have gummy breasts and penis’s. It was just so unexpected.

When I got home Frasier jumped all over me. He didn’t want to leave my side. It’s funny I fell asleep during a Celtics game last night and Abby tried to take him out and he would walk away from her when she’d call him. He wanted to stay near me. By the way go Celtics please beat the Calves. Also the radio team for them is just amazing. Cedric and Shawn are the best.

I got Abby an Apple Watch this week. I am thankful for all that she does. She cooks and did a great job looking after Frasier and she puts me first. I wanted to show her how much it means to me. She spoils me all most every day and I had been slacking since I got the ring. Anyway thank you for everything that you do.

I really loved the opportunity this trip presented and I learned so much. I left Humana a little over a year ago and while that job served me well and I made several friends there I’m glad to be where I am. Technology is my passion you should see my room and my gadgets.

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You’re blind so don’t you know this blind guy met 10 years ago his name is Bill from Little Rock?

I wonder why some times during school or when I was a child people kept me away from certain paths? For example shop class my teacher never taught me how to measure or hammer a nail. Is it because I was blind and no one thought a blind person could do these things? It’s funny I used to go out to the barn with my grandpa Hoyier and just hammer nails in to boards and make shapes or just mess around. I enjoyed this, but in school my shop teacher let me stand around with my thumb in in my butt basically. Never even thinking of reaching out for a Braille tape measure or talking one. Maybe I’d be good at that, but since I wasn’t ever taught the skill set I can never flourish. Maybe I wouldn’t have been good enough to make it a career, but at least I could fix something if it broke.

I contemplate this on the eve of selling my house. I will miss that place. My last days with Robin were there my first days with Abby were there. Yet when going to sign today I felt awkward in a room full of strange sighted people. The lawyer a smart woman who I thought was maybe the best reader of legal documents I’ve met asked if my dog would help me sign the documents? She wasn’t kidding I explained just put my finger where you want me to sign, and I will do the rest. After about 23 signs the deal was done and my old Kentucky home was sold. I then came back to my new Kentucky home and wondered why at 32 I still feel awkward in a room of sighted people? Why do I feel dumb when I shouldn’t? Why do I feel people try and talk for me when I am right there? Oh wait they try and sometimes do.

Maybe an article I read about how even though in the world it’s the best time to be blind still only 30% of us are working. I’m no better than any other blind person I’ve just been lucky. I know the struggle of applying for a year after college and hearing nothing. Going on interviews where they talk about the dog and hardly about any of my accomplishments. When will this end? When will sighted folks see the value in what blind people could contribute? The scary part is Tomorrow I could be back in the same boat as the other 70% which makes it hard to relax.

Why as kids can’t we learn to fail at something? I think one thing that made me successful is my parents let me fail. However teachers didn’t for the most part. By all means I am not blaming anyone in particular, but let that blind person hammer maybe he or she will hit there fingers with a hammer, but they will learn. We try as a society to think of things a blind individual might be good at rather than let that blind individual maybe experiment and do something outside the box. Why is it we have the most technology possible, but 70% of us still can’t find work?

People find it amazing I can move from point a to point b. In Germany blind people for the most part still have sighted guides and aren’t given the freedom to do the things we do. Most countries are miles behind us here in America yet over half of us can’t find work. I also wonder why those blind people in other countries aren’t able to break away from the notion they need a sighted person to navigate?

I’m interested what traveling will be like in Germany. I wonder if people will look at me funny as I move around with my cane? So many people tell me they’ve never met a blind person and so many have questions. Why is the only blind person we meet or know about Hellen Keller? Braille is hardly mentioned in school no wonder people have no idea.

My friend Joe took a Lyft tonight and the driver was asking him how can you be married to someone? How would you know if they’re sexy? This was asked by a 62 year old woman who was a airline worker. I am sure she saw some blind people in her time one would think. She also asked him if he knew Bill from Little Rock who is blind that she had met 12 years ago? I guess were all supposed to know each other. Anyway I will go now just thought I would write this.

Maybe one day I can walk in a room with sighted folks and not have to talk about the dog or come up with some amazing blind fact about myself. Maybe I can just maybe be me and you can see that and be okay with it.

A quick update wedding plans in Germany

The wedding planning was going great until Abby called the park to check something and they said we had picked a smaller venue which we confirmed when ordering in December but whatever. Long story short we found a place and also a spot for the reception it will just be smaller than we intended. Making cuts was hard because I didn’t want to hurt anyones feelings. I think at the end of the day I did good with making a selection. All cousins are off the hook. I wanted y’all there, but we have a huge family. I also didn’t want to invite 1 and not another causing hurt feelings. I hope everyone understands Abby and I still love you.

It’s hard to believe were getting close to the wedding day. It goes fast. I leave for Germany in a week which I am looking forward to. I had to make a tough choice, but I think I made the right one. Germany has no ADA so it is up to each proprietor whether or not they would allow Frazier to enter there venue. I talked to some blind people who said they had good luck, but others who didn’t. I called the hotel and was told he could sleep at the hotel with me but couldn’t enter diners and such with me. Thank god for the ADA I know there is a bill trying to get rid of it, but it’s this bill that has brought so much progress for those with disabilities here in America. Shame on you congress and etc. for trying to over right the progress made here.

Frazier and I are doing well. We went on another trip about a month ago to SanDiego . I really want to go back and take Abby. They had so many audible traffic signals and walking around there was nice. Frasier was a champion. I am amazed with his ability to backtrack.Robin was good at this also, but he always remembers. He has had a barking issue and that still comes up from time to time, but he is getting better. I can’t wait to take him to a ball game which when we get back to Germany were going to one. I get back Sunday and we’re actually going Tuesday night.

I am typing this on an IPad Pro which I got recently. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I am going to sell my MacBook Air. Typing with a keyboard on this thing feels great, plus with multitasking with apps it’s just as nice as my Mac was. Plus it’s more portable at the end of the day. I am not much of a computer user these days anyway. I decided to go with the cellular version on T-Mobile. One cool thing is I am leasing it month to month so when the next IPad comes out I can give it back for the new one if I want. Work also wanted me to get one so they are pitching in money also which is worth it.

Abby and I have been playing with a new service called Aira also. We love it. The first time Abby used it she went up and was able to get her own drink from a soda fountain. Basically how Aira works is you have glasses that connect you to an agent who can see from the camera in the glasses. They also can see where you are with GPS. I used it in Chicago to get me to the pet relief area in the Airport, and also to find my gates that changed 2 or 3 times. It’s awesome, because you don’t have to ask for assistance you can get the info from the Aira agent and then do it yourself. If I had waited to get an Airport worker in Chicago that would have waisted time depending on how much time until your next flight things may not be possible to do anyway.

I will make notes while in Germany and do an update when I get home. T-Mobile gives me free data while there so I’m glad that isn’t a concern. I love them as a company and coverage is getting better all of the time. In Louisville it is better than Verizon with speeds and in buildings which surprised me. Anyway I hope all of you are well. I am going to miss Abby, Bancroft, and of course my boy while I am gone. I have to go back to the dreaded cane. I hope to do some travel on the train while I am there. I’m also working on taking a ride on the autobahn I want to go over 100. I have 2 free days so only god knows what kind of trouble I can get in to. Lol I will just miss my family back in KY for sure.

Chapter begins

Frasier and I’ve been back for about 2 weeks now. Were doing well. I’ve taken him for several walks, and he has gone through several work days with me. I love him. I forgot about how bad the public is with dogs talking to them. They will literally say out loud I know I’m not supposed to pet, and then either go ahead and pet the dog or ask. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to just walk away. There is a guy at work who annoys me, because he will walk by and make eye contact with Frasier, and then say good morning Frasier. I’ve said just ignore him yet he does this anyway. Today Frasier stood up and he was like no lay down. I just spoke up and said see that’s why you should just ignore him so he doesn’t get excited. He now is ignoring me to, but honestly I have way more important shit to deal with. I don’t know if people just don’t take me seriously or what?

He loves to play my living room looks like a pet store. I’ve had to toss several toys, because they didn’t stand up to his chewing on them, and I didn’t want him choking. He gets along with Abby’s dog just fine. Bancroft is 7 all most 8, and is quieting down with playing so I think Frasier is good for him also. Watching them play tug is awesome.

My next airport trip wwich will be soon I’m going to Washington I am going to not ask for assistance to the gate. We now have the Louisville airport mapped for Nearby Explorer. This means with my Iphone I can hear the gates or terminals as I pass them. We’ve been working on indoor navigation at the Printing house, so I will test it out for real. I’m excited if successful that will be the first time I’ve done that on my own. I know some blind people do it already, but without some sort of feedback from either gps or something I wouldn’t want to try. I just want things to go easy, but now that this is ready I figure why not. I think Frasier and I are up for the challenge.

In a lot of ways his work is similar to Robin’s, but in other ways they’re different. It is so hard going from an older dog to a newer dog. Not hard, but a lot of work, discipline, and praise. Getting back in to the mindset that I have to treat him like a baby, because he is. For example, my back yard I could trust Robin out there she wouldn’t jump I knew where she was him I think he’d be in China if I left him out there for a minute. He pays attention to the neighborhood like she did, and I’ll be honest just with him around I’m sleeping way better when Abby isn’t there. Before I got him the only time I slept well was when Abby and Bancroft came over, because someone else was there and I was comfortable. He also doesn’t come when I say to come he’s testing me and such, but were working on it. Those things tend to frustrate me most, because it’s hard to rationalize hey this is someone new. He loves to play as I stated before, and I think bonding with him in this way helps us.

We went and got lunch during work, and feeling him navigate around things in my hometown was again so refreshing. I hated the cane. I also noticed my confidence was back up. I am a bit nervous crossing streets that’ll probably take me a bit to feel good again with him, but so far he is doing so good.

I wrote this over several days, but yesterday I took him out on a longer leash to explore the back yard. He is in love. This morning after he ate he made noises at the back door like please let me out.

It’s blindness month, and I see a bunch of blind people writing crazy long posts on Facebook about remarks how they’re normal and bla bla bla. Look I get annoyed to at the public and sighted people, but you have to remember were not even 1% of the population. Other than observing you on Facebook most have never encountered a blind person. What annoys me most is when sighted people work for a blind company, and try and act as if they’re know all of all things blind. At the end of the work day sir or ma’am you go home and use a TV without speech, or write and read things on paper or a computer without a screen reader that doesn’t face any inaccessible issues. Yet you’re going to speak for me or us pretending you know what a day in our lives is really like. We were talking recently about flattop stoves. I used to be nervous about them until I met Abby now I wouldn’t live without one. Anyway the sighted people were like we have to do something tactile so blind people can feel where they’re at on the stove. I spoke up and said no I have one now, and I just wave above the heat then I place my pot. After I set it down I then feel around the pot to make sure no extra heat is coming from one side or the other. All of the sighted people were so amazed they were like oh were taught to stay away from that. These are people who stove makers are talking to for designing something to make my life better yet they don’t even know how were using the products we use now? Here’s a brilliant idea instead of talking with the sighted guy why don’t you talk to me? They don’t because of dumb sighted person who’s worked for a blind company 5 years feels he is an expert. That’s the type of thing that drives me nuts, because your addressing an issue that isn’t an issue for us. You know what is? The touch screen with 50 options I can’t read not the burner that heats up that I can feel.

Sighted people have blindfolded themselves and used a screen reader for a month or two, and yet this still gives you know real experience because you know at some point that blindfold is coming off. Unless your permanently in a situation you can’t be an expert. It’s like people who read braille with their eyes congratulations, but that’s not being an expert. Yet these eye braille readers chime in on quality, or even changes to the code itself.

I think I’ve written enough for now, but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who took the time out to write me while I was out training with Frasier. Also thank you again to Jenny, and Dawn from Wave as well as anyone else who donated or took the time out to make things easier. As I finish this he is laying on my foot chewing on his bone. I really missed having a dog laying on my foot. I’m proud of myself for being able to look at him as a different dog, and allow him to be himself without expectations he will replace Robin. Dogs to me are like humans you can’t really replace them. After Ethan died Whitney wrote some things on Facebook and it’s a different chapter now. You cherish the old chapters and never forget, but it’s great to have my vision back, and move so freely again. I met this lady who has had 9 dogs in her life time, and I thought that was so neat. She was 80 years old and was in great shape I hope to hell I could do the things she did when I’m 80. She’d walk 2 miles like the rest of us.

The ending with a dog is so difficult, but give yourself sometime between them. That moment when Brian brought Frasier to me I was so nervous to see what he’d feel like or act like. I hugged him and petted him for about 30 minutes, and then I put the harness on him, and we went out for a quick first walk. That moment when your hitting your normal pace, and your maneuvering obstacles not even realizing they were there is just amazing. Brian would be behind us saying he just moved you around some chairs or a flower pot, and you didn’t have to bump it with your knee or your cane. Having a dog requires more work than a cane, but I’m glad I did it again. Not only was I sad after Robin died, but also I hated going out, because I had been to my Kroger a thousand times with her. I could always get to the service desk, but my ability to feel her move around carts or even at my normal pace vs a cane pace things were just off. I’d turn to soon thinking I had reached the place I needed, because in my head with my cane I still moved as fast as Robin and I. In my head I felt her moving me around things or the turns she’d make, but in reality I’d be so far off target. Now it’s just getting him used to the baseball park or Kroger. The first 6 months a lot goes in to learning how we communicate.

I haven’t posted this, so more and more happens. Today I went up for lunch a few blocks away, and coming back I was crossing a street and he pushed me to the right. Last week he did this on the sidewalk to try and say hi to a dog. Without thinking I dropped the harness something was taught not to do. I had a panic moment I’ll freely admit. As I reached out my hand to give a correction I felt a car blocking the sidewalk. I couldn’t hear it, because it was a blind killer or Hybrid. I picked up the harness quickly and told him to hup hup which means find a way around it. He continued right and got me to the curb. We really hadn’t had any issues before, and I gave him a bug hug once we got up on the sidewalk. I don’t know why I didn’t just follow him when he was doing it. I guess that’s that trusting thing. I went out about an hour later to try again, and another car pulled out of a parking space and did the same thing except this time it was on the other side. I followed him this time. I try to tell myself I’m a hundred percent comfortable, but this is a reminder we as a team have growing pains to work through. He pushes me pretty forcefully which is different from Robin. I like it just different. I will stop blabbing now.

A new beginning

All most one week down here at the Seeing-Eye. It’s gone quickly I was matched with a German Shepard named Frasier. He is so handsome. My instructor Brian brought him in to me after two walks to determine my dog they’d match me with. He described him to me which was cool. I can’t remember all of the colors, but he feels amazing.

We’ve walked twice a day, and did some complicated routes. Feeling him push me around something or passing someone is awesome. I really feel how much Robin slowed down the last year or so. I’ve called him Robin a few times, but I feel now that I’m honoring her by doing this. She paved the way for me to feel confident enough and give me my sight back. Me doing this is saying hey you were successful, and I miss the partnership.

Boys have advantages one is I can hear him piss. Lol Robin was difficult to hear, and I learned how to tell, but he ain’t fooling anyone. A typical day is you wake up at 5:30 and take the dogs out to go to the bathroom. Then you feed and water them. Then you have breakfast at 7. You walk with them to the dining room. After breakfast you go out and walk a route usually about a mile to 2 miles long. Then you come back for lunch and then repeat the last route again. Then you have dinner and finally a lecture on different dog aspects. After that we have an 8 bathroom time, and then you can go to bed or die whatever comes first.

I’ve really enjoyed being here, and getting the time to bond with Frasier. We received there puppy profiles today, and his raiser was an Autistic boy I’ll leave his name out. A puppy profile is the only contact The Seeing-eye gives you to the family who razed him as a puppy. They do a lot of hard work like taking the dog outside to go to the bathroom and how to not poop or piss in the house. It said that the boy took him to Autism events, and Frasier was so gentle with the kids, and helped them open up. I just thought that was so cool that he helped one disability just being a puppy now he gets to go help me. He’s also gone to baseball games, so he shouldn’t have a hard time adapting to me lol.

I bought him some toys today he really enjoys them. Really at this point he is attached to me all the time unless were sleeping it’s to strengthen the bond between us. A lot of changes have happened for him he’s gone from being in a kennel going out once a day and being able to play and sleep to now having someone different in his life. He’s done so well I’ve not fallen once, but we still have time. He feels like Robin when we walk to an extent. This time I have it figured out I’m confident that having a dog makes me better as a traveler. When I got Robin I really wasn’t sure, and it was such a change from the cane.

Tonight I stretched my legs out and Frasier fell asleep lying inside them. I hated to move him. One thing that they’re trained with knowing that Robin hadn’t really learned is clicker training. For example if you need to find a light pole to push a button and you can condition them to find it. You can also do this with bus stops, maybe a chair in a restaurant, or etc. This will come in handy in a lot of situations for finding light polls in Louisville. One thing that is cute he does even though I don’t tell him is when I’m zipping up the crate he tries to stick his head and paw out. I always give him a hug and softly push him back. He is super sweet.

We have a great class of people. I’ve socialized some, but my main focus is on Frasier and sleeping. Lol I met someone that had the same eye cancer as me which was pretty neat until I met her I’ve never met else that had Retinal Blastoma.

Finally I’ll end this on another note completely different. When I got off the plane I met a guy and he drove me to the Seeing-eye. He said man I love the south, but with all the statue stuff going on it scares me. That stuff honestly is blown out of proportion, but regardless what sides you stand on don’t forget was all human and we shouldn’t let hate take us over so much. Live each day like it’s your last, and to the fullest. With the hurricane bearing down on Florida, and the one that hit Houston I hope everyone comes outs okay. My thoughts are with all.

Shock

I got a big shock. My friend Jenny called me and asked if I wanted to do lunch. I said sure. I told her to meet me at the front office, and I would get her checked in. As I came up the steps she said hi Joe. I was kind of confused. since I didn’t sign her in. I think I even said how did you get past security? She said I know people. She then said she had a surprise visitor with her. I heard someone say hi, and Jenny told me it was Dawn Gee a local journalist/news Anchor. I love Dawn and all she does to help Louisville! She also had a little stroke earlier this year but it didn't slow her down I admire her resistance! Then she started putting 100 dollar bills in my hand. I was a bit overwhelmed lol. I know that might be hard to believe.

Dawn asked me to talk a bit about Robin. That was hard for me to sum up 8 years in a short time I could have talked forever. I shared some stories, and a bit about how much she meant to me as a companion and my eyes.

I did think about something later I wish I had said. After Robins passing I do the bare minimum to get through the day. I don’t like to take risks. I’ve always been a good cane traveler, but I hate crossing streets with my cane, because of veering fears. Crossing streets with Robin was so easy, and after the first 6 months I never worried about it. I think that’s why when Abby and I walked and crossed West Port I really realized if I want to do this I need a dog. I’m getting so excited, because were getting closer and closer.

Anyway Wave 3 donated money that will really help me pay bills while I am gone. I’m so grateful I was worried and doing calculations on how long I will be without a pay check, and I was really nervous. This helps so much, and makes that worry dissipate. I thank Jenny for contacting them and making it happen. By my calculations it’ll be something like 5 weeks without a full paycheck. I am working with APH now to see about doing some work on the weekends or when I can, but I also don’t want to get to worried about that. I want it to be about the dog first then everything else after that.
I went to my friend Joe’s house, and we talked about how Robin and I came to Louisville alone. I’ll never forget when we moved out of my downtown apartment to one off of New Lagrange road we were packing up, and we had moved my bed and Robins crate to the truck. Robin went in to the bedroom and my dad and I walked in, and he said she looked sad. I gave her a hug and told her we were going to a different apartment. I remember her just standing looking around. I know she loved moving to the house because of the yard.

Joe hasn’t had a dog in 20 years or so, but he still remembers his dogs so vividly. I know that’s how it will be for me. You never forget them. Trading stories about things your dog done or did is just so cool. He told me before his dog Timmy was put down he had some people over to say good-bye. I thought that was a neat idea. Even though you have no petting and things over time the dog becomes part of a group or people are drawn to it. If I hadn’t had Robin at Humana I may not have met Jenny, Leslie, or Michele. The reason I say this is I would have had my cane, and I walk in sit at my seat and walk to the bathroom, and then go home. I would have interacted with Mel, because she was my boss, but others I may not have found. Having Robin had me taking her out on breaks doing some things in the morning it made me more active as a person. I also think right or wrong some people just don’t approach you with a cane. Not all people are animal lovers, but it for those who are it sparks that wheelhouse. I would drop Robin off at the groomers and go to Walmart. With a cane waiting for my ride to go get her no one talked to me or said hi. My god though with Robin I had to be a therapist to some people they couldn’t stop talking. People would be like I had a dog named bla 10 years ago man she was a great dog. I would say yes sounds nice. Then they would go on with a story about their dog lol. I should have brought tissues with me.

As weird as it was at times with people you would encounter it created something I didn’t have before, and that was easy access to finding someone. If I stand somewhere with my cane appearing lost, because I am no one says anything to me. If I stood lost with Robin except in Arizona where no one spoke English people would constantly come up and ask if they could help which I didn’t always need, but was nice.

Okay one more thing about technology. Recently an app from Microsoft came out called Seeing AI. This thing is amazing as hell. I never thought I could have the abilities that this thing gives me. I also never wanted wearable glasses until this app. In the app it has several channels. Short text’ document scanning, bar codes, people, and scene. Short text is what I will focus on mostly here, but you can take your phone point it at something and hear it reading. It’s amazing. I took it to the Outlet malls in Simpsonville and it read me Bose as I was walking by Gucci or however you spell it as we were walking by. In Sam’s it read me office furniture when pointing it down the aisles. I asked my mom if something said office furniture, and sure enough she said there was a sign. This thing shows me how much text sighted people deal with constantly, and how much as a blind person I miss. I love this thing so much, and thank you Microsoft for boosting my confidence in you as a company, but for also pushing AI technology.

I am really excited to go get my dog, but I am sad about leaving APH for a little while. I really do enjoy coming in to work every day, and the working with the people here. It’s refreshing I’m sad to leave maybe they’ll realize they don’t need me. Also I feel like I am now comfortable here leaving again for most of the month then returning will be interesting. All that aside it’s worth it. I just post this part so you can see all of the emotions that play in to this. It’s not like buying a car. Imagine if you had to get fitted for your car based on personality then to drive it you had to go somewhere else and stay for 2 and a half weeks while you learned about your car. I think we’d have a lot better public transportation if this were the case.

Thank you again Wave 3 and Jenny that really was touching. The fact I can bring Robins story to others, and help them see how much these dogs play a roll in our lives is so cool. I think today we can get lost in ourselves and loose that community feel. I love Louisville, because it’s that big small town. I talk about moving in retirement, that’s a long ways off, but if not I love it here. Besides a major league baseball team I have everything I could ever need here. Growing up in Indiana a lot of people made fun of Kentucky, but I love this state so much. We have mountains, knobs, big cities, and lakes. What more could you really want? I want to get back in helping young blind kids get technology they need. I would really like to focus on eastern KY in particular. I’m not sure how to get something started that can benefit kids the way technology donated by the Lyons and Mr. Lanbright helped me, but I’ll come up with something. Also football is about to start lets go Cats! I bought tickets to Florida, but since I am coming home with my dog that weekend I decided to give my ticket to one of Abby’s family members. I want them to have fun the dog and I will cheer them on from home with Tom on the radio, and of course Kentucky Sports radio pre and post-game.

Facts about the guide dog process

People often ask how much does a guide dog cost? Well typically a guide dog costs $50000 to train, however the blind person pays way less than that. Some schools are free, but the caveat is the school may maintain ownership of the dog. I go to the Seeing-Eye where the first dog was $150, and then the second dog or anything after that is $50. I chose them, because I wanted full ownership of the dog. This price includes your travel and lodging. As my friend Joe says it’s a smoking deal. I’m so grateful about the price I try and donate when I can. A lot of people and volunteers make it a great time. It’s hard work for us, but rewarding.

It’s time away from home, and now that I’m working it’s different. When I got Robin I got her on summer break of my last year in college. I find myself now with bills and things, but I am using my tax return to fund my house payment and things while I am gone. I just started working 6 months ago at my new job, so I don’t have much vacation time saved but I have to roll through that then the rest is unpaid. I had pneumonia earlier this year, and I used some up then or I’d have more time saved, but that’s life. I could wait, but I really want to get my dog for when I travel to Vegas for the CES show. I’d also like to get out and do some exploring downtown again, and would feel way more comfortable traveling with a dog than my cane.
Basically a puppy will go live in a temporary home usually for about a year. They will learn basic commands, and things like going to the bathroom outside. At about 12 months old they go in for training and it’s about 6 to 8 months depending on the dog. Here they learn how to watch for cars and traffic checks. They also learn how to navigate around obstacles. Not all dogs pass the tests the instructors have set up for them. For example, say a dog likes to chase squirrels, or is easily distracted that can be a problem for the blind person. More than likely my new dog would be between 17 to 21 months. Robin was just over 2 21 months old when I got her.

I’ll never forget one question I got when I was out at the store once. A guy came up and asked me did you pick out your dog? I said no we were matched by pace and personality. He goes I thought before you went blind you might have gotten to pick her out, so you would know what she looked like. Lol oh man that would be like the most depressing thing ever! Hey Joe you’re going blind, but the great news here is you can go pick out a beautiful dog.

It’ll be interesting what I think the second time around, because I’m more understanding what will happen. The first time I wanted a dog, but not having a cane and receiving that feedback was so foreign to me. I will keep y’all posted!

One of my friends posted that she was taking her dogs to the same vet where Robin went at the end called Plantation Animal Clinic in Louisville. They were so kind, and made that so comforting. When Robin had cancer the doctor would call and talk to me for like a half an hour answering all of my questions. I remember her telling me she will start to vomit along with the diarrhea, and sure enough she did. Once I saw that I couldn’t watch her suffer like that anymore it was too painful. I’ll never forget I was laying with her and she got up and nudged me with her nose which meant she had to go out. We got to the door and she started putting her head down. I got her out, but she was really good about communicating with me.

Anyway I got off track a bit I’m excited to take my new dog there and see dr. K again. I am going to braille a letter and also print a thank you letter for taking care of Robin and giving her the attention she needed. I had been to other vets that Robin was just a number, and it wasn’t personal. I’m happy to go back, and have them being the doctor from the start for my second dog.

Abby and I will be celebrating are 2-year anniversary on the 27th. The first time we went out we went to that Mexican restaurant where everyone got sick damn it I can’t think of the name. Hang on hey Google search for that Mexican restaurant that gave everyone diarrhea? Response to many to list. Haha Actually The answer is Chipotle! Oh Chipotle that’s it! Damn Google is so smart. Anyway we ate dinner, and then Abby and I went home on the same bus, and when she was getting off Robin didn’t want her to go. Abby would say good bye, and Robin would start to make a crying noise. So I had to make date number two since Robin loved her. Abby also gave Robin some treats that I gave her later.

Hopefully this post taught you some things about guide dogs, and that Mexican restaurants are great to clean you out!

The Seeing-Eye called

Last week the Seeing-Eye called me and told me that they had a dog for me and that I could come to class. I’m so excited. I wasn’t sure if I was ready until last weekend where Abby and I went out walking. We had gone to some baseball games where I missed having a dog, but I miss how a dog can keep you walking in a straight line. Something I cannot do with my cane, and I miss it. I’ve been nervous a bit honestly thinking about its name, what it will feel like, and just that investment and bond we will share.

I was asked to be in a wedding a few months ago which I excepted, because I really enjoyed the groom and bride. We hung out with them a lot. They’re Abby’s neighbors, so I enjoyed how easy it was to see them and such. I advised the groom that I might be getting a dog, and he was happy. However, on Sunday he responded with an awful text message. I’ve never received anything quite like it. At first it shocked me, then it angered me, and finally I just wanted to be done with it all. I will paste in the message at the bottom of this, but I want to say something first.

He states getting a dog is a trivial thing and a privilege. Now this is someone who can see mind you. Oh really a privilege? Yes, sir it was a privilege to have cancer and lose my eyes. It was a privilege to never know what the sun looks like, stars, or anything else for that matter. It’s a privilege to wait for the bus and be soaking wet while all of the rest of the world passes you in a car with their windows up and heat on. It’s a privilege to be able to not walk a straight line or fumble for the walk button, because sighted people decide where the best place is for the polls for the walk signs. It’s a privilege not to be able to see the traffic sign that says walk. Don’t you ever tell me being blind or getting a dog is a privilege, because that’s a world you know nothing about. I understand this is the most important day in your life, and until you sent me this I thought we were close, but you also have to understand things happen. This is not like I am blowing off your wedding to go see a movie. I am going out to NJ for 2 weeks without pay, and using up all of my vacation time to get a Seeing-Eye dog not just a dog. Guide dogs provide a tool for me that make me feel more independent, and confident. Yes, I can get around with my cane, but it isn’t as easy as having a dog. Have you had to cross Shelbyville road or West port road blindfolded with a cane? You should try it since it’s such a privilege, and let me know how it goes if you live. Blind people advised me I should educate you, but the fact of the matter is if you don’t understand Robin was more than a dog to me then you’ll never understand. I am not angry for you calling them animals, but I did think of Robin and it made me so angry that you took that tone. I will be at your wedding, because I made a commitment, and it will work out with the Eye, but it’s to be a bigger person than you, and then I’m done with the friendship. The next time you want to go to dinner and Abby and I bring are dogs I’ll think of how you spoke about them, and I just can’t be cool with you.

Your iMessage, Your iMessage, Ryan Hey Joe. In light of the revelation that you are considering skipping standing up with me at the wedding, I've done a lot of thinking. Our wedding is a very big deal to us. We were very careful who we chose to be in the wedding. We wanted people who exemplified the love and trust that makes us the happiest. Asking someone to stand up at their wedding is considered an honor. When you committed to this months ago, I thought you were completely on board with fulfilling your commitment. I am completely disappointed that you are so quick to turn your back on this commitment. Not only are you turning your back, but you are doing it for a reason that is trivial. Getting a dog is not an emergency. Getting a dog is a luxury. The selfishness of pulling yourself away from a commitment that holds so much meaning let's me know that you didn't hold this commitment in the same high level of honor that I did when I asked you to stand with me. I thought the friendship that we had developed warranted including you. Clearly I was wrong. I tried to ease the process of standing with us by lifting the burden of having to pay for the clothes. This luxury is ALWAYS gladfully paid by groomsmen. I cannot recall a single wedding where the groomsmen had their clothes paid for. Even this is not enough. I am deeply hurt that you're even considering dumping your commitment for an animal. I won't wait until Friday Link Link Link to hear what your decision will be. I won't wait until Friday Link Link Link to see if I play second fiddle to a fucking dog. You have until 7 PM tonight Link to tell me whether you will be in the wedding or not. If you choose not to respond then I will assume you will choose the dog. If you choose the dog be prepared to pay in full the amount of your suit, tie, shoes, socks and belt. The cost will be $455. You will need to pay this by the end of the week. Being that you've already had the suit altered, you've wasted the gift card. I need you to understand, I'm not angry, I'm just crushed that something as ignorant as a dog would be the reason we even have to have this conversation. Let me know by 7 PM Link Link Link what you are going to do., 10:35 AM Link Link Actions available, 11:46 AM Link Swipe up or down to select a custom action, then double tap to activate., 8:11 PM Swipe up or down to select a custom action, then double tap to activate.

Happy anniversary Robin

On July 20th 2008 I received one of the greatest gifts in my life my Seeing-Eye dog a German Shepard named Robin! We worked for about 8 and a half years before she passed in December of cancer. She worked up until the end we took it easy the last 6 months, because I knew something was wrong just had no idea it was cancer until about the last week. For this post I want to focus on the first days and months after receiving Robin, because I think people would be interested in that. Some of the things I’ve said before, but hopefully you’ll learn something new. Before I start my girlfriends first dog that passed celebrated a birthday a few days ago. Even though I didn’t get to meet you I hear stories, and I bet we would have been great friends so happy birthday Alice!

I got to New Jersey on a Saturday in 2008. For the next day and a half, we would walk where trainers would watch your pace, personality, and get to know you. You got your dogs on Monday back then I think it’s changed I will soon see hopefully, and blog along the way. On Monday after lunch we all went back to our rooms, and waited to be called in to receive your dog. I remember that moment being nervous not sure what to expect. Rivi called me in she was my instructor, and described Robin to me. She then brought her in and she licked my hand and seemed excited. We went back to my room where that excitement melted a bit, because now Rivi was gone, and I was alone with her, and Robin wanted Rivi not me. I would sit on the floor and pet her and she would move as far away from me as she could. I’d scoot to her again, and she would again move away from me. During training she was always on leash for the most part or on tie down. We would do obedience every day where you practice sit, come, rest, and down. She was really good at it, but tested me the first few times to see what she could get away with.

We would get up about 5:30 and take them out to park and feed them. I remember the first morning I woke up and Robin licked me in the face. That was the first time I felt like she wanted me. For the next few days she would cry when Rivi was near, but she was pretty good about it for the most part.
After we first get them you go on your first walk where you walk around the Seeing-eye’s leisure walking course. It’s basically a circular shape with a gazeebo in the middle. I may not be accurate it’s been 9 years. Anyway we had to put the harness on and go outside. I ended up putting the harness on upside-down somehow. Robin was so patient not carrying she knew what the harness meant though we were going to go somewhere. We went out and walked, and man it was so neat. For the first time I didn’t have a stick I had to rely on her to tell me what we were approaching, and feel her to know what to do. I never had been out there without a cane, and we moved so fast. I felt really great after that walk.

The next few weeks we would go in town and walk around sidewalks doing routes learning each other. I remember one-time Robin told me to stop, and that I should turn I didn’t listen so I said forward and she wouldn’t go. I started moving forward and fell over a bush. Rivi said I needed to start to listen to girls because there always right or something to that affect.

There was part of the training where I felt like maybe a dog isn’t for me. I was so used to the cane, and being without it was difficult for me. I wanted a dog, but I just felt lost, and unclear of what to do. I have this dog stopping and communicating, but I couldn’t understand it to a degree. For 21 years all I’ve ever known is cane travel, and I’m good at it with the dog I am falling and tripping on things is it for me?

We went out for a night trip, and I remember we did really well. We got to a part where Robin thought I would clear a sticking out step and I didn’t and I fell. We continued on and on the way back she slowed down and watched for me I felt that. We went in to New York City, and that was the first time I really felt like man I couldn’t walk this with a cane. To feel her weave around people was amazing. I felt sighted I was passing people. You know people were actually in my way for once! Robin would slow down or bump them with her nose, and we’d move around them. I loved that trip I think that’s where I made my decision that I wanted to keep her.

When we got home to Muncie I had to walk her and practice some routes. I remember I took her on a bus route I did a lot, and I got turned around. With the cane your traveling and it’s objects you feel along with changes in pavement. Your mind is always processing things. With the Robin I could just sit back, and she’d get me by something and I never knew it was there. I got off the bus to go home from Wal-Mart, and we got turned around somehow. I had to ask someone where I was. I felt frustrated, because again I’ve done this successful hundreds of times why with Robin can’t I do it? The answer is you have to pay attention to what the dog is doing I know longer feel trash cans or brick columns at corners I am just on the curb. It took me the longest time to get that. I’d say about 6 months and we were fully in sync with each other.

One thing I remember I had to take a test my final writing assignment at Ball State, and I couldn’t sleep. I laid down on the floor with Robin, and she let me hold her which she never let me do before. That was like are first moment where we had been together for a while and she trusted me. I did things with Robin I hate doing with a cane or now I can’t even imagine trying with a cane. I will do it, but I hate it. Example we went to several Louisville Bat games together, and crowds never bothered me, because Robin would get me through them. I took my cane out about a month ago, and people are tripping on it, or I’m having to hold on to Abby and Bandcroft I just can’t do things as easy as I could when I had Robin. It’s funny how my thought process changed from thinking I couldn’t be without my cane to not wanting to have to use it.

That bond you share with a guide dog is so incredible. She was never too far from me I will never forget the last week we had together. She followed me everywhere I miss that. I miss her I still can work myself up and cry about it.

I’ve shared this story several times, but my first job interview was with an Apple Call Center. I had some interviews when using a cane, and they were uncomfortable, because I had to use sighted guide where you grab someone’s elbow. My thoughts on that are that person already thinks something of me, because they have to lead me around. When I went on this interview Robin followed the guide, and I was just part of the group. I was so amazed by the end of that tour I was speechless. It was the first time in my life where being blind really wasn’t mentioned other than people asking about the dog. I felt sighted. When we would walk in to restaurants, and I could tell her to follow the hostess to the table without having to do sighted guide it was such a confidence builder. With a cane I don’t have to do sighted guide I’m not saying you have to rely on it, but for me why struggle with saying where are you hello I lost you. I just take their arm to each blind person to their own I just want to get to my table or to an Airplane and move on why add stress.

I wish Robin could be with me at my new job she’d love being back downtown. I’d like to explore the area more, but I’m a bit nervous to do it with the cane. Abby and I walked to a bar the other night, and I lead the way for some of it, and it was okay, but man nothing beats walking with a guide. I learned Louisville with her I never used a cane here until now. Anyway happy anniversary to my girl, and thanks for every memory I cherish them all.

I used to think about how I’d react when the day came when Robin would pass, and nothing could or can prepare you for that. Time has helped, but I still find myself randomly getting sad wondering about her. Is she okay? What happens to us? People say it’s hard to lose a child as blind people we outlive are guides so I think that we really feel that loss. Abby and I often talk about Alice and Robin. I’d say once a week we share a story or rehash a memory. It’s nice she understands that I’m not sure someone sighted would. I know Abby thinks about Alice as much as I do with Robin. I have 2 videos I watch about once a month one is of Robin barking. Another is of her eating her last meal. Abby brought Doab over, and Robin had a kids Chicken and Rice. She couldn’t keep anything down for long anyway, so I wanted her to enjoy it. She did she licked the bowl clean. Then I gave her chips which she loved. In retirement I planned to spoil her a bit with people food something I never gave her. I am really strict and will be with my next dog on that. They have their food, and I have mine. Lol

Happy anniversary to are partnership!!! I plan on cooking spaghetti and trying out a new beer delivery service tonight. They charge normal store pricing then $5 to deliver. I don’t drink that much anymore, but it will be nice to be able to see all the beers they have. Nothing frustrates me more than asking what wheat beers they have or what loggers they have and only getting one choice. I wish sighted people could experience that one time maybe things would change. Say I go grocery shopping I have to know what brand and exact thing I want. If I go to a coffee isle and say what types of coffee do you have? That person would think I was nuts or they’d fire back with what do you usually drink? I don’t blame them, but we often miss new products or aren’t aware something is even available. Anyway just wanted to rant about that. The internet has changed this that’s why I love Amazon so much. I will report back on how this goes tonight! After I have one or two for Robin!!!

Why Android is important to the blind. 

In this world we now basically have 2 different types of people. One who likes Android, and One that likes IOS. I’m just kidding. I’m an Apple guy, because I still think as a blind person I can be more productive on my IPhone than an Android phone. The gap is closing, but Android still has a ways to go. In applications so many unlabeled buttons I repeat so many. Ken and I go back and forth on this he says that Android has 3 apps that work better, and somehow that is supposed to win an argument? Haha I will have to give him a link to this, because I think what I’m about to say would surprise him.
 
Android needs and has to keep becoming more accessible to the blind. Not so much for phones, but for other things. I bought a Sony 4k TV. Okay I don’t want 4k, don’t need 4k, and honestly 4k looks as good to 780p to me, but this TV has something that not many other TV sets have offered Android TV with Talkback. For those who don’t know Talkback is a screen reader on Android much like Apple’s Voiceover. With this TV I can change picture and sound settings. I can set timers do anything and everything imaginable which is amazing. As a blind person I’ve never been able to adjust settings on a TV without memorizing something or asking someone for help. I know Abby probably thinks I’m crazy for buying the technology I do, but man I love the fact I can pick up my remote and navigate it like anyone else. The cool thing about this TV is even if you have a cable box that isn’t accessible you can pull a guide through Android. I like it, because my Dish’s speech is painfully slow. I can’t set a dvr recording with it at least that I’ve found but the guide is nice. It even comes with a IR blaster so once you find something you like it changes my dishes box automatically. I will put up a Facebook video for those who are wondering.
 
Android is going to be powering many devices. For the blind people who get caught up in Apple vs Google that’s cool and all, but android will be powering many appliances in the future. Unfortunately because of Apples closed environment you won’t see Voiceover on an ATM machine or in a Washer. I’m to this point where I’m rooting for accessibility just to be an option in as many things as we could get, and so should you. That’s why when I see the NFB propose only Apple should make every app accessible it frustrates me. Again Apple things are not going, and will not in the future not work on non-Apple things. I’m no longer anti google like I may have been at one point. I still don’t like some of what they do, but they also are pushing boundaries of what tech can do. It’s a shame things like talking Microwaves are so hard to find anymore. A few blind living websites have them, but you’ll pay $350. It’s not fair that just to cook pizza rolls I have to ask someone sighted to set up a Microwave with bump dots. What that is for people who don’t know they’re little dots that are raised that stick on to things. When I moved in to my house I had them put on my Microwave, and oven. I’ve not had any fall off yet but it is possible.
 
At work they got me a fablet to test on. It runs Google Tango, and some of what Google is doing with Tango is cool. It has a lot more sensor’s in it than your common phone. On the back it actually has 2 cameras, and can do things like measure depth perception. As I said I wouldn’t buy an Android phone yet personally, but I’m glad it’s an option and some feel that it is better than Apples offering.