Archives - August, 2016



28 Aug 16

On August 29 the 2020 Vision Quest School year begins with a trip to North Country Union High School in Newport, VT which is a travelling stretch for the team. Their theme of “Achievement through Perseverance” seems perfectly matched and we are enthused to begin the core part of our mission. Before undergoing this part of the work though, there was one more August weekend to enjoy. Our good friends Greg and Heather helped us find a delightful nearby nature retreat with incredibly clear waters. We haven’t had the chance to really give Autumn any swimming options and she wasn’t the graceful Olympian her web-pawed heritage might suggest but, there’s much fun in this romping game of water fetch. We thought our blog deserved a light and fun easing out of the dog days of August and hope you agree.

Click on the link below to see the action!

Autumn Tries out Swimming

So head over to our For Educators page and get us scheduled to visit your school because it’s time to get to work!

 

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21 Aug 16

Pete and Randy RunningTwo very different and yet very similar teams are coming together on Friday, September 17th to undertake something  dramatic, certain to challenge each of them beyond their expectations. Each have chosen the “Ultra Version” of Ragnar/Reach the Beach. One of those teams is comprised entirely of runners who are either blind or visually impaired and thus our six member team needs to borrow drivers and run-guides from the other team. This is where my friend Pete Houde’s Coastal Athletic Association Team made their impactful choice. This collaboration between 2020 Vision Quest, Massachusettes Association for the Blind and the Coastal Athletic Association brought the power of partnerships to new heights yet again as this press release highlights!

As mentioned, each team has just six members who will each run six legs of the 200 mile relay in roughly 29 hours. We’ll traverse the hilly terrain from deep in the White Mountains to the sandy shores of Hampton beach, getting food and rest as we can from time in our shared vans. This puts even more pressure upon our guides since two of their team is running and two are driving at all times! Somehow they have to get enough sleep/rest to be sharp eough to run their own miles while providing enough sight support for our running the tricky terrain successfully. There is plenty of challenge to be shared, plenty of human spirit to celebrate and hopefully an increadible accomplishment ahead as we reach for something far more significant than just the beach quest of which I’ve often joked. We reach to see how much can be accomplished by working together, believing in and supporting each other in this one of a kind epic endurance experience. While you can’t join our team of 12 directly, perhaps you’ll choose to be a part of the larger team as we are always striving to reach for and achieve our peak potential together!

Most of the Group pose before a group run. Missing one pair of sighted and visually impaired.

 

 

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14 Aug 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn walk on the sidewalk during her training.Students are often amused when I describe how Autumn has been trained in “intelligent disobedience.” It is the dog guide judgment to determine something is a threat and to disobey a command in order to alert me of a threat or obstacle. If I were to tell her to go forward and there was a flight of stairs or a curb in front of me she would refuse because my striding out could very easily lead to a tumble. Instead she halts directly in front of the obstacle and refuses to proceed with the command until I show her I understand the problem by acknowledging with a tap of it either with my foot (for the curb) or my hand (for a high branch). She may also wait until a threat has passed such as a silent electric car. The key point is her refusal and my part in the process to identify that I understand before we proceed.

For those of you who read last week’s blog on distracted driving, I was asked how I can tell the difference between Autumn doing her job with intelligent disobedience and Autumn being distracted. While some might be shocked to consider that my sweet princess might ever pause to sniff the grass or face off with the rabbit eating the tender grasses of a lawn, the truth is these distractions can happen sometimes. Depending on how attentive *I* am being usually impacts how quickly and efficiently I realize the difference between her distraction and her quality work. The feel of the harness handle tells me when she tips her head down for a sniff and so that is a good reminder for me to give her a verbal correction to keep going and not be distracted.

Despite my best and most consistent efforts, we are occasionally going to have our progress thwarted by her distraction. The very reasonably small number of times this occurs is a testament to the training work which goes into selecting and conditioning these dogs for their job. I’m proud to say that on her typical day Autumn rarely impacts our work together with distraction. While we all have our less than stellar days, I trust her warnings and that trust is rewarded by my safe, independent, and joyous ability to travel the world with my girl.

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6 Aug 16

By Randy Pierce

Emergency personnel attend to Brent Bell and his friend after they were struck by a car while riding a tandem bicycle.

Emergency personnel attend to Brent Bell and his friend after they were struck by a car while riding a tandem bicycle.

Fortunately the title is not quite reality, but there have been several very close calls. I find the world around me increasingly full of distracted people. While I applaud all the healthy undertakings, sometimes I simply do not know how to awaken people from the distractions that occupy the attention at critical times. The judgment to understand when our focus simply should not be divide is essential–and yet more and more I see evidence this judgment is failing.

Recently my good friend Brent Bell was piloting his tandem bicycle with a friend and he was struck by a car. There are very credible reports of the driver looking down at their cell phone as the primary reason for missing the double long bicycle. Both riders were seriously injured and only a bit of luck prevented this from being a fatal accident. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated situation and luck is not always good.

The car with the windshield smashed from the impact of Brent Bell and his friend.

The car with the windshield smashed from the impact of Brent Bell and his friend.

One part of the problem is that it is so easy to take a quick moment of distraction and believe nothing will go wrong. Many times of success will erroneously reinforce that belief. It only takes one moment to validate just how wrong it is and change many lives forever, and even end them.

My friends report witnessing a frightful number of distracted drivers.

Studies suggest distracted driving while texting is more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol and yet that sobering reality is still not sufficient to wake many from the high risk behaviors. How can I possibly hope to do so with this blog? I’ll settle for every saved glance as a possible saved life and build from there – with your help.

Autumn is a wonderful guide for me and I’ve learned that one of her largest challenges is distraction. If I keep her focus I know she’ll keep me safe and on course. I’ve also learned that once distracted I’ll have to work much harder to break her from the distraction and restore us to safety. She isn’t a bad dog or bad guide. She, like many out there, is susceptible to the enticements of distraction.

Similarly, people driving while off in a world of their own distraction are not necessarily bad people. They may inadvertently bring about incredible frustration, or mild or even fatal harm to others as a result of this. Most would be disappointed or devastated to realize that if only they could be made aware in advance in a healthy manner.

So whether you are playing Pokémon GO on foot, tuning the radio, tending your crying child in the car seat, or thinking about that text, think about how much more important it is for you to be fully present in your activity for all the lives you might impact, potentially literally, otherwise. I hope to never write the title of this blog and mean it, but the odds say it’s only a matter of time without all of us making efforts of mindfulness personally and calling on those we know to do the same.

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