Monday, September 30, 2013

A Call from Guide Dogs for the Blind

I spent Saturday quietly at home. My wife was out of town helping to look after a friends young son. I elected to just stay home as handling both a nine year old and me is a little too much to expect for anyone.

As Saturday afternoon slowly ticked by the telephone rang. I expected it to be my wife, but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a member of the nursing staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The nurse was very pleasant. Asked me if it was ok to discuss my medical requirements at that time. It was and so I drew up a chair and we proceeded to go over the doctors reports from earlier in the year.

Of course some of the data was out of date as various new test results have surpassed the old results given in the doctors notes, some are still pending as I see a couple of my doctors over the next week.

All in all the interview lasted about ninety minutes, so as you can tell pretty comprehensive. We also discussed my activity on a day to day basis. I have been preparing with a regime of regular walking and also treadmill work to increase my general stamina. Walking about five miles per day.

All of this work seemed to be just what Guide Dogs require. The nurse seemed quite happy with the information and also took the opportunity to tell me about clothing requirements for my scheduled training period.

Dress for temperatures between the mid 60's F. and 90 F.  Take at least two pairs of worn in shoes, you don't want to walk with a guide dog for a prolonged period in brand new shoes. Also take a more dressy shirt and trousers for graduation day. Tennis shoes are ok, but many graduates often take a more dressy pair of shoes too, I think I will do just that too.

Next I expect a call from a trainer. That I think will come in the final week before training.

Now as I prepare to pack and the days tick down to hours, I am starting to feel that I am really on my way.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reconaisance to San Rafael

What better way to spend a week-end than to travel to a really beautiful part of California. Last week-end in part as a birthday treat and in part as a recon of the Guide Dogs for the Blind facilities, my wife and I drove the three hours up to the San Francisco Bay area.

One thing that makes me realize that I have lived in Central California too long is that I now believe the weather forecast on TV or the internet. Hot and sunny, generally means it is guaranteed to be hot and sunny here, but bright and sunny in the Bay area means it may rain.

When we arrived in San Rafael on Saturday morning, at a little after 9:30am it was pouring with rain and I had not packed a coat or hat.

Never mind Guide Dogs gift shop to the rescue and they soon had me kitted out in a great sweatshirt and baseball cap.

At Guide Dogs for the Blind Campus
San Rafael California.

My wife and I joined the 10am guided visit, led by Marcia, a great docent who took us all around the campus for a couple of hours. Some areas of the campus were not accessible because it was graduation day for class 771, but we were later allowed to attend the graduation ceremony at 2pm. That was a very moving and positive experience. I learned what might be expected of me in terms of speaking in just a few weeks, as I graduate with class 774.

During our tour we visited the kennels, saw some training by a few instructors and their dogs. We also got to see some of the latest puppies, born just a few hours earlier mother and puppies were monitored on a closed circuit camera. Outside the monitor room we saw some of the older puppies. Two lovely fat little eight week old pups being prepared for going out to their puppy walkers in the next few days.

Along the way we also met a large guide dog, named Henry, he was being walked for exercise and is yet to be allocated to a blind person. Maybe me? We will have to wait another twenty-seven days to see.

After the tour we went for lunch in the Mall across the street. I had chicken parmesan at a really good restaurant. The staff there seemed very aware as to how to treat blind customers. It was great having a waiter actually speak to me and make recommendations to me rather than through my wife. Great service means I will definitely be going back sometime during my stay in San Rafael.

Back at the campus we went to watch the graduation ceremony. Three Americans and three Canadians were graduating with new dogs. There was also a new dog taken in to the breeding program.

At the ceremony each graduate gets to speak. Saying thanks to the dogs trainers and puppy walkers. As you might imagine there were lots of moving stories on both sides.

After the ceremony we also got to speak to KellyMartin ,, the head of training classes at the school. He was very nice to us, talking about how unusual it was to have so many black dogs graduate on one day, five of the six Labradors were black. He also said he was happy that we had made a visit to look around, it was not a common event to have people visit a few weeks before they joined a class, but they appreciated that people did make a special trip when they could.

I had a great time. Now I just have to wait a little longer.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Year of Ups and Downs

It's hard to believe, but next week sees the one year anniversary of my stroke.

It will be one year on the 26th September since I collapsed at home and was flown by helicopter to hospital in Fresno. The really bad thing about that helicopter flight is that I don't remember one minute of it.

I was in hospital and rehabilitation for nearly four weeks. In the first few days I could not really eat because I could not swallow properly. Then as my swallow response came back I was only allowed pureed food for a few days. Awful stuff.

Though I never lost my speech, I did lose my ability to balance and had to learn to walk again, but luckily I soon picked up the ability to walk again. I even spent some time while in the rehabilitation ward teaching the physical therapists about blindness, how to use a cane as a mobility tool and similar things about which they had no real world knowledge.

After coming out of hospital it was another three months before I got back to work, and in the meantime I got to vote in my first Presidential Election and also began my application for a Guide Dog.

I also used the time off work to set up some new projects, an ebay account which has given me a few good sales over the year, a zazzle account where I have  sold tee-shirts and greetings cards steadily all summer, even selling internationally. I also set up a used book store on, that didn't really take off very well until in July I moved some of my stock from being shipped from my home to being shipped from amazon fulfilment centers across the U.s. at that point sales went through the roof, items which had been advertised for months sold  within hours of reaching the fulfilment center.  I had been on the point of giving up on the amazon project, now I am considering it as a possible full time occupation, we'll see after I get home with my Guide Dog in November.

So as this last year of a lot of deep downas and a few highs comes to an end. Things are definitely on an up trend.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thirty-Five Days to Dog Day

It never seems to get any shorter.

I spent Monday, the five week or thirty-five days to Dog Day travelling to and from Fresno for a blood test. Seven hours on a bus with a total of eleven and a half hours away from home, for a blood test that takes all of five minutes to draw.

I hate that trip, the blood draw trip, I have to make it every three months or so. Back in the days when I had to see my retinologist more often it was an easy stop to go and do the blood draw while I was across the street. Now with less visits to my retinologist, I guess I am just going to have to get used to this long day.

The funny thing is I also have a similar blood draw for my general practitioner every month, here in town att his office. The doctor I have to see in a few weeks time, an endochrinologist, insists that I have to travel to their office to do a blood draw for them too, "the results of my own doctors blood draw are not quite compatable with their requirements."

Aaaaarrrrrrggggh! What they really mean is they want to claim the cash for the blood work for themselves. It does not matter to them that I have to spend a day travelling, "It doesn't really take seven hours to travel from there?" Well it does when you have to get a bus which to be viable has to drive over 150 miles to mak a 60 mile journey. I would have a great view of the Central Valley's grape crop, if I could see. I pass every grape vine and see the bare branches transform over the year to dark heavily leafed fruit laden vines by the beginning of October, when the harvest comes to full swing around here.

Now despite being desperately tired from the journey, my head throbbing with the noise of a creaking, groaning bus. I cannot sleep.

Well at least. We are now thirty-four days to dog day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Should a Blind Person Have a Right to Carry a Gun

In my newsfeed I saw this story about Michael Barber, a resident of Iowa and also a senior officer of the National Federation of the Blind in Iowa.

The story discusses Barber's recent purchase of a gun and his successful application to carry a firearm

In the past I have handled firearms. In England I was a regular shooter at several clay pigeon shooting grounds and quite a proficient shot with a shotgun, on one occasion I achieved a perfect 100 score on a skeet shooting round. Of course at that time I had perfect vision.

Since coming to the United States I have visited a local shooting range for instruction in shooting a handgun and did some target practice achieving a score of 90/100 and that only using the guidance of my instructor to aim and fire as the target, though visible to me was a dark blurr.

I do not however carry a gun. For me it is merely a matter of personal choice. I would not know how to maintain a gun safely, with a myriad of small parts it would be a  nightmare just trying to keep it in good working order.

I do however feel that Mr. Barber is doing a good thing in that he is publicizing a positive aspect of blindness. That is blindness does not mean that we are unable to enjoy the rights granted to us in the United States.

Mr. Barber also comments in the report that he is waiting for a car that will allow the blind to drive. I too am eagerly awaiting that piece of hardware too. I would love to drive again. The motor industry is very close to creating  the vehicle, but it is legislation that insists that a licensed and sighted person be behind the wheel when the vehicle is in operation.

Do you think that our legislators of today might be as far seeing as the Founding Fathers and allow the blind driver to drive assistive technology equipped cars on the public road. The Founding Fathers never said "All except the blind can carry arms."

You can read the full story at The Des Moines Register Website.

It's Going to be a Long Night

You know those nights? You have felt a little iffy all day. Nothing specific, just feeling off color. Then late in the evening everything blows up.

That's how it is for me right now. I did a full days work, was not really comfortable getting heartburn and nauseous.

I pressed on through it though as I had a US Citizenship Preparation class to teach.

The class finished about 7:30pm and after packing everything up, I came home hoping that a little dinner may make me feel better.

As I got home though the stomach cramps began and dinner went out of the window as I couldn't keep anything down.

Right now I am about four hours into the feeling pretty awful stage of whatever this bug or food poisoning episode is.

I am wondering if it may have something to do with the influenza inoculation I had yesterday. That made my arm sore all day too. Well at this point, I am looking into the maw of a long night of very interrupted sleep.

Just marking time writing until my next bathroom break comes along in a minute or two.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Football Is Back!

Wow what a week-end. Football is back for a new season.

OK. For all the folks in the rest of the world, I am talking American football. Folks back home in England may take me out and flog me. But I have become American enough to call football, football and the roundball game, soccer.

Two of my favorite teams were playing on our TV channels, Green Bay and Indianapolis. Don't ask me why a fellow from California likes teams from the mid-west. It is an official secret and to reveal the truth would mean instant death. Suffice it to say, I don't get to see many games with my favorite teams except in the instance of yesterday Green Bay were at the San Francisco Fort-niners, the local must support team, unless you are a Raiders fan from across the Bay.

One of the delights of owning a 60" (sixty inch) TV is I can just about make out the players helmets, for color and so know roughly which team is playing which way.

By the end of Sunday, I was absolutely worn out. Football is just so exciting and the season is so very short, in a little over three months it'll all be over and we will be looking to the Superbowl final games. Then a long wait through another summer.

No, won't run on with that. I'll just sit back enjoy the season we have now. What's for TV tonight? Monday Night football of course.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stepping Out Alone

While it is nice to walk in the morning, just to go around the block seemed a little boring today.

In the end I decided to take a little bit of a hike across town to the local diner. It has been several months since I did this walk and this morning, as the sun peeped over the Sierra Nevada. I headed off across town to gget some breakfast.

The streets were very quiet at 6:30am. If you ever go out when the streets are quieter than you usually experience you will know that it is actually very disorienting. You have no real cues as to direction and position of streets.  The occassional car or truck passing by helps keep you on some sort of a track.

As the direction from my home to the diner is more or less South, one trick /I am able to use is keeping the light of the sun on my left in the morning. Though blind I can see enough light to enable me to determine which direction the light comes from.

So with the hunger in my belly growing, I marched across town, my mouth watering as I imagined steak and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Even better is the fact that the food actually tasted mucgh better than I had imagined.

I will have to do that walk more often.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day and 49 Days to Dog Day

So passes Labor Day, the last day of Summer for American Tourists.

Working Hard on Labor Day 2013

Well I believe that in the Northeast United States things now ramp up for leaf peeping season. That is going to see all the beautiful colors of the leaves before they fall in the next couple of months, then Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Here in the valley, Central California we usually still have a couple more months of quite high temperatures. 80 or 90 is not unusual into November.

Anyway, How did I spend Labor Day? Busy working. I had a couple of orders for eBay sales to process and a box load of books to prepare for shipment to

With only 49 days to go to Dog Day I am building a stockpile of books on my Amazon seller account because I will not be able to process items from home as I have done for part of this year.

Going to the Guide Dogs training school at the end of October means I have to take two weeks unpaid leave from my usual day job, so as two weeks without any wages is pretty painful to the wallet region. Amazon and eBay will have to step up to the plate and pull -in some extra cash for me I hope.

When we are back we will have to look at maintaining the business as in the past few months Amazon in particular has been quite a good source of extra income, eBay is a bit erratic.

As for the preparation homework for Guide Dogs, I have read and re-read the instruction manuals four times , with some of what I think of as major points of interest being read several more times, just so I can quite it chapter and verse.

So passed Labor Day. 49th Day till Dog Day. It is nice to think that I can sethe end of the tunnel. Or maybe its an express freight train coming down the tunnel. LOL