Tag: Autumn



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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16 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

July Weather has Autumn and me facing 90-degree temperatures for many consecutive days which would mean one hot dog if I wasn’t prepared to take some precautions. While a hot dog may be a fundamental part of America’s summer pursuits, it isn’t a good idea for the Dog Guides or any of our dogs… “frankly!”

Autumn in her harness with her collapsible bowl. In planning my schedule I try to ensure it involves as little time as possible on hot pavement during the prime time heat hours. If this means I have to make extra arrangements for cabs, Uber, Lyft or friends then so be it because my girl’s health is my responsibility. As a shocking example, when air temperatures are at 77, pavement in the sun has measured as high as 125! Rising into the 90 range and we are at risk of burning the paws even for short distances.

She still wants and needs her work and I still have my obligations to attend which means that I supplement the schedule adjustments with some other simple precautions. While dogs do not sweat for their cooling system in the same way our bodies respond, it’s imperative to ensure they have plenty of water. I keep her collapsible bowl on the harness and give her frequent water stops *with* accompanying extra opportunities to relieve herself. That same water that supplies her system can be used to soak her paws and help her keep cool and protected for any short distances on pavement although I still attempt to avoid it and particularly avoid the sunny portions.

Autumn drinking out of her collapsible bowl on a hot day.Ultimately I get her opportunities to work early in the morning before the heat of the day and late evening if it cools sufficiently. I evaluate whether it is unreasonable timing for her during the day and consider allowing her to stay home in the AC while I use my cane if I absolutely must travel outside at the worst times.

Being attentive and aware is the first step but it’s not enough. We all should make the choice to ensure our canine friends are kept safe from the dangers the hot summer sun can present!

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14 May 16

By Randy Pierce

A Walk in Autumn's Shoes?While Guiding Eyes trainers and puppy raisers deserve the vast majority of the credit for the quality training in my dog guides, the continued success is based on their helping guide me to methods of ongoing training work together. Their work in teaching me how to continually sustain and advance our training is why I believe I have generally very good success in my teamwork with these dogs. People often see the results and ask me for tips and tricks to help work with their dogs and I’m happy to share a few of my opinions with the above caveat that others have created an excellent foundation for me.

One of the first and most easy reminders is to be steady and consistent with our dogs. This consistency helps prevent any confusion on their part for what we want and expect. I use repetition and consistency to help strengthen the base skills regularly.

Unfortunately for Autumn (and me!), my recent medical challenges have caused a change in many of our routines presently. Understanding that this change has an impact on Autumn is an important part of my ability to manage the response. For all the humor of poor Autumn wearing my size 14 running shoes, the reality is the old adage has value in all of our training work. I want to take a walk in Autumn’s shoes to try and understand what a change may mean for her. Dogs are not humans and do not mirror our thought processes. We can, however, with a little investigation come to better understand their motivations and responses, effectively learning to think a little as they might be thinking.

My doctors have suggested I not walk anywhere outside my home without another person present. This means that my daily longer walks with Autumn have come to an abrupt halt. It’s easy for me to be caught up in my own frustrations with this and fail to realize the impact on Autumn. She is accustomed to getting a higher level of exercise for her body and her mind given how much she is asked to problem solve while we are working together. As such, I need to find positive outlets for her to replace those aspects or I may find her problem solving less ideal solutions of her own. Many dogs exhibit what we deem as destructive behavior when they do not get sufficient outlet for their energy. Understanding this as the underlying cause can lead us to the solution rather than getting caught up in the symptom of the undesired behavior. There are many ways to approach solutions and the real key begins with the awareness which is the core message of this blog. Learn to take a walk in your dog’s paws and you are on the path to building a better training foundation.

In my case I try to schedule people to visit for those walks as one step. I’ve increased her backyard high energy play sessions and I’ve increased our hide and seek games to help her use her problem solving and thinking approach which is lacking. While she loves all of these things, I’ve also noticed that she’s a little more attention-desiring (needy) of me. I understand the reasons for that outreach and am reassuring her with an appreciation for the reason behind her changes. So if you notice an undesired behavior or change in your dog, perhaps ask yourself what changes you may have caused for them, whether intended or inadvertent. Perhaps that may help you grow your own training skills.

Ever the opportunist, why not “take a walk in our shoes” by joining us at the NHAB Walk for Sight coming right up! We’d love to have you on our team.

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17 Apr 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn walk on the sidewalk.As Patriots Day arrives with my making a slightly different attempt to savor the 120th running of the Boston Marathon, I took a little break from our usual blog. Instead, I invite you to visit the New Hampshire Association for the Blind who have recently launched their own blog and include an interview with me for their “Walk In My Shoes” opportunity at the June 4 Walk for Sight.

From the NHAB:

#WalkInMyShoes is a special feature on a portion of our annual Walk for Sight route that allows adult walkers the opportunity to take their fundraising involvement a step further and look at vision loss differently. For the first time ever, twenty participants can sign up for the #WalkInMyShoes awareness component. This feature will let them experience what it’s like to be on Main Street as a visually impaired pedestrian, by using blindfolds and simulation glasses, with the help of trained sighted guides.”

We encourage you to read their interview with me and perhaps take the challenge yourself. We certainly welcome you to join our team or sponsor someone on our team.

Read my full interview with NHAB here.

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12 Mar 16

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn sitting on a mountain

Some mountaintop silliness from the family!

By Randy Pierce

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

- Yoko Ono

I’m so enthused to share this anniversary with Autumn! Our second year together arrives with still more of the transformative power of time working with us to strengthen the bond and teamwork we share. Each of the seasons bring so many nostalgic reflections and the numbers of them behind me can weigh upon me like the Golden Anniversary of my own life rapidly approaching.

Randy and Autumn framed in silhouette against the Boston skyline.

Randy and Autumn framed in silhouette against the Boston skyline.

My time with Autumn is two years old and only two years old. She heralds an arrival of spring youthful innocence still and I want and appreciate that much in my life. She has enough Autumn seasoning that our years have brought us to the new heights for which I’ve scratched out some mark in this world in the mountain ranges far, wide and particularly tall this year. Everything which Autumn brought to my life in our first year is still so powerfully true as March 16 heralds our second year. She is the bounding, joyful presence who delivers love and affection as her primary focus each day.

I celebrate all of that first year as powerfully today as I did then and as such I urge you to share that reminder by looking back at my First Anniversary well wish to her: together. 

What this second year has brought is a maturing of our work. There’s still some of the petulant, independent and distractable girl who makes me shake my  head and smile. There is, however, far more of the attentive, mature and Guiding dedicated partner who works so well with me to give me freedom to travel anywhere with comfort and confidence.

Autumn takes a moment from her luau to say hello! She is wearing a lei and and a grass skirt.

Autumn takes a moment from her luau to say hello!

We are in our golden years together caught between the spring of her arrival and the autumn of her name, enjoying a summer of living, loving, experiencing, and celebrating our season of time to share with each other.

She is no old soul lost to maturity but the playful pup who takes her work seriously and understands my strengths and shortfalls well enough to help me work even as I’ve come to understand how to encourage her through her own. When the harness falls she is simply the dog guide I want and need first and the joyous distraction uplifting my life with but a moment’s allowance.

Thank you my beautiful girl for all the aspects you bring into my world. I hope I continue to foster your love of life and work with that perfect blend which has made us such a fine team. Now let us show the world just what a wonderful series of adventures lies ahead for us! At the risk of alienating all my Beatles fan friends, you have earned the reverence of Autumn and given me the exuberance of our summer together! Happy Second Anniversary!

Randy and Autumn hug at the top of a summit.

A summit hug!

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23 Jan 16

By Randy Pierce

Autumn looking downcast

Autumn doesn’t like hearing “No.”

I have some really exciting news about 2020 Vision Quest to share with you next week but we have a little more work to be fully ready for that update. Instead, I’m going to share with you an important message for all of us. It’s one with which I struggle on a regular basis. It is the simple choice to say “No.”

That tiny little two-letter word is an essential one if we truly want to be fair to ourselves and all the possible opportunities in our lives. Yes (there I go again), it’s  enticing to support the many heartfelt, meaningful, and essential requests which we receive in our lives. Yes, it’s good to be involved and connected and contributing. The trouble is that if we say “yes” too many times, there is a consequence on ourselves and on our ability to honor the “yes” we’ve given to various opportunities. Simply put, saying “yes” too much will devalue the benefit of our ability once we’ve saturated our time and energy beyond reasonable limits.

“My early attempts at saying no were often far from graceful but with practice even my no came from a place of love.” — Susan Gregg

While I am an advocate of the “Believe in Possibility” approach and strive to improve time management techniques to allow me to be successful, healthy and happy; I’ve discovered along the way what Susan Gregg learned early on in her life. My choice to say “No” empowers the times I will say “yes.” For me if it’s really difficult to refuse something because I so very much want to be a part of it, then I take the time to list out my responsibilities and priorities and take a look at where this new opportunity fits into that list. I evaluate which of the items on that list I would choose to tell “No” in order to say “yes” to this new opportunity. This comparative approach helps make me more confident in giving that ultimate no the the appropriate place. Before I allow myself the self-sacrificing denial of rest and recovery time, I’ve now established a minimum mandatory level for that time because it is essential to me.

This is the only big catch in this entire process other than the disappointment I feel in telling someone “No.” The good news is that Susan got that right as well with the suggestion that we’ll improve the more we practice. I don’t believe practice makes perfect but I do believe it usually makes better.

If you aren’t ready to practice your “no” just yet, then I’d like to invite you to donate some of your valuable time, creativity and even charitable donations to this 2020 Vision Quest effort! ;-)

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20 Dec 15

By Randy Pierce

Christmas photo with Randy, Tracy, and Autumn

Happy holidays from Randy, Tracy, and Autumn!

I still well recall the excitement I felt as a boy when the Christmas season approached. It wasn’t just Christmas morning when presents were opened, though I certainly loved that time too. It was the cheery greetings that flowed from a larger community of people willing to reach out. It was the festive lights, music, and even the crisp air which invigorated me.

Today there is still magic for all of those things, and the spirit of joy and kindness which is encouraged so much more. I believe very strongly that we have the opportunity to fill our entire year with the kind of positivity and enthusiasm which I felt and still feel during the holidays.

I believe the greatest gift to our own spirit, the best uplifting of our own emotional health, is achieved when we find ways to help others. Our efforts with 2020 Vision Quest are a means by which the incredible team provides such help to a much larger community. I am, however, most blessed with the chance to regularly and directly hear the many positive interactions which follow our presentations. Each time someone shares appreciation in all the myriad ways, I am receiving the best Christmas gift ever. In this way, 2020 Vision Quest fills my life with positivity — and while Christmas with Tracy and Autumn will be very special, I get a most precious gift all year long.

I wish for all of you the peace, love, and joy for the season and the rest of the year!

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16 Nov 15

By Michelle Russell

What an amazing Event!

Last night I attended my fourth Peak Potential Dinner and Charity Auction (the sixth one they’ve held). As I reflect on the night one word comes to mind:

GIVE….

G ~ Guiding Eyes for the Blind

A golden lab puppy named Honey meets Autumn

Future Guide Dog Honey meets Autumn!

The event was attended by 24 puppy raisers from NH, ME and MA and 6 puppies in training  (3 black Labs and 3 yellow Labs).

The hit of the party was 8-week-old yellow Lab “Honey” that was carried around and loved by all.  This event is a special night for the puppy raisers. It is a chance to socialize with each other while supporting a cause that is at the core of each of us. This is to provide the gift of love and raise a puppy for approximately 14 months and then give it back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This priceless gift – a Guide Dog will provide a person with vision loss, not only independence and mobility but also companionship.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind receives check

Guiding Eyes for the Blind receives check from 2020 Vision Quest

The dinner works as a wonderful training venue for our pups.  It allows the puppies to practice greeting people, settling at the tables with other dogs and practicing good house manners while food is being served. We each appreciate the chance to be welcomed with our pups by all of those attending the event.

Pat Weber, the Regional Manager for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and Bill LeBlanc, the NH Region Coordinator, accepted a check from 2020 Vision Quest of $20,200 for the non-profit Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

A second check for $20,200 was given to the NH Association of the Blind.

I ~ Inspiration

NH Association for the Blind receives a check from 2020 Vision Quest.

NH Association for the Blind receives a check from 2020 Vision Quest.

The culmination of the dinner is getting the chance to hear Randy Pierce speak.  The slideshow that accompanied Randy’s talk reviewed some of his amazing accomplishments as a blind athlete this past year: running the Boston Marathon and the National Championship, being the first blind athlete to compete in the Tough Mudder in LA, watching the amazing video and then Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Throughout the slideshow Randy mentioned his beloved Guide Dog Quinn who passed away from cancer a year and a half ago. His dedication and devotion to Quinn is evident as you hear Randy’s voice quiver at the mention of his unforgettable pup. All of the puppy raisers also learn by watching Randy’s Guide Dog Autumn working the event with Randy.  She is a beautiful black and tan Labrador retriever that Randy received from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

The array of silent auction items.

The array of silent auction items to raise money for our worthy causes.

V ~ Vision

My take away “nugget” from Randy last night was this: “You do not need to have sight to have Vision.”

Randy has vision. He is a goal setter. We found out that in the next year, Randy plans on writing a book. It was fun watching Randy act as an auctioneer – one of the special auction items was to be emailed pages of the book he will be writing each month. The silent auctions were fabulous. It was fun to take my pup “Gary” and walk by all of the incredible silent auction items. What a great way to raise money for the 2020 Vision Quest charity.

E ~ Education  

Lively participation in our live auction.

Lively participation in our live auction.

One of the key missions of 2020 Vision Quest is to lead and inspire students and professionals to reach beyond adversity and achieve their “peak potential.” It is mind boggling to think that Randy and 2020 Vision Quest have spoken to 45,000 students. He recounted letters he has received from some of the schools. Just recently,  a student that attended one of Randy’s presentations was going to drop out of school — but decided not to because of the inspiration and impacting message that he received from Randy. He does this all while integrating life lessons into little stories that teach about overcoming obstacles by managing adversity.

By attending the Peak Potential Dinner and Charity Auction, I am able to support the organization that is so important to me – Guiding Eyes for the Blind – but I gain so much from Randy.  He inspires me to do more…. To push myself…..  To set Goals…. To have vision…  in both my personal life and in my career.

“To Believe and Achieve Through Goal Setting, Problem Solving, and Perseverance!”

Thank you, Randy… you GIVE .

Bio:

Barnaby and MichelleMichelle Russell, MBA, is a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and a NH Region Volunteer.  She has raised 3 pups, currently one of the pups she raised – Black Labrador Retriever “Randy” is in NYC working as a bomb detection dog keeping us safe. The puppy that she is currently raising (pup #4) is 5-month-old black Lab “Gary” who attended the dinner. She is also a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Nashua, NH. Please visit her website.

If anyone is interested in becoming a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind or buying/selling a home in NH they can contact Michelle@NHselecthomes.com for more information.

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31 Oct 15

Autumn with pumpkins.By Randy Pierce

“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

I am overwhelmed as the return from Africa has been a steady stream of busy in catching up with schools, presentations, our Peak Potential dinner, Marathon training, Lions Presidency and so many more things. Not surprisingly this has led to several mornings of feeling overwhelmed. There are times when figuring out the priority of things takes more time than I can reasonably want to spend and so I often dig right into the work. The trouble is this can lead to me feeling exhausted and at times be a surefire formula for my having a migraine, which only serves to set me further behind.

So in this blog I’m going to share just a couple of the healthier ways in which I cope and to invite you all to help me a little with my work. Autumn is pictured above because she is one of my best means of getting a little mental meditation and recovery. Whether it’s our morning walk forcing me to take time to get out and appreciate the world with her, the play session after that work or during a break or the curl up on the floor snuggle-fest which for those of us who can take solace in time with our pets is simply fantastically beneficial.

Randy and Jose running and determined-smallWhile Autumn prefers the take it in stride approach of the walk, a second method is the mindset behind my running. Marathon training is a lot of work and I can all too easily view it as a chore in advance. The thing is that once I’m actually running, I find it easy to switch the mindset and fully embrace the experience. It’s a chance to escape from the other work and reach a better understanding of myself. Running to improve and prepare for a marathon is likely going to involve sometimes wanting to quit. The more we expose ourselves to this and push onward, the more we learn to fully understand the difference between a real need to take a break or ease off and our body’s protective measure of keeping something in reserve. This can work for running and for those other challenges which lead me to feeling overwhelmed in the first place. In pushing through I find I increase my ability to recognize that difference and to more comfortably push on when there’s a goal in my reach.

So what does this all have to do with you helping me? I was late in getting to this blog this week and my work load has eased back my creative inspiration to write this. So why not drop me a Tweet, Facebook comment, or blog comment telling me about what types of blog posts you most like and most want to hear more about in the future? Perhaps revisit a few of your favorites and share those as an indicator or give us suggestions for totally new directions of blogs. People often share with me inspirational stories and I probably don’t get to share them often enough in this blog space but I hope those keep coming. Maybe this pause will be your own break from feeling overwhelmed and we’ll have both helped each other a bit… or we could go out for a run together! ;-)

 

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17 Oct 15

By Randy Pierce

Autumn sings with Billy Joel!

Autumn sings with Billy Joel!

While there’s still so much more to tell about our own African adventures, Autumn wasn’t just left home to sing the blues, despite what our playfully adjusted image to the right might suggest!  She is due a little attention because her part of the experience was very important to us as well as rather worthy. On the lighter side, I suggested to our social media manager, Greg Neault, that perhaps he could Photoshop some fun pictures of Autumn’s virtual world tour to post intermittently while we were away. He took the challenge and created a fun series of adventures which our Facebook  and Twitter followers were able to enjoy while we were away. We include all those images in this blog for your enjoyment.

Meanwhile Autumn actually was staying with our friend and Guiding Eyes trainer Chrissie Vetrano. Chrissie originally trained the Mighty Quinn and also brought Autumn to me to work us into the team we are today. Of her own kindness she was taking our precious girl into her home with the promise of plenty of love and attention from the humans of the house and Chrissie’s lovable lab Malcolm. Her accommodations were more like Club Med for dogs than our own home and pictures and video clips of Autumn crossed the Atlantic regularly to keep us posted on her being well loved and tended.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

During the days, Autumn would travel with Chrissie to Guiding Eyes to enjoy their accommodations and a little bit of extra work along with her vacation. The poignant part of this process is the ongoing care and attention which Guiding Eyes brings to all their teams and dogs. Their work doesn’t end with the training of their incredible Dog Guides but continues throughout the lives and work of the teams. While I’ll never forget the over-the-top care and support they provided to Quinn and me during his battle with cancer, I’m similarly appreciative of the demonstrated way in which they provide this to all handlers and dogs. They were all too glad to accommodate, ensuring our girl would have the best of care in all ways while we were away. She even returned freshly bathed and pampered and so very eager to see and snuggle with us again.

Autumn with Pats players

Autumn snaps some photos with the Pats!

The real key to any organization is always the people (and pups!) who make it great. In this I end as I began, and endured our time away from Autumn with the incredible appreciation I had knowing Autumn was in Chrissie’s so very capable and attentive care. I’m not sure I can ever be thankful enough for the gifts of Guiding Eyes in the dogs and people they’ve brought into my life. I will say with full conviction that I am very, very grateful and hope that every day the open way in which Autumn and I share our teamwork with the world helps to showcase the power of a great organization and the people behind them. Meanwhile, as the photos show – we have a little fun along the way!

Autumn at the Taj Mahal

Next stop: Taj Mahal!

Autumn sits on a ledge at Notre Dame

Autumn saunters over to Notre Dame and hangs with the gargoyles.

Autumn poses beside a large canyon

And finally, Autumn ends an exhausting week taking in some excellent views at Zion National Park!

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