Tag: Autumn



12 Aug 18

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Tracy with Eilean Donan in the background

Randy and Tracy with Eilean Donan in the background

Braveheart was the last movie I ever watched with sight remaining in my eyes. The landscapes capture my memory still even if the historically divergent Hollywood script was not the source of my early love of the land. The imaginations of my youth fed the adventurous spirit of my later years and I’ve long wanted to hike the highlands, feel the castle stones, hear bagpipes echo off the munros, taste the sea spray of Fingal’s Cave, smell the peat of Loch Ness and so much more from this ancient land. Tracy and I attempted to make as much of those dreams reality in our whirlwind tour of the country.

We landed in Edinburgh airport and walked out into a courtyard of shops with an energy belying the overnight flight without sleep. It was a quick walk to an easy rail which smoothly and efficiently cut through city blocks towards our hotel in Haymarket Square. Tracy noted all the personal gardens and shared garden spaces throughout the city as well as an abundance of green space. Temperatures were cool and comfortable, a tremendous relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of London and our home in New Hampshire. The lyrical language around us was a delight to my ears and it was with considerable discipline I did not continuously try to emulate the accents.

Eilean Donan Castle up on the hill with a cloudy sky

Eilean Donan Castle

We had two days to appreciate Edinburgh Castle, including a marvelous walking tour. The “crag and tail” of castle rock provides iconic placement atop the city and “Game of Thrones” fans would find little difficulty in the likely origins of the Lannister homeland of Castlerly Rock. The “Fringe Festival” was in full swing with music, theater, and comedy throughout the city in celebration, ensuring Autumn’s work along the Royal Mile was all the more impressive for the crowds gathered. We did not get to hike to Arthur’s Seat to experience some of the oldest signs of humanity in the city but Facebook informed me which of my friends had been there recently!

Off to Sterling Castle, we encountered one of our few disappointments as the all too popular tourist destination had absolutely no parking and we experienced it only from a distance. Deanston Distillery salved our spirits with a tremendous lunch and tasting and we did ultimately replace Sterling with the Eilean Donan Castle later which was one of our more tremendous castle experiences.

The shores of Loch Ness with a partly cloudy sky

The shores of Loch Ness

First though, we had to travel through the Cairn Gorm. This mountain range is similar to the White Mountains in height and wintry ferocity with a bit more remoteness preserved. Though the weather was overcast, the contrast of these open field mountains to our own wooded summits was noteworthy and common throughout Scotland. Arriving to Inverness atop the Great Glen we crossed the river Ness and found our hotel on the shores of Loch Ness.

Scotland’s mountains were carved impressively by the glaciers during the ice age and the resulting dramatic landscapes are truly remarkable. The Great Glen runs through to the west side with the Caledonian Canal using the route for travel. I was impressed by the deep smell of peat and Tracy’s reports on the darkness of the lake which combined tremendous depth and peat to hold a haunting sense of the unknown. It is small wonder the legend of the Loch Ness Monster lasted so long. The ruins of a castle destroyed in the Jacobite rebellions provided a haunting ruin over the entire scene even as the immensity of the lake stretched well beyond sight.

This stop was our gateway to the Highlands and we set forth the the Isle of Skye through incredible Highland hills. The heather was in full bloom and we constantly used the lay-by traffic stops to capture photos or take a short walk in the beauty and splendor which surrounded us. Sheep grazed everywhere with enormous stretches of road without sign of habitation. We just marveled at the rugged beauty of this land as the mountains plunged deeply and rose sharply with waterfalls and twisting streams in full view due to the open landscape so rare in our New England hills. Rounding one bend and dropping steeply, the ocean of the west side of Scotland emerged pressed tight to the mountains we were within. It was here we found the castle of Eilean Donan, popularized in the United States for its use in the “Highlander” film. With more than 2,000 castles in Scotland, few are so well maintained as this gem and we toured through it with the staff encouraging me to take advantage of the tactile offerings of many artifacts on site.

View of Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye. Dramatic waterfall flowing into the ocean, with a cloudy sky.

View of Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

Our half-way point brought us to the Isle of Skye, an absolutely enormous gift in the Highlands. We spent a few nights here nestled in an inlet of Sleat at Eilean Iarmain. Surrounded by the ocean on three sides with the peaks of the Cuillin Munros visible around us. There was a lighthouse adjacent to mark our way although we spent much of our time travelling the immense island.

First we traveled west to the edge of the Black Cuillins and a hike to the legendary Fairy Pools. The water crossings had some challenge but the climb was worth the spectacular views our camera could not capture on this cloudy and eventually rainy day. The series of waterfalls and cascades were remarkable and Autumn delighted in her most technical of the generally easy hiking work. At the end of our climb we found ourselves within a few miles of Talisker’s remote distillery and availed ourselves of their spirits before travelling to Portree. A tour to the northernmost point on the Isle of Skye included a stop at the infamous Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Of course a bagpiper played in the background as we stood at the windy point and marvelled at the scene. Later we found the ruins of a Clan MacDonald Castle which marked the wind-driven point atop the island. It was here Tracy commented on the absolute vastness of the entire island. The sky seemed limitless here, the mountains immense and unending, the ocean again vast beyond measure. With gusting winds making it hard to stand, let alone walk, it was easy to feel humbled by the land upon which we stood for so brief a time.

All too soon our time took us away from Skye. We traveled to Glen Coe and what many feel is one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Scotland. While more renowned to some for the massacre of 1692, it is the beauty of a valley surrounded by mountains from the three sisters on the southern end to the technical ridges of her northern end. We feasted at a hiker’s lodge adjacent to where Hagrid’s hut was located in the filming of Harry Potter. Appropriate since I was in a magical fantasy trip of my own.

Oban port image, under a pretty partly cloudy sky at sunrise.

Oban port images from breakfast.

Our effective final stop was Oban Bay, a beautiful port south of Skye and suddenly the best weather of our trip. It is worth noting we did not find Scotland precisely rainy as many might suggest. It did rain at times but mostly it was a quick spritz of rain in one place or another while half a mile further was sunny and beautiful. Occasionally it was full sun for a rain shower. In New England we say if you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes and it will change. In Scotland they say all the seasons in a single day and that showed to be true, though we never saw snow while we were there. Oban was a beautiful sheltered Bay and it was our launch point for a three island tour of Mull, Staffa, and Iona.

Mull, like Skye was immense and we took a bus tour across it to see the many glens, munros, and forests which comprise a seemingly separate world. On the far side we could see the pink granite quarry briefly before boarding a smaller vessel to sail us to Staffa. Autumn’s work in these transitions was solid and the crew and passengers always marveled at her work. Her true work came on the tiny island of Staffa where the walk to Fingal’s Cave was the most difficult of our trip. A guide wire lent stability for me to make it safe but her patient warnings kept me striding where many thought it unlikely for a blind person and guide dog team.

The rocky Staffa Island shoreline under a clear blue sky.

Staffa Island shoreline

Last winter the final section of ledge leading into the cave mouth collapsed and while we were able to view fantastically the incredible basalt column cave of historic fame, the sounds which inspired so many were lost to our ears as the crashing of the waves into the cave did not return the echo of legend to our more distant point. Tracy’s awe was more than uplifting enough to make the trek worthy and as we scaled the perilous stairway to the heights of the island again as a testament to Autumn’s prowess we crossed the island to unrivaled views. The puffins had left just two days prior and Tracy was sad for the miss, but invigorated by the freedom of our stroll across the grassy top of Staffa island. Here is where I will most remember the taste of the ocean and the scent of Scotland as my girl guided me in the sunlight high above the Hebridean entrance to this land.

Staffa is the Norse name for the island, meaning stick or staff. I did not use a blind cane on this trip, as Autumn was my link to a freedom of travel beyond what I find with that stick. Scotland was a symbolic freedom of travel as well. In the film Braveheart, William Wallace’s father says “Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it.” Reflecting on yet another excellent adventure, I am so appreciative to have such wonderful dreams and the courage and patient determination to follow them.

Share





30 Jul 18

A book with only a question mark on the coverBy Randy Pierce

I’ve finished writing the book but the complete work is not quite finished! We’ve been teasing at this book release on the front page of our website and in various social media posts for a little bit of time and it’s finally time to dedicate a full blog to the topic. Way back in 2015, inspired by the vast number of request for just such a thing,  I set myself the goal to write the book of my life’s journey. As many know, my neurological condition had an interruption planned for 2016 and my writing goal necessarily fell by the wayside.

After the two-year delay, I returned in earnest this year to the project and the result has been a fantastic journey in my own growth. I’m here to tell you the draft is complete! We have already passed several edit cycles though a bit more is still being done to polish the final product for release. Writing a book is no small project and this is no small book as it checks in at roughly 100,000 words.

The process has involved my generating drafts and working on them myself until I feel they are ready to share with Tracy. She and I then go through an edit cycle together and I cannot stress enough how much this is our book as a result of her incredible talent, support, and encouragement. After we finish each section, it has gone to a professional editor who happens to be a good friend–thank you, Gene Lejeune. I’ve also had a few other friends read some or all to give reactions encouraging still more adjustments. Ultimately we are far enough along to be confident in the information I am sharing now.

The title of the book is “See You At The Summit.” The subtitle of “A Journey from the Depths of Loss to the Heights of Achievement” provides a little more insight into this auto-biographical journey. When and how can you expect to have a copy? We plan to have the book available for our  9th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction event  on November 17, 2018. Why not join us for the evening which will serve additionally as our initial book launch celebration?

This is the unofficial announcement and we expect to make official announcement we hope you’ll help us share far and wide come September. In the meanwhile, here’s the list of chapters in the order presently planned but understanding we are still providing some polish to the final product.

  • Introduction – A Leap of Faith
  • Chapter 1: Start at the Beginning
  • Chapter 2: First Struggles with Blindness
  • Chapter 3: NERO – Be All You Can’t Be
  • Chapter 4: Modi Norse Dog of Courage
  • Chapter 5:  Losing Sight of the World
  • Chapter 6: Full Tilt Full Time Fan of the Year
  • Chapter 7: Ostend Summit to Surrender and Back Again
  • Chapter 8: Wheelchairs, Momentum and a Hiking Stick
  • Chapter 9: A Colebrook Boy At Heart
  • Chapter 10: Coming of Age
  • Chapter 11: The Mighty Quinn
  • Chapter 12: Hooray Tracy
  • Chapter 13: A Vision for 2020 Vision Quest
  • Chapter 14: Running, Marathons and Mudders
  • Chapter 15: Ashes Over Kilimanjaro

I hope you’ll look forward to reading as much as I enjoyed writing it and that soon we will “See you at the summit”!

Share





21 Jul 18

By Randy Pierce

“Many miles away there’s a shadow on the door of a cottage on the Shore of a dark Scottish lake.
- Walter Scott

A picturesque castle in Loch Ness, Scotland.

A picturesque castle in Loch Ness, Scotland.

Autumn, Tracy and I will soon tread upon the highland hills of Scotland! This trip has been a lifelong dream for me. One of the many lessons Tracy helps me realize is that a goal without a plan is only a wish. Riding to a presentation several months ago, she surprised me with a text message enticing “Want to go to Scotland?” She knew the answer which was a resounding yes and I’d guessed airfares alerted her it was within our comfort range, and so the planning commenced!

Thanks to the knowledge of our veterinary team at Mercy Animal Hospital in Merrimack, the complex coordination required to bring a Dog Guide into the United Kingdom has been managed. Taking this trip with Autumn will be remarkable in ways many of our prior adventures didn’t allow. While her faithful devotion is without question, we will begin in Edinburgh for a couple of days where high on my list of places to tour is the home of Greyfriars Bobby. This unprecedented story of dog dedication will be a heartwarming start to our trip. We’ll explore castles and culture for all too brief a time in appreciation of auld lang syne.

After a few days, we’ll travel north towards Inverness and a stay on the shores of Loch Ness. Several short hikes from our base there entice me, including a couple which tribute some of the splendors so aptly described by the Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns. I hope to stand overlooking the waterfall and feel the inspiration which inspired him to write Lines on the Falls of Fyers. Too short a time to hike in the highlands, we’ll take solace in our travels to the Isle of Skye and the magic of the Fairy Pools, Cuillin Mountains and  ocean serenity for several more days of relaxation.

Fairy pool in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Fairy pool in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Finally, the port of Oban promises scallops the size of tennis balls as a partial prize for the culmination of our trip. We will take a tour of three islands into the Hebrides and particularly to the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. This acoustic gem has been on my list to hear, smell, and even taste. I’m sure Autumn and Tracy may have their eyes and ears tuned to the puffins who inhabit the island, but for me voices older than my time took inspiration from the thin ledge upon which I’ll stand to hear the siren song of this cave and to let my own song echo into its depths even for the briefest of moments.

All too soon we’ll be boarding planes to return to New Hampshire and our home. We’ll have more tales to tell although the greatest story is the one we’ll share in our experiences together there in that far off land.

Share





14 Jul 18

By Randy Pierce

Autumn meets Fungo, the mascot of the Fishercats. Dog jumping up while Randy looks down at her.

Autumn meets Fungo, the mascot of the Fishercats.

I love synergy: the working together of two things to produce an effect  greater than the sum of their individual effects. On August 26 at 10:00 a.m., I will participate for the Future In Sight Knights as we take on the NH Fishercats in a competitive game of Beep Baseball at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium! Our game will be a warm-up for the Fishercats who will later host the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at 1:30, but you can join us for our game, lunch, and their game as part of a fantastic Sunday Summer extravaganza!

Get your tickets from the Future In Sight Events Page

What is Beep Baseball and how will our blind/visually impaired team possibly have a chance against this professional baseball team? No, we won’t be using our Guide dogs as secret weapons–though Autumn did love her meeting with Fungo, the mascot for the Fishercats who have partnered up with Future in Sight to help us accomplish several worthy goals in support of each other.

My teammates and I all derived significant skills and support from Future In Sight, including an emphasis on “Ability Awareness.” The notion we can achieve with a little creative problem solving is at the heart of the training and services provided by Future In Sight as they help ensure people experiencing low or no vision can participate in the life enriching activities we all deserve–and this Beep Baseball game is a great opportunity to showcase it at a very high level as we take on professional athletes in this grand event!

I first played Beep Baseball for the “Lowell Lightning” back in 2002 and 2003. It’s baseball, or more closely softball, with a few different twists. The ball has an electronic beeper within it so it makes a noise that a batter or fielder can hear and use to react accordingly. All participants will be wearing full blindfolds so that everyone will be on the same sight level as me, no light perception, total blindness. The one exception to this is the pitcher is sighted and is on the same team as the batting team, trying to make the pitches easier to hit rather than more difficult.

When the ball is hit, there are only two base options, effectively first and third base. As soon as the hit is made one of the two bases will being beeping and the batter must hear which one and run towards that base. The object is to reach that base before the defensive team in the field is able to get control of the ball. If the runner reaches the base first then it is a run. If the fielder gets control of the ball in their hand first, the runner is out. This prevents blind runners in the field of play with blind fielders, a recipe for collisions!

There are typically sighted coaches in the field who are allowed to make simple number calls to help the fielders decide who will field or back-up an incoming hit but otherwise it is solely managed by the sound. Based on the speed of the ball, a fielder will typically get themselves in front of it and lay across the path to halt it and wrap around it as quickly as possible. Knowing whether to charge towards a slower ball, back up for a quicker ball just get down in the right place is the largest challenge to fielding.

There are many tips and tricks I hope to keep for my teammates as we face this professional team, but what is our edge over these talented athletes? Most of us are familiar with very low or no sight and should make some of the sound based adjustments fairly well. For the Fishercats it will be an untypical experience for them to switch to an entirely audible world. Do they have the advantage? I expect their swings to be smooth and strong, their pitching precise and their coordination excellent. This makes us the obvious and easy underdogs, but Autumn knows we like to achieve the unexpected.

I hope you’ll come out and watch a historic game, a fun game, and get a whole new perspective on baseball, ability awareness and the benefits of organizations coming together to make a difference: synergy!

Connect with the Fishercats:

Share





9 Jun 18

By Randy Pierce

A group of hikers on a mountain summit with a partly cloudy sky behind them.I joined the students of this leadership and backpacking course in the spring of 2010 in preparation for my own hiking adventures and to provide an untypical aspect for those students. Those experiences and friendships left a significant imprint upon me and I continued to be involved in different ways through the years since then. This year Brent asked me to act as the TA for the class and we went through the appropriate approvals, hoping my many experiences in hiking, leadership, and communication would provide positive guidance in the classroom and along the trails.

Day 1: We set out on May 21 with my legs being a little weary from the Gate City Marathon the day before and my pack a little heavy as I was carrying Autumn’s sleeping bag and food along with all of my own supplies. The two student leaders of the day, Brian and Sam had provided us walkie-talkies to keep communications open in our two vehicles as we approached the trailhead for our first day’s hike into Wachipauka Pond.

Hikers with full packs walk on a rocky trail. As usual Autumn spent the first 100 yards being a little too enthusiastic and I had to mitigate her enthusiasm with my own enhanced caution as my right hand trekking pole work was emphasized. Quickly she settled into high quality trail work and I was very proud as on the hot day and steady climb she simply shined in work and obvious love for the wilderness. I spent the early part near the back with Brian behind me as sweeper, ensuring the group was together and ahead of him. As we began our first descent we switched to a little trail entertainment by partnering up, me with Caitlin, to talk about our day and trip goals with each other. It was a chance to begin building better connections and worked rather nicely. Ultimately as we reached a series of “bog bridges.” Autumn and I worked them tediously but Caitlin had the opportunity to help by becoming the first student to choose a little human guiding. She set the tone for many others later and we worked the short stretch of trail building the guide language for a comfortable pace and quality interaction.

In short order, our shortest day brought us to Wachipauka Pond. The temperatures were ideal, the scene as majestic as previous trips promised, and for a time we just relaxed and enjoyed the remote serenity earned by an afternoon of trail work together. My SteriPEN water purifier refused to light as the single downside of my evening preparations, but Brent and the team found ways to help Autumn and me have purified water for the trip. The leaders brought the team together and bear bags were hung, tarps for sleeping and cooking were established and an idyllic evening descended complete with one of the sunset gifts those who experience them in the White Mountains usually treasure for the rest of their days. We had a couple of meetings to close out our activity before sleeping open to the air with the sounds of the pond and the likely moose who traipsed belligerently within 50 yards of our campsite and left his marks for us to find in the morning.

Rocky trail with a blue sky behind it.Day 2: Samm and Anthony were our leaders. (This “Samm” was male, vs. the female “Sam” who led on day 1.) Anthony was taking a bonus leadership day to fill in for our first casualty as Chloe had an illness requiring her to miss the trip. We started out with a steady upward climb to the Webster Slide summit and a beautiful overlook, our first official “peak” of the trip. We did a little stretching as a group and had a lot more interactions amongst the team as both Bridget and Emma took some turns guiding me to supplement the great work being done by Autumn as well. Down is simply always easier with a human guide and there were some fun challenge points along this route. We made excellent time to cross a road and make a significant water crossing which included an educational moment for the various methods of safer water crossing. Autumn showcased multiple crossings until a stick enticement convinced her to go all the way over and be held there awaiting my cross.

There is a point in most hikes where conversations bring teams together and as the rain held off for us, the trail was generally gentle, we came together decently. Just to enhance the scenario of challenge, a “fake” broken arm practice was added to the leader challenge and still we arrived to the Jeffers Brook Shelter ahead of schedule and feeling strong despite the rain joining our group. Several of us made use of the shelter and had a few AT through and section hikers to enhance the evening conversations. The evening debrief was a supportive and encouraging preparation for what most expected to be our most challenging day.

Sign pointing to various trails including Glencliff Trail 0.9 milesDay 3: Bridget and Anthony had us up at 5 with light traces of the rain still falling. Brent was ill and that complicated the start, as did our plan to hike a short distance to a car spot where we would have breakfast and adjust some equipment for the remaining trip. This was more important, as Brent’s medical device had lost its charge and the back-up battery wasn’t working. As my water purification system had seemingly failed, Brent was my support and my cook partner so both of us became a delay for the group. At the car Brent charged his device, we repacked, and set out for the Glencliff trail and Mt. Moosilauke!

Because of the low water aspects, I had my heaviest water load, and below Glencliff the trail gets a little boulder-strewn. Due to this, after the steady steepness we reached a section of trail which was particularly hard work for Autumn and me. At this point I shared my struggle to keep the group pace and for a short time switched to Emma guiding me to bolster both of us for a bit. Then Samm took his first shift to handle the long steady steep up to and over the headwall of Moosilauke with us pushing well into the full hunger-almost-hangry range for the team. A well earned lunch below south peak recharged us for the glorious ridge walk which Autumn handled once again until we emerged in the boulder fields and alpine zone where Brent guided as we all managed an impressive 40 mph wind for our spectacular summit reward!

Our goal for the day was Beaver Brook Shelter and so a fair bit of hiking remained. The trail involved some particularly precarious sections and due to Brent’s overall health concerns, he needed to be free of guiding. The students realized Autumn and I would be slow on this track and so took the challenging load for a strenuous section concluding with a considerable amount of snow/monorail hiking led by Sam, working some impressive final descents to the much celebrated shelter. It was a very weary team debrief, proud of the accomplishments and having fully come together to work through all the challenges and fully understand the many ways of supporting each other. Our AT section hiker had made the journey with us and surprised some by sharing that in his 23 years of section hiking the Appalachian Trail, this was his hardest day ever.

Bright sunrise on Day 4 of the hike. Day 4: Our fourth and final day began with the most powerful sunrise of the trip. We faced out over the Kinsmans, the Lafayette ridge, and the presidentials beyond with the sun rising to give the layered mountains a particularly majestic splendor few will ever forget. Caitlin and Emma were our leaders of the day. Brent had experienced his roughest night and was resolutely tending himself to overcome a difficult start. It was crisp and cold at our 3800 feet of elevation and Autumn wisely chose to curl up with our AT companion as he was the last one in a sleeping bag once we had all packed and prepared for departure. We set out as quickly as possible to retrace some of our prior evening’s steps up before descending steadily down through an old forest. It was part of a long-ago Dartmouth ski trail from an era when skiing involved no turns other than what the trail made!

Some of the terrain was more difficult than anticipated and trail games had the group laughing and entertained while I was in full concentration. On a particularly rough trail, I rolled an ankle on a shifting rock more seriously than usual, which resulted in a rare fall for me. The mirth of the group would be essential as would Brent’s high focus guidance to ease my hobbling worked out the long miles still remaining. When the trail eased by our stream crossing and gentle footing allowed us to pick up pace and find the Ravine Lodge for reward, a weary but satisfied group had once again undergone the transformative process of such hikes.

Leadership, guidance, and the richly rewarding wilderness experience were certainly all part of the process. For Autumn and me, we had bonded well with the people of this trip and it was easy at times to forget the decades of difference in our ages because of the commonality of our experience. There is a sadness to the ending and knowing we will never have the same group together to experience all of the varied powerful moments we did share. There is, however, much reward in knowing we grew together, shared together and all of us, student, teacher, and Autumn extraordinaire experienced individual growth on our journey towards personal peaks. I’ll take the growth and the memories and the solace of knowing the choice to be on the path is the most rewarding one of all.

Share





12 Mar 18

By Randy Pierce

The first picture of Autumn, Randy's Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

Here is the first picture of Autumn, Randy’s Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014. Happy Anniversary!

It is so easy to celebrate every single day with such a joyous, loving lady as Autumn! She is far and away the most affectionate pup I’ve had the fortune to have in my life and I’m told it is to my benefit that I cannot see the “look” with which she would otherwise put me at her bidding!

March 16 will denote four years of our being matched as a team, which includes not only the wonderful relationship as a great dog but also some pretty solid guide work.

Most dogs love the opportunity to step out for a walk and Autumn is no exception. What makes her and all of our Guide Dogs particularly exceptional, however, is that for them each walk is a true labor of love as well. All the wonderful distractions of the world are mitigated by her training to ensure she tends the responsibilities of keeping me safe.

Thus when a winter Nor’easter named after her predecessor, Quinn, has deposited more than a foot of snow on our roads, things get a little more interesting. As such, I thought this week I would take you on a short half mile audio/video walking tour of Autumn’s work with me. I hope you enjoy as much as I certainly enjoy having this wonderful girl in my life.

Thank you, Autumn, and Happy 4th anniversary!

Share





11 Feb 18

By Randy Pierce

Autumn rests on a recent plane trip.

Autumn rests at our feet on a recent plane trip.

Delta Airlines recently announced a new disappointing policy for all animals traveling with them effective March 1, 2018. It creates unreasonable travel restrictions for teams like Autumn and me. Several other airlines are evaluating how to follow suit and I want to credit United Airlines for excluding trained service dogs from these policies.

Specifically, this new policy requires anyone traveling with their animal to download a form from their website, have it filled out by their veterinarian to confirm the animals rabies and similar vaccinations, and then upload this form through the Delta website within 48 hours of traveling.

While this doesn’t seem an inordinate burden for a particular planned flight, it is compounded tremendously by the possibility of unexpected travel on Delta. Airports reroute a traveler due to cancellations and missed connections routinely and if any of these required a new Delta leg, we could become stranded by this policy. Bereavement or emergency travel would obviously be beyond consideration for them and all of this ignores the ability to have stored the form with them or to note that her rabies information is always on her collar. If my journey has multiple airlines and they all have similar policies, I’m getting multiple forms downloaded, printed, out to my vet, home, scanned, uploaded to the various websites for each and every trip. All while knowing any change in plans could leave me stranded anywhere around the country depending on how extensively the draconian Delta policies are adopted! At the very least, these need to be standardized for all airlines to accept the same form for the entirety of any trip!

Why did they make this change? While most of the country operates under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), airlines operate under the Air Carrier Access Act. In this they have opted to allow a much broader support animal. I do not have the qualifications to know the need or training for all the variations of animals and need in this situation. I do know that under the ADA businesses have been managing a large amount of false service dogs as people choose to forge the process in order to bring their dog where they want.

This problem is only intensified with the broader definition of both need and types of animals allowed. Peacocks, pigs, and tarantulas are all recent animals which may or may not have been legitimate but illustrate the diversity in progress. All this said, it was a non-service dog attack on a flight which likely sparked the most recent change. While the paperwork policy will not add any protection from such attacks, it may provide additional liability benefit. I absolutely acknowledge there is a problem and I want to see a resolution. I believe when Delta chooses to be a Maverick they take the risks of their failings as well.

For now, I want to simply applaud the better choice made by United Airlines than the disappointing choice made by Delta. My personal experience suggests Jet Blue is trending towards a little additional airport paperwork which can be managed at the airport, more in line with United, but still more delays and challenge for me. Trying to discern what all the various rules may be for all the individual airlines is going to make the challenges exponentially more difficult.

There was progress made in an initial conference in 2016, but reports make clear the airlines are having a problem, though it is not with service dogs. I hope the parties making policy would consider bringing a conference of stakeholders together to ensure a more reasoned and consistent policy may be planned and implemented with an expectation of more reasonable results than the risks ahead for Delta leaving customers stranded even after expecting them to take on some unreasonable amount of work.

Share





30 Dec 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn in the winter, with an icy blue filter“I always loved the idea that a photograph was a memory frozen in time.”
Ed Gass-Donnelly

Just as the Winter Solstice begins the lengthening of the day, so too does the arrival of the New Year bring about reflection for many of us. So many moments over the last year or even many years captured in our minds as a frozen moment of experience we can no longer change or affect.

Nostalgia can be emotionally potent and despite the myriad marvels of 2017. I will not hide that the most powerful images for me are the bitter-sweet recollections of my beloved and now deceased mother. Sweet because so many of the memories are richly laced with the love and attention we chose to share our lives; bitter because I know 2018 and beyond will not hold the possibility of creating new moments together as we did so well most of our lives.

As an icy cold winter has presently embraced New England, Autumn and I are not frozen in time as the above photograph might suggest. We are in the prime years of our work together. As we shelter in the warmth of our home and hearth, we are planning the possibilities for the year(s) ahead. We often share the goals of 2020 Vision Quest through our school presentations and our corporate keynotes. For this blog I wanted to share just the simple goals which warm the moments, days, and year for Autumn and me.

  • Each and every morning begins with Autumn crawling onto my chest to lay stretched atop me in either affection or dogged determination to convince me by gravity to feed her sooner than later!
  • Each morning she hopes to inspire me to put the harness upon her and take a walk of at least 2 miles and hopefully 4.
  • Each morning the Playment (payment) plan ensures that following that work is a round or seven with a favorite toy of which she has roughly 54!
  • Mid-morning she wishes to interrupt my computer work to remind me there’s an opportunity to play, groom or, weather permitting, take a cup of coffee out to the back yard! She all too often gets her way.
  • When we visit a school or virtually any social excursion she almost patiently awaits the opportunity to be told she is off duty so she too can greet her friends old and new with the wagging tail and joyous burst of energy which is her natural grace. A reminder to me so often of the treasure of kindness and friendliness in our world.
  • Each evening she eagerly greets the arrival of Tracy (Mom!) with the enthusiasm of someone gone for weeks. This is only partially because Mom’s arrival heralds the serving of Autumn dinner, mind you.
  • Each evening she encourages the opportunity to be a lap dog and curl up with her family whatever the activity of the evening. Yes, she is undeterred by cross training on the schedule.
  • By 8:00 pm she begins facing us with enormous yawns of Snoopy fame as her not-so-subtle hint she would like us all to retire to bed.
  • She is first to the master bath to sit ever so pretty facing the counter where her treat jar sits. Ever hopeful that we will provide her the nightly reward for being her awesome Autumn self, she will resort to Jedi mind powers if necessary and has been known to still be sitting there waiting when we have gone to bed determined that not every night is treat night. Occasionally we have relented and gone to get her and a treat!
  • Each night she sleeps comfortably in her giant Taj-Mahal of beds in our bedroom unless we make the slightest of entreaties at which point she will, ever vigilant, leap to our request and ensure our pillows and people are snuggled with the lightest and cutest of snores until all are asleep… and then she will mystically spread to take up the entirety of a king size bed!

Such is the typical day in the life of Autumn and from such simple roots do I grow the rest of my plans for the new year. Happy New Year everyone, treasure all the little moments frozen in time even as you move forward!

Share





4 Sep 17

By Randy Pierce

Dog having its teeth brushedWhat is this Wags to Whiskers World Record All About?

Save the Date!

Wags to Whiskers Festival
Saturday, September 30
11 am – 3pm

Budweiser Brewery
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054

We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!Dog having its teeth brushed

We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.

RSVP now! or get more information on the festival.

Dog having its teeth brushed“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.

First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum  line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.

When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.

Dog having its teeth brushedSo please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!

Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

Share





17 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

While we travel to Machu Picchu and into the Andes mountains, the elevation is sufficiently high to give us pause in bringing Autumn along as my guide. She is too valuable a companion and guide to put into unnecessary risk, so as we did on our trip to Kilimanjaro, we have found her alternative accommodations.

While I love the care, attention and bonus training provided by Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes for the Blind last time, we are staying closer to home with another friend with strong Guiding Eyes connections. Bill Leblanc is the Regional Coordinator for Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising here in NH, a fellow Hudson NH Lion, a friend, and for many who know him: the dog whisperer. Autumn adores him and she will get the attentive and knowledgeable care blended well with playful puppy play breaks throughout our time away. That’s the real fun and secure news which will allow us to travel with confidence Autumn will be well loved and well tended.

On the lighter side, you may recall the magic of Greg Neault releasing Autumn’s World Tour while we were away at Kilimanjaro. Every few days of our travel, a new photo appeared of Autumn traveling somewhere new in the world. They were so fun and popular that I crafted a blog afterwards to showcase the images.

Now I challenge all of you to give us some worthy suggestions of where Autumn might “visit” on her second tour while we are away in Peru! We just may put some of your suggestions to use with Greg’s creative photoshop magic once again.

If you need a little inspiration, let’s remind you of her first world tour.

Share



Bad Behavior has blocked 93 access attempts in the last 7 days.