Monday, 13 July 2015

Is my Guide Dog happy ?

Hello everyone, I hope you are all having a fabulous summer  I know we have been. It has been very busy and on the go for the last couple of weeks with my husband on holidays. But today is the day that we get back to the grind of things.

I have had quite a few situations where people ask me if Rick likes to work and if he is happy. I have also had someone tell me that I should not have my dog out when it is so hot, and accused me of harming my dog because I would not accept his offer to go get water for my dog. He was not panting or hot.

I just want to take some time to clarify some things about guide dogs. They are happy very happy, they live very fulfilling purposeful lives. They also have lots of down time and play time. They do not  work 24 hours a day. When we are home Rick is out of harness and is a part of the family like our pet dog. Rick gets to run in the back yard and chew on his bones, play tug and cuddle with me and the kids. He gets belly rubs and occasional treats. So with that in mind please think again before you assume he is unhappy and living a miserable life. He is not forced to work, he loves working when you brig out the harness he gets so excited and puts his head throughout the harness with tail wagging raring to go. If at any time Rick did not love to work we would retire him.

If people really stopped and thought about the life of a Guide Dog they would realize that they have it better than some pets do. When you get up in the morning and get ready for work you feed your dog and leave. You come home at the end of the day and feed your dog play with them a little and maybe take them for a walk, repeat next day. (I am not implying your dogs are neglected) But the life of a Guide Dog is very different. Rick wakes up with me in the morning gets fed and water, we get the kids off to school and then our day begins we harness up and head out the door together, he runs errands with me, attends school meetings, attends the support group I run, comes shopping with me, comes to the movies, comes to the bar for wings, comes to my friends house for coffee. While he does all of these things throughout the day he is getting plenty of love, kibble, and affection. When we come home in the evening he gets fed and then it is play time he earned it. We will throw the ball in the back yard, play tug and let out that pent up energy, and then cuddle time while he rests I will get some things done around the house. After a long day of playing and working we are off to bed, Rick sleeps right beside my bed every night.

I tell you about a day in the life of Rick because I want people to know he loves to work, and he loves to play. He lives a very good life. I am also very conscious of when I take him out, when it is hot I will find a ride and he comes with me to the stores yes but he just came from a air conditioned vehicle , he wears boots when it is too hot for his paws, he wears a coat and boots in the winter to protect him. He is given plenty of water and food to sustain the hard work he does. And he is very much appreciated every minute of every day. I appreciate every thing that this dog does for me. My husband has even joked that I love Rick more than him and my kids. I worry about him like he is my husband or kids.

So please know Guide Dogs are loved and get to be dogs too !

Until Next Time !
Ashley Nemeth

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Equal Opportunity Employers ??? Are you really ?

There are 14,256 people in Saskatchewan Canada alone that are blind or partially sighted. There are half a million blind or partially sighted people in Canada. Only one third of those Canadians living with vision loss are employed. Is it because they are not qualified ? Is it because they don't want to work ? Is it because they are not capable of working ? Absolutely NOT. Blind or Partially sighted people are very capable willing and loyal employees that can do the job just the same as their sighted counterparts.

Many employers will advertise themselves as a EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER, which should mean that they are willing to hire those people who are the minority. People with disability are one of those groups. But I really want to shed some light on this, and what is truly happening in this day and age. We all like to think that we are living in a accepting loving non judgemental society but is that really the case  ?

I was born legally blind. This means that from birth I have had not great vision. In school I had accommodations like larger text in my books, teachers read what they were writing on the board, I learnt braille and other skills I would need. Now that was great it was to prepare me for the real world but reality is nothing could have prepared me for the real world living with a disability. Note I do not view myself as someone with a disability and never have. I am more than capable of living the same life that anyone else can I just do it differently.

During high school I worked at my parents Bakery and had some other jobs as well. I worked for Parks Canada for the summer and was heavily involved in sports like Karate, Wrestling, Hockey, and Girl Guides. I was a junior leader as a Girl Guide and gained some invaluable skills. Then I went to University and again held a couple of different jobs, I worked at a Bakery, and a sandwich place. I have held many different jobs over the years. I ran the Bakery alongside my parents for many years and when my dad got sick I took on most of that role. After we sold the business I then went on the work at a nursing home and hospital in the kitchen and as a special care aide. I worked as a car salesman, and finally as a insurance broker. Now looking at that you would think well what do you mean blind or partially sighted people are not being employed. Well here is the kicker. I NEVER EVER disclosed that I had a visual impairment, I learnt very young that when I disclosed this I was turned away and treated differently. I was able to make adjustments in the jobs I did and usually it ended up coming out when I needed to make the text a bigger but I would always down play it like I just had bad vision you know nothing glasses can't help with. But this was not the case in fact as life went on my vision decreased but when I got to the point 2 years ago or so when there was no hiding it, guess what happened. I have not been employed since. Now is this a just a coincidence ? I would say no. I have been on many interviews with employers claiming to be a equal opportunity employer but there always seems to be that person that feels I won't be able to do the job. Well guess what give me that chance and then you know what if I can't  well then you can fire me just like anyone else. But don't discount my ABILITIES right off the hop.

These things need to change, people with disabilities are PEOPLE first and need to be treated as such. We complain about people living off the government, yet there is a huge population of people living on a meagre disability income that would give anything to work and we are not giving them the opportunity to show what they can do. Many of these people even have University diplomas !!! We tell our kids that you need to go to University to be successful, even parents of kids with disabilities will say this but you are not guaranteed to find a job just because you have a degree unless someone will finally give you that chance.

I will keep speaking and make my voice as loud as I can so that this will change. It can be changed and with enough push from people living it, I believe we can make a difference. I know I will not stop until it is my reality !

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Blind Parents

As a mother of 3 life can be very interesting, busy, crazy and many different things at any given time. They definitely keep me guessing and keep me on my toes. 

All of my kids have their own personalities that have developed over the years. My daughter is 11 and the boys are 8 and 7. I love being a mother to my three kids more than anything. I will always sacrifice things to give them what I believe to be the best for them. This comes into play with my sight loss. It would be much easier for me to have the life that I want if I was in a bigger city with public transit and more opportunities but we moved out to a rural community when the kids were small because we wanted to raise them in a small community. So even though life would be much easier in a city for me, we are not moving in the near future. I think as parents we always are making sacrifices. 

When it comes to my visual impairment, the kids are great. They have always been great kids with that part of my life. When they were small I would go crazy when they would walk to far away. I could not tell them apart from other kids and I would get worried that Iwould not see them walk in front of a car or something, so they learned very young to stay close. Also when we would go to the park they would always come and check in with me every few minutesm it would get hard to keep track of them sometimes. Especially when they got old enough to explore a little more on their own. Now as they have gotten even older they know if I call them or ask where they are they need to answer. They help a lot around the house especially when it comes to reading instructions on food things or labels or just helping find things in the house that have been moved. 

The kids are all in school and this can bring it's own challenges. When it comes to homework it can be a little difficult to help them. Especially the youngest because he doesn't read as well as the others, but he is good about just telling me the letters so we can figure out what it is he needs. My husband helps the kids with their homework as much as possible as he can see what they are doing and it just makes it much easier. The kids are great when they make something at school like a craft or a picture they will bring it home and start describing it right away. It melts my heart every time they do this for me. 

Now there are challenges having kids being blind but I don't think that they are any greater than the challenges a fully sighted person faces. The one thing that I have found is that they will try to slip something by me because they know I can't see it. Like a shirt they shouldn't wear to school (tank top in the winter ), my daughter having some crazy hair and saying she has done it (I check but I guess she is hoping I won't). And if these are the biggest challenges that I am facing right now then I say we are doing great. 

I am very grateful to have the kids that I have and to be their mother. I know people question the ability of mothers when they have a disability but reality is that a disability does not make you a good or bad parent. All it means is that you will do things differently. But most importantly I think that my kids will always have a understanding of people with disabilities, and not judge them like so many people do because they know they are just as capable as anyone else. 

I hope you all have a great mothers day next week ! And are enjoying the spring weather ! Rick and I sure are enjoying the weather and looking forward to being able to open the camper for the first time this year on May long weekend. We have also been enjoying the golf course ! 

Until Next Time 
Ashley and Rick 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

You look like you can see !!!

Hello Everyone !

What does blindness look like ? I have been told many times that I "don't look blind" or "it looks like you can see" ! I am not sure what blindness looks like but I am taking a guess that they mean my eyes look "normal" I guess besides the incessant bouncing around they do.

Blindness comes in many forms, it does not mean that my eyes are cloudy or that I have prosthetic eyes. It does not mean that I look out into space when speaking to someone or that I am not able to look in your direction when having a conversation. These are the farthest from the truth. There are many people who do have "cloudy" looking eyes or prosthetic eyes but not all blind or partially sighted people do. There are many many conditions that cause visual impairments of all levels. Using a white cane or even a guide dog does not mean that the person is completely blind. They may in fact have some degree of vision just not enough to safely move through the streets.

With my condition my eyes look "normal" I suppose but if you were to look closely they are probably very different from yours. I have a circular nystagmus that means my eyes constantly move in a circle  they never stay still. This causes me to have to turn my head to the side to attempt to see things (this is not very successful at this point but hey I am not a quitter. ) I also have a strabismus which means my eyes don't always move together when I am looking at you one eye might be looking at you and the other off doing it's own thing. My pupils are also always very dilated in fact when I go to the eye doctor they usually don't have to dilate my eyes as they are already quite dilated. My eyes are also a weird colour due to my Albinism. They are kind of green but a muted green colour some people say it is a weird colour.

Under no circumstances is it ok for someone to say to a blind or partially sighted person, " you don't look blind" or " it looks like you can see me" . You have no idea what they can see or can't see and that is quite a personal thing to say and it is offensive. It insinuates you think the person is faking it. This is not something anyone would ever do. Living life as a blind or partially sighted person can be very frustrating at times it is not worth faking it, and like I said this is very offensive. You must think of it from the perspective of the person you are speaking to. Would you be offended if I said to you " you don't look like you are very intelligent" or "you don't look like you work out". Think before you speak not only does it make the person you are speaking to feel like crap, but it makes you look like a insensitive twit.

I have been running into these things being said to me more and more. It can be very discouraging and makes a person dread going to events because it really gets on your nerves. And what does one really say to a comment like that, that does not make me look and sound like a complete bag. If I can filter the profanity that comes to mind when people speak to me this way then I am hoping people can learn to filter what they say to others.

Until next time !
Ashley and Rick

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Snow and Golf !

Hello Everyone !

I have been keeping very busy with some new things and lots of old things. My support group is under way we have had two meetings so far and the feedback I have gotten from some of the members is great. I am happy to be working with seniors again and just doing something that I am having fun with. I look forward to our meetings and we have a lot of fun.

I am looking at doing some more volunteer type stuff with people who are visually impaired or blind. It is always great to give back to the community that has gotten you through so much. And well I have lots of experience in this department so why not put it to good use.

I am also doing some volunteer stuff for my Toastmaster Club and some other things at the Division level as well. Toastmasters has really helped me to be my own advocate and given me the confidence to go out in the world and do what I want to do. I really enjoy public speaking (even though I still get very nervous) and am hoping to get to a point where I can do more of it in a advocacy and education around blindness.

Rick has been getting sick and throwing up about once a week or so for the last month and I have been a little worried since it just started all of a sudden. So we have made a appointment at the vets for Thursday so I am hoping that it goes well. Crossing my fingers !

The dreaded snow is back again ! It has snowed a few times since it all melted for the first time and every time it snows even though I know it is that time of year where just because it leaves doesn't mean it isn't coming back I get so grouchy and sad ! I think everyone is at that point where you just want winter to end for good !

I have registered for golf this summer with the Blind Sports Association and am very excited to get back on the course ! And when you lose a bunch of balls in the bush you can blame your guide (my husband ) every time ! I go through a lot of golf balls but it is a blast golfing, my husband and I have always had fun when we golf. My kids started golfing last year as well so we all go out and have so much fun ! Can't wait for the season to start ! It will be interesting to see how Rick handles the golf course.

Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend and I will keep you posted on Rick's vet check.

Until Next Time
Ashley and Rick

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Loving life in the Dark !

Hello Everyone ! Hope you are all well !

Rick and I are still loving the spring weather minus the muddy dog result but it is great to have the sun shining and the snow melting ! And not having to bundle up is GREAT !

I have been having a blast going into the city once to twice a week with my husband and just being dropped off at Tim Horton's and going where I want and doing things that I want to do. We have been discussing weather to move back to the city so that I could have the independence and freedom that I really want, but we moved to a small town for our kids because this is the environment we wanted to raise our kids in so we have decided this is where we stay. I will continue to just go to the city when I want and need to with my husband and do the things I want while he is at work. This has been great ! I am very comfortable on the bus system in the city after not riding the bus there for about 8 years. I don't think twice about grabbing a bus and going where I want. And with this has come a confidence I felt was a little lost. I was always so worried and unsure if I could do it and that isn't there anymore. Rick has really helped with this because he has given me the kick in the pants to want to get out and do what I want.

My experience in Portland when I went to get Rick also helped me with this. I was so nervous all the time when I went there, I had some major anxiety about travel and all travel. But after getting out and working in a huge city compared to where I am from with the amount of people and in a un familiar city. On the first few days I thought there is no way I am ever going to get through this and not only did I get over it, I had fun, I enjoyed it. It was challenging and I felt like I was free doing things that I was scared of. Things that shouldn't be scary but were.

Now I am living my life and loving it. I have struggled over the last year with my world getting darker. I had not been embracing my life in the dark I was angry with the darkness. But I am at a place now that I am enjoying my life in the dark and living it like I want to.

This coming Tuesday is my first support group meeting that I am going to be facilitating and I am nervous but very excited for this new piece of my adventure.

Until Next time
Ashley and Rick

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Spring Time !

 Hello Everyone !

Spring is here or at least it feels like it is. The weather has been amazing the snow is melting the sun is shining. I really like the warmer weather but the downside of spring with a guide dog especially a yellow one is that he is a muddy mess every time we leave the house at this point. This means daily baths and I am sure he hates that more than the cold and I know I do. But on the upside it is much warmer out YAY !

Rick and I have been very very busy, getting out every day to walk and enjoy the sun. We have also mastered a few new routes in the city that we are able to do solo and I am loving it. We get to go up to the city about once a week some weeks more. And we are finding new things to do and we are loving it. Starbucks and Tim Hortons are our regular stops and Rick can find them like no ones business he loves coffee just like me! We are two peas in a pod.

I have officially started a support group for seniors new to vision loss and have about 20 members, our first meeting is coming up next week and I am excited and very nervous. I have also been very involved in my toastmasters group and having so much fun doing it all.

I finally feel like I am in the best place that I have been in the last year. I am enjoying what we are doing and the more I network and get out there the more I am hoping things will happen. I am really liking the advocacy for the blind and the speaking that I have been doing. I am looking to try and get into some more speaking. And this is the path that I am hoping to pursue. So far it is working out really well and I am very happy with it !

Rick is doing great he is enjoying the weather and getting outside to play and to go for walks just because not that we are going anywhere specific. And most of all he is happy that our outings don't include socks, boots, and a winter coat.

Until Next Time
Ashley and Rick