On the Up and Up with Makiko (Update!)

Makiko and I have been doing great lately, other than an illness I’ve had for the past few days. Get ready, this is a long post because a lot has been happening that I want to fill you in on.

Loose Dogs and the Public
So, as you all know, I have had a big problem with the public and at times I was really perturbed. Things are getting MUCH better though. I’m working hard with the general public, friends, and family to set firm boundaries and speak up about what Makiko and I need as a team. This has had a good response. Makiko has not really tried to take a sniff or do her puppy dog eyes for a pet with the people she did in the past. Remember, most of the time the people that she did that with were the people that pet her either with their hands or “with their mouth,” so by advocating for our needs, this has greatly improved.

We also are having a lot more luck with dogs!! I am very happy about that. Today was a great example of Makiko showing me what she knows she is supposed to do. We had this little tiny dog that I’ve never seen before come at us. We were both going down this sidewalk to the right. Well, apparently this dog doesn’t listen that well because he ended up running off way to the left and the owner hadn’t caught him yet when we went inside. So, this dog comes up to Makiko and is really trying to engage Makiko. (Makiko wasn’t in harness at this point). I tell Makiko to sit. She listens and this dog comes up and does all sorts of crazy spins and barks to Makiko and she’s just sitting there like “Yup, there’s a dog in front of me,” but doesn’t engage back. Oh man I was so proud of her and let her know that. The owner of this other dog even complimented us about how great she behaved. (Have i mentioned that nobody around here obeys the leash laws?)

So, we are greatly improving with our interactions with the public and other dogs. This makes me so happy and such a relief. I can relax a little bit more in general now. I am still going to actively work on it of course.

The City of Denton has told me that since we DO have leash laws in Denton, if I find out an address of the person(s) who has their dogs running around, I can give it to them and they’ll come talk to them. Most of the people though I’ve only encountered once or twice. There’s that one dog that I encounter all the time and always bothers us so that’s the only dog that I might consider this with, but I still haven’t decided. Plus, I’m visually impaired.. how exactly am I supposed to get this person’s address? They run all over the complex, haha.

The Fourth of July
I consider myself a patriotic person. I love my country and I really respect days that celebrate it. I also really respect those men and women who have fought and/or continue to fight for our freedom and rights. Therefore, the Fourth of July is very important to me. The Fourth of July is also a holiday that has a lot of tradition in my family, and since I like to especially hold onto anything that I did with my Daddy now that he is in Heaven, it has even more meaning. When we were little, we did the Fourth of July parade in our neighborhood. All the children would decorate the bikes, skateboards, whatever and would dress up themselves. The adults would be festive as well but they would bring really old unique fun cars and other cool stuff in the parade. We would have police and/or fire trucks and we would parade through our neighborhood (about a mile). People who didn’t want to or couldn’t be in the parade would come out of their houses and stand along the streets to cheer us on and wave. It was always a love of fun. Dad was very active through many roles in the local homeowners association so he often had a big role in planning this. Then we would maybe go home and go swimming and in the evening, or on the evening before sometimes, we would all get KFC and go to fireworks. We did this with our good family friends for many years too. (Ironic because the father is blind due to a firework accident). Well, we haven’t done all this as much recently. We have gone to Colorado to visit family for a few Fourth of Julys. Sadly, this often meant being away from Daddy on the Fourth because he would stay home. This year I wanted to do both of these events, just because and in memory/honor of my Daddy.

July 3rd was Kaboomtown in Addison and that’s what we did many years. Dad wasn’t the biggest fan of crowds but he still did it with us. There has been an Air Show before with lots of good music. As always, we brought a picnic blanket and chairs, KFC, and a few alcoholic beverages. This was my first Fourth with both my boyfriend and Makiko so it was a special one. I was a little worried about how Makiko would do with the fireworks because I had read some stories online about dogs freaking out big time and July 5th is also the busiest day for animal shelters. I had even read a few stories about guide dogs bolting and that really frightened me. But, then I had to think about my Makiko because every dog is different. And while there are noises occasionally that she does sit up with, she enver really “spooks,” she’s just kind of on high alert. I have taken her to concerts and other events where there were really loud unexpected noises so I had my doubts that fireworks would bother her. I contacted her puppy raiser to see if she had been to fireworks before. (I’m telling ya, puppy raisers are great resources if you are friends with them.) She said that she was out of town so a puppy sitter took care of Makiko and the puppy sitter said that she hadn’t been around fireworks due to a fire ban. So, I was still not sure what to do. Then I talked to my best friend later that evening (who is also a guide dog handler) and she has taken her guide for years. So combining that story, with what I knew about Makiko, and my gut instinct, I decided to take her. She had a blast, and was AMAZING to me. My mom had stuff in both hands, as well as helping my great-aunt walk, who also had stuff in her hands. My boyfriend had both of his hands full and a cooler so I was pretty much on my own. Any other year this would have been a bit of a problem, but this year I was great and independent. They gave me a few verbal cues about where to go but Makiko got me around obstacles and people. My baby is so silly, she likes to go around people who are going slow but I don’t know if the concept that EVERYBODY is going slow because it’s congested quite computes with her. However, I just give her a “steady” and we just stroll along. She does great and got me through a large crowd. Let me just tell you there were over 30,000 people there that evening and for a person with a visual impairment, that can be pretty overwhelming but I had my baby right by my side guiding me and it worked beautifully. Once we identified an open spot, we set up the picnic blanket and chairs and hung out, ate KFC, played with Makiko, walked around, had a little to drink, watched the air show, listened to the live performances, and then the fireworks came on. It was a really relaxing evening with my boyfriend and family, reminiscing about the times we did this with my Daddy and enjoying being with my loves. Makiko was snuggled up against me before the fireworks started. I was sitting on the blanket with her instead of in the chairs and when the fireworks started she stayed cuddled up. I had my leg through her leash and I had a hold on it too just in case. She didn’t budge. At one point during the fireworks show, she stuck her head up in curiosity, but didn’t seem spooked at all, and then soon went right back to sleep. SUCH a good girl!!! 🙂 Okay, so now imagine these 30,000 people LEAVING the park. Everybody came at different times but getting us all OUT of the park was going to be a definite adventure. It was really dark so I put on Makiko’s yellow rain jacket because I knew it would be visible and reflective. I heard a lot of compliments about it. She did wonderfully again getting us out! 🙂 She is one speedy gal.

The next morning was the Fourth and therefore the Parade. Because my great-aunt has mobility issues, we met the parade 3/4ths of the way through the route and walked the rest with them. It was fun to see all the kids, their bikes, and the cool cars again. It was also really cool to have Makiko in the parade this year. There were a TON of dogs but she did really good. I had her gentle leader on, or as her puppy raiser calls it her “intelligence collar.” I think this was a good decision because I could really feel when something got her attention and work with her on it. When we sat down for a long while to eat and talk to neighbors, other dogs and people all came up to her and she didn’t do a thing.. good girl. One young lady came up to her and petted her and said “I figured it was okay to pet her because she had the muzzle on,” and then walked off before I could say anything. I was kind of dumbfounded at what to say for a second too. Just to clarify, the gentle leader is NOT a muzzle. They can still eat, drink, bark (even though guides don’t bark), bite (again they don’t do that), etc. Also, if it were a “muzzle” wouldn’t that mean that that dog had aggression problems or the owner was working on the training, so it wouldn’t really be wise to pet the dog anyway. 🙂 The local realtor even gave Makiko a brand new dog toy because she was behaving so well. Yay! Makiko was all geared out with her gentle leader, harness, and boots on. It was really hot and I knew there might be glass around so I put them on her. We also got a lot of compliments on these, people thought they were just the cutest, which they are.

We went home and napped for awhile then got ready and I went to my boyfriend’s and then we soon left for the Fourth of July Rangers game against the Seattle Mariners. It was a lot of fun. Now, I don’t get that much out of it compared to my sighted boyfriend and his friends. But it’s still fun.. and the food is always really good too. 🙂 After the game there were fireworks and those were pretty awesome too, but not like Kaboomtown’s. Kaboomtown’s fireworks are rated some of the highest in the nation. Again, she did wonderfully. After that and a long drive home, we were a bit exhausted. We were invited to another party after but we were too tired and my boyfriend didn’t wanna drive that much more.

Overall, a great Fourth. I learned Makiko did wonderfully with fireworks and that was awesome!

Guide Dog Missing (and found!)
A guide dog by the name of Sidney went missing in Dallas on July 3rd. Luckily, Sidney was found on the 6th. Sidney was spooked by the fireworks when he went to his backyard to relieve real quick. Only a few minutes later when the handler, who is blind, went to call him in, he wasn’t there. She said she couldn’t sleep because he wasn’t home, I wouldn’t be able to either. Makiko is my everything. One thing that I have wondered is Sidney and then the other guide dog went missing in Dallas a few months ago, both didn’t have tags on.. why? The only time Makiko doesn’t have hers on is when I take them off real quick while I’m grooming her but as soon as I am finished before she even gets up, I put the tags back on. There may be a good reason for this but it IS something that I have wondered. I am really glad he was found. In both the guide dog cases, the media helped get the word out. In the first case a few months ago, the person who took the dog in saw the information on the news and called and returned the dog. He, of course, didn’t know it was a guide dog because the dog didn’t have tags. Older dogs aren’t microchipped automatically like the new Guide Dog for the Blind dogs are. The puppy raising club rallied to post flyers, make calls, visit shelters, etc., for this recent guide dog. I volunteered to call shelters, vet clinics, animal stores in the area, etc. The person who took Sidney in wasn’t too far from the handler’s home. Someone saw Sidney’s information on the Missing Guide Dog Sidney Facebook page and had seen the signs posted around and got the phone number off the signs and posted it on the Facebook page. This led to Sidney’s reunion. I am really grateful that the news stations cover these stories so well for us because really it is heartbreaking.

Quiet Spot
Makiko has a TON of tags.. she has two City registration tags for my college town and my parent’s town, a Rabies tag, a Guide Dogs for the Blind tag, a tattoo/microchip number tag, and a few more. I lose track. Well, whenever she shook or moved around a whole lot everybody in the room would know. I wasn’t too fond of that. At Guide Dogs for the Blind they have these dog tag silencers which basically wrap around the tags and make it so they don’t jingle. It’s pretty cool. I hadn’t purchased one yet when I was telling my good friend about wanting to purchase. She goes inside her house and comes out with a Quiet Spot, a dog tag silencer. She just gave it to me.. yay for saving money. This thing works wonders and she doesn’t jingle everywhere now. 🙂

Further Destruction of the Toys
So, I’ve mentioned before that Makiko isn’t like insanely vicious with her toys or anything but she is apparently pretty hard on them. This last “super durable” red tug of war/chew toy lasted way longer than most toys do but it started to go downhill the past few months. First, she chewed through part of the ball so there were little flaps that I had to watch so she didn’t choke on. Then she was playing tug of war with me and part of the rope detached from the ball. Mom superglued the flaps back onto the ball and the rope thing back onto the ball. Well, the rope part didn’t hold up to Makiko’s strength but the ball superglue lasted many days.. until tonight. We were having a lot of fun and then boom, the ball came off. So we’re just kind of playing with both now, cautiously of course. Oh goodness this girl!

I don’t think the compliments on how great Makiko looks will ever get old. I take a lot of pride, as I’ve mentioned before, in taking amazing care of her from the inside out. I buy a little more expensive dog food than many dog, to get the quality and the nutrients. I brush her daily, brush her teeth daily, clean out her ears once a week, make sure her paws are clean from any chemicals that may be on the ground, use the Furminator every once and awhile to remove her undercoat, etc. And she does, she looks amazing. Her teeth are sparkling white, her coat is always shiny and soft. She’s a gorgeous girl. I washed Makiko’s paws for the first time yesterday. I just figured after all the walking she does on many surfaces, I wanted to clean them and make sure nothing harmful was on them. You should have seen the difference, or rather I should have photographed it, between her paws before I cleaned them and after. It was pretty cool. 🙂

Tonight some of my roommate’s friends came over and they hadn’t seen Makiko much. They got to see her be silly because I let her just be silly for a bit. They were so amazed at how smart she is and how she can guide me, etc. It was fun showing Makiko off, I’m not gonna lie. 🙂

I was pretty sick today and have been the past few days so it was hard to function for a lot of the day. I feel bad when Makiko is cooped up inside, other than relieving, so I try and do as much as I can with her but I was just so exhausted. So we cuddled a lot, played a few indoor games, played with ice cubes, etc. But I could tell she wanted to walk so we took about a 15 minute walk where she was working around the complex. It was nice! 🙂

So that’s what we’ve been up to lately. Good Night 🙂



Keep Your Baby’s Feet Protected

Oh gracious, can you all believe the heat? It has been in the triple digits, the bugs have been out, the cement is burning hot, all making it very unpleasant outside for us. Now imagine, most of the time we have shoes on when we go outside because that pavement is just TOO hot for our feet. Many don’t think about this in terms of our babies/our animals. Their pads CANNOT withstand a lot of heat and it will burn them just like it will burn our feet. Look at these sad pictures of two different dog’s pads after their paws were burnt on the hot cement.



I am now so grateful that GDB sends each new guide dog team home with a pair of shoes. I was joking with my Mom last night because I know dog shoes are NOT one size fits all and I’ve never sized a dog’s paws before. I bet I could figure it out but that’s still a pretty funny concept. Unless it is literally a five second or less trip into the store or place we’re going, I try my hardest nowadays to have Makiko’s shoes on her. It’s just too hot!

I have done a lot of research about taking care of your dog’s feet during the summer. Dog’s paws/pads do toughen up over time as they walk on many different types of surfaces. However, they never quite “toughen up” enough to be burned. Burned paw pads are extremely painful for dogs. Even so, apparently we may not always know that they have been injured, while they are in extreme pain. Oh how sad! Signs that your dog might have burned pads are: limping or not wanting to walk, favoring a certain foot, the pad being dry, different color (usually darker) or shape (missing parts of the pad), other abnormalities on the pads such as blisters or other marks, and licking or biting their foot to try and make it a little more comfortable. This could lead to an infection.

If you think your dog’s feet have been burned, take them to a cooler area off of cement, metal, ground, etc. Call the vet and tell them you think your dog’s paws are burned and you need to get in as soon as possible. In the meantime, there were two different suggestions: 1) flush the burns with cool water or put something cool on them or 2) Use an anti-bacterial wash. To prevent infection, even though it may provide the dog some comfort, try and make sure they don’t lick or chew their pads. Your dog may need to be put on antibiotics and/or pain meds. The paw can be a very sensitive area because of the blood vessels and it is also very hard to heal. Severe injury, not necessarily by burning but just any injury, could lead to the vet needing to remove a pad. This could be very detrimental to a guide dog’s work and the independence of the guide dog handler, and that is why I am so glad GDB provides us with shoes to prevent this altogether.

An interesting tip I read was that if you carry a small/medium size towel with you and get it wet as you’re leaving a business or location, you can lay it down on the ground for your dog to step on while you’re getting in the car. How clever!

However, I still think the best idea is to get doggie shoes. The brand that we have and LOVE is Ruffwear. They are a little expensive but so worth it. If you go to GDB, check their Store out because they have lower prices generally for guide dog users. Here is Ruffwear’s site that describes the shoes: http://www.ruffwear.com/Barkn-Boots-Grip-Trex_3?sc=2&category=11

Good luck keeping you and your dog safe, happy, and cool this summer. Best wishes!

Picture Credits:

Off leash dogs & severity of dog attacks on guide dogs

(From GuideDogs.org) One of the many injuries this particular guide dog got from an attack.
(From GuideDogs.org) One of the many injuries this particular guide dog got from an attack.

I’ve blogged a few times on here about off-leash dogs and how they have scared me and frustrated me to no extent. A few things recently have inspired me to blog about it again. The other day I walked downstairs from my apartment to relieve my dog, as usual. This is the area that we’ve had issues with one dog, Coltrain, and very close to where we almost got attacked by a vicious German Shepherd. However there are two staircases down from my apartment and this is the one with the most grass and I hadn’t seen the dogs in awhile. We went downstairs and immediately as soon as we hit the bottom I heard a guy yell, “Oh NOW it’s playtime.” Immediately in my mind I’m thinking ‘ugh!” and then suddenly there are 4 other dogs IN MY FACE.. well, not literally, they were in Makiko’s face and circling around me. Imagine being low vision and having your dog trying to relieve in front of you, ignoring the other dogs (GOOD GIRL!) and the four other dogs driving you and your dog crazy. Oh man it was a mess. One of the dogs was, of course, Coltrain. Surprisingly one of the office staff was out there (all the owners and others were playing volleyball) and he thought it was hilarious too. Sigh. Anyway, that was a bit distressing but none of the dogs really bothered us too much physically. We just proceeded back upstairs to the apartment.

More and more nowadays I’m hearing and reading guide dogs all over the world are getting attacked. One blogger described what it was like when her guide dog got attacked and I think this shows you why I react the way I do when dogs approach us out of nowhere and I have no idea if the dog is friendly or not.

“Just as I was starting to run with Elvis at the park, Elvis was attacked by an off leash dog, causing me to sprain my ankle and be back in the dreaded boot. Fortunately my fitness was good at this point, so I was able to come back to cycling and pool swimming within a few weeks. The setback was tough on both of us mentally. He had not reacted during the attack, and had instead made himself into a tiny ball as the dog continued to bite him. I kicked and pulled the vicious dog off of him, screaming at the top of my lungs. Elvis was shaking violently on the ground after the attack, and there was little I could do to console him. Guiding Eyes sent out a field rep a few days later to check up on us to see how we fared as a team. Their concern was in making sure that he got right back to work, and didn’t show any signs of fear or aggression in the presence of other dogs. I was terrified to leave the house.”  Blindsommelier’s blog

She then goes on to talk about how the field representative showed her several tricks when they are passing dogs to help reassure the guide dog. 1: Imagine being “terrified” to leave your own house, especially after having so much freedom because of the guide dog and 2: Imagine having the fear that your dog might not be able to work more because of the attack. Luckily this dog was able to but then think about all the stress and worries with having to work with the guide dog around other dogs now. It’s just so unnecessary. If dog owners were just responsible, trained their dogs, kept their dog under their control (not necessarily leashed although that’s probably preferred), and especially keeps them away from working service dogs, this would not be a problem, obviously, and it doesn’t seem like this is such a hard task.

I know this is not in America but the same thing happens here. Here’s a news article stating that TEN guide dogs get attacked on average per MONTH in the UK and describes the severity of the attacks as well as shows what happened to one guide dog during an attack. (News Article here) 

Here are a few other recent news articles of guide dog attacks:
1) http://www.thisisthewestcountry.co.uk/news/cornwall_news/10463995.Guide_dog_attacked_by__pit_bull__in_Penryn_may_not_work_again/
2) http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/local/attack-on-guide-dog-sparks-plea-for-more-care-1-5731435

The articles may not be about stories from the US but the same thing is happening here. It is unbelievable and devastating. I am flabbergasted in the three months of having Makiko how many times owners let their dogs (both on leash and off leash) come run up and try to play with Makiko (in harness). I’m getting more vocal about it. It’s just ridiculous.