© 2017 by Ann Chiappetta
What, exactly, does it mean to share one's life with a guide dog?
While there is practical merit to the human-canine bond, which developed over a period of 70,000 years, it's not akin to any other human-animal relationship. It is unique.
The person and guide dog are interdependent, and the bond of mutual trust is what makes the partnership successful and fulfilling for both. Ask yourself how many people you would trust with your life, and after answering, ask yourself if you would trust an animal with your life. Unless you are bonded to and live with a working dog, you might hesitate in answering the second question.
To be sure, guide dogs have performed many heroic tasks and have saved handlers from innumerable dangers. However, there are smaller and subtler things that can mean so very much: the feel of your dog's head on a foot while riding the bus, the whimpers and doggie dreaming, the way you and the dog move in sync when walking down the street, and countless other tokens of trust and affection.
With this book, I hope to take the reader on a journey of understanding: learning what it's like to overcome the darker side of disability by walking the path of independence with a canine partner.
Edited by David and Leonore H. Dvorkin
Cover by David Dvorkin
Ann Chiappetta's second book, entitled Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust, presented a view of the difficulties of life with low vision. She took me on a journey through her world as she reflected on the loneliness of growing up visually impaired but not blind. There are passages that touch the heart describing her struggles with declining vision. I felt her pain at not measuring up to some nonexistent super blind person who does it all right with grace and aplomb. I wanted to hug her for her honesty.
Annie's first book, Upwelling, was a book of poetry, and there are elements of her poetic soul here, too. She includes essays that capture how she meets the challenges of her life. She moves forward in the process of overcoming her disappointment over being told she has too much vision to have a guide dog. Her difficulty with changing from bright light to dimness causes her vertigo, and too much light gives her severe pain. She wasn't given cane instruction until she was 28, even though learning some verification techniques might have kept her safer earlier.
Finally, Annie moves into the world of the blind with the achievement of being accepted to train with a guide dog. She learns how to work as a team with her dog, Verona. She shares the joys and the sorrows as Verona first helps her travel with dignity and safety and then begins to show her that guiding has become too much for this gentle dog sooner than Annie expected. She explains transition, second dog issues, and successfully moving on, despite glitches like having to leave class early due to illness.
I have been a guide dog handler for 50 years and a lifelong animal lover. However, I lost all of my vision in childhood. This gave me the best of both worlds. I didn't have to struggle with low vision and learned my compensatory skills early and had the benefits of having had vision for eight years.
Anyone who wonders whether a guide dog might be the answer for them, even though they have some vision, will get a lot out of reading this book. For those who have never had vision, they will better understand how those with some usable sight but not enough for safe travel might benefit from a guide dog. Thank you, Annie, for your openness and willingness to tell your story.
DeAnna Quietwater Noriega
First Vice-President of Guide Dog Users, Inc., 2016-2018
Peer Advisor/Writer for the Vision Aware blog
The review first appeared at this address:
Follow Your Dog is a must read!! It is a reflective, informative story of what vision loss feels like, and how patience, time, love and trust can change a person's life. Kudos to author Ann Chiappetta for writing this heart-warming book and sharing her journey!
Five-star review on Amazon from Cheryll
Hi, Annie and all. Just wanted to send Annie congratulations for a terrific book! For those worried about accessibility, I bought the book from iBooks and was able to read it with no problems using voice over. Annie wrote a very touching story about losing her vision along with her independence, and then gaining it back again with the use of her guide dog. I strongly recommend people check it out.
It's a story many of us can relate to. It is also a terrific resource for anyone thinking about getting a guide dog because it goes into a lot of details about the entire process. Just make sure you have some tissues on hand!
Annie, thanks for sharing your story! I will definitely recommend it to people beyond this list.
Director of Advocacy
New York Association on Independent Living
My name is Anita Bonanno. I am a GEB Graduate from the Special Needs program at GEB [Guiding Eyes for the Blind]. I bought your book on Kindle and read it with my computer and loved every minute of it. It was so beautifully written and I found myself right there with you.
Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story.
© 2016 by Ann Chiappetta
Guide dogs, death, and a disturbing dream. Marriage, memories, and intriguing mysteries. Eroticism, abortion, and a wonderfully poetic essay. In this collection of 23 of her short, accessible poems from several decades, Ann Chiappetta explores an enormous range of emotions and topics.
"Orbituary" mourns the removal of an eye. "Verona" and "In Those Dark Moments" are tributes to her beloved guide dog. "Appearances" offers reflections on adjusting to blindness. Four of the poems deal with the illness and death of others and her enduring grief. "Root Cellar" is like a miniature horror movie. "The Marriage Pot" employs a much-used spaghetti pot as a symbol for the vicissitudes of a long marriage. "Helium" offers a balloon's view of its surroundings. "NoneTheWiser" gives us the words of an unconventional little girl.
These poems may variously pierce your heart or warm it, surprise you or amuse you. But they will surely move you and make for lasting memories.
Edited by David and Leonore H. Dvorkin
Cover by David Dvorkin
This poem appears in the book. A photograph of Verona follows the poem.
I wait for the knock
Once it comes my life will change forever
Since I arrived
For two days and nights
For my entire life until now
I sit on the bed
Wondering how it will feel an hour from now
And go numb with nerves
Questions scroll across the marquee of my mind
What will she be like?
Will she like me, learn to love me?
The hot red letters of doubt scroll past
Can she guide me?
Will I be able to trust her?
Then the knock comes and my heart jumps
"Come in," I say
Hoping I can open my heart with as much ease as the door.
I hear her nails click on the floor
I put out a hand, touch her head
She licks me, tail wagging
"Ann, this is Verona," the trainer says
I don't really know what to say or how to feel
But her presence soothes me
"Aren't you a beautiful girl?" I coo as the trainer leaves
We sit on the floor together
The marquee of doubt vanishes
The blocky, red letters fade
Replaced by a message of calm, canine acceptance
Dressed in ebony
She settles her head in my lap
Each stroke of my hand
Strengthens the hope, quiets the fear
The questions dissipate with the knowledge
—Stroke by stroke—
That she is the one who will lead me
To read the review, please click here.
Ann was interviewed by Frederic Byé, Writer, Creative Entrepreneur, Host/Founder of the Creative Magic Network and Co-Host of FrankieSense and More.
If the audio player above doesn't work for you, you can listen to the interview by clicking on this link: http://www.fredericbye.com/ann-chiappetta/.
Ann was interviewed by Bob Branco on his show, Branco Broadcasts. Listen to the interview here:
Photograph © Cheryll Romanek.
Ann Chiappetta's poems, articles, and short fiction have appeared in both print and online publications, most notably Dialogue magazine, Matilda Ziegler online magazine, and other small press reviews. Her poetry has been featured in Lucidity, Midwest Poetry Review, Magnets and Ladders, and Breath & Shadow. She is also a contributing editor of the last-named publication.
Ann holds a Master of Science degree in marriage and family therapy and currently practices as a readjustment counseling therapist for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She lives in New Rochelle, New York with her husband, daughter, and assorted pets.
To read more of her writing, go to her blog: www.thought-wheel.com
Cell phone: 914-393-6605