Please vote for your FAVORITE guide, Makiko!!!!

Dear Friends and Family,
As you know, Guide Dogs for the Blind is a very important organization to me. They gave me freedom and independence through Makiko. Everything was provided completely free to me as it is to all their visually impaired clients. Did you know that each dog is valued at about $50,000 between their veterinary care, food, training, our training with her, our transportation to training as well as our food and housing while in training, lifelong veterinary care and follow up training as needed!
Makiko has three entries into a contest fundraiser they are holding this year. I have posted the links below to her three entries. The winner gets to be on the Guide Dogs for The Blind Calendar next year!!!
It costs $1 to vote, and there’s no limit on how many times you can vote. The voting proceeds are all tax-deductible donations to Guide Dogs for the Blind (where applicable). 
Please consider voting! Here are her entries: 
Makiko in her cap and gown with me as we get ready to cross the stage and get my Masters degree:


Makiko looking up at her Mommy (me) excited to get to work:


Makiko in harness in front of Texas Bluebonnets:


Please share this!! 
Thank you so much for your donation,

Jessica and Makiko

November 7, 2013: Jenni

Puppy raisers are incredibly selfless, loving people. They take a puppy in at 8 weeks and work with it to become a guide dog, hopefully, even though sometimes they don’t get to become one. They teach them all the basic commands, socialize them, really work with them to do very specific behaviors and tasks so that when they go to “college” or formal guide dog training, they are already very well behaved dogs and the trainers can just work on the guiding tasks. The puppy raisers have them in their homes from when the puppies are 8 weeks until they are anywhere from twelve to fifteen months old. Makiko’s puppy raiser is named Jenni and I have mentioned her on here a few times before. She literally raised the perfect dog for me. The matching process is a whole different story but Makiko is the sweetest, most cuddly, loving, pleasing, devoted, intelligent, beautiful guide I could ever have imagined and that aligns so much with Jenni’s personality. Makiko and i are like two peas in a pod, and we get that all the time. SO much of why Makiko and I are perfect is because of who Jenni is and how much effort she put into raising Makiko. So today and everyday, I am very thankful for Jenni.

November 1, 2013: Day 1 & Makiko

Each day this month I am going to try and post something I am thankful for. Today it is Makiko.

I can’t explain how much Makiko has impacted my life. She is a constant companion, my best friend, so much laughter, my independence, my freedom, and she helps me get through a lot of really rough times. She is the reason I have been able to keep going like I have been able to and I owe so much to her. We are the perfect team and we conquer so much together. We get each other and have a super close bond. She is the cutest, most amazing thing and one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Losing my vision is not half as bad as it would be without her.

New Orleans (NAMRC)

First, I apologize to my readers for not posting in a while. I’ll describe why in an upcoming post. However, I am catching up on things now and want to tell you about our trip to New Orleans.

Makiko and I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans to present at the NAMRC (National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns) conference. I took my boyfriend along too because we were going to still be in New Orleans on his birthday. I presented at the conference with a classmate and she brought her husband, and then we had three professors from our university there too. It was great! We had been warned by a good friend though that New Orleans wasn’t very guide dog friendly, and unfortunately we experienced that on three separate occasions. Details to come!

This was the first time my boyfriend and I had ever flown together so of course he hadn’t ever flown with a guide dog. It went very well though. I asked sighted assistance to take us through security on the way there and then my boyfriend saw how it all worked for the trip home. The flights went great.


The three of us had a great time while in New Orleans. We celebrated three great things: my boyfriend’s birthday, Makiko’s 2nd birthday, and another milestone in my relationship with my boyfriend. We ate a lot of great food, Makiko got new toys for birthday presents, we had great drinks, it was awesome. My boyfriend really loved the Jambalaya, I really loved the Oysters. I had Oysters on three separate occasions.

We went to the French Market and there was a little shop there that had a really fun guy who called himself “Mother Shucker,” and he would shuck the oysters right in front of you and then serve them to you with these two sauces, one of which had horseradish in it.

The hotel the conference was held at and that we stayed at for the first two nights was awesome. It was HUGE and beautiful. (Hilton Hotel Riverside) The hotel (Maison Dupuy) we stayed at the last night was nice, but we had a few issues with check-in. They had told me they would have our room ready by the time we got there but it wasn’t ready until many hours later so we left our baggage with Valet and walked around. They upgraded us for our trouble though, which was very nice, and it was a HUGE suite, with a huge living room, two bathrooms, a large bedroom, etc. Both hotels weren’t very close to a dog relieving area or really any patch of grass so that was a bit of a drag. We got enough exercise on the trip without the extra walk. 🙂 Both were good though about me having a service dog.

On Steven’s birthday, we decided to try Bourbon Street and let me just tell you it wasn’t very blind or guide dog friendly.. it was also our first experience of being discriminated against because of my guide dog. The place was called “Fritzel’s” and it was a bar/restaurant. There was a small doorway in which people were coming in and out of. The hostess, who was apparently also the manager, held us up at the door spending a LONG time looking at our ID’s and you could she was really thinking hard (of ways to turn us away). While we were held up in that doorway, Makiko was getting stepped on by people going out and she got hurt once and jumped and it was quite traumatic. So then the lady let us in, maybe an inch (?), and then started telling us about how her customers may have allergies to dogs or not like dogs, and then we thought she was going to lead us to a seat but instead led us to the patio and told us that it would be just as great out there. Yeah, right. So we get out to the patio and she just lets us loose, doesn’t even bother to seat us. We sit in a seat and then after about 15 minutes realize that nobody is coming but my boyfriend sees somebody about 20 feet away on her phone. So we move closer and then sit there for a little while when this woman comes up to us and says “Uh.. can I help you all with anything?” (with a very snarky, rude tone). I was chapped off so I just said, “No, this took too long for us to get served,” and then we walk out past the manager and she says nothing. I was planning on filing a complaint. I sent a picture of the place to my classmate who was presenting with me and she was also on Bourbon Street. She stopped by and talked to the manager and she gave her attitude too and called over the waitress to tell her that that didn’t really happen but luckily the waitress was truthful and said that it did take her awhile to get to us but she said it was because she was in the restroom, which wasn’t the truth. I also posted this on Facebook and another friend called and talked to them and they weren’t very helpful or supportive on that call either. Needless to say they didn’t get the point so I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice. It takes a while for them to get back to us after we file the complaint but I am anxiously awaiting what they have to say about that one.


When we were transferring from one hotel to another, the hotel had flagged over a cab and my boyfriend was putting the luggage in the back of the taxi with the driver while I was waiting by the door. There were three lanes of taxi traffic and this driver was in the middle lane so it was a little crazy. Well, after my boyfriend showed him where we were going and put the luggage in the car, the driver came over and said, “You’re taking THAT dog with you?” I said, “Yes, she is my service dog.” He replied, “No, that dog isn’t going with you. You can leave it here.” Um, no. So we exchanged talk about how it was a service dog and it was the law, etc. He said “What if the dog pees in the car?” Steven and I both replied in-sync, “She won’t.” So he goes, “Well he can come in, but I’ll charge you extra.” I said, “No, you can’t charge us extra, that’s against the law.” He argued and finally I pulled out my phone and said “Would you like me to call the police? Because if that’s what I need to do, I will do it.” He eventually let us in and didn’t talk to us for awhile until Steven and I noticed on the back of his seat is a list of things we are entitled to as passengers and one of the top ones said “Be accompanied by a service animal.” So I asked him why he was giving us so much trouble to which he plainly denied giving us any trouble. I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice on this too.


Our last incident I attribute to the lady just simply not knowing, not being ignorant or obnoxious. We were walking in the restaurant and the hostess told Steven to walk me outside and around to a side door of the restaurant so that we could go by the place where people tie their dogs up. No. So she had to go talk to her manager when we refused and then was super nice after she realized that was wrong. That was our last meal in New Orleans, Steven and I both got drinks, and guess what else we got? Jambalaya and oysters.. what a surprise! 🙂



The conference and meeting so many super intelligent, passionate professionals and students was great. The food, the drinks, the scenery. It was all a wonderful experience. I just hope those places learn that they can’t deny or discriminate against individuals with service animals from now on.


Here is a video I found tonight by the Norwegian Association of the Blind that conveys a cute message related to this:

Flustered and Brutal

That pretty much describes me for about three minutes this evening. I am beyond frustrated with dogs coming up to me and Makiko. For some reason it doesn’t happen in Dallas but it happens near daily here. Most of the time I’m pretty good about it but tonight, not so much. And remember that Makiko has had a few little issues in the past where she forgot how she was supposed to behave, so we have been working on this a bit. Well tonight there were multiple dogs, and I couldn’t tell how many or where they were but they were sitting outside with their owners at a bar/restaurant that we went to. A dog came up to Makiko and the owner was like “Aww, come here, (insert dog name), come here,” but didn’t really care when the dog didn’t listen. I was frustrated and trying to express to the owner that she really did need to get her dog, and unfortunately I didn’t correct Makiko and teach her that interacting with that dog was not the right thing to do. I’m still learning and was thinking about that this evening and see how I should have handled that differently. We’re most definitely going to work on that on our next encounter. It’s hard to balance educating others about why their dogs or they CAN’T interact with my dog, while reinforcing my dog’s behavior to do the right thing. Makiko is near perfect, but we do have to remember that she is still a dog and we will have to work through some things. The “brutal” part came in when I was telling the lady, “You really need to get your dog away. She can’t be doing that. No, you really need to get your dog.. This is NOT okay.” A friend said that was brutal, and it very well may have been, but it’s so dang frustrating when I have to deal with this so often. One of my best friends with a guide dog came a little bit later and apparently she briefly knew this girl, so I felt bad that I was a little “brutal” to her, but my good friend said that it was good that I was because she needs to learn to be around guide dogs, especially since my friend has one. I shrugged it off a few minutes later, but that is one thing that is really pushes my buttons.. 

Chocolate = Poison

This pictures shows three chocolate bars stacked on top of each other.

Yes ma’am, yes sir.. chocolate IS poison, I pinky promise it is… now, luckily it’s not poisonous for humans but it IS for dogs. 

This is a fact that I may have heard growing up once, but was really enforced in training. I’m not sure why but it came up multiple times when I was at guide dog training with Makiko that chocolate is poisonous.

Tonight I was making double chocolate chunk cookies. I have been having a bit of a rough time lately with the combinations of school stress, an issue awhile ago with Makiko, grieving over the loss of my father, etc., so I tend to find things to keep me busy when I’m at home. I made chocolate chip cookies and dropped a little tiny bit on the floor. I heard Makiko licking and I think she licked up a little bit of chocolate, but I can’t be certain. I freaked out because I did know chocolate was very poisonous, and described the amount she could have possibly gotten (one lick, don’t think any bites) to the vet and he told me not to worry about it. So far so good.. no abnormalities! 

So why is chocolate poisonous for dogs? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which contain caffeine in them, in addition to something called theobromine. This is the part that is dangerous to dogs because they metabolize this much more slowly than us humans. 

Chocolate is made from cocoa, and cocoa beans contain caffeine and a related chemical compound called theobromine, which is the real danger. “The buzz we get from eating chocolate may last 20 to 40 minutes, but for dogs it lasts many hours,” he says. “After 17 hours, half of the theobromine a dog has ingested is still in the system.” (Kevin Fitgerald, Denton Veterinarian). And this next part is why I got worried.. even the smallest amount of chocolate ingested can lead to vomitting, diarrhea, and if it is enough chocolate it can lead to hypertoxicity, seizures, high blood pressure, and many other scary symptoms. Now, do you see why I freaked out? Makiko NEVER licks things off the floor but apparently this chocolate was too good for her to resist, luckily it was a very tiny amount. 

Keep chocolate away from your dogs people. 

Individuals with disabilities CAN work out

At the start of the summer semester, one of my good friends who is in a wheelchair due to a Muscular Dystrophy contacted me and we decided to go swimming every week together. Because of her physical limitations, swimming is something she can be on the same level as other able-bodied folk on. I feel the exact same way. I don’t need my eyes to swim! We had tried to do this a few times a few semesters ago but it didn’t quite work out.. but now we’re really working hard to make it work. We do get a lot of stares, but who cares? We are improving our health, our fitness, breaking barriers, shattering others perceptions, and having a great time doing it. Makiko sits on the side of the pool and is tied to my friend’s wheelchair. Then when we are done working out, we go shower and she just sits right outside my shower, and then while I’m getting ready I let her walk around a bit, but she just stays right by me. It is a LOT of fun. Soon two of our good friends will be joining us and I can’t wait to be with these lovely ladies. As a sidenote, I’m sure we will get a lot more stares but really, it’s just them learning and not knowing that individuals with different abilities CAN do these types of things. A wonderful lady who has both her legs amputated and uses prosthetics is going to start coming, as well as another lady who is blind and has a guide dog. Woo hoo!

I will say that it is quite amusing to see the Recreation Center staff try and setup my friend’s chair lift. It is a water powered lift. Basically, she transfers from her wheelchair into the chair and then turns this little lever and it turns her in a half circle and lowers her into the water. Then when she is ready to get out, the chair is right there waiting for her and she sits in it, turns the lever and it turns in a half circle and raises her back up and then she transfers her into her chair. Remember, some individuals who are in wheelchairs CAN walk, my friend sure can. But there is a high risk for falling and if she were to fall walking down the steps, especially because there is the added challenge of water, she could seriously injure herself and she doesn’t have the strength to catch herself like individuals without mobility impairments do. It’s a really cool piece of technology. You can tell the staff there is either a little rusty on it or they haven’t ever done it. Last time we went it took six people to set it up. But they are learning, and that is what is really important.

I have gone to the gym a few times to use the actual equipment. One of the Assistant Directors there took me down a whole row of machines and showed me machine by machine how to use it and what it works out. She then took me to the mat and showed me a few things I can do there or at home. That really was wonderful that she took the time to do this. However, it still is kind of intimidating because there is a visual aspect to some of it and I have injured myself on equipment before when I didn’t know exactly how something worked. I will still go, but that part is taking a little more courage. Swimming, however, doesn’t take eyesight at all. Once I get in that lane, I have equal ability as my peers. The lane markers keep me inside the lane and my hand usually hits the wall before anything else. I do sometimes use what little vision I have left to identify something that will tell me when I am getting closer to the edge but that’s not necessary. I used to LOVE swimming, still do. I use to be on the swim team but just over the years I have had different priorities than working out. It is great to have it as a priority again, great to be back in the water, and great to have friends that are encouraging and pushing me along the way.