The Right to Hope

We sat in chairs arranged in a circle in a room about the size of a high school classroom. A man presided over the ring of high school students, designating the “head” of the group, with other facilitators and staff ranged around the outside of the room. I was jet-lagged, hadn’t yet converted to the way of coffee, and underwhelmed by the hype surrounding this conference. It was about to get worse.

“I’m going to ask you all a question,” said the lead facilitator. “You’ll each get a chance to answer, we’ll go ahead and start on my left and go around the circle. Ready? Ok, here goes.”

“if you could take a pill today to have your sight fully restored, would you do it?”

I was a little surprised at the number of kids who enthusiastically said “no,” they loved their blindness, their lives were pretty awesome the way they were. But I was intrigued. I didn’t hate being disabled, and it was nice to be around people who didn’t see it as unusual or pitiable. But when we got around the circle I was the only one who said “yes, I’d take that pill.”

For the next ten minutes both staff and students alike proceeded to shame me for having a bitter, unaccepting attitude toward my disability. I didn’t recognize what they were doing at the time; I argued back, and was really annoyed and disappointed that all their arguments were based on emotion, not logic. Not one of them actually disproved my points, they just kept telling me I’d be bitter someday if I didn’t change my mind.

It took me years to recognize the bullying and peer pressure that went on in that room, and others like it over the next two years. It wasn’t until this past year that I finally learned the term “toxic positivity,” where parts of reality are suppressed because, instead of empathizing with troubles, people will encourage you to death thinking positivity is the cure for pain.

So is it really any surprise that, though I became a Christian in 1993, attended church my entire life, witnessed to unbelievers, went on mission trips, taught Sunday school, lead prayer and youth ministries, and memorized over 800 separate Scriptures before I graduated high school, it never occurred to me to pray to have my sight restored?

Never once did I ask God to heal my blindness, to open my eyes. Not until 2015. It took another 3 years for me to ask someone else to pray for my sight, too.

I was taught by well-intentioned leaders in the blind community that hope for a cure ruled out the possibility of accepting one’s disability. They were presented as mutually exclusive options. They were also presented as feelings. If one felt hope, one couldn’t feel peace, contentment, acceptance. And hope would inevitably lead to disappointment, and disappointment to despair, and despair bitterness.

No wonder I joined the Dark Side

I didn’t want to be bitter. It’s a passive-aggressive attitude that harms others until they learn to distance themselves. You can’t show God’s love to others like that, and that’s what I wanted to do. So I chose acceptance and buried hope. After all, the eye specialist I saw regularly at the Oregon Health Sciences University had been telling me “we’ll have a cure in 5-20 years” for…about 20 years. There wasn’t anything concrete to set my hopes on, so I didn’t.

But one evening in July of 2015 my husband and I found ourselves having dinner with a couple who were definitely on the more charismatic side of the Catholic spectrum than I’d had any idea existed. My husband and I are Protestant, more or less evangelical in nature, and so this led to a fascinating after-dinner conversation about the nature of the Holy Spirit, faith-healing, and modern miracles.

Then these lovely people told us that they’d received a vision claiming God would begin to heal my sight soon, and they wanted to be part of that process, so would I mind if they prayed over my eyes?

What could it hurt? I thought. I said yes.

They did the whole show, laying hands over my eyes (with my permission), speaking in an unknown language (without translation), for a solid 2 minutes of intensely focused prayer. It was moving to see people so committed, so unrestrained in their hope and absolutely dedicated to wanting me to see clearly, wanting to be part of that experience.

For the record, I am actually slightly more blind now than I was on that date. No miracle happened, my condition progresses normally. I’m vaguely disappointed, but not too much so. It would have been nice, but if they’d actually performed a miracle today you might not have ever learned the term “blindfluencer,” because I made it up to describe myself. So, you’re welcome?

My husband and I talked over the experience on the drive home. At one point we pulled over and I called my parents to ask them if anyone in our family history had ever prayed over my eyes, either like that or less dramatically. They said some people had offered, early on, but that nothing came of it.

When my husband suggested we try it I dismissed the suggestion and changed the subject. It was reflexive, so smooth and instinctive that I didn’t really think about it until the next day. And then the next, and the next. I started asking myself why I’d never prayed for my sight to be restored, and the answer I kept coming to was “if it doesn’t work I’ll just be disappointed.”

So, what was so bad about disappointment? I asked my journal.

Disappointment leads to despair, despair to bitterness.

Hope and Acceptance aren’t feelings. They’re lifestyles.

Acceptance happens when I choose not to let tripping on a coffee table or embarrassing myself playing keep-away with my credit card at a cash register ruin my day or change how I view my disability. Acceptance is acknowledging when my disability is inconvenient, painful or limiting, and then choosing daily, sometimes hourly to put it in its proper place, a fraction of my life that fits into an incredibly beautiful, powerful whole. I can be frustrated with needing friends to pick me up if we’re going to hang out but still not hate my life or see myself as a burden because I’m more than blind, and blindness is more than inconvenience.

And hope? Hope isn’t a feeling either. It can be felt, but the absence of that feeling does not constitute hopelessness. I realize that I have hoped for a cure my whole life, whether I thought about it or not. I go to regular eye screenings at OHSU, I keep abreast of scientific advances that might benefit me. And in 30 years that has included mild disappointment, but not despair, and certainly not bitterness.

The equation is wrong. The path from Disappointment to bitterness isn’t inevitable. It’s just one path of many. I can survive disappointment. I know because I’ve been doing it every day of my life. Disappointment is a normal part of life, and to avoid it diminishes our capacity to accept it when it comes along. So, I learned to pray for a cure.

The first time I did it, I did it silently in my head. My heart pounded, my body coursed with adrenaline. And then I went on with my day. It happened the same way the first time I wrote a prayer for my sight in my journal. Years of fearing what change might happen to me if I gave in, physically absorbed memories of dire warnings and brow-beatings shook through my hands let out in little trickles as I took baby steps toward fully realizing my right to hope.

I have the right to hope for a cure.

I want to see 20/20 someday.

I cried the first time I asked other people to pray that prayer for me. I was wired like I’d had three cups of coffee in one sitting for the rest of that day. Nothing terrible happened that day, or in the four years since then. I live with more joy now than I could have imagined four years ago.

I have daydreams of what my life might be like in a future – or even a present – where I can see. I have an Amazon Wishlist of journals, study Bibles, and telescopes, and I’ve even allowed myself to write down some of these sight-dreams (always to be instantly erased, because eradicating fear of being shamed takes years).

Three things I want to do if – when – my sight is restored.

  • 1. I want to create and organize photo albums that tell the interwoven narratives of my life.
  • 2. I want to take a solo road trip across the US
  • 3. I want to be able to sight-read from a hymnal so playing piano for church doesn’t required hours of practice and memorization.

I’ve got a list longer than that hidden in a complex file tree in Google Drive. I hope you can appreciate how hard it is for me to share this with you, even now. For as many advantages as it’s given me, the peculiar adulation and the unique introductions, getting to bring my dog with me everywhere, I wish I weren’t blind. But that wish doesn’t dominate more than a fraction of a percent of my thoughts in any given moment.

I don’t pray for healing every day, or even every week. I did for a while, partially as a ritual to cleanse myself of the fear of it. But now I only pray for it when it crosses my mind, which isn’t every day. How much of that is just because I have a lot going on, and how much is a lingering avoidance instinct I couldn’t venture to say. But if someone offered to pray over my eyes again I would say yes.

Three Reasons I wish I weren’t Blind

  • 1. I want to be able to set my own work schedule independently of others’ schedule.
  • I’d love to be able to run errands without taking up others’ time.
  • I want to be able to read my own mail, a hymnal, informed consent at a doctor’s office, a menu at a restaurant.

I’ve found work-arounds, solutions, and consolations for each of these, and thousands of other problems. But each work-around takes time, and not just mine. I have the right to wish, to pray, that I could function as independently as anyone else.

I live hope with acceptance.

I pray for a cure with unceasing gratitude.

I acknowledge my pain, because denying it exists would never allow me to heal.

Guest Post: From First Pet to Last Snuggle

I’ve had the privilege of meeting and collaborating with some great bloggers recently, and today I have another guest post to share with you. This brilliant writer is a woman much like myself; she’s blind, works with a service dog, and has stories to tell. I’ve found a lot of my own experiences echoed in her words, which you should definitely check out here.

And if you just really miss my words, you can see what I posted on her blog here. It’s all part of my sneaky plan to lure you into reading more of Rhianna’s articles.

Today Rhianna has a sad story to tell, yet another one that will someday be my story, too. She’s had to retire her service dog. But when she went online in search of others who’d had this experience who could support her through this painful process, she found silence. People with disabilities are often isolated by sheer numbers; there just aren’t that many of us per capita in any given location. And when you narrow down the field to “blind with service dogs,” the available support pool shrinks to scattered raindrops.

But Rhianna’s a blogger, and responded in kind. Since she couldn’t find the support, she chose to create it for others. Here is her story.

P.S. Grab tissues.

Mid morning light was streaming in through the open living room windows and my 70-pound golden lab cross was curled up on my lap. Tears rolled down my cheeks and landed on his silky head. He didn’t seem to mind though.

He knew I needed him. We needed each other. We knew the moment had come.

John Green said: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep—slowly, then all at once.” This is how I fell in love with Cricket. I’d been falling for him for the six months before I met him, waiting for him to finish training and be matched with me—the dream team. And when he sauntered into my room, licked my hand and lay down at my feet, my heart was truly his.

In reflecting on our two-year relationship from first pet to last snuggle, I’ve realized that it’s the same way with grief. If you’ll allow me a moment, I’d like to share with you the story of Cricket’s retirement.

Rhianna McGreggor walks with her golden lab cross guide dog, Cricket, on a snowy path.

It was midsummer 2020, and Cricket and I were out for our usual half-hour walk around the neighbourhood. We were five minutes from home, just headed down the hill when, in the middle of the sidewalk, Cricket stopped.

And wouldn’t move.

“Cricket, forward,” I said, giving the leash an encouraging snap.

But he just stood there like a dog statue. “Cricket, forward,” I urged again. No response.

I ran through my mental checklist, trying to figure out what might be wrong. Is he distracted? What is he looking at? Does he need to relieve himself? Is he in pain? I checked the harness, inspected his paws, and found everything as it should be.

“Cricket, forward,” I said again. But there was still no response. Not wanting to frustrate either of us further, I turned around, picked up the harness handle and without a command, Cricket guided me flawlessly (and speedily) back home.

This was not normal, so I reached out to my trainer for help. His suggestions did helped… sometimes. It was hit and miss for the next nine months, and all the while, the question I was trying to keep down kept pushing itself to the forefront of my mind.

Did Cricket want to retire?

No, he couldn’t, I thought. He’s only three. Guide dogs are supposed to work for six to eight years, not two.

In the spring of 2021, the whispers of Cricket’s retirement were growing louder and louder. Cricket wouldn’t work two days in a row, preferring to take a luxurious nap rather than run errands with me. He avoided me when I brought down the harness from the hook by the door. On our walks, he would stop at the intersections and refuse to cross the street. He stalled at the top of staircases and deliberately took me off sidewalks into driveways and onto lawns. It was very unsafe.

And very obvious. Cricket was telling me every way he knew how:

“Mom, I don’t want to be a guide dog anymore.”

The final straw came on April 23. I got up that morning and said to God: “If Cricket wants to retire, I need you to make it clear to me today. I can’t keep doing this.”

Cricket guided me all 15 minutes to the coffee shop with only a couple hiccups. I was feeling optimistic. I drank my iced latte, picked up the harness handle, but rather than a quick 15 minute trip home, we stopped and started every 30 seconds. We made it home 45 minutes later, and I knew God had given me my answer.

Remember that moment in my living room? When we got home, I held Cricket tight and told him, “You don’t have to work anymore if you don’t want to, baby. I want you to be happy, and if retiring is what’ll make you happy, that’s okay.”

This is how it happened with me and Cricket. But every service dog handler’s story is different. In retirement, some handlers choose to have their dogs remain with them at home. Some choose to rehome them to close friends or family, and still others send their dogs back to their training school and have the staff find them loving homes. I knew that in making Cricket’s retirement official, the next question was where he would live.

He couldn’t live with me. I didn’t have the physical space or the financial means to care for him, particularly as I would be applying for a successor guide. After much deliberation and prayer, it was decided that Cricket would return to his puppy raiser, back in his native Michigan.

It’s been almost two months now since I said goodbye to my baby boy. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful and close relationship with his puppy raiser (now mom), and receive frequent updates. Cricket is living the life out in the country, with his doggy sister, Willow and fields to run in.

But me? I’m still waking up every morning, thinking that he’ll be in the bed next to mine. I still do the hand gestures for “forward,” “right” and “left” as I walk with friends. And when my partner guided me to the curb and stopped, I said “good boy” instead of “thank you.” Thankfully, he and I both laughed.

But the grief is still very raw. It will be for a long time.

The grief of retiring a service dog begins on that very first day. You’re overwhelmed with joy and hope and love for this dog that has already changed your life, but you know deep down that eventually, it will end. And when it does, I need you to know a few things.

I know you’re hurting right now. Your heart is broken and you don’t know how or when it will be put back together. After all, the only thing that could heal it has just been taken from you.

I know you’re angry. Why does it have to end this way? Why does it have to end at all? It’s not fair—to love someone so much and have to let go.

I know you wonder if you did enough to make it work. Countless pieces of advice have come your way, from trainers, fellow handlers and complete strangers, and yet, the only thing you want to hear is that yes, you did enough, and you are good enough.

I know you miss him. You think you hear him snoring in his bed but when you reach down to check, the bed is empty. You add dog food to the grocery list, realize you don’t have to buy it, but you do anyway. You cry yourself to sleep because the blankets still smell like her, and you laugh through your tears, remembering how she took up the whole bed.

I know you wonder if you could ever love another dog the way you loved him.

I know you’re not okay right now.

Neither am I.

And we won’t be for a long time. And that’s okay, too.

Writing this post broke my heart all over again. I cried my way through draft after draft, trying to find a way to express the depth of my grief and the grief for the handlers going through it that would do justice to the bond we share with our dogs. Whether I’ve accomplished that, I’ll leave up to you.

But let me leave you with one final thought: During my therapy sessions during and after Cricket’s retirement, I so often tried to minimize my pain, saying that every handler goes through it, that we all know it’s coming someday, and it’s already been two months since he moved.

But my therapist is helping me to reframe that. Rather than set a timeline for healing my broken heart and invalidating my emotions, just feel it. It’s okay to hurt. It’s good to grieve. It’s okay to not be okay. The loss is as real as any other despite what we may think or be told. And there’s no one-size-fits-all for grief. It’s a journey.

So feel every emotion, hug his favourite toy, curl up in his bed, and remember every day what he did for you. He still loves you, just as you will always love him.

Dear Cricket, thank you for everything. You are forever in my heart.

Love, Mom

Dress for Success

This week’s post is going to be a bit technical, but to make up for it I’ve got lots of cute puppy pics.

This year Greta suffered a minor shoulder injury. I’m not precisely certain when it happened, but I suspect it was the result of racing across uneven ground at a dog park. Kids play hard, right? Fortunately, the dog trainer I’d hired to help me with Greta’s behavioral problems also has an interest in canine kinesiology and physical rehabilitation. She taught us some exercises to help strengthen at-risk muscle groups, but also took a lifestyle approach to treatment. She wanted to look at Greta’s harness.

The Seeing Eye issues a beautiful, understated leather harness with reflective strips and the school name stamped into it. It looks professional on any dog, and it’s easy to care for. But this harness, sans the reflective strips, is pretty much identical to the one that Morris Frank, first blind American to use a service dog, designed back in the 1920’s. it’s based on a cart-horse harness.

Greta is in the old harness and standing at Anneliese’s left side. Anneliese is wearing jeans and sneakers and the two of them are standing on a large pebbled concrete pad. The image is looking down from Anneliese’s point of “view” onto Greta’s back. The strap of the old harness rests behind Greta’s shoulder blades.

Horses and dogs may look similar, but their kinesiology is very different. A horse’s foreleg bends like a human knee-joint, with the shoulder only sliding a little and the hoof pointing backward. The joint bends forward.

A woman in a red riding jacket, grey riding pants, and black riding boots sands in front of a speckled and grey horse with a thick winter coat. They are standing in about 2 inches of snow near a forest. The woman is using her left hand to hold the reins near the horses mouth and is using her right hand to encourage the horse to raise its right forward leg in a fancy show pose. Photo courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen.

A dog’s foreleg more closely resembles a human arm, with the shoulder rotating back farther, the paw extending forward, and the joint angling backward.

Anneliese is on he knees in front of her service dog Greta, who is sitting and facing Anneliese. Anneliese is using her left hand to hold training treats which Greta is focusing on. While Greta looks at the treat hand, Anneliese is using her right hand to gently lift Greta’s paw into the air, causing the dog’s front left should to flex and rotate in a therapeutic stretch. Photo courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen.

What the trainer noticed, however, was that the slenderness of the back-strap put pressure directly onto Greta’s spine, and the angle of the back-straps connection to the chest strap didn’t allow for much range of motion for Greta’s shoulder.

So that 90-degree angle between the back and chest strap on TSE’s harness restricts a dog’s natural shoulder motion. The trainer asked me if there were other styles of harness we could use. That thought, however, had never once crossed my mind even after more than 10 years working a service dog!

We did some googling, and it turns out that other people had begun to ask this question in recent years, too. Are there better ways to design harnesses that still transmit information from the dog’s neck and shoulders to a blind person’s hand but better support a dog’s natural range of motion? The answer, fortunately, is yes.

Here you can see that the back-strap attaches higher on Greta’s side, and at an angle that allows her shoulder to move more freely in its natural direction. That back-strap is also half again as wide as the one on the old harness, and has a cushioned underside to help better distribute the weight of the harness across her spine.

The little brown patches you see there are strips of moleskin I applied to areas where the nylon rubbed on Greta’s stomach. Those areas are a little more tender than normal because of her recently healed infection. By the time the moleskin falls off, that area will be healed and she won’t need it anymore. Just another DIY trick for supporting your service dog’s workplace comfort.

This harness looks pretty good in theory, doesn’t it? Support’s the dog’s natural range of motion, each piece is custom-fitted for the individual dog, still nice and professional-looking, with maybe a slightly sportier flare….but do these two changes really make a difference in a dog’s working comfort?

Yes, they do. After several chiropractic visits and a new treadmill routine (yes, dogs can go on treadmills) we tried out the new harness on a walk around the neighborhood. Greta held her head a little higher, picked up her paws a little more, and generally felt more relaxed and confident in her stride.

I could feel the change in her head posture and gait through the harness, and the trainer confirmed my observations as she walked alongside us. Taking the pressure off her spine and freeing up that shoulder made the unnatural business of wearing a harness that much more natural-feeling and comfortable. Just like people, dogs perform better when they’re physically and emotionally comfortable, so it was definitely worth what I paid for this custom piece of equipment.

So it works for the dog, but how about for the handler?

Dog guide harnesses are designed with a very specific function in mind. Information about a dog’s speed, direction, and attitude can be inferred from head and shoulder angle, and that information needs to be relayed through touch to the blind handler. This is done by attaching a stiff handle to flexible joints on the harness. When Greta stops, turns, or leans, her motion is translated through the joint, into the handle, and then into my hand.

The old and new working harness’ are side by side on pebblestone concrete. The old harness is in the top of the image and the new one is in the bottom of the image. You can see that while they both have the same idea of design, it is executed very differently. Photo courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen.

The new harness incorporates this concept, but at a different angle. The connection point between handle and shoulder strap is higher, up on Greta’s side. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t receive as much information if her shoulder didn’t move the handle joint in the same way it had previously.

We look down from Anneliese’s point of “view” at Greta in her new harness. Greta looks over to her right with her ears forward toward whatever has her attention. You can see how the new harness sits more on Greta’s back than her sides and transmits information up the handle to Anneliese. Photo courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen.

I’ve been using the new harness almost daily for the past two months now, so I’ve had time to get used to the new arrangement, and I can confidently say that while the motion does feel a little different, it is the same amount of information. Think of it like hearing the same sentence spoken in two different accents but the same language. Different, yet equivalent, still comprehensible.

The differences are subtle enough I’m not sure I could put them into words. But there are a couple of other adjustments I’ve had to make that are easier to articulate. For one thing, the buckle on the old harness was on Greta’s left side, whereas the buckle on the new harness is on the right. 10 years of muscle memory is hard to overwrite!

The softer nylon material is, of course, not as stiff as the hardened leather. This means that getting the new harness over Greta’s head is more challenging. With the old harness I’d slip the leash over my left wrist to keep it out of the way, then use my left hand to gather the girth straps, fold them up over the back-strap so they wouldn’t hit Greta in the face, and just slip the opening between the back and chest strap over her head. Once the harness settled onto her back I could release the girth straps, thread them through eh martingale, and buckle them.

Anneliese demonstrates her previous description of the one-handed hold on the old harness as it would be if she were putting it on Greta to work. Photo courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen.

But nylon doesn’t hold its shape the way leather does. When I tried this with the new harness the opening for Greta’s head collapsed in on itself, and Greta backed away. Very reasonably, she had no desire to squish her face and ears through such a narrow gap. A little trial and error and lots of dog treats to ensure a positive experience produced a working solution.

Now I slip the leash over my right wrist to keep it out of the way and give me a tangible tether so I can sense Greta’s body orientation without touching her. I gather up the long girth strap and fold it over the back-strap like before, but I use both hands to grasp that back-strap and force the sides of the chest strap open, widening the loop. Essentially, I use my hands to create the stiffness that the leather harness naturally possessed.

Anneliese demonstrates the two-handed hold she uses with the new harness to place it on Greta to begin work. Photo courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen.

It’s taking some time for Greta and me to get used to this new arrangement, but we’re both eager for it to work. It’ll be muscle-memory in a few more weeks, I expect.

I also didn’t know how to account for how the changed height of the handle joint when sending in measurements for this new harness. The two handles are exactly the same length, but the new one joins the harness higher up on Greta’s side, which has the effect of adding about two inches to the distance between me and Greta’s shoulder. At first this concerned me; I thought neither of us would be happy with this increased distance between us. But we’ve adapted very quickly and don’t even notice it anymore.

Overall, TSEs harness design is a good, solid choice. It looks good, it does the job well, it’s easy to care for. But I like the new ergonomic harness better. Its updated structure better supports us as a working team without losing any of the benefits from the original model. I will definitely be ordering harnesses like this new one for all future dogs.

Official Product Rating:

If you’re working a dog guide and reading this post I strongly recommend you consider updating your harness, too. Our working dogs put a lot of physical wear and tear on their bodies, and deserve the same ergonomic supports that we do in our own working environments. You can custom-order this harness from On the Go here.

In the meantime, if you’ve seen other handle-oriented dog guide harness designs, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to know what other options are out there to support our beloved canine partners. Until next time, I remain your favorite friendly blindfluencer challenging you to appreciate life on the dark side!

All original photographs are courtesy of Galadriel Coffeen

Flashback Friday: Grooming

Original Post Date: 2May 26, 2009

The first night is always the hardest.

Wrenched from their warm, cozy kennels where they slept curled up in a pile of fluffy friends, thrust into a strange room with only one other being nearby who sleeps separately from them, it’s no wonder that most new Seeing Eye dogs cry throughout their first night with their new human partners.

Prada rather graciously kept her unhappiness to herself until the early morning so I didn’t fall much farther behind on my sleep-debt. She still tries to take my arm with her whenever she gets her former trainer in her sights, but I know that’s a temporary distraction. Knowing that circumstances will favor her bonding to me once we’re back home helps me handle my own feelings of anxiety.

I tried to remember my first night with Greta, but ironically I’m sleep-deprived at the moment The memory won’t come. If I had to place bets, though, I’d guess neither of us slept well the first two or three nights together.

While The Seeing Eye teaches a basic routine for dog care, every dog is different and trainers encourage us to observe and experiment within certain limits to find out what works best for us. For instance, most dogs want to eat, then go outside and park. Prada insists on parking first.

This isn’t the only thing she prioritizes over food. You’d think shepherds would eat like horses, since they’re such big dogs. Prada stands to my waist, and I’m a rather tall woman. But apparently they are notoriously picky eaters. Prada, for example, finds food uninteresting unless I move the kibble around enough so she can see the bottom of the bowl.

I remember how worried I was by her disinterest in kibble. It had never occurred to me that a dog would be indifferent to food. My sheltie growing up was a grazer, so I knew not all of them hoovered up their meals but I was convinced for the first week that Prada’s refusal to eat was an omen that our bond was doomed to fail. I was incapable of calming her enough to eat, therefore I’d fail at convincing her to bond with me.

This was a persistent theme throughout her life, however. I used to joke that if the stars weren’t aligned properly,, she wouldn’t eat. Unfortunately, I had a boyfriend in college who once proposed the theory that Prada took her cue for me. He was convinced I didn’t eat enough, that I needed someone to remind me to eat, and that Prada took her cues from me. It didn’t occur to me until years later just how toxic that theory was.

The only drawback I foresee in our training is the heat. Even my room on the second floor is too warm for my new “Walking Carpet.” Naturally, Prada’s solution is to share her fur coat with me.

Ironically, at this point I didn’t know what “Prada” was. I spent a while confusing it with a Russian Newspaper, Pravda, until someone finally enlightened me. But I didn’t see the movie until after I graduated college, and I still haven’t read the book. It’s on my ever-growing list, though…

Posted Later that Day

We received a hands-on grooming lesson today. Beyond the very practical reasons for grooming such as managing dog hair and keeping your dog looking neat and professional, grooming serves a wide variety of essential functions in a dog-human relationship, and one or two particularly important for service dog teams. But since Prada is a long-haired, or coated, shepherd, those practical reasons would be more than enough to motivate me to add it into our future routine together.

When brushing a dog you end up running your hands over the entirety of the dog’s body. From head to neck to back to sides, legs, tail, chest, you’ll be able to feel for lumps, bumps, scrapes, skin irritations like hot-spots, or other evidence of injury or illness. It’s a completely tactile wellness check. It’s also a great time to bond with your dog. Dogs both speak and receive love through physical touch. Brushing just might be a great way for both of you to wind down, concentrate on each other, and let the rest of the world take care of itself for ffteen minutes.

This should mean that Prada loves grooming, right?

Wrong. Our first grooming session was a bit of a wrestling match. It’s likely due to my inexperience combined with her anxiety, so I think we’ll get used to each other. But for now it’s going to be a challenge. I can feel my motivation draining away already…

Regular grooming is also important for your dog’s health. Just like brushing your own hair and exfoliating your own skin, brushing helps to regulate the dog’s oil production and overall skin and coat health.  And, finally, it gives your dog a sleek appearance, helping to promote the image of a professional, capable team navigating all areas of the public. You don’t want to take a dog that looks like Hank the Farm Dog into your board meeting, do you?

What about bathing?

Like everything else, TSE has recommendations on that, too. Too-frequent bathing can dry out the skin and coat. TSE suggests baths every 2-3 months, 4 if possible. It turns out that a lot of that “dog smell” people complain about comes from an imbalance of skin and coat chemistry, so keeping it regulated is more important than frequent baths. It seems a general assumption around here is that we’ll take our dogs to professional groomers. But I’m a country girl; I grew up bathing my own dogs outside with a water hose and inside in the bath tub. I don’t see a reason to change that now.

The previous version of this post included a step-by-step explanation of how to brush a dog. I’ll leave you to find more professional grooming instruction from better sources. What I’d like to emphasize again is the personalization – dog-ization? – of a grooming routine. No two people have the same skin and hair chemistry, and so it is with dogs. Some respond better to moisturizing shampoos, others need limited ingredients. Some need more or less frequent baths than the recommendation above. All I’m willing to put my foot down on is the need for daily – or as near daily as you can get – brushing. It’ll help you stay in touch – pun intended – with your dog’s grooming needs.

Prada never did learn to love grooming, and it was frustrating for both of us. Knowing what I do now, I think I could have made the experience more enjoyable for both of us. It’s a lesson I’ll definitely keep in mind for future dogs. Fortunately, Miss Greta loves a good, thorough brushing. She comes running when I pull out the brush, and returns the favor with extreme vigor. Grooming in dog packs is a group activity; I receive a loving bath in return for my efforts.

The Most Inclusive Coffee In Town

I’ve got something special for you today! Pour yourself a cup of coffee, then sit down and read all about why you should get your next cup at Charlie Foster’s.

Charlie Foster’s is a locally-owned coffee shop located in Huntsville’s exciting new Stovehouse complex. The atmosphere is hip and modern, with creative use of lighting and dozens of outlets to promote a comfortable yet stimulating work environment so you can freelance, study, or pound out projects all while enjoying one of their signature beverages.

It’s become a favorite destination for me, and I’m so thrilled that co-owner Austin Jenkins agreed to be my first interviewee here at Look on the Dark Side. What inspired me to seek out this interview was learning about how Charlie Foster’s models disability-inclusive hiring practices. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment rates for Americans with disabilities has NEVER topped 20% in the history of the BLS’s records. I know I’m very privileged to have been part of that shockingly low percentage that has held meaningful work for most of my adult life. In 2019 19.3% of Americans with disabilities were employed. In 2020 that figure dropped to 17.4%. While that’s not the same precipitous drop that many demographics experienced, it wasn’t much of a height to fall from in the first place. Non-disabled Americans enjoyed an employment rate of 66.3% in 2019, dropping to 61.8% in 2020.

But I like happy endings, so instead of leaving you with those grim statistics here’s an interview with a wonderful community-minded business owner who’s taken on the challenge of addressing this disparity.

Charlie Foster
A red circle outline surrounds the words “Charlie Foster,” with the image of a person wearing a bucket hat and sipping from a coffee cup between the two words. The Charlie Foster logo.

Anneliese: Tell me about the road to Charlie Foster’s. Have you always wanted to open a coffee shop, or did you take a longer journey toward opening this business?

Austin: I fell in love with coffee a little under 5 years ago. I was in Opelika, Alabama at a shop called Sidetrack Coffee. They had an interesting business model. You could pay whatever you wanted. What I noticed was people were very intrigued with the business model and he had created a community of people that were at the shop every day. They also had amazing coffee and when I bought retail coffee bags of the same coffee they were brewing and tried to make it at home it never tasted the same. I became obsessed with making coffee like they did at Sidetrack.

I moved back to Huntsville 4 years ago and missed the community and started my own journey of creating my own coffee shop. My parents founded Merrimack Hall which is a nonprofit where they teach people with special needs the performing arts so that’s where my idea came from to employ people with special needs. I wanted to have a business with a purpose. Afterwards, I convinced my wife, Hollie, that it was a good idea to open a coffee shop by telling her the espresso machine could be pink and that’s how we started. 

Anneliese: As you and I both know from personal and professional experience, no two disabilities are alike. What are some of the most unique accommodations you’ve implemented in your business?

Austin: Every one we employ is a case by case situation. I do not think we have done anything unique. With each employee, we see what they are good at by working with them and when we see what they are good at we focus on that task. It is the same thing we do with our typical employees. 

Anneliese: Meaningful employment is something a lot of differently abled people struggle to acquire and maintain. Did you experience any community or financial resistance when starting your business and promoting your inclusive hiring practices? Did you receive any noteworthy support?

Austin: The support has been amazing. It’s great to see our customers build relationships with our team at Charlie Fosters. I am learning more from them than I will ever be able to  teach them. I have not run into any resistance yet. 

Anneliese: Have any interesting innovations come from combining differently abled perspectives in Charlie Foster’s working environment? If so, what are they? How has your business benefited from your inclusive hiring practices?

Austin: What it has done is created the most positive work environment I have ever had the pleasure of working in. We are a family here. We all feed off each other’s energy and because of all the positive energy we are able to work more efficiently. 

Anneliese Who has been most inspirational to you throughout the process of planning and starting Charlie Foster’s? How has this person impacted you personally and professionally?

Austin: I had a lot of inspirations and role models in the beginning from sidetrack to christy graves at honest coffee. People helped us a lot to accomplish our goal. My inspiration today comes from our team at Charlie Fosters. We are doing something special here and having a purpose to come to work makes every day worth it.

Flashback Friday: Daredevil Wears Prada

Original Post Date: May 25, 2019

Remember that gorgeous long-haired German shepherd who escorted me on that life-changing practice walk described in this post? That lovely lady is currently curled up next to my desk. It seems that practice walk served as the perfect assessment for the instructor to determine that Prada and I were meant to be together. Apparently this is the first time TSE has made a match in this way.

Against a black background, Prada sprawls across Annelie’s lap.e
Prada sprawls on Anneliese’s lap as they sit before a black background.

I remember very few specific details of meeting Prada. I recall walking into the dim student lounge, being seated, and my trainer asking me “Do you remember the dog you met at SESY?” The next thing I knew an armful of dog had thrust itself into my lap, snuffling and kissing and wriggling with excitement. Her hair coated me instantly, and her enthusiasm mirrored my own.

She’s petite for a shepherd. The Seeing Eye breeds their own dogs from a wide genetic pool without the intention of creating bigger, heftier shepherds like the ones you see escorting police around. While Prada is tall, she’s slender, and her longer coat comes from a unique double-recessive mutation. Grooming is going to be fun…

Poor Prada is very upset right now. IT’s very typical for the dogs to experience anxiety for the first couple days after matching with a student. They’re living in bedrooms instead of kennels with furry playmates, their routines are different, a new person is responsible for their food and water. Life is just disorienting and confusing right now.

But Prada faces the additional challenge of seeing her trainer every single day. In another coincidence, Prada’s trainer is leading our class. Prada will be confused and saddened by her trainer pointedly ignoring her, forcing her to bond with me as her source of comfort. It’s painful to watch, and I’ve had two work hard to keep Prada from dragging me across hallways to get to her trainer. But the trainer assigned to my four-man student group assures me this will wear off in a week or so.

I’ve been given a handy little tool to help mitigate Prada’s anxiety. It’s called a gentle leader. Often mistaken for a muzzle, it’s actually closer to a horse’s bridle. A nylon strap wraps around Prada’s nose, and a second one fits around the back of her head behind her ears. She can eat and drink, bark, and even bite if she needs to wearing this. However, the backstrap presses down on pressure points that release endorphins to help calm her, and there’s a ring beneath the nose strap to which I can clip a leash. This gives me more direct control over her. She’s less likely to lunge across a hall to accost her trainer when I have control of her nose.

In retrospect I regret not doing my own research on canine anxiety. While I was absorbing a ton of new information every second of the day, I now know a great many more effective techniques for calming an anxious dog. I look forward to sharing them with you in future posts. Doggy mental health matters.

Here’s a quick introduction to the rest of the equipment we were issued yesterday.

Every dog owner should have a leash. It’s as essential as kibble. TSE’s proprietary leather leash is by far the most versatile and practical I’ve ever used. It has two snap-hooks and two metal rings along its length so I can reconfigure it for different occasions. By using different snap hooks to attach to the rings and the dog’s collar I can have a long, medium, or short leash all in one.

Photo Caption: Greta, a petite chestnut-toned German shepherd, wears The Seeing Eye’s standard harness. It is leather, similar in design to an old-fashioned cart-horse harness, with a breast band, martingale, girth strap, back strap, and stiff angled handle for Anneliese to use.

I used a photo of Greta because I couldn’t find a good one of Prada that really shows the design of the harness. Prada was a great model, but I am no photographer. Thanks to Galadriel Coffeen for taking this shot.

We also received a brush, comb, sleeping mat, and crate. Those should be fairly self-explanatory. Still no word on how to use the mysterious tie-downs yet, but I’m sure they’ll be explained in due time.

I remember that day as a blur of excitement, compassion, and fear. I worried I would prove an insufficient replacement for Prada’s trainer, that she’d never truly bond with me. I worried I wasn’t affectionate enough, that my more detached personality didn’t match everyone else’s template of what a dog-lover looked like. I now know that’s actually a strength, but at the time it kept me up at night a time or two.

But that latent fear of inadequacy and rejection wasn’t enough to dampen the unmeasured joy and excitement I experienced. I had butterflies in my stomach, I even shed a few tears. Prada was my first puppy love, my princess. I learned so much from her, and I can’t wait to share our journey with you.

The Zen Pack Leader

Greta’s trot is even, but the nails on her left forepaw are longer than the rest of her nails. I can hear them clicking on the pavement.

Her gait is really even. I can’t feel any limp at all. Her shoulder is so much stronger than it was a year ago.What if she trips on those longer nails/ What if she puts her shoulder out again? Our next chiropractic appointment isn’t until October!

Ah, I’m distracted. Back to Greta.

I can feel her looking to the left because the motion of her neck translates into her shoulder, into the back strap of the harness, and up the handle into my hand. She’s looking straight again. I’ll reward her.

Her saliva is thin, she’s not stressed. I’ll wipe my hand off on her head so she gets a pet and I get a fuzzy towel.

She’s slowing down but I don’t sense an obstacle ahead. Ah, she’s pushing me gently away from the curb. There must be an obstacle I can’t sense. Maybe a low pile of brush. This house always has brush in front of it. Oh, I should call the city and find out what their yard debris removal schedule for my neighborhood is. I’ll do that after I get back. No, I need to feed Greta, then start laundry, then do dishes and make a smoothie, then call the city…

I’m distracted again. I’ll just let all that go and focus on Greta.

She’s slowing down again. We’re near the street corner. I need to decide which route to take. She feels perky today. We can use a longer walk. I’ll go left, and maybe we’ll get to practice walking by that house with the dogs that run up to the fence and bark. I need to have a treat ready to praise her. What if she doesn’t handle it well? It’ll be chaotic and loud and I’ll have to try to redirect her focus and if I can’t get her to redirect I might have to force her away. That means we haven’t made as much progress as I’d thought, and the trainer’s coming next week. Is it really worth it? Are we making progress/ Am I wasting time and money?

I’m distracted again. I’ll focus on Greta.

She’s slower on this street. I can feel the uneven-ness of the slope of the street into the gutter. She’s picking her paws up higher. I’m not sure how I can sense that but I’m aware of it. She’s picking her paws up over grass growing through cracks in the pavement. She’s nudging me right to circle around a car parked along the side of the street so I’ll turn with her. She makes very smooth, tight turns.

This is what successfully applying mindful awareness looks like when walking a dog.

“But your mind is all over the place!” you protest. “That doesn’t look like mindfulness to me…”

The lecturer hosting The Great Courses; Practicing Mindfulness uses training a puppy as a metaphor to explain mindfulness. It’s an example I really relate to! When training a puppy to sit, you place the puppy in the “sit’ posture, then reward it. When it inevitably gets up you don’t yell at the puppy, you don’t get mad, you just put the puppy back into “sit” and reward it again.

No matter how old you are, your brain is still a puppy. It responds far better to encouragement and boundaries than self-criticism. Training it to return to a particular thought or mental posture takes just as much time, and patience, as teaching basic obedience skills to a dog.

The point isn’t to keep my mind on Greta 100% of the time. In fact, I’m fairly certain that would be very dangerous. Our attention is meant to wander, just a little. The point is that I return to her every time I get distracted. I notice my thoughts, and then go back to thinking about Greta without judging myself for distraction or scolding myself for imperfection.

I’ve begun practicing this meditation technique to help me control my concerns about Greta’s Post High-School Stress Disorder, and to help me be patient with the slow, yet thorough route we’re on to total pack wellness.

Rehabilitating Greta isn’t just about re-affirming her skills and training her to ignore distractions. It involves teaching her to redirect her distracted puppy-brain to me, and training me to redirect my distracted puppy-brain to her. With an inward, ongoing, nonjudgmental focus on our function as a pack Greta and I will be able to cruise through the most chaotic, triggering environments imaginable.

A note of caution regarding mindful awareness.

As I mentioned above, our minds are designed to wander a little. It’s part of situational awareness, a necessary survival skill. My brain flits to the sound of a big truck turning onto the street behind me. The street has no sidewalk, so Greta and I step into a nearby driveway to let the big metal beast rumble past at a safe distance. My brain picks up on locational cues and reminds me that a dog has been loose in the yard of a house on the next street and I need to remember to take a different route home.

If I’d simply noticed the sounds and smells and other cues that alerted me to changes in my environment, discarded them, and refocused on Greta we might’ve wound up in trouble. Safety trumps mindfulness, every time.

But brains aren’t infallible. They can pick up on cues and determine that those cues are, in fact serious threats when they’re really not. My brain is absolutely 100% convinced that an enormous lilac bush leaning slightly over the curb and swarming with honeybees is the most dangerous thing in the universe. It once prompted me to drag Greta across the street to circle it at a distance no closer than 30 feet! I think 5 would’ve been sufficient for the bees and me to co-exist without bothering each other, but my brain says otherwise.

Mindful awareness, however, would allow me to make a more accurate distinction between “big truck behind me” and “disinterested honeybees” threat levels. I expect I’ll do better next time we encounter that ominous lilac bush.

Mindful awareness can be applied to almost every activity imaginable, from cooking to coding, sight-seeing to sex, and so much more. It’s a gateway into that coveted “flow state” that breeds creativity and accomplishment and satisfaction so easily. Greta and I haven’t flowed together in over 2 years, and I miss that feeling of contented oneness as we travel expertly through our chaotic environment together. I got a glimpse of it, though, on a recent walk, and I can paw-sitively say our hard work is paying off.

Flashback Friday: Anticipation

Original Post Date May 25, 2019

The excitement in the building is tangible. It’s time to meet our dogs! As I write this instructors are loading the dogs up 4 at a time in vans to drive them the short distance from the training kennels to the House, the student training building and dormitory. An instructor will bring one dog up to the student lounge while another brings the student for a supervised first meeting. Then we’ll return to our rooms with our new companions for some bonding and play-time.

The dogs have just been bathed, so they’ll be excited, hyper, and blowing their coats. The change in routine plus being separated from their kennel mates and trainers will heighten their overall arousal levels, so I anticipate my new furry friend being very needy. I just hope I’m up to the task of calming her down and convincing her that we can form the core of a new, powerful pack.

After we’ve spent some time together and all the dogs have been distributed, our four-man (and dog) teams will take trips around the Leisure Path, a 1/3 mil paved trail running through the school grounds. It’s a chance to get some of the dogs’ wiggles out and for us students to practice basic handling techniques in a very safe, controlled environment. Then it’s time for parking, kibble, student dinner, and another lecture.

I anticipate the rest of the week becoming exponentially busier. I don’t know if I’ll have time to keep up this rapid post schedule, but I’ll do my best to continue sharing this amazing journey with you and answer all your questions.

What is parking, you ask? Well, in a previous comment on the old blog someone else asked the same thing so I’m going to assume you want to know.

2-4 times a day dogs at The Seeing Eye have “park time.” Spell that phrase backwards; you’ll figure it out.

Now, of course, you want to ask the service dog version of the astronauts’ favorite question: how do blind people clean up after their service dogs/ I’m going to answer because if you’re blind and reading this and DON’T do this, you really should. And if you’re just curious, or doing writing research for a blind character, you should know about the amount of thought and problem-solving that goes into the most minute detail of ensuring that service dogs are well-behaved, clean, good citizens.

Seeing Eye dogs are trained to park when they’re on leash but not on harness. The handler takes the dog to a grassy space or otherwise designated park area, removes the harness while keeping the leash on, and uses gentle pulls and a little bit of footwork to signal the dog to begin circling them at the end of the leash. It’s a little like lunging a horse, but at a slower speed.

The dog circles the owner until the urge comes and they answer nature’s call. To determine if it’s a #1 or #2, reach out and touch the dog’s back. A straight, sloping back indicates #1. No clean-up necessary. A rounded, hunched back means the dog is leaving a pile. Using the leash and the dog’s back as landmarks, extend one leg and rest your foot on the ground pointing roughly in the direction of the base of the dog’s tail. Keep your foot there; it’s an arrow pointing right at the pile.

When the dog has finished, invert a bag over your hand to use as a glove, follow your foot, and find the pile. Pick up, revert and close the bag, and  deposit in a trashcan. Locating a trashcan at a new house, apartment, hotel, regularly visited park, outside a mall, workplace, or anywhere else you frequent regularly ought to be the 2nd half of the task “locate bathroom for future reference.” If you’re somewhere new, ask someone. Anyone who sees you holding a doggy poop bag will know what you need and be happy to help. They appreciate you taking the effort to clean up.

I got lucky with both of my dogs. They figured out really quickly that after parking I want a trashcan, and they use the universal “garbage” smell to locate one for me in unfamiliar places. Dogs are quick learners, and they LOVE routine. Some schools train dogs to do this, and you can always put in the effort to reward your dog for picking up on this routine yourself if you like.

I thought about including the next post, an introduction to my first service dog. This post is short, and includes more information about park time than anything really interesting. But I also wanted to share with you just a little bit of the overwhelming excitement I experienced on that bright May morning. I couldn’t imagine how my life would change, but I knew getting a service dog would touch every aspect of it.

With so many people in one building all hoping and awaiting the same incredible adventure, it should be no surprise I typed with shaky hands and a fluttering heart. I can still feel echoes of that anticipated joy even now, and it fuels my resolve to continue rehabilitating Greta so we can cruise the world with the same optimistic curiosity and energy we used to.

Lessons I Learned From A Chicken

Lesson #1.  I am married to a remarkable man.

Now for the story…

Greta is pretty good about not trying to scavenge “people food.” She respects tables and countertops, doesn’t beg, and even asks permission to enter the kitchen most of the time. But one day, toward the end of her lengthy recovery from her food allergies and infection, I heard the distinctive sounds of crunching and clattering that alerted me to a counter violation.

Greta had snagged the carcass of a rotisserie chicken off the counter and begun pulling it apart, dragging the bones into a dark corner of the front hall. Of course she got a scolding and my husband and I set about cleaning up the mess.

Then my husband asked a very interesting question, a question I think a lot of puppy parents, and people parents, ought to ask.

“I wonder what kind of nutrients she’s deficient in that made her go after the chicken?”

Lesson #2. Good behavior doesn’t suddenly turn into misbehavior without reason.

As a therapist I’ve come to recognize that most aberrant behavior comes from people trying to meet needs in maladaptive ways. It’s rare that someone does something wrong, harmful, or unhealthy simply for the sake of doing it that way. That doesn’t make us any less responsible for our choices, or their consequences, but it does make it easier to change our behavior. If we can understand the unmet need, then we can develop healthier, more effective methods of meeting it.

Dogs don’t have a sense of right or wrong. They understand what is good or bad for them, what is good or bad for the pack, and that’s about it. That doesn’t mean your dog is starving whenever she scrounges out of your trash can; it means she’s a natural scavenger who hasn’t been convinced that the trash can isn’t a good source of food.

So, when Greta committed the rare sin of counter-surfing and targeted the chicken, my husband’s question was an inspired response. Much more helpful to the entire pack than getting frustrated or angry. Greta’s behavior had to be discouraged, of course, but then he asked the question. “What did she need/“

It wasn’t hard to figure out. Her infection had caused skin lesions. Healing skin might need extra collagen, and bones are a good source of collagen. So I started dispensing small amounts of my home-made bone broth every couple of days to aid in her recovery process.

To preserve the line between “your food” and “my food,” I put the broth directly into one of Greta’s bowls and make her ask permission to drink it.  She licks the bowl so clean when I give her broth that I don’t usually have to wash it afterwards. It’s a nice compliment to my cooking.

So, when you find yourself doing something you know won’t help, like snapping back at someone in conversation, reaching for the chocolate chip cookies when you’re in a bad mood, skipping a gym workout or sending that angry email, give yourself a little grace. Then ask the question, “what do I really need?” Do you need to feel safe? Are you burned out and need a day off?  You’re not as lazy, impulsive, or short-fused as you think you are, and once you start asking yourself this question your creative brain gets involved, generating other options for meeting that need. There’s a lot of wisdom buried in our behavior, just waiting to be unlocked.

This mindset can help cultivate compassion for others, too. When I find Greta has misbehaved I can get angry, I can worry about the problem persisting and getting worse. Or I can ask “what does she need/” She can’t tell me, of course, but a little creative thinking can solve that problem, like with the bone broth. This applies to my husband, my friends, family, and clients. Compassion is much more comfortable than frustration.

So, my friends, what do you need? What kind of content would you find most interesting, entertaining, and useful? Share your ideas and creative problem solving techniques below.

Flashback Friday: It’s Too Early To Be Morning

Original Post Date

May 24, 2019

“Welcome, command please?”

It’s…0400 Eastern Daylight Time and this feminine automated voice is talking to me from somewhere…behind my pillow…oh goodness!  That sleek black digital alarm clock with the glowing, giant-print LCD display is talking to me!

Half awake, it took me about 10 minutes to locate the chipper little culprit. This was the 3rd time my 4am friend had disturbed precious sleep, but it was the 1st time I’d woken up enough to investigate the phenomenon. The device sat primly behind my pillow on the bookshelf-style headboard, and I probably activated it by moving my pillow in my sleep. It has since been banished to the depths of the bookshelf where unconscious motion can’t wake it – and then me – up again. I can already tell sleep-deprivation is going to be a theme for the next few weeks, but this is one disturbance I can control!

When I originally reviewed this post for re-publication I thought about skipping it. All it contains is a vaguely disoriented complaint about an unexpectedly voice-activated alarm clock. But then I reflected on how I hadn’t been told about the clock’s accessibility feature, voice activation, and how well that demonstrates my point from this post published earlier this week. I decided to leave it in.

If I had been told about the voice-activation button I could have 1) made use of it to do…whatever that clock did besides tell time, and 2) avoided the abrupt and definitely unwelcome early wake-up call. But being unable to see whatever label was printed on the button, and not being educated on its use when the TSE staffer oriented me to my room, I gained an excellent example for this blog. I suppose losing 30 minutes of sleep was worth it?