Archives - January, 2014

24 Jan 14

By Randy Pierce

In Memory of the Mighty Quinn

In Memory of the Mighty Quinn

Guiding Eyes Quinn

12/11/04 – 1/20/14

Beloved Boy of Randy and Tracy Pierce
Puppies Behind Bars Graduate
Guiding Eyes Graduate
2020 Vision Quest Founder
Mountain Climber
Road Racer
Tugger of Tugs
Squeaker of All Things Squeaky
Beloved Boy of a Loving Community
Honorary Member, Hudson NH Lion’s Club

My dear Mr. Quinn captured the essence of life so very well. He not only guided me safely on routes from the mundane to the ridiculous; he also infused my life with love and  a healthy appreciation for play. His work ethic was impeccable with a focus and determination as intense as those of his play sessions. He helped guide Tracy and me together and ensured we each always knew his love for us was as boundless as his eagerness to retrieve! He brought his tail-wagging enthusiasm to thousands upon thousands of students in schools and made history in his hikes and races. I spent more time with him than with any other being and I match his unconditional love now and always. “Best Boy” Quinn, my very best boy!

What I urge all of you to undertake is to make this our blog tribute to Quinn. I’ll begin by sharing a cherished tale and encourage you to all do the same with one, two, three or more tales as inspired. In this way we’ll have a tremendous tribute page filled with all the many things he meant to many different people. Whether just a chance encounter of a wagging tail, a smiling pup face on a mountain trail, matched in the worming battle of tug-o-war, or at a presentation perhaps. However and wherever he touched your life in a manner you are willing to share, please do so. We’ll approve all comments as quickly as possible and lovingly keep this record of Quinn for all time!

Quinn shows his team spirit.

Quinn shows his team spirit.

The Breakfast Club Tale

I was on my way to Tokyo Joe’s Studios to work out as I often did with the Mighty Quinn. He knew our routines well enough that in lifting the harness handle and heading to the bus, few if any commands were necessary. Stepping off the bus downtown and walking past the parking garage to cross West Pearl Street, we needed to turn left, but this one day, Quinn suggested we turn right since after all the restaurant City Room is just a slight right and home to his “girl-friend” Terry and many cherished friends.

I smiled for the thought but told him no, we were going to turn left and head to the Dojo. Compliant after sharing his opinion initially, he turned to the task and marched us to the door whereupon I learned the studio was closed for reasons I don’t recall. I laughed at his apparent foresight and suggested we do as he says, but first suggesting we go to the ATM at the end of the street for cash. This of course meant we had to walk past the City Room door where once again he made the turn to show me where he thought we should go. I told him he was a good boy but that we had to “hup-pup” to get to the bank.

We arrived down to the end of the street to discover the ATM was out of order which for a blind man can be a little bit of an exercise in futility… and was. Thus it was that with debit card as the final plan, we returned to city room with Quinn eagerly pulling me to top speed as his enthusiasm did when approaching places he loved. The boy had it right the entire time and I just had to come to terms that really breakfast with friends in a place like home is the right way to spend any morning.

I love you, Quinn, and despite the many fine adventure tales I will continue to always share, the real magic moments are the freedom and companionship we shared every single day for just over seven years!

We Salute and Honor the Marvelous Mighty Quinn
12/11/04 — 1/20/14
February, 2014 – Randy’s post to the 2020 site’s home page about Quinn

Farewell Quinn – We are all so fortunate to have had you touch our lives. Your love, devotion, perseverance and playfulness are held ever so warmly in our hearts. You enriched my life in so many wonderful ways well beyond the incredible Guide work for which you were trained. The heights we climbed, the lives you changed and the vacancy you leave are unimaginably immense. I hurt and grieve your loss intensely. I promise to honor you and the gifts you gave to me, Tracy and our world. I love you my beloved boy and I am in the company of so many who will feel similarly.

Remembering The Mighty Quinn

January 20, 2015 – Randy reflects back on Quinn, one year after his passing:

Quinn! Gone from the world for one year on January 20th, and yet with me every single day. Cliché?

Perhaps to some, but his indelible mark upon my being tells me otherwise. Lives have a legacy left behind which is not best measured in days, weeks or years. Quinn’s milestones are incredible for certain, and yet those too fall short of how I recall my beloved boy.

Many well understood his intense devotion, determination, fierce focus, drive and playful competitive approach to every moment. He was all of those things for certain. For me, however, I see the significant change he brought to the essence of me. Truly great friends alter our lives and guide us toward becoming better beings. Can a dog really do this or am I simply exercising hyperbole?

Ultimately we are always the authors of the change in our lives, and yet the encouragement and support may come from myriad influences. For some, perhaps, a dog might never be such an influence. Though for the many whose company I share, our pets may indeed transcend mundane labels. Quinn was–and I believe always will be–so much more than a dog. He was my guide, my teammate, my inspiration, my encouragement, my joy and my truest of friends. I lost so very much one year ago but I gained and keep so very much more within me now and evermore, because of my great boy, my very best boy. I love and cherish you Quinn, and continue to be so very proud and grateful to hold you so dear in my heart. Thank you for so much learning and for the person I’ve become by having walked our journey together.

You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn. RIP, you wonderful boy.

“You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn.” RIP, you wonderful boy. Photo courtesy of Scott Erb.


18 Jan 14

By Randy Pierce

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use themI am choosing to use 2014 to reach for many goals, some of which are known to me and some which will be developed along the way. In fact, the ability to break larger goals into smaller pieces is an essential part of success. I call all of these goals “positive adversity.” I find the lack of challenge leads more likely to stagnation. Similarly, in my “practice makes better” (not necessarily perfect), I want to develop the skills and tools through my goals such that I’m prepared to better manage the other types of adversity which are all too common in life. Setting goals leads to achievement and celebration of success and it also develops the skills to ensure that future challenge may be easier to overcome. It is part of why I believe so strongly in encouraging everyone to set goals and strive to reach them.

Randy and Quinn run the Boston Athletic Association 5k in April 2013, the day before the Boston Marathon.

Randy and Quinn run the Boston Athletic Association 5k in April 2013, the day before the Boston Marathon.

One long-term goal for me is to run the Boston Marathon in April of 2015 in celebration of 2020 Vision Quest. Quinn gave running back to me in the days when I was unable to walk even three steps. Many small stepping stones were part of the progress to reach where I am today and many more steps will be involved in striving for the next success. Training is an essential component; I’ve lost Quinn as a running partner which is only the smallest part of that impending greater loss I know is coming soon. Much of my training will have me at the YMCA of Nashua as I run five days a week, cross-train a sixth day, and rest on a seventh. Research and knowledgeable guidance have reasonably set this schedule to bring my body to the best preparedness. I hope to find volunteers to run outside as often as possible since the treadmill isn’t my ideal, but I have the baseline approach set up and scheduled.

 On April 6, I will undertake the Great Bay Half Marathon in Newmarket, NH. It will be my first half marathon since going blind. It will be a great day with many friends and much celebration as well as a measuring stick for the progress of my training. In order to qualify for Boston as a VI (Visually Impaired) runner, I must complete an approved full marathon in under 5 hours. This means my half time should be better than 2:30. I’m also signed up for that qualifying marathon attempt on May 3, 2014 at the Cox-Providence marathon in Rhode Island.

These are goals I’ll approach every day in the 15 weeks until that marathon. Diet, exercise, and the mental-emotional challenges of pushing myself are choices I’m undertaking for a goal which I personally value. It will involve getting encouragement and inspiration from many folks along the way and probably a fair bit of community support in a host of ways. I hope many of you will be part of that progress.

This still is only one of my goals broken into some smaller parts. I hope to build and grow many other goals, including many outside of the athletic realm. I hope to hear and support the goals of many friends and members of the 2020 Vision Quest Community. Perhaps you’d take a moment to share one of your goals or to suggest a goal for our consideration? I’d welcome the chance to share some of the incredible support which has already taken me to incredible heights literal and figurative. “Believe and Achieve” is a mantra I support along with the perseverance and hard work of practice and problem solving which should be part of the team of skills brought to bear on all our goals!


11 Jan 14

By Randy Pierce

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait a second, Randy, Michael Phelps isn’t blind!” That’s mostly true but not entirely–he did win the 200-meter butterfly while being effectively rendered blind. Feel free to explore one version of the inspiring tale thanks to Kris Heap in “The Day Michael Phelps Went Blind.”

While I certainly hope hiking remains a well enjoyed part of my life, I’ve added a few new goals for our 2020 Vision Quest efforts. As part of the process, I’ve been increasing my training at the YMCA of Nashua to include a healthy amount of treadmill, standing cycle, and now swimming. I’ve had a little bit of experience with running and cycling (tandem), but swimming in pool lanes is entirely new to me. There’s a host of inspirational sources for me from my wife Tracy’s triathalon work to fellow blind athlete Amy Dixon’s efforts in the pool. I was surprised when a little internet research for tips and tricks of swimming blind showcased Brad Snyder winning gold medals in the paralympics merely one year after an explosion rendered the navy lieutenant totally blind.

Some of the more immediate challenges involve being able to keep to a reasonably straight line. This is important to avoid collisions with other lane swimmers and the lane dividers, and obviously for efficiency. A far more dangerous reality is awareness of the approaching wall for the turnaround which can injure a hand or head that unknowingly reaches the side before anticipated.

Some of the lesser challenges of form correction will bring about plenty of future work, but as in all things my first goal is establishing some reasonable safety. It was clear to me quickly this was going to be a slow and time-consuming process if I wanted to become effective and successful. While trying an array of techniques for letting my arm or shoulder graze the lane guide, I counted strokes in the hope of predicting the wall. Tracy worked ahead of me to verbally warn and intercede as necessary along the way. My desire to keep as much ear freedom for sound led to some woeful head technique and a tremendous amount of excessive effort. This was fantastic for conditioning work and for the humbling discoveries of a novice! I’m enthused and eager to learn and improve in this latest endeavor.  I will, however, save my problem-solving interests and discoveries for a future post.

I prefer to spend less time looking back for a couple of obvious reasons. In looking ahead to the promise of potential, I certainly will take a great deal of encouragement from the Michael Phelps story. When perhaps the greatest swimmer of our time was in an Olympic race and suddenly found his goggles filling with water and blinding him, he didn’t miss a stroke. Instead, he used a variety of skills he’d cultivated by deliberately including blind swimming into his training repertoire. The result was not only a gold medal but a new world record. It’s yet another demonstration of our tagline: “Achieve a Vision Beyond Your Sight!”


4 Jan 14

By Randy Pierce

I really do love snow and truly like winter–which is a dangerous statement here in New Hampshire after a 36-hour “Nor’easter” which ended as a full-blown blizzard. I could describe the many well appreciated aspects of a winter wonderland, but I may make more allies by sharing the hardest parts of being “snowblind” and then some!

Lost in the yard...

As you might expect, I rely on all of my other senses to help provide me with the information my blind eyes do not supply. Stepping out into a balmy -12 degree morning (not counting windchill) is an experience guaranteed to ensure fingers and toes will join my non-working eyes. I can of course bundle up like the Michelin Man and keep that sensitivity working, but that only allows my hands and feet to report they are nestled snug and warm in a thick barrier of cozy isolation from the outside world. If that tactile challenge isn’t sufficient, there’s the potential for a foot of fluffy snow to render cane probing in gloves particularly ineffective for navigation.

Fortunately, the cold is an equal opportunity debilitator and is pleased to freeze every nose hair and olfactory neuron which might otherwise provide me with those clues to my location. My ears, should I dare leave them open to the air, will soon turn as white as the snow providing excellent camouflage but a rather notable hearing impairment. That is, to impair the noise not absorbed or at least grossly distorted by the new layers of snow upon everything!

The Mighty Quinn can put his eyes on the prize with a request to "Find the mailbox!"

As you may be noting, my five senses become rather inhibited during such times as snowy winter day. I do have a rather well developed sixth sense which is to trust the Mighty Quinn (our dog guides are a much more effective sixth sense than talking to dead people). There is much sense in learning to trust a Guiding Eyes pup as they need much less bundling to be comfortable and still typically can use all five of their senses to assist us. The trust is that all the familiar landmarks we and they use, such as a mailbox, sidewalk, or curb, may be lost behind or beneath a barrier of snow. Just where is that bus stop pole I can no longer verify we’ve found?

So when I tell you about enjoying the New England winter while you may have had more than enough of shoveling and cold temperatures, take solace that a world full of challenging changes is also confronting me. I’ll be getting lost a little more often and changing my routines to avoid impassable street sections where sidewalk clearing is an  empty hope. I’ll occasionally travel much of the way only to be thwarted by having to turn around rather than risk going into a busy and slippery street which without snow held my typically safe sidewalk. My hands on harness or cane will give me the frozen tingle of pain and I’ll even shake my fist to the snowflakes on occasion and wish for spring. I still love my New Hampshire winter but I well understand the reasonable sanity of those who may not always share my joy! Let’s agree on one thing very clearly: “Four More Feet” is a great name for a movie and a less than stellar weather forecast at this time of year!


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