Friday, October 28, 2011

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Last night I went to bed probably the earliest I have since we've gotten here. I was worn out from the day and knew I'd be getting up a bit earlier than normal to meet E for our first triathlon training session. However, I didn't think I'd get up as early as I did.
To be quite honest, I am a very heavy sleeper. I am usually quick to fall asleep and usually, once I'm out it's hard to wake me up. I know I'm incredibly blessed in that regard because most people don't have the luxury of sleeping like the dead. So last night when I passed out just after ten, I didn't plan on springing to life at 5 in the morning. I got up and peed and then stumbled back to bed, half awake and a bit chilly. I laid in bed for another two hours, but just couldn't stay still any longer. Thoughts of the upcoming practice kept flittering through my mind and also of how I'm to solve the rest of the logistical issues of training.
I know it's the excitement of starting training that wouldn't let me fall back asleep. I am looking forward to running outside and enjoying a cool autumn morning with a friend. When I was training for swimming, the only fresh air I got to enjoy was walking to and from practice. Pools are usually quite hot, humid and stink of chlorine. I can't wait to actually run. Running as a blind person is contingent on either having access to a  treadmill or to a guide. Up until now, I haven't had a guide and don't think I've run outside for enjoyment since high school: that means it's been about ten years.
I know there will be days when the novelty will have worn off and it's freezing and/or raining out and I just won't want to drag my butt out of bed.  For today though,  I am content to enjoy the excitement of running outside and also to enjoy the feeling of finally beginning real triathlon training.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Don't Want to Jinx It

The last 24 hours have been extremely good and productive ones. Glacier and I had our assessment yesterday and I also got a bit further with the triathlon training aspect of things.
First of all, the assessment went very well. I felt confident going in because of the solid work Glacier and I have been putting in as of late. The guide dog laws are a bit different in the UK  in comparison to  North America with regards to access laws and such. Pretty much, in North America, if your guide dog is qualified you are covered by all access laws. In the UK your dog must be from one of five schools-guide dog and assistance dogs alike-in order for them to be protected by the laws. This means, Mr. K and I have to register with the Guide dog Association. Otherwise, we do not, by law, have the right to be in public facilities. Thus far, we have not had any problems, but we've only been here for two months and who knows what may pop up. There are a few other benefits to being registered with the Guide Dog Association, but my main concern is access laws.
So, both Glacier and Roscoe have to under go an assessment by the representative to ensure our dogs are working safely and are healthy. I can kind of see why because if we are signed on, we are covered by the association's insurance. I'm not sure I agree with the way things are done, but there are a lot of reasons why it works here. Plus, I'm sure some of my resistance is due to what I am used to. Regardless of how I feel about it, it is more beneficial to be signed on with the association.
The representative arrived around 2 and followed Glacier and I at a distance. Glacier did slow his pace a bit, but his work was spot on. His curb work was perfect and that fluidity I talked about before was there. The Rep stopped us after about a ten minute walk and said that he had seen enough. He was impressed with the work we had done. He said he wished he could have taken some of the credit for our progress, but conceded that it was all me. That made me  high as a kite. I have been working hard with Glacier and to have a professional recognise it,  makes me feel fantastic.
I asked him if there was anything Glacier and I could work on and even though he was stumped for a minute, he suggested that we could work on stopping closer to the curbs' edge. To be quite honest, when Glacier and I are working alone, I am comfortable with where he stops. It is about a step back from the edge and that makes me feel safe. There have been a few times where cars/trucks have taken corners too close and wheels have rolled up over the curb. If Glacier and I were standing up close, we would have been rolled over. I think part of it is that the Rep wants to make sure the vehicles know Glacier and I are about to step off the edge. So, I have made an effort to make my hand signal for "forward" over exaggerated in order to signal to the drivers that we are on the move. At Leader Dogs for the Blind we are also taught to drop our handle hand down almost on to the dogs back to indicate that we are not moving and that is what I do. Either way, it doesn't really matter because Glacier and I have made big changes and the representative was able to see that. He should be back next week to keep the process of registering moving right along.
On the triathlon front, things may be looking up. E, one of Tenie's flat mates and a friend, and I are going to start a running regiment tomorrow. We're starting out slowly even though E's fitness levels are higher than mine right now, but will be ramping up the intensity of our runs as the weeks progress. We haven't figured out the gym thing yet, but at least there is progress in the running department.
I have also been in the middle of an emailing frenzy contacting Scottish Disability Sport and a bunch of other sport oriented organisation in order to get the triathlon thing going. A member of Scottish Disability Sport wants to sit down and chat with me and Talking Tandems, a cycling group for blind people out of Fife, have given me a few dates for an introductory session.
So, you can see  why I wouldn't want to jinx it. "Rome wasn't built in a day" and neither was great athletes and so baby steps make me very happy. Let's just hope things keep progressing this way with both mine and Glacier's work and my triathlon training.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fairy Dust

If you've been around me for a while, it won't take you long to figure out that I love fairies. I have a collection started of various fairy merchandise, with Tinkerbell leading the way.
I don't know what it is about fairies that makes me slightly obsessed. I love Tinkerbell's character because she is so cheeky and has 'tude. When we moved to Edinburgh, I left a lot of my fairy stuff behind, including a collection of "Night Fairies" I had gathered over the years. I did manage to fit my favourite Tinkerbell coffee mug though and that is what I drink my coffee out of every morning. Mr. K is aware of my love for anything fairy and is patient and supportive. He even indulges my need to collect fairies every once in a while. Tinkerbell PJ's, Tinkerbell hoodie, Tinkerbell key chain and even Tinkerbell underwear are just a few of the things he has bought for me over our three year relationship.
Yesterday, upon returning from lunch out, Mr. K said he had something for me. I had known for a few days that he had a surprise because he had told me that his original plan for his week off was to have a romantic night, complete with present. Mr. K isn't really that romantic, so I was floored. We still haven't had our romantic night seeing how Mr. K is still recovering, but he did give me my present and guess what? It was a Tinkerbell figurine holding my favourite stone, an amethyst. Technically, she is supposed to be a part of Disney's birth stone collection and she is the representative for February, but I love her. Not only is she Tinkerbell, but she is holding a purple rock. If you know me, you would also know that I love purple.
I was very happy and touched  that he had picked out such a thoughtful gift. I promptly put the figurine on the little mantelpiece above our gas fireplace and gave Mr. K a huge hug.
It really is the small things in life that mean the most isn't it?

P.S This afternoon a dog trainer from the guide dog school here is coming out to assess Glacier and I and Mr. K and Roscoe. The reason for the assessment is long and I'll fill you in later, but wish us luck.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Triathlon Troubles

I thought that if I did all of the leg work before arriving in Scotland, I would be able to get here and just start training. I thought I had three guides lined up. I thought a lot of things, but it seems I thought wrong.
When I first got to Edinburgh, I put the triathlon training on the back burner since we had more important things to work out; like where we were going to live. I had told everyone that I would contact them once I was settled in and I've spent the past three and a half weeks trying to get into contact with one of my potential guides. We've played email tag and the one time I was supposed to phone him, his phone was off. He was supposed to call this weekend, but I didn't hear from him. I haven't given up on him yet as he sounded quite interested, but the inability of either of us to get a  hold of one another in combination with a few other things has me completely frustrated.
Joining the gym isn't going as planned either. It's kind of an extra expense a month Mr. K and I aren't sure we should be spending money on. It's not overly expensive, with the membership running around 17 pounds a month, but that could potentially add up. Plus, this particular gym does not have a pool. The more expensive gym does, but the cheaper gym also said there was potential for sponsoring my triathlon endeavors. But it is just that, a potential. What if I join the cheaper gym and spend the extra money to use a pool three times a week or so and the sponsorship falls through? Should I go with the other gym? The question of monthly payment comes up again.
The price concern is not the only problem. If I do join a gym, how do I go about using the equipment? Hiring a personal trainer is more money and although I'd benefit from a sighted person assisting me with the inaccessible touch screens of the cardiovascular machines, forking out that extra money seems a bit irresponsible and unnecessary. That said, moving from machine to machine would be much easier if I had someone's help. E is using the more expensive gym, so that brings me back to which gym should I join? Do we even have the funds for me to join a   gym?
Since the gym is a bit of money and I'm not entirely sure I can even use the stinking thing on my own, I thought I'd contact running clubs. These clubs have annual fees that are cheaper than the gyms and would at least give me a starting point to build up fitness. Problem is, they won't take me. One emailed me back just today to say that the committee had all discussed it and that they were not qualified to assist me with my needs; end of conversation. Again, the theme of other people knowing what my needs are without asking seems to pop up. At first, I emailed them back and thanked them for their time and for referring me to Scottish Athletics-which is not what I want since they deal with athletes getting into Track and Field-but I emailed them back asking them for clarification. I would like to know what they think my needs are exactly and why they can't meet them. When you get enough of these types of emails, you begin to think "why bother?" For some reason, I just keep going; I just needed to bi*** about it before carrying on. :)
I did make some progress with a cycling club designed specifically for blind people located about a 15 minute train ride from here. The location is slightly inconvenient, but traveling out there once a week wouldn't be so bad. Mr. K is planning on joining as well so that will make the travel time a bit less boring and tedious. We are in the process of scheduling a "beginner's session." During this session, a few pilots-the sighted people who steer the bike-and bikes will be brought out  for us to try and match up to.
Writing it down, makes it seem less horrible, but I'm still a bit frustrated. The phrase "but if I could see" keeps running through my mind and I think dealing with that thought is just as difficult as people deciding they can't meet your needs without discussing it with you. This is a demon I don't have to face often as I am comfortable with my disability and who I am, but sometimes it does rear its ugly head and now is one of those times. It's a thought I have to shut down quickly because "seeing" is not an option and there is no point in dwelling on something that cannot be changed. Focus must be placed on the things I can control and/or effect.
It's  also frustrating when you feel like all of the ground work you laid months in advanced seems to have eroded away and you are starting from the beginning again. All I want to do is train. I miss challenging my mind and body. I miss the burn and knowing after a hard workout that I accomplished something. Part of me wants to just throw in the towel, but a bigger part of me won't let that happen. My goal at this point is to just get a guide(s) and to build up some fitness. I want to run a triathlon and one of these days I will do it; it may just take me way longer than I planned.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reblogged From Dog Business: Can We Help?

Dawg Business: It's Your Dog's Health!: Didn't Even Get A Name, Just Abuse: "Dog" Needs Ou...: by Beth of Charity's Law The following is an account of an incident that occurred late Friday evening. While we have very strong suspicion...

Mr. K's Not So Pleasant Adventure

I've said it before and I am sure I'll be forced to say it again: there is never a dull moment. Just when I think things are settling in and we are establishing a routine, something happens. This is not always a bad thing, but this past week was a bit rough for Mr. K and consequently me as well. The unfortunate part was that this was his week off between terms in his semester and he spent it in severe agony.
About a week and a half ago, Mr. K started feeling a bit under the weather. He had a sore throat and swollen glands and we both figured he was fighting something off. He had been stressed from the end of term's assignments and we had been around other people sporting fabulous coughs and stuffy noses. It wasn't a big surprise when he woke up a week ago Saturday with a fever and the sweats, but we both thought it would pass. I scooted out to Boots, which is a huge drug store here, and came home with a plethora of cold and flu medicine.
By Monday most of his flu symptoms had subsided, but he was still feeling crummy. We had E, one of Tenie and Carmen's flat mates over, and she helped us put the sugar gliders' cage together. Mr. K had cooked lamb for supper, but didn't eat all of it and I suspected something was wrong. Mr. K is a good solid eater. If he doesn't eat, he is definitely not feeling well.
Tuesday things started to get worse. He was having severe pain in his stomach, but we thought it was leftovers from the flu. He spent most of the day sleeping and not really eating, but that is what people who are sick are supposed to do, right?
Wednesday came and he was in horrible pain. Mr. K has a very high pain tolerance and a knack of hiding when he is hurting, so I didn't know just how bad it was. He was cranky, and rightfully so, but at the time I didn't understand. I met E and she and I went to Boots again for some "trapped wind" medicine. We thought that the stress and the excessive amount of pop he had been drinking the week of his finals had caused big gas bubbles to get trapped in his stomach/intestine. He met E and I at a restaurant across the street from our flat, but didn't eat. He took his trapped wind medication and when we got home I gave him an abdominal massage to try to encourage the supposed trapped air to leave his body.
When Thursday came though and things weren't better, I was a bit worried. I thought that perhaps it took a while for the trapped wind medicine to get into your system though, so I didn't panic; yet. Again, he spent most of the day sleeping, but tried to make a trip out. When we reached the restaurant we were going to, he was in pain, sweating and wanted to vomit. Again, he is good at hiding these things so I didn't know just how bad it was. When he didn't finish his hot chocolate I knew there was really something wrong. Mr. K loves sweet stuff and for him to not down the mug of hot chocolate meant that he was not well. Upon returning home, he practically fell into bed and slept. We had thought his weakness was due to the lack of eating, and perhaps it was, but there was something else going on.
On Friday morning I started doing some research of my own, looking up his symptoms. Of course I read the worst case scenario and I started panicking. I looked up the laws for free health care in the UK for spouses of European Union citizens and discovered that Mr. K was covered under my status. With that in mind, I went after him to go to the hospital; he refused. Originally, we had plans to meet up with some friends for drinks and Mr. K stayed home. I left frustrated at him because the seriousness of the situation had really begun to hit me. I was so worked up walking over to Tenie's flat that I thought I was lost when I wasn't. Poor Glacier probably thought I was nuts. I did learn from my little freak out though was that I can be wrong and confused and it doesn't effect Glacier like it used to; very encouraging.
Once I had sorted myself out, I got to the flat safe and talked to all of the girls. I was concerned because I thought he had a partially obstructed bowel. That stuff is scary. He had started vomiting that day upon swallowing anything except small sips of cold water and I was about ready to call an ambulance. Partially or obstructed bowels if left too long can lead to the death of the intestine's tissue, which then causes a whole new set of permanent problems.
The girls listened to my ranting and E said she'd text him. I don't know if she actually did, but when I got home from drinks that night-quite early I might add because I was worried-Mr. K started looking up the phone number for the health line. This particular line assesses your symptoms and books you in for a scheduled appointment if they feel it is serious enough. If it's really bad, they call you an ambulance.
The nurse Mr. K spoke to was really sweet and listened carefully. She booked him in for an appointment at 2:20 AM and Tenie walked over to go to the hospital with us. It was just after midnight when we found out that he should go in.
I can't tell you how exhausted I was, but so incredibly relieved that someone else thought that my concerns were valid. There was no wait time in a noisy, crazy emergency room as this is a different part of the hospital and we had barely sat down in the waiting room when Mr. K was called back. Other nations with free health care should really consider taking a page from the NHS's book when it comes to night time emergencies.
We were in and out within an hour and we took a cab back to our flat. Mr. K was diagnosed with esophagitis and given pills that stop the stomach lining from producing stomach acid. The doctor thought that was what he had, but told us to come back in if the symptoms didn't start getting better in twelve hours. He warned Mr. K that it wasn't a magic pill and he would not feel better instantaneously. As much as we both wished they were magic pills, I think we were both glad to finally know what was wrong. We fell into bed close to 4 AM, completely exhausted, but slept soundly knowing that we had a diagnosis.
About thirty hours and six pills later, Mr. K was eating again. It still hurt, but at least it wasn't as bad and he was no longer vomiting. The dude lost way too much weight in a short time period due to his inability to eat. He has to continue taking the pills and has to have a check-up by a GP in the near future to ensure everything is going as it should.
It was a crazy week for both of us. I know he was the one going through it and I will not devalue that, but my goodness, being a worried spouse is stressful. I haven't had to deal with that before now and I'm hoping it's a while before I have to again. I really try not to take for granted the health that I have, since I am quite healthy, but something like this really puts things in perspective. I'm so glad the nurse told Mr. K to go in because leaving esophagitis can lead to a hole being burned right through it by the over production of stomach acid.
We're supposed to go out for a nice lunch this afternoon, kind of like a good start to a new week and I'm looking forward to it; just knowing Mr. K can eat his French Toast and enjoy it makes me very happy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jess's Public Service Announcement: Leader Dogs for the Blind

There is an organisation in Rochester Michigan that has made the difference in many people's lives, including mine. This non-profit organisation has technically changed the course of my life three times with matching me with my first guide dog Jetta, then my second Glacier and then taking Glacier and I back in for retraining. Some people say I'm loyal to a fault and I think sometimes they may be right, but how can I not be when Leader Dogs for the Blind took me back in after almost three years of working with a dog and giving me the time and resources to make a relationship work as opposed to just telling me to figure it out on my own or just retiring Glacier without giving us a chance?
To some extent I think people can be biased to the school where they were matched with their service dog(s). Leader Dogs for the Blind is where I got both of my guide dogs and they were also the organisation who took me back in for a twelve day retraining session in the attempt to keep Glacier from retiring. LDB also has a lot of other programs, including an advanced orientation and mobility class, which teaches and/or assists with brushing up on White Cane skills. LDB also has a strong presence in several countries around the world, as they have dogs and trainers set aside specifically for students coming in from Spain, Thailand and many other countries where obtaining a guide dog is nearly impossible due to long  wait lists.
The facilities, trainers and some dogs are also designed/taught to work with people who are both visually impaired and deaf. In fact, Jetta's brother,  the only other puppy in her litter, graduated as a guide/assistance dog for a deaf blind person.
Leader Dogs for the Blind is also working to make walking GPS systems affordable to blind people as most units usually cost thousands of dollars. Considering eighty percent of blind people are unemployed, purchasing something that costs thousands of dollars is out of the question. This new GPS unit was given out for free to all of the students in mine and Glacier's retraining class. There is a Declaration For Independence on LDB's website where people can sign to show their support for the advancement of this high quality, affordable GPS unit.
What spurred this giant ramble about LDB and what they do is an email I received this morning. It was sent out thanking puppy raisers, donors, volunteers and anyone else who has contributed to Leader Dogs for the Blind. Even though I'm technically a client, I received the email because Mr. K and I donated money to Leader Dogs for the Blind instead of handing out favors at our wedding  that people would just toss out.
In the email, LDB thanked everyone and also stated that they are still in need of help. LDB needs more puppy raisers and also host families for female breeding stock.
First of all, I know that if you have been reading for a while now that you will know what a puppy raiser is, but let me revisit what a puppy raiser is again. Puppy raisers are families, or evens single people, who fill out an in-depth application, get visited by the school of their choice to ensure they have a safe home for a puppy and then are selected based on their lifestyle and a myriad of other factors. For example, both of my dogs' foster moms were teachers, which meant that Jetta and Glacier both got used to children, busy environments and other such things that come along with being a teacher.
Puppy raisers are asked to take their puppy out into public as often as possible  and taught by the school how to teach their puppy. There are puppy classes to be attended and people to help the raiser work through the puppy's, well, puppiness. The more positive public outings/experiences your puppy has the better. These experiences lay the foundation for how they will react to what they may encounter in the future with their blind handler.
This is, I have no doubt, a huge commitment and at the end of about twelve months, the puppy returns to its school for formal training, where it begins to learn how to work in a harness. I know this part is hard, but let me tell you, we blind folk who are so lucky to get your puppy are so grateful. I'm going to try to stay away from the cliche phrases here so that you know that my gratitude is genuine, but I cannot express how thankful I am to the people who raised both of my dogs. Raising a puppy has its challenges,  but I've heard from many puppy raisers that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. The commitment does require a year of your time, but if you decide after that one year that one bundle of joy was enough for you, then you are not forced to continue on.
I have always wanted to be a puppy raiser, but right now that is just not feasible. I love the challenge of working with a dog and being able to take a little fuzz butt everywhere  would be awesome. Again, I'm not saying it's easy since every outing, even if just out to "park," is a training session, but how can you resist puppy kisses?
If you think that puppies just aren't your thing, but like dogs then perhaps hosting a breeding stock dog is more up your alley. I am not entirely sure of the rules with breeding stock families, but I do know that you cannot let your unfixed dogs play with other unaltered dogs. That basically means, that if you have an unaltered male as a family pet, then you would not be able to host a Leader Dogs for the Blind breeding stock female. The females also have to be brought back to Leader Dogs for the blind for check-ups and such, especially during pregnancy. Also, if you host a female, you get to have the puppies live in your house until they are ready to go to the puppy raisers. So, you get a bit of the puppy joy without having to take them out into public and to work with you.
All of this sounds great right? You want to run out and scoop up your new bundle of joy right now! Right? Or perhaps you feel like your home needs a "Mommy" to make it complete. Well, have no fear. I know how you can get cracking on that application. Or, if you're not convinced and you need more information, you can also contact LDB and ask as many questions as you want. To ask more questions, to fill out an application or to sign the Declaration for Independent travel go
So, what are you waiting for? Hurry, hurry! A little Golden Retriever, Labrador, German Shepherd or combination of any of these, is waiting for you. The visually impaired person who gets your puppy will thank you. Take it from a two time Leader Dogs for the Blind graduate: these dogs change a lot of lives in ways that words just cannot do justice.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fun Fact Friday

In light of Halloween being just over two weeks away, I thought today's Fun Fact Friday could be centred around one of my most favourite times of the year.

Fifteen Fun Facts: My Halloween Part 1

1. My earliest memory of Halloween was when I was about four and my Mom made me a Bugs Bunny costume. It was made entirely out of this thick, quilted material and was complete with mask that hid my face, ears that stood up because of the coat hangers she bent and a little tail on the bum. I wore that costume even when it wasn't Halloween and ran around yelling "What's up Doc?" and eating a carrot through the mouth hole that was blocked by one giant material covered, cardboard tooth.
2. Have you ever seen those jokes about Canada that say your Halloween costumes are made to fit over your snowsuits? Well, where I'm from that can't be truer. When I was six, I was snow white and my mom made my costume big enough to fit over a winter jacket. I was appalled that I was a poofy Snowwhite, but on Halloween when I had to wear my pink winter boots because there was snow half way up my shins, I was thankful.
3. I can remember every costume I have ever had, including the Sorceress costume that I wore and had my hair teased out so much and hardened with hair spray that it took three shampoo sessions to make it a little bit manageable.
4. I was not the only one who got dressed up. Jetta and even Glacier have suffered at my Halloweenified hands. The second Halloween I had Jetta she was a princess and she showed her disdain by chewing the sequin crown to bits and peeing on the pink slipper shoes.
5. The first Halloween Mr. K and I were together I got us a pumpkin thinking it would be funny that two blind people were carving a pumpkin. Little did I know that I had just started dating an artistic crazy man and our pumpkin turned out better than most of the ones I have carved with sighted people. Last year he carved his with a scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas-the thing was a masterpiece.
6. The things I hated getting most in my trick or treat bag was those hard toffee things. Dude! Those are gross. What kid wants to eat stale, hard toffee?! It's not even real toffee. I didn't care that there were  Halloween themed pictures on the wrapper. I was a blind kid! I went for the taste, not the pictures! 
7. When Tenie, Carmen and I lived together for our under grad, the house we were renting was perfect for a Halloween party. It was a turn of the century home and we always decorated like crazy and invited people over. One year-there is actually a blog post about this-Brooke from Ruled by Paws, and I made Jetta's and Cessna's wizard hats while her husband Huib made them little capes. Originally we had wanted them to be My Little Ponies, but the hair paint didn't work with their fur. They were the cutest stinking wizards I have ever seen.
8. While I was in Massage college, Glacier and I dressed up to match. I knew there was a costume contest and I wanted to win. What better way than for me to be Tigger and Glacier to be E...well, the blue donkey from Whinnie the Pooh. (I actually have never seen that name spelled and so don't know how to spell it. Woops. LOL). We won by the way.
9. Last year Mr. K helped me with my costume and it was awesome. Remember that artistic side I was talking about? I was a fairy who had crashed. He bent my wings on the one side; used make-up to road rash that side of my face; ripped holes in a shirt and road rashed the exposed skin; put bandaids all over my elbows; and I wore a pair of black heels my puppies had chewed up. The non-road rashed side had nice sparkles and pretty hair. It was awesome.
9. The one game that I never understood that people insisted on playing when we were kids, was bobbing for apples. Um, gross! Let's put a bunch of fruit in a bowl of water, have kids slobber in that water, leave teeth marks in every apple but never pull one out. Honestly though, I was so stinking competitive I didn't care who had drooled in that water, I was getting an apple and winning! (I'm starting to sense a theme here).
10. Speaking of winning: Carmen, Jetta and I won "best group" costume one year at a local bar. I was Tinkerbell-of course-Jetta was a Lost Boy and Carmen was Captain Hook's...erm, daughter. It was good times.
11. I have always loved how much the kids get into Halloween. One year, when I was in massage college, a friend and I sat out on my front steps, wrapped in a sleeping bag because it was freezing, handing out candy. Glacier sat on our feet watching all of the kids, quite curious as to what was going on. One little girl dressed as a lady bug came to our house and when we asked her if she would like a treat, she opened her bag, but not to receive a treat but to get a dog biscuit out for Glacier. It was the cutest thing ever. She must have been about two and a half or so. Glacier took the cookie so gently from her and I think that would have been enough for her. Of course we dropped a few treats into her bag before she moved on.
12. One year my Dad was helping me carve a pumpkin and I was just old enough to think that triangles for eyes wasn't cool anymore. So, I asked him to carve me lightning bolts. He carved them all right, right along with his thumb. He had to go get three stitches.
13. I don't remember how old we were, but Tenie and I trick or treated with each other from a young age right up until we were too old. Even when I was at the School for the blind and only came home on weekends, somehow it worked out that we got to go out together. I can remember me carrying one of those plastic bags with the Halloween designs on the front and Tenie carried a plastic pumpkin. By the time we stopped, we both were carrying pillow cases. It's like the graduation from a plastic pumpkin bucket to a pillow case is a wright of passage or something.
14. The last Halloween Tenie, Carmen and I spent living together, we were all sexy vampires. We had a lot  of fun getting dressed up and even splurged for a set of fake fangs. These fangs actually were molded to your own canine teeth and took some getting used to. They held out pretty well, but with eating and drinking, I think I was the only one with one fang left at the end of the night. I was a  lopsided vampire?
15. I swore when I was little that I would not have repeat costumes. That went out the window as I've been a vampire probably three times and a fairy of some variety three or four times. However, for each repeat, the costume was usually different. So, it was a half repeat.

I hope you enjoyed my little walk down Halloween memory lane. Come back next week for some more spooky Halloween fun.
Happy Friday. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Very Encouraging

I know a lot of my posts have been about mine and Mr. G's working relationship, but it's such a huge part of my life that it's hard not  to talk about it. There were also so many times in the past when I didn't know whether or not just to retire him or keep going. Even though we've been working together for three years, I feel like we are a brand new team. Of course I'm not dealing with a lot of the things that a new handler deals with, like inconsistent relieving for example, but in some ways I am. Glacier and I are learning to trust one another, something that should have happened years ago, but is thankfully happening now. This is the biggest obstacle a brand new team faces, besides bonding, and it's only now that things are starting to gel.
Glacier and I have always been bonded. I think we bonded the first week we were at Leader Dogs for the Blind in 2008. We have loved each other for the past three years like any other working team, but the elements of trust and respect when it came to working was missing. These two elements are, to me, what make a working team successful. I need to trust and respect Glacier enough to let him make a decision. He has to trust and respect me enough to take a cue from me without questioning me. I wasn't trusting or feeling all that respectful and he was questioning. With an attitude adjustment on my part and an environment conducive to us working almost every day, things have begun to improve very quickly. In a month, I have gone from not wanting to go out and work my dog and contemplating retiring him for good to absolutely loving the feeling of walking confidently down a sidewalk with my big Yellow Fellow at my side. I know I've had that feeling before when we went back to Leader Dogs for the Blind for retraining, but that was a very safe and particular environment. I knew things would change a bit once out in the real world, but I just wasn't sure how much. We had to start from square one yet again upon arriving in Edinburgh.
Yesterday I went out to meet a friend to pick up a few  things Mr. K and I needed. Glacier and I walked a route we've traveled only twice before on our own and instead of being nervous and uneasy the whole way, I enjoyed myself and didn't get worked up about my own small mistakes, other pedestrians' interference  with our work and Glacier stopping to sniff once. Glacier seemed at ease too. He picked up the pace, which I have been wanting for so long and trotted along, moving around people and objects where necessary. At one point, someone veered into our line of travel when we were crossing a street. I think he was reading or perhaps texting, a pet peeve of mine, but either way he didn't notice us until he had run us over. The old working team of Miss J and Mr. G would have fallen apart. I would have panicked thinking that Glacier's sensitivity would take over and he'd stop guiding and we'd be stuck there in the middle of the  busy street. Not yesterday; yesterday, I said, "excuse me" and Glacier kept us moving briskly toward the opposite curb despite the flustered, embarrassed side swiper mumbling an apology and trying to grab my arm and lead me across the road.
At one point, Glacier caught sight of another dog and thought that he should follow it, but with a light verbal correction, he kept us on track. Another example of where we have changed. Before, he would have just kept lumbering after the other dog and I would have to give him a harsher correction. The correction would have shut him down and then I'd spend the next two blocks over praising him for walking a straight line. I think with me treating him more like a working dog, Glacier has begun to realise the magnitude of his job.
No, we're not a new team with regards to how long we've been together, but we're new in working properly together. Every outing encourages me and we grow stronger. It's a process that should have happened a long time ago, but it's happening now. So, I suppose I'll be celebrating each little victory by blogging about it. When you're a seasoned team, the posts about how great you and your dog's work was that day  usually taper off, but perhaps that is something we as handlers shouldn't take for granted. I know when Jetta and I had been together for three years I didn't think twice about how smoothly we walked to and from classes or swim practices. It blew my mind when she found my swim bag in the locker room the first time, but after she repeated this behavior more than once, I think I took it for granted. I praised her of course, but it wasn't like the first time she did it. I'm not saying we should throw parties for our dogs every time they find a curb when we are veterans because then when something earth shattering happens they will not understand how amazing they are, but I am going to make an effort to not let Glacier's outstanding work become old hat once we've solidified as a seasoned team.
It's the smallest things that really make these dogs' work significant. The fact that Glacier always takes us to our door despite there being one an inch and a half past it, is something to be celebrated. If he didn't turn left at that door and get me up close when he should, we could end up at a pub a few doors down instead; not necessarily a bad place to be, but I usually want to go home for a reason. The fact that he gets me really close to each audible signal button on the street outside our flat without walking me into the pole or being too far away that I can't find it to push the button, is something to be celebrated. A foot to the left or right, I wouldn't be able to find the pole and just an inch or two forward and I'd walk chest first into the pole. Sure, the other day when he turned around and found the door behind us I was shocked and we had a party, but it's the every day  mundane things I need to remember to praise him for because without those basic behaviors I'd be lost; quite literally. It was these basic behaviors that weren't happening and with their appearance, the great, surprising behaviors have begun to sprout up. The phrase "baby steps" could never be truer. It just took a long time, a lot of patience and a lot of attitude tweaking-for both of  us-and I feel safe to say, barring any crazy event, Glacier and I will be a very happy, safe  and successful  working team until he is ready to retire as an old man. This is a comforting thought to me because up until now, I could never say that with confidence.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Think Pink

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Although it is nearing the end of the month, I wanted to bring attention to this very important cause. So, let's talk boobies.
Did you know that breast cancer not only impacts women, but a small percentage of men as well. Sure, guys' breasts are usually smaller than women's, but the tissue is the same as well as the lymphatic system that runs in that general area. So, even though this sounds odd, encouraging the men in your life to perform self examinations could be beneficial.
Speaking of self examinations, it has been proven that this method is the best for detection of breast cancer. Who knows your body better than you do? It doesn't have to be a huge production. Some would suggest just to check each breast carefully during your shower for lumps, skin mutations and any other oddities. You can also check in your make-up mirror when getting ready  for work in the morning or when brushing your teeth for bed. That said, just looking is not enough. Seeing is not always believing-take it from me. Sometimes lumps cannot be seen, but will be noticeable to the touch. Regardless, make it a part of your routine. If you do this often enough, you will notice the smallest of changes, which could lead to an early diagnosis. Early diagnosis is the key with combatting breast cancer. So, don't be embarrassed or ashamed: it is your body, be proud of it. Self examination is not the only diagnostic tool available out there.
Of course there is the dreaded mammogram. Just think of it as a necessary evil. It's a small bit of your time that, in comparison to fighting breast cancer, is really insignificant. If you are set against having this procedure done, why not find a clinic that uses dogs to sniff out cancer? Yes, they have those. Amazingly, the dogs are actually quite accurate, it's less invasive and they can usually detect cancer early. However, some doctors will say that nothing is better than a mammogram. So, do your research before selecting a diagnostic tool.
Most certainly diagnostic tools could be considered part of preventative measures, but there are some other small steps you can take that could make a difference.
Underlying the breast tissue and back into your armpit there is a very delicate system called the lymphatic system. This closed circuit system runs throughout your entire body and is a part of your immune system. It has its own fluid called Lymphatic fluid and has little clusters called lymphatic nodes-sounding familiar? This system is quite close to the surface and is very sensitive. Massage therapists can be trained in lymphatic drainage, a gentle technique that assists the flow of lymphatic fluid. There are many reasons for using lymphatic drainage, but one reason is to move stagnant fluid out of an area and move in fresh, nutrient rich fluid. Because of restrictive clothing, such as bras, or lifestyle, the fluid can become stuck, but there are ways to help this fluid move along.
Let's talk bras. There is some controversy on this topic and I do not claim to be a bra expert, but I have chosen to, for the most part, wear wireless bras. It has been noted in some studies that the under wires of bras press on the sensitive lymphatic vessels and congests that area. Some believe this can contribute to the development of breast cancer. The best part is that specialty bra/panty  stores have picked up on this trend and you can now get cute, wireless bras from stores like La Sensa and Victoria Secret. I would know; that is where I bought mine from. That said, sometimes a bra with an under wire is necessary, but I try not to wear them as often as I can.
Another way to free up that congestion potentially  caused by wearing bras with under wires, is going braless whenever possible. Don't wear bras to bed and if you are home relaxing, take the bra off. Give your body time to breathe. Bras are man made contraptions, do you really think we are meant to wear them constantly? It's the same with shoes. Studies have proven that wearing shoes all of the time causes major foot/back problems. Why would it be any different with bras? And don't get me started on the back/spine problems bras cause in women.
Saunas have also been thought to help move stagnant lymphatic fluid. The only problem is that women go in with bathing suits  with under wires in them and that defeats the purpose. Again, your body needs to breathe and your sweat needs to be able to escape unhindered. So, use the sauna with non-restrictive clothing.
Bouncing on a mini trampoline is also beneficial. It not only assists with water retention, but the percussive action created when bouncing acts as a pump squeezing and then releasing, which propels the lymphatic fluid through the system. Exercising in general that uses the pectoral muscles, like swimming for example, can also create this action, but again non-restrictive clothing must be worn in order to reap the benefits.
The last option I have written about in length before. Most people won't be comfortable with it, but breast massage is incredibly beneficial. It can be performed over the sheets if you are uncomfortable and the nipple should never be massaged. Some people opt to get nipple covers and have the massage be performed without the sheet. If you choose to go this route just remember that it is your massage and you should be comfortable. Breast massage essentially accomplishes the same thing bouncing on a mini trampoline does, just very effectively. When I was in massage college, I had it done and was amazed at the results. The most obvious and amazing result was that my  breast tenderness before my menstruation cycle disappeared. When deciding whether or not to have breast massage, phone around and ask massage therapists if they are trained in breast massage. Ask if they are comfortable performing it and whether or not they do it on a regular basis. Always pick someone you are comfortable with. In Ontario, they should have you sign a special release form stating that you agree to the breast massage. This form is to protect you and the therapist. If at any time during the massage you feel uncomfortable, you can terminate the session. This goes for any massage treatment.
However you may choose to prevent and/or test for breast cancer, just know that it is a very real condition that can impact anyone of any age. There are definite ages when the cases become more common, but don't think that just because you are young you do not need to perform self examinations.
October is incredibly busy with breast cancer awareness campaigns, fundraising and events. Use the search engine of your choice and see if there is anything locally that you could attend. Maybe you would like to support the cause by purchasing various breast cancer merchandise. Practically all of the breast cancer awareness sites have products for sale; everything from pink ribbons to pink dog leashes. Just know that if you do choose to participate or purchase something, that you are involved in something that has or will   impact your life. If a woman herself has not had breast cancer, she knows someone who has.
So, bottom line: take care of your boobies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And That is How It's Done

Today Glacier and I had what I would call an amazing outing. Our working relationship is coming right along and he shocked the socks off of me this afternoon.
Around lunch time I decided I was hungry, but we're running low on lunch type foods. So, I harnessed Glacier up and ventured out. There is a little cafe down the street called Relish and I had been wanting to try it. I had been past a lot and could always smell delicious smells wafting out the often open door.
We exited my building and turned right as usual, but my concentration was broken by a gaggle of children trundling down the sidewalk towards us. I focused on Glacier's movements to ensure I didn't run into anyone and also to make sure he wasn't doing any sniffing. He performed well, but I had panicked for a brief moment and had lost my train of thought. We walked to a spot in the sidewalk where the tactile bumps indicating a street crossing was, but I told him "straight." He obeyed happily, but I noticed that the traffic was much too loud for us to be where I thought we were.
"Did I go too far?" I asked Glacier, more to think out loud than anything. He swung us around sharply and brought me back to the street crossing and the button we had patterned him to find.
Surprise number one.
Good boy Glacier: someone was paying attention and it wasn't me.
He didn't hesitate. He took my "straight" cue, but didn't get all flustered and lose his confidence when I made a mistake. This is progress for both of us. I have started allowing him to take over and make decisions and he has shown me that he is trustworthy; a very hard vicious cycle to break.
We crossed safely and stopped in the little park to let Glacier relieve. Then we walked back out and I asked him to "right." He turned without hesitation and trotted happily down the sidewalk to the next curb. No hesitation was nice and Glacier pulling a bit against the chest strap of his harness was also nice. The pressure gives me the information I need to follow his movements.
We crossed and I began to wonder if I would know where Relish was. I had been in once with Tenie to pick a sandwich up for Mr. K, but I wasn't paying attention because we had been chatting. On nicer days the doors are open and the tantalizing scents would let me know if I was close, but today it was cold and windy; the doors would not be open. I resolved to ask someone if I had to. I hate asking people. It's my own hang up, but I hate it. So, I prepared myself to have to do it. As we walked along, Glacier bouncing at a leisurely trot, I kept inhaling deeply. If anyone noticed they might have thought I was nuts. The best part was that I smelled it-the warm, rich scent of roasting coffee and baking.
"Glacier, right? Find the door."
He slowed and for the second time that day he swung around, forcing me to retrace my steps. I wasn't sure he was right, but I wasn't sure I was right either. So, I followed him. Worse case scenario: he found a different door and I just asked inside where Relish was.
Surprise number two.
He took the lead again and even retraced our steps. He decided that the closest door to us was behind us, so that is where we were going.
He made a good decision. As we approached the door, the smells grew stronger and when we stepped inside I knew we had found our destination.
I cannot explain how good it feels to work in tandem with a guide dog. Being totally blind, I put a lot of faith in my working dogs. I ask them to do a lot, that people with even a bit of sight don't have to. I'm also deaf in one ear, putting even more pressure on my dogs. Mr. K and I have talked about that a lot. We think that is why Jetta retired so early. Her busy schedule combined with having to be reliable 100 percent of the time was exhausting for her.
I asked Glacier to "find the counter" and he obliged, wiggling happily when he was praised for lining me up with the counter top. I placed my order, turned around and asked him to "find the chair." He took about five steps and stopped. I put my hand out to my side and there was a chair.
Surprise number three.
Glacier is usually horrible at finding chairs. He would rather walk around and investigate the space instead of finding me somewhere to sit.
I settled in and ate a huge bowl of Sweet Potato, Coconut and Chili soup and finished off a small pot of raspberry tea to myself. Fresh bread with butter was also served with the soup and I left Relish stuffed. I had a great lunch and an even better working session with Glacier. The things he did today completely blew my mind.
Our short jaunt home was flawless. He stopped on the tactile bumps right beside the other button we patterned him to, despite there being shouting, frolicking children in the park right beside us. He crossed at a trot and pranced all of the way back to the flat. I have never been happier with our teamwork before. I feel like I can safely say that Glacier and I are on the right path and by next year when I enter university again, I know I will travel the campus quite confident that we will both be safe and enjoying working with each other, which I think, is the key to us being safe in the first place.
Good boy, Glacier. :)

Roasty Toasty

Despite the wind blowing cold and hard off of the North Sea, just minutes from our flat, we have discovered a very exciting thing.
Yesterday our Sugar Gliders' cage arrived. We've slowly been purchasing the necessary equipment/accessories/toys/everything else we will need for our babies' new arrival, even though it is still over a month away. The breeder has also told us that we can start mailing in pieces of cloth with our scent on it, but we're still waiting for the material to be delivered to our flat.
Yesterday was just as cold as today, but with the added bonus of a heavy, cold rain accompaniment. Even Glacier and Roscoe didn't enjoy running out to "park" and did their business quickly so we could get back to the flat. A friend had invited us over for a movie and drinks and although we were more than willing to go, upon further examination of the weather, she figured it would be better to have one wet person and no wet dogs. So, she offered to come to our flat. Mr. K and I agreed and asked her if she would help us put the cage together.
When she arrived, she wasn't wet thankfully because it had stopped raining, but she was pretty cold. We set to work assembling the cage, which is actually very well made, but has the worst instructions ever. It only has a picture of the cage assembled and expects a person to know just how to put it together. Carmen also texted and said she was coming over after work and her arrival made us realise that it had grown quite chilly in the flat, despite there being three people and two dogs crammed into a small space.
Mr. K and I have been trying to hold off on turning on the heat as the flat is quite small and the weather is so confused. One day it is chilly and the next it is quite warm, which then warms up the flat to a comfortable temperature. Last night though, it was just not warming up and that's when we remembered the small gas fireplace in the corner of the living room. We flicked it on and it was warmer within minutes. That little flame took the chill right out of the air.
We were all amazed at the amount of heat that small fireplace put off. Mr. K and I were also  happy to discover that just a half an hour of turning on the fireplace and the whole flat warmed up. There's something comforting about a fire casting heat throughout a room. Sure, it was a gas fire as opposed to wood, but the warmth is no less cheering and warming. I'm looking forward to waking up Christmas morning, turning on our little fireplace and enjoying a beautiful morning with my boys; oh and one girl by then. It'll be something to look forward to coming home from university next fall/winter as well. I'm very grateful that Tenie and Carmen found our little flat complete with fireplace. It adds that much more character.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Signs of Aging

Just one phone call yesterday managed to put me into a bit of a tizzy. It's not horrible news, but it was news that bothered me nonetheless. Partly because I feel responsible and partly because I am not there to do anything about it.
It's been pretty much decided that Jetta is developing cadderacks. She will be eleven this December, so I know that aging is bound to happen, but I guess I never thought that the dog whose eyes worked as mine for six years would be what signified her growing older. Mom says she still gets around fine and sometimes just needs someone to turn on the light so that she can hop on the bed. Sometimes if she goes out to "park" she will wait for someone to come out with her and then she'll head down the stairs to do her business. At camp a few weekends ago she did fine, touring around on her own, but still it worries me. She still can hear and her hips and elbows seem healthy, which is a blessing, but no matter how you prepare yourself, you are never ready to know that your dog's getting older.
When Jetta retired in August of 2008, she was only seven and a half. I have seen her quite often since then and it just didn't seem like she would ever slow down. For me, it's hard to realise that she is growing older just because she did retire so young. I haven't lived with her for three years and so haven't seen her age progress.
I know there are a lot of dogs out there who are blind. In fact, some are born that way or go blind quite young, just like humans do. They can adapt and she will too. It's not the low vision itself, it is its  implication.
The next thing that got me all worked up was finding out that my uncle and his girlfriend cannot take Aria. I had held off from announcing her second re-homing until now because I wanted to make sure things were set in stone before telling everyone. Turns out I jumped the gun. I completely understand their reasons why and can appreciate that they at least decided this before having her for a few months and then moving her again. I am just frustrated because I can't be there to help find her a home. Actually, if I was there, she wouldn't need a new home. If getting her into the UK wasn't so expensive and nearly impossible, I would just bring her over. The stress from the flight underneath a plane might be just too much for her though. I miss her so much and I feel responsible for her having to go through this.
Mom said that they will still pick her up from Mr. K's Mom's house and that Aria will stay with her until they can find her a good home. Mom really wanted to keep her because she is such a sweet little dog, but they already have Jetta, Flash, Sisu and Loki. Even though Aria only weighs about eight pounds, an extra dog may be too much for them. I do feel better knowing that Mom is willing to look after her until a suitable home can be found.
Both of these situations could e way worse and so I take comfort in  knowing that both girls are looked after, but I wish there was something I could do.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Grumpy Glacier

I once had a Social Anthropology professor tell my class of about 100 first year students that:
"animals do not have emotions."
Being that it was my first semester at university, I was still looking at things through a rose coloured glass; assuming that since these beings teaching us all had university degrees, that they could not be wrong. Upon hearing that statement I was outraged. I had only had Jetta for three or so months by then, but I strongly disagreed with him. I had also grown up with many dogs and my experience would suggest otherwise.
It was then and there that the glass broke and I started questioning everything I was taught. Some professors loved it, others were aggressive in their answers; probably hoping I'd stop bringing into question what they were teaching us. I thank that professor for what he said because I think he actually changed the university experience for me in a positive way.
At the time, I was too shy and timid to say anything, but a few years later I approached him and explained why I disagreed. I launched into a huge lecture about how  that statement is incorrect and asked him if he had ever spent 24/7 attached to and relying on an animal. I concluded by saying,
"perhaps we have given human emotional names to the animals' emotions, but you will never convince me that they do not have emotions." I then handed him a  bibliography of sources I had found that contradicted what he had stated years before.
Surprisingly, he took it well and said he'd take my opinion into consideration when instructing future classes. I was a bit stunned, but thanked him and left. It took me a while to realise what I had actually accomplished and that I had done it only in my third year of a four year degree. What could I do if I moved up the academic ladder?
That said, my little anecdote is to demonstrate my next point: Glacier is grumpy today.
I'm not sure why. He seems very lethargic. Usually when I get on the floor with him he licks me to death. No kisses today. Even when harnessing him up to go "park" he just puts his head through with no enthusiasm. Usually he thrusts his head into the harness. I don't think he's sick. There are no signs of illness. What I really think is going on is that he's having an off day.
We as people have them and let me tell you, so do dogs; especially guide dogs. They will still work for you because that is what they are trained to do, but their zest for the work isn't quite there.
Thankfully, I don't have to be anywhere today. So,  Glacier can spend the day curled up with Roscoe and just take it easy. Usually Glacier is our enthusiastic, goofy,  bouncy, happy go lucky guy, but for whatever reason he's quite somber today. Mr. K and I even got him up in bed between the two of us this morning just to give him a little TLC. It was only for about five minutes, but the snuggle time did help with Glacier's mood a bit. If he needs a day just to be cranky, then that is fine. As I said, I don't have to be anywhere and I know that even if I did, he'd guide me there safely.
I've spent nine years handling guide dogs and although I am not an animal expert in the sense that I have loads and loads of educational knowledge of them, I can definitely tell you that animals have emotions. Perhaps we as humans have labeled them incorrectly, but Glacier is most certainly a grumpy Glacier today.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Other People's Children

For the most part, I enjoy children. Kids can be adorable and actually quite intuitive and interesting little creatures. In fact, the child in question isn't my real issue. My real issue is the lack of parenting that seems to plague our society. Actually, that is a more specific example. What bothers me is the lack of awareness for others and the inability of people to take responsibility for things that they have decided to be responsible for.
Today L, one of Tenie's roommates and a new made friend, and I went out to the mall. She was in serious need of a girls' day and since Mr. K was not feeling well, I went with her. We had a great time perusing the shops, trying on clothes and just general enjoyment of each others' company.
The first observation that I made though was something that I have noticed since moving to Edinburgh. I do not think that this is exclusive to Edinburgh, I am sure it happens all around the world, but it was here that this problem became very obvious to me. Many parents, not all but a very large number,  pushing strollers (or prams as they are called here) think they own the entire sidewalk/hallway/bus/elevator or whatever space they may be in. The sidewalks in Edinburgh are actually wide in many areas and people with children in prams manage to take them completely over. It doesn't matter who else is around, other pedestrians, wheelchair users blind people using white canes or guide dogs, the prams take priority. If you say "excuse me" they often won't move and act put out. It's so bad that I've even had other people ask pram pushers to "please move out of the way" so that Glacier and I can get through. I don't have a problem with prams or parents who use them. Technically speaking they are quite effective and serve a very important function for parents, but a little awareness of other people around you is necessary when using such a large object. Again, I repeat, this is not true of all parents, but it happens enough that I feel it necessary to comment on it.
The next thing I noticed I believe I've commented on before: a lot of parents do not pay attention to what their children are doing when out in public. First of all, it's not safe and second of all it's inconsiderate. Today for example, L and I were browsing items in the Gap. I put Glacier between myself and the clothing wrack to ensure he was not blocking the aisle. The spaces in those stores are quite small and it would be very inconsiderate of me if I were to allow my dog to sprawl out, blocking anyone else's passage. At one point, Glacier perked up and moved his head forward a bit. I told him to "leave it" and he did, but L explained that a little girl was trying to feed Glacier her candy. Her mom and another adult figure stood mere feet away, but did not stop or even say anything to the child. I let it go since she was barely old enough to speak. About ten minutes later, Glacier made a similar movement and I again said "leave it." He obeyed and then I heard L say,
"He will take that honey." She then explained that the child was trying to give Glacier her stuffed animal.
If candy wasn't bad for dogs and if Glacier wasn't working, this could have been quite cute. I'm not sure if I would have minded so much if there had been only one offering and then a parent intervention, but the woman didn't even acknowledge that her child had wandered off and that she was trying to offer things to a working dog. Again, it's the lack of parenting that bothered me.
So often people will walk by with kids and they will explain the dog to them or the kids will ask. So many times people engage their children and it's so nice to see, but just as often, parents are too caught up in their own goings on to notice. Not that working dogs are aggressive, but what if Glacier had snatched the toy from the little girl or the candy? He could have hurt her and I would have been responsible even though her Mom was too busy to pay attention.
I also feel frustrated by the amounts of people without disabilities or prams taking the only elevator available in the mall. Usually I take the escalator with Glacier because the dogs at LDB are trained to use them, but the dogs in the UK are not and an alternative route must be sought out. Today we opted to take the elevator because of its location and the fact that I do try to limit how many times Glacier has to ride the escalator: dogs can potentially pinch their paws in escalators and thus, I attempt to control his escalator riding. The elevator doors opened three times and we still could not get on because people without disabilities or prams were squished in. What if I were a wheelchair user and had no alternate option? We waited for the doors to open a fourth time and then crammed on with a pram and two people who had working legs and no assistive mobility equipment with them.
It's kind of like my pet peeve of able-bodied people using the accessible bathroom stall when every other stall is free. Wheelchair users only have one option when going into the bathroom. Sure, if the bathroom is full, use the stall available, but if everything else is empty, what possesses someone to go into a stall designed to house a wheelchair or a large guide dog?
When I worked with Jetta, she fit in small stalls and so I would often squish the two of us in to leave the accessible stall open. Glacier is much bigger and I usually use the accessible stall because if I leave him outside of the door and run his leash underneath, people will pet him, talk to him and God knows what else. Also, often the walkways outside of the stalls are quite narrow and I would be taking up walking room if I left him out there. I've also been asked to move out of a spot on the bus reserved for people with disabilities so that a person with a pram can sit there. Prams fold up and children can ride on laps. Guide dogs do not fold up and cannot ride on laps. I'm not saying that people with disabilities should not be considerate because self awareness and ultimately consideration for others is a two way street, but please I'm just asking that able-bodied people afford others (not just disabled people) the same considerations they expect.
I know this sounds harsh and a little out of character for me, and if I offend anyone I do apologise, but there is truth to what I am about to say: people choose to have children and push them in prams, I did not choose to be blind. Yes, I choose a guide dog over a white cane which can fold up and be put on a lap. So, that is why I try to be considerate of Glacier being in other people's space or in their way. I do not let Glacier lick children's ice cream cones as we pass, which can be equalled to that of what the little girl did by trying to feed him candy. All I am trying to say in a very long and round about way, is that we should have consideration for others and if we make decisions to be responsible for other beings, whether they are children/dogs/vehicles Etc, then we must be aware of what they are doing and be accountable.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fun Fact Friday: Sugar Gliders

It's been a while since Fun Fact Friday has made an appearance and what better way to bring it back but to put Sugar Gliders in the spotlight? Surprised?
I didn't think so.

Fifteen Fun Facts About Sugar Gliders
1. Most of them only grow to be about six inches long. This tiny six inches does not include their long, prehensile tail.
2. Sugar Gliders have opposable thumbs, which means you better lock your cage up well or they will figure out how to escape.
3. The "gliding membrane" goes from the Sugar Glider's wrist to ankle and is what helps them with their gliding. (It is this membrane, opposable thumbs and prehensile tails that makes them able to be active in many different ways. They can climb, glide, hang by their tails and grab on tight with their hands).
4. There is a lot of misinformation out on the internet about Sugar Gliders, as there is about most everything else. So, it is important to find credible sources and do a lot of research. I.E. there is a video series that has a lot of good information, but it is sponsored by a specific brand of Glider pellet food that claims to be a complete diet. The vet in the video series says that this particular food is the only good one for Gliders. If there are claims that exclude every other option out there, investigate the source further to ensure they are not biased.
5. Sugar Gliders do not like draughts or being cold. It is said that the room that houses your Sugar Gliders' cage should be between 70 and 90 DG F. If you are comfortable wearing a short sleeve shirt, your Sugies are probably comfortable. To combat your Sugies getting cold many products have been designed. There are problems with some of these products. So, again, do your homework. I.E., Sugar Gliders can be chewers on certain objects like electrical wires. There is a company who says that your Sugar Glider "needs" a heat rock in his/her cage. The heat rock not only plugs in and has wires running out of your Sugar Glider's cage, but your Sugar glider could also become dehydrated or accidentally burned if the rock is turned up too high or if the thermostat malfunctions. The wires alone, to me, would make this product unsuitable for Sugar Gliders. (Oh, and don't think you're being smart by placing them near your heat vent. Sure it's warm there, but they don't like draughts either remember)?
6. Sugar Gliders are marsupials and USUALLY have two Joeys at a time.
7. Sugar Gliders can be taught to bond to their human Mom and/or Dad with gentle, confident handling. Sugar Gliders do NOT need a harness and leash to teach them to stay with you. The harnesses marketed at Sugar Glider owners are dangerous as they can entangle a Sugar Glider and/or cut their "gliding membrane." Some sources even say that putting a harness on your Sugar Glider will impede the bonding process rather than speed it up.
8. When purchasing a home for your Sugar Glider height of the cage is more important than width or depth. They need gliding room! Also, ensure that the bars are no bigger than a half inch apart because any bigger and Joeys could make a great escape. The bars must also be covered in PVC coating or plastic to ensure your Glider's safety. (Cages lacking a coating  could cause zinc poisoning).
9. Male Sugar Gliders, when not neutered, display two bald patches; one on their heads and the other on their chests. These are scent glands and when neutered will dry up, reducing the "sweet musky" smell that is associated with the male. If neutered before reaching sexual maturity, which is usually at about a year old, the bald spots will never appear.
10. Sugar Gliders are inherently clean. They groom themselves frequently-sort of like a cat-and each other. They may scent mark the bars of their cage, but that is easily wiped down. Healthy Sugar Gliders do not stink. They may have a softer animal smell-as every other creature, including humans do-but they are not smelly, unclean critters. In fact, you will probably never bathe one.
11. Sugar Gliders bond to their human(s) primarily through scent. Therefore, don't be surprised if you stop smoking, change your scented lotion or don't wear perfume and your Sugar Glider suddenly doesn't know you. You smell different to them and thus you are not the same person. (A little helpful tip I read about helping to bond is to not wash your hands right before handling your Sugar Gliders. The Glider will smell soap instead of you and you have also washed your human smell away). Also, most sources agree that when bonding with Sugies, getting them used to more than one person's scent is not confusing. I was relieved after reading this since our new babies will need to bond to both Mr. K and I.
12. Healthy Sugar Gliders are grey with a black stripe down their backs. in North America breeders have started breeding for colour variations, but this basically means that consumers are paying more money for a genetic mutation. (It was the same with rare coloured cats/dogs).
13. Apparently, once a Glider is bonded to you, you can take it everywhere in a pocket. I read a story that told of a girl taking her Glider into university classes with the little fuzz butt asleep in her bra. I am sure this is true, but I'll let you know how "bonded" Gliders can really get once ours arrive.
14. The bonding process apparently can take anywhere from 1 to three months. Many sources have conflicting information about this, but all agree that you really can't put a time limit on it. There have been cases of Gliders who were rescued, bonding years after rescue. "Patience is a virtue."
15. Sugar Gliders are also called "Honey Bears" and "Honey Gliders." In the wild they only live about six years or so, but in captivity in a safe, healthy environment they can live up to 15 years. In the wild they also live in a "colony" of about 10 to 15 Gliders and that is why they suggest that you have more than one Glider living together. That said, if you are willing to give that Sugie a whole lot of attention, then having only one apparently can work.

There you have it; a small introduction to the Sugar Glider. Everything I have relayed above is stuff I have read and compiled from what I feel is credible sources. As I've pointed out, there is a lot of misinformation available, so I am sure I'll learn a whole bunch more once our two little fuzzies move in. Also, the breeder wants to sit down and have coffee before we take our Joeys home, so I am certain we'll learn good, solid information from her.
Happy Friday. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything

As the title of this post would indicate, today's entry may be a bit all over the place as there are some small things vying for my attention.
First thing's first, our Wodent Wheel arrived today. (I may be spelling that wrong). The wheel has a closed design with large spaces on the side for your little critter to get in and out. The wheel is a favourite amongst Sugar Glider, rat and Chipmunk owners since the design of the wheel keeps the animal's tail, paws and anything else from getting caught. We also bought an insert that replaces the standard track that assists with grinding down the Sugar Glider's claws while they are running. Apparently, you need to trim their claws and they are not big fans. From everything I have read, this insert should help a bit with that problem. The wheel comes in many colour combinations and sizes, so you can select the correct size for your precious pet.
We picked one of the larger sizes and a maroon/black combination. There was pink and black, but I wasn't sure Baby Boy would like that very much.
These wheels are very popular even with hamster owners. Rats, apparently, take longer to warm up to it, but eventually love it because it is closed. Not that I am a rodent expert by any means. Once our babies arrive, I'll be able to give this product a better review. So far though, I am quite satisfied with its construction.
Our next order of business is my triathlon training. I haven't written much about it as of late because the training is not really...well, happening. I've tried to do home workouts with yoga poses, core exercises and various forms of push-ups to try and maintain some level of strength. I also walk a lot here, so I know that will help a bit, but I really need to get this whole thing worked out.
Training as a blind athlete, as I've mentioned before, is difficult unless you have a guide and the special equipment you need. This weekend I am supposed to call a potential guide to discuss training options and so I really hope that is a fruitful phone call. None of my friends are very athletic, so finding someone to even just go jogging or running with isn't really an option. If I could see, I'd just get up every morning and at least get the running in on my own, but being blind and all, a guide is necessary to ensure I don't run into things or out into the road. :)
Mr.  K and I are also supposed to go to the gym and actually sign up in the upcoming days. When  I was in talking with one of the trainers about joining, he seemed excited and totally willing to have Glacier and I present in the gym. Attitudinal barriers can be as much as a difficulty for disabled people as structural ones, such as not having ramps. He also mentioned something about the gym being able to sponsor me and my triathlon endeavors. If they would, that would be a dream come true as training seriously for a sport is costly and when you are blind you pretty much have to double those costs since you are paying for a lot of your guide's stuff. Not to mention, I still need a tandem bike and someone or some way to transport it to and from training and races. That alone will cost thousands of pounds and/or dollars. I know that these guys are trained to say whatever it takes to get you to join, but I really do hope he and I sit down and have a conversation about sponsorship.
As for next September, Queen Margaret University contacted me to ask if I wanted to still be considered for the Physiotherapy program. I was going to say no, but thought better of it and said yes. Sure, I've applied to the University of Edinburgh for Performance Psychology, but what if I don't get in? I can't put all of my eggs in one basket, so to speak. So, I've even thought of applying to the Sociology department at the University of Edinburgh as well for a research Master's program. That way, next September I may have three areas to pick from.
If that's not enough, my soap/bath salt making is starting to come together. I bought a bunch of jars last night to house my finished bath salt concoctions and now I'm looking for a "butcher's" paper to wrap the soaps up in. It's mostly a hobby, but if people want to buy them, that is okay by me as well.
Aria, our first miniature Dachshund and our only girl so far, is going to be moving again. I feel very badly for her because she will be incredibly confused, but she is going to a fabulous home. Mr. K's parents' divorce is going through and so Aria needs to find a new home. I reached out to friends and family, hoping that someone would want her. It was only in May that we gave her to Mr. K's Mom and I was worried no one would take her.
Thankfully, and to my pleasant surprise, my uncle and his girlfriend, who adopted Doc one of our male Miniature Dachshunds, said they want her. They are really looking forward to having her and I know she will be well loved and taken care of. Plus, she will be reunited with Doc and will get to have a new big sister named Beatrice, a rescue dog. This past weekend my uncle and his girlfriend went camping and Beatrice and Doc went with them. Aria is a rough and tumble girl despite her small size and so I think their home will be a dream come true for her.
Again, I feel badly, but at least she knows the people she is going to and she will have one familiar dog to play with  and another to get to know. She loves the companionship and the house is also full of three teenagerish kids. So, she'll get a lot of attention. Doc also won't be so lonely when he gets crated when my uncle and his girlfriend go out because he and Aria will be able to share a crate. They have a large crate that is meant for a big dog, so there will be plenty of room for both Doc and Aria. Beatrice does not need to be crated when left alone because her house training is stellar, but Doc still has accidents and the crate keeps him from leaving surprises for whoever gets home first. I guess you can't really blame him: he's only been out of the kennel and into a home for seven months when he had lived there for about eight. They are working with him though. He also went into get fixed yesterday and had a small benign tumour removed from his nose. Mr. K and I had no idea he had it, but are glad that it was nothing to worry about.
So, there you go. A whole bunch of little updates rolled into one. :)

The Name Game

Ever since Mr. K and I found out we were getting a boy and girl Sugar Glider we have been trying to settle on the perfect names for our perfect little bundles of fur. Part of me thinks that we probably won't settle on anything until we meet them, but it's still fun to think of different names.
We have been going through famous girl/boy duos such as "Ariel and Sabastian," "Yoda and Padme," "Louis and Ella," (the singers), but none of the names have stuck.
Most recently we talked about "Gus," for the boy-inspired by the little mouse in Cinderella-and "Hime," pronounced He-may, for the girl. Hime means "princess" in Japanese and if you've been reading my blog for a while, you will know that the dog I rescued from a shelter and is now, as far as I know, in for service dog training in South Carolina was named Kyo. Kyo is "big" in Japanese. So, Hime would fit Mr. K's love of Japan and  Gus would fit my Disney obsession. Two of our Miniature Dachshunds who were  re-homed because we moved to Scotland, were named for Disney's Doc and Baloo. Aria, our little girl Dachshund also re-homed, didn't really fit either themes, but she was a character in a book series Mr. K and I both enjoyed.
I'm sure November 26th will arrive much quicker than we think and the moment of truth with it, but until then we will be playing the naming game.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


There aren't really words to describe what it feels like to walk down a street, working cohesively and confidently with your guide dog. It's a feeling that, up until yesterday, hasn't really happened with Glacier and I.
I had noticed this feeling a few times when at LDB for retraining and the one time we took a long hike when I was at my parents' for three months this past summer, but other than that, something has been missing.
 handlers can become picky about how we want our dogs to move, pull or not to pull, pause or not to pause. When you're thinking about what is to happen next or how to keep everything perfect, you almost forget to feel your dog and to just let things happen. Often people will say, it's not about the destination, but the journey that got you there and this is quite applicable to working with a guide dog. It's hard to know when to take over and be the thinking entity and when to let go and let the dog be the thinker and decision maker. Somehow, I found that balance yesterday.
Around 3 yesterday afternoon, Tenie called me. We had agreed to meet at a little square and from there she would show me how to get to the pet store. Glacier and Roscoe were low on food and so I really needed to go and get some ordered. The owners of this particular shop are really good to us. They give us a ten percent discount on any items bought for the guide dogs and also deliver the cases of food that we buy.
I harnessed Glacier up and we climbed the 43 steps down from our flat and turned out onto the street. I asked him to "find the button" and he did a fantastic job scooting me close enough to the pole that I was able to push the button, but not close enough to run me into the pole. We crossed and we stopped in the little park across the street to let Glacier relieve. I could tell he was a little overly excited as he kept forgetting to "park." He eventually did his business and we were off. The first two curbs we came to, he paused at perfectly, but he was a bit unfocused. He was prancing in his harness and turning his huge head about to look at everything. We crossed a bridge and he stopped at the curb perfectly again. The light at this particular intersection is incredibly long and sometimes I end up standing there through an extra cycle because it is difficult to determine when it is safe to cross. As we waited, he kept craning his head around my legs to sniff something to my right. I think it may have been a person. Glacier is still quite sensitive to leash corrections and snapping at him wasn't working, so I just put my right foot forward, blocking him from whatever smelled so good. This move seemed to work because he snapped back to attention and started watching the moving traffic.
We hung a left and then a sharp right and we were off swerving between tables, displays and people. The most amazing thing was how comfortably Glacier moved. He guided me carefully, but confidently through some scaffolding and didn't blow one curb. He looked once at a dog and thought about turning into an open grocery store door, but he stayed focused and responded quickly to what I asked him to do. He didn't need any encouragement to pick up the pace, which is a feat in itself because I am a very fast walker and speed sometimes poses as a problem.
Upon reaching the curb where we turn to go to Tenie's flat he paused. I praised him and asked him to "forward" and to "find the curb" and he moved forward without hesitation and stopped assertively at the curb. We had a brief party and then crossed the street safely. The whole route went smoothly. I think the best way I can describe a good working team together is "fluid." We work "fluidly" with each other. There is no break between dog and handler; we are seamless. Our entire existence, when Glacier is wearing his harness, starts at his front paws and moves up to his  harness body piece, into the  handle into my  hand and all of the way up my arm. We are supposed to flow and that fluidity was not there before yesterday.
Sure, we had some good working outings, but I felt like I was coaching him through everything. Yesterday we worked together. He would do what he was supposed to do, I would praise or ask him to do something else and the best part was that he did not hesitate. If I said "find the curb," he found it and if I asked him to go "forward" past a place where we would normally turn, he did and  that is amazing. It felt so good to be partners.
What I've written here is slightly inarticulate and a bit disorganised, but trying to describe that feeling is much more difficult than I thought it would be. There was always something missing when we went out to work and I had been looking for it. I didn't know what it was and so couldn't tell anyone what it was, but yesterday, it was there. Now I can put words to it. We needed to work seamlessly with fluid and synchronized motions and we finally did it. I had gotten so used to stopping three feet from the edge of the curb and spending the next three minutes "hopping" him up. (AKA asking him to get closer). We did that once yesterday and he had stopped only about a step back further than I'd like. There wasn't a jerky "stop, go" motion approaching curbs or larger obstacles. It was-and I'm going to use this word again because I don't know what other one to use-fluid and it was a beautiful thing
P.S. I received an email this morning from VIP Products with an eight dollar off coupon. Since Glacier and I do not live in North America anymore, is there someone out there who would like it? Their toys can be a bit pricy, but they seriously are some of the best made toys on the market. Let me know in the comments section if you would like it. Just leave me your email address so that I can forward  it on to you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Mr. G Has to Say

I can't believe it, but we have been in Edinburgh for almost two months already. I can't believe how the time has flown. I have completely fallen in love with the city despite its inability to have just one weather system a day. You learn to just be prepared. I usually haul around a huge purse with extra socks, a scarf and a pair of light gloves just in case the sun disappears and it starts raining. That's just me though. What about Glacier?
As you all know, our start here in Edinburgh was a bit rough. He nearly walked me out into traffic on a busy street about a week after our arrival and he stopped taking cues from me. I had known that was a possibility, but it was frustrating and concerned me as I need both of us to be safe. Mr. K and I had a few good discussions about it and I made a few lifestyle changes; some of which have been quite easy whereas others take a bit more thought. We also had one visit from a representative from the Guide Dog Association of Scotland and a fifteen minute walk with him following behind seemed to make a huge difference. So, where are we now?
We're improving. I can't say we're one hundred percent, but there has been definite improvement on both of our parts. Glacier loves getting out and working and is a bit antsy if we stay in one day. His ability to concentrate on the task that he is given has also increased and he hasn't blown through any curbs in a week or so. He also has been crossing from curb to curb and is more willing to listen to me when given a cue. I have patterned him to find the two cross walk buttons to cross the street right outside of our flat and he impresses me each time I tell him to "find the button" and he brings me right up to the pole I need.
Glacier also seems much more attached to me ever since I changed my mindset and started seeing him as my guide dog and not my pet dog. It wasn't an easy conclusion to come to as I didn't really realise that is what I had been doing, but consciously making an effort to be his handler and not his mom seems to be working. He is a happy guy who really misses me when I have to leave him behind.
Friday when we went on our Ghost tour and he was left at home, he was incredibly excited when I got back. It's not that he hasn't been excited before, but this time it was more enthusiastic. He is also more aware of me and what I am doing; the way he was when we came back from retraining at Leader Dogs for the Blind. Right now he's curled up on my feet and if I were to get up, he'd either follow or watch me intently from his spot on the living room rug. That awareness was missing. Jetta never followed me around, but her eyes always popped open when I got up. She would pay attention to my whereabouts and what I was doing. Glacier usually just kept snoozing. Pet dogs can snooze when their moms/dads get up to get another cup of coffee, but working dogs usually need to be aware of what's going on just in case their handler needs them.
Of course I'm not going to slap Glacier's harness on in the house. First of all, our flat is way too small for that. More importantly, he needs down time too, but his awareness of my activity tells me that he is conscious of his job and that he is ready to get on duty at any minute. Roscoe has always been that way with Mr. K and I think developing that awareness early on in the working relationship creates a solid foundation for the future. Three years later, Glacier and I are getting there.
I think it's good that I didn't get here and go to university right away. In retrospect, I am very glad it worked out this way. Glacier and I needed more time to gel before we tackled a busy, confusing university campus. We will start next September and I will let him take "the lead" because our trust will have been rebuilt and our confidence in each other restored.
I was reading a fellow guide dog handler's blog earlier this week and she talked of how a lot of people have troubles with their second dog. The representative from the Guide Dog Association of Scotland had said the same thing. It's interesting to think that this situation is not unique to Glacier and I and it makes me wonder why a program has not been put in place to deal specifically with second time handlers? Regardless of our sticky situation, I am committed to making it work with Glacier. He really is a great dog and loves his job. As I've said before, as long as he still is happy working and is physically able, I will do my damnedest to work with him.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Excitement Around Every Corner

Where do I begin? We have  had quite the eventful weekend, which ended with a visit from the fire department. Let's go back to Friday.
Tenie and I were busy Friday running errands and stopping in at the Disney store on Princes Street. Glacier came along while we mailed letters, made haircut appointments and visited the bank. He was incredibly good all day, even ignoring other dogs and people cooing at him. The air was cold, but the sun was out, so it was a very enjoyable trip. On our way home on the bus, we started talking about how best to spend our Friday evening. We decided on a Ghost Walk-a haunted tour of parts of Edinburgh-and contacted the appropriate people and our plans were made.
We dropped Glacier off at home, making sure he was fed and had relieved and then headed out again; Mr. K included. Roscoe stayed home as well as we weren't sure how the boys would feel about haunted Edinburgh. We had a pretty tasty, but slightly expensive supper, at a pub called "The World's End." This pub has been standing for hundreds of years and there are rules tacked on the wall from 1782, which remind us to leave our various weapons at the door and that there is to be no "slap and tickle of the bar wenches." The pub is aptly named "The World's End" because it was just inside of the protective wall that surrounded the then one mile long by a quarter mile Edinburgh. People believed that anything beyond that protective wall was the world's end and that only vagabonds and thieves lived out there.
After Carmen arrived and food had been consumed, we wandered over to Saint Giles Cathedral where our tour started. We were a bit early so we walked around the area, looking in the windows of the closed shops just to get a feel for what was around there. Close to 9:30 we returned to the meeting place and our guided tour commenced.
Our tour guide was fabulous. He was not only a great story teller, but he really got to know his audience and tried to include them as much as possible. He had us both laughing and terrified all at once. He relayed what the living conditions would have been like within the protective walls. The city was small with a population of about 80 thousand. There wasn't any plumbing and although the first crudely made sky scrapers were designed due to need, the streets were covered in human waste. People would just open their windows every evening and dump their rotting garbage and "potty buckets" out the windows. Plagues ran rampant within the city and it's no wonder considering the living conditions. Yet, people still refused to go beyond the wall-they may be robbed by the vagabonds on the outside.
We moved from the cathedral on to a graveyard that was extremely old. It was very hilly and you had to watch your step. Our tour guide told us that it used to be a flat area with a low valley, but since so many people had been buried there, the terrain had changed. Apparently bones and even whole skeletons would sometimes surface due to the shallow burials, weather and/or people walking over the grounds. At one point a paved walkway had been built and during that construction, three full skeletons surfaced, despite the work not even going down a foot. We were also warned not to pick up any of the bones. Apparently there is a strain of one of the plagues that never dies, but lies dormant. This graveyard, called Grey Friars, is the home of Thomas Riddle's tomb stone and the castle that-like structure that inspired Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. It was dark and very chilly, so we opted to go back during the day to see these landmarks.
We walked through the graveyard up to a set of gates. Upon entering the tour guide told us that it was called the Coventer's Prison. I had thought the prison was a building, but it turns out it  was a field.
This field was the place of punishment for the Scottish soldiers who committed treason against the English king. The story is quite lengthy, but it ended with 1200 men being punished for their actions by being sent to this field to lie face down for five, wintery months with little food and clothing. If they tried to escape, their friends and family members were executed. There are still musket ball marks on one of the walls standing. The prisoners could be released if they just admitted they were wrong and swore allegiance to the Crown, but I guess that just wasn't happening.
We then moved from the field to a tomb that has the best documented cases of paranormal activity. Apparently people have passed out in the tomb, vomited, been scratched/burned/bruised and many other things. The tour guide did a good job of getting the crowd worked up and right at the right moment, a black hooded figure jumped into the mouth of the tomb, screamed and then ran off; scaring everyone. One woman jumped so much, she launched herself into Tenie's arms.
After our little ghost tour, we found a pub called The Whisky Room and stopped in for a drink to warm up. We headed home shortly after finishing our first drink and we all fell into our respective beds and slept heavily.
The next morning, under a grey and misting sky, Tenie, Carmen and I headed out to the Edinburgh Market. I originally thought I would bring Mr. G, but since it was an open air market and I had a person guide, I opted to leave him at home. A little rain getting from one location to another is one thing, but wandering about in it at a leisurely pace, it quite another.
We perused the vendors and all fell in love with one called the Chocolate Tree. We all bought specialty chocolate and Tenie got some home made ice cream. I bought some deer sausage, Ginger and Orange hand made soap, unpasturised honey for Roscoe's allergies, a chunk of smoked garlic cheddar and a cup of coffee to warm up with. The cheese is probably my best purchase. It was smoked over oak barrels that used to contain whisky. It is smooth and creamy and extremely flavorful. The dark chocolate complete with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a few other spices is the second runner up.
After the market we strolled down Princes Street and stopped in at Saint John's church as they were selling items to fundraise for different charities. Carmen bought holiday cards and the proceeds went to a Scottish charity. After a bit more wandering, Tenie and I decided to call it a day and we headed home. We finished the day off by watching a few episodes of Castle and I gave her a massage. (My table just arrived and she paid for her first massage by purchasing me a set of sheets).
Sunday was warmer and sunny, but I was worn out from the previous days. I had planned to just sit at home and drink coffee, but Carmen called and said La Sensa was having a sale. So, I showered and Mr. K, the boys and I met Tenie and Carmen and walked to the mall that is near our flat. I really needed new bras and got fitted since UK bras are sized  much differently than North American ones. We were there for a while and then returned to our flat for some supper and a few more episodes of Castle. The girls headed home and Mr. K and I started getting ready for bed and that's when it happened:  the carbon monoxide detector went off. We thought it was a fluke so pulled it off the wall and plugged it back in. It went off twice more and that is when we phoned the fire department.
They arrived, thankfully sirens off, and three firefighters came up and inspected. There wasn't much they could do. They don't even carry detectors. What is funny is that we are instructed to phone the fire department by the National Health Service website. After some investigation and realising that we didn't have anything that used gas running, they left. I wasn't feeling strangely and the dogs weren't acting sick, so we figured we were fine. We had opened the windows and turned on a fan. We both needed to wind down a bit and sat down to do so when the door buzzed again.
It turns out the fire department called a "gas engineer" for us and he came into the flat and checked everything out. He said that there wasn't anything wrong and left. We both felt better and fell into bed exhausted. The problem is, it went off again today. The only consistent thing is that every time it's gone off, our dryer had been running. Approximately ten to fifteen minutes after the dryer is finished, the detector sounds its high pitched, ear splitting warning.
Our dryer is electric and is a condenser, which means it has a tank inside where all of the water goes. So, we're not exactly sure what is going on. Maybe the detector is sensitive to steam? Either way, every time I run the dryer I'll make sure to open the window that is behind it.
I feel as though I have written a novel, but as I said above, it was quite an eventful weekend. Every time I sat down to write, I was whisked away to do something else. I'm not complaining. I love being busy. The only thing is, I could do without having to call the fire department at 1 in the morning.