Category Archives: Opal

Hiatus

I have written this blog (and 236 others, two of which were deleted…why did  I do that?!) for just under one year. Some 20,500 people have dropped in to date. I am currently involved in a writing project (very interesting stuff which I’m sure you will all want to pay big bucks for…or not). That’s the good news. The bad news, for some, is that I am taking a temporary break from blogging. Others may see this as cause for celebration (the crass, reactionary types). Regardless, I am outta here for a time, but like MacArthur (or was it some other dude?)  said, “I shall return”. Thanks to all the regular readers, the web drifters, and especially to those who have taken the time to send comments (except perhaps, the demento types who really seem to have a loose grasp of reality and lack social decorum).

Opal, my long-suffering (that’s just an expression!) guide dog bids you adieu for now too. She says to tell you that she will update you personally on the progress I make with my writing  project (literary pimp, that she is). It just wouldn’t seem right to go on blog holiday without one more pop-culture reference all wrapped up into a piece of wise advice:  “Stay calm, be brave, and wait for the signs”- (from the Dead Dog Cafe gang on CBC Radio),

Advertisements

Dear Louis

Dear Louis, happy birthday buddy. At your age (200), you probably take birthdays in stride. I am writing to pass along greetings and best wishes from a few kids here in Halifax. I gotta tell you, I was a little disappointed in the overall lack of interest at the Braille 200 Day booth at the mall today. I was feeling a tad depressed about the whole thing for a while there, having schlepped so much stuff over to the community booth, including my Perkins Brailler, a Braille alphabet chart the size of Manitoba, some items for the raffle, a ton of pamphlets and information sheets telling people all about you and the system you developed for blind people. I had made (lovingly and painstakingly), commemorative bookmarks. Preparation for your celebration have taken their toll on my wallet (Braille card stock, printer ink etc) and my time. I had day-glow yellow posters  made up to  advertise my offer to Braille anyone’s name for FREE!!! I had a neat display of Braille children’s books, metal tags (you know the kind I sew into  my clothes to identify their colour- PK=pink, GN=Green, RD= red etc), phone and bank statements, playing cards etc. I got so bored sitting alone at my booth, that I started to write nonsense on my Braille machine, just to pass the time…”If one more person comes to ask me for directions to Athlete’s World or the washroom, I will ask Opal to attack…”  I couldn’t believe that thousands of people could be so hell-bent on shopping and totally uninterested in you and your special day. Finally, some kids came to ask me for their name in Braille. I cheered up instantly. I sent them off with sticky labels and cue cards with the appropriate names on each. I told them about your birthday and they asked me to wish you all the best. Only ten people picked up my bookmarks and I have plenty left…looks like I may need to do another mall shift in the next week or so (groan). Maybe they’ll have shut down the Christmas music by then…Hey! Maybe I’ll bring some to church tomorrow and see if any UU’s want to feel you up! Take care, my friend. I hope you make it to 300 and beyond.

Dr. Opal

I awoke yesterday with a massive chest cold. (my mom would have said, “Tu as coucher les fesses a l’aire” -translation: “you slept bare-bummed”. Maybe so, but Christmas Eve with my sweetie was worth it. All through the wee hours last night, I coughed, railed and hacked gobs of… well, never mind. At six AM this morning  when Opal woke up, she jumped on my bed and proceeded to give me an intense  45 to 60 – second breathalyzer test. She stuck her shnozz next to my lips and carefully sniffed the odours  (not too pleasant, I imagine) emerging from my mouth. Then, she promptly lay down beside me, head hung over my legs,  until I could get up an hour later. Clearly Doctor Opal diagnosed something not very healthy and decided to cut me some slack. She continued to request samples of my halitosis throughout the day. She must have thought I was insane when I saddled her up and said, “Come on, puppet, we’re going to Sobey’s to buy some honey”. We got there and back with barely any commands being uttered and moving quite slow. I spent most of the remainder of the day wrapped in my authentic Hudson’s Bay wool ‘point blanket’ with Opal and Lucy both settling over me like poultices. Thanks girls. You really know how to take care of your mum. What better nursemaids can a gal have?

Hey Butthead!

Thanks a lot buddy. Yeah you, the nameless smoker who flicked your LIT cigarette butt into the air by the Walmart entrance today. Yeah, I realize it was cold out and you were caging that smoke as long as possible before entering the insanity that is Wally World two days before Christmas.  Plus you couldn’t be bothered disposing of the disgusting dregs of your addiction properly, like in a receptacle, oh no, you had to toss that flaming fag, without glancing where it might land, like ONTO MY GUIDE DOG, Opal! That explains why she became startled… I had no clue.  I thought it was the foot traffic making her nervous, until someone told me what happened, expressing their outrage about it to me, long after you had blown into the store while exhaling the smoke from your last drag (into somebody’s face, no doubt).  I bet you’ve started a forest fire or two in your day, huh? You’re the kinda dope that tosses butts (and beer cans) out the car window as you speed down the road. Sheesh! Here’s my Wise Advice for you. Give them up for New Year’s, you creep. Get the patch! Arm yourself with mints and toothpicks. Sign up for support groups, acupuncture, psychoanalysis…but give me a break and leave my dog out of your pathetic path of destruction. And hey! quit smoking and you’ll start to feel better, smell better and sound better. The extra bonus for the rest of us is that you will decrease your share of the smokers

burden on the health care system.

Do Guide Dogs Misbehave?

Short answer to this question? Yes, of course! They’re dogs, just dogs with special training. All dogs will misbehave, given the opportunity (and all you people with allegedly ‘perfect pooches’ need to rethink that plan to nominate your canine for sainthood!)

I must say that I get a lot of comments from people (bus and taxi drivers, store keepers, hospital staff etc.) who remark that Opal is a very well behaved dog. I would agree, given what I’ve heard about other guide dogs, much to my surprise and horror.  Sure, Opal has been known to lick women’s bare feet in public when I’m not paying attention.  Her passion for soft and fuzzy things has overwhelmed her more than once too; she stole a ladies gloves off a seat at the ferry terminal once, and she has tried to boost a stuffed animal or two from Walmart’s and other stores. Ok, so maybe she has also shredded a basket  (‘off the job’) and torn several pairs of my panties into confetti. At least I caught up with her when she tried to destroy my bra, in time to rescue it. See a pattern here? Oral fixation…jaws and tongue in action? Like many labs, she loves to carry stuff. The first thing she does when  her ‘saddle’ (harness) comes off at home, is to pick up the nearest object that will fit in her mouth and run like a dog possessed.

I have said this more than once: Dogs are a lot like kids. They are opportunistic.  They need good structure, routine  and enforced rules in order to behave like good dogs. I think that most of the stories I hear from cab and bus drivers about guide dogs jumping around, barking, annoying the driver or passengers (!!!!) in their vehicles, is not about a ‘guide dog being bad’.  Nope. It’s about a handler that does not ‘sort their dog out’. These are the handlers that give the rest of us a bad name by allowing the public to develop a negative impression of guide dogs. I have been at functions with other people who had guide dogs, in one instance, 35 blind people and handlers. All  were relatively very well behaved (even the people). I have also been at meetings, and parties where only one other guide dog and handler were present, where  I became irritated beyond belief (the handler irritated ME, the dog irritated Opal), ’cause the handler was asleep at the switch and not paying attention to, or doing anything about his wandering and misbehaving dog.

The off-duty guide dog will eat that chocolate birthday cake, those half dozen blueberry muffins (low fat), the marinating steaks etc. IF THEY HAVE OPPORTUNITY. They will bother your guests, demand attention, ‘act out’, just like small children, unless you enforce the rules which YOU  create, consistently. It makes them feel more secure to know who is leader of the pack (or parent). It is  really about ensuring that they do not have opportunity, and preempting the food theft, destruction of property, annoyance of guests etc, BEFORE IT CAN OCCUR. Put your stuff away! (like my panties which should not be lying on the floor next to the hamper). Put your foot down  firmly (but do not carry a big stick!–be kind and fair to your dog).

Opal on Canadian Politics

Mum is going on and on about a guy  named, Steven (she usually calls him ‘the idiot’) who just got himself  a perogie and is planning to play with it for a whole month. I love perogies! Mum cooks them sometimes. Once, one got away while she was draining them and hit the floor. I scarfed it up in a nanosecond! So, if I was this guy, Steven, and I had one little perogie, I’d be eating it, not playing with it. She says that this Steven guy doesn’t have a lot of friends ’cause…..well, HE’S A MANUPILUATIVE, SHWARMY POLITICIAN OF UNSAVORY MORAL CHARACTER, WHO IS SCREWING AROUND WITH THE GOOD PEOPLE OF CANADA, NONE OF WHOM  TRUST OR WANT HIM AROUND ANY MORE! HE IS PLAYING COSTLY PARLIAMENTARY GAMES WITH THE TAX PAYERS MONEY AT A TIME WHEN THIS COUNTRY NEEDS A WORKING GOVERNMENT! You know, if I were you Steven? I’d rethink this being such a bully thing. It’s not OK to push people around (like when I knock Lucy, the cat over), just because you’re bigger. AND STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR PEROGIE!

Opal, a UU-Spirited Dog

Two of my favourite things to talk about (and I do so incessantly), are Opal and my church, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax. When I have a reason and opportunity to combine both in one conversation or text, my life seems very sweet indeed.

I’ve been under the blogospheric weather for a few days, but only because I have been busy….mostly singing. Last night, the UU church of Halifax held its rescheduled ‘gospel sing-along’ evening. What does this mean? Yes, of course, a bunch of  white folk singing gospel songs could potentially translate into a pretty lame event, however, when UU’s sing gospel, we REALLY try hard. Last night, we also provided cultural and racial acknowledgements, and historical information about the music that we were about to perform. As a member  of both performing choirs, I had been rehearsing full tilt and memorizing a plethora of song and hymn lyrics for weeks (SONGS GUARANTEED TO NEVER LEAVE MY BRAIN AGAIN!). An early snowstorm  had forced us to reschedule the event.  Finally, last night, we sang…and shone, perhaps not like blinding light, but certainly with spirited illumination.  Opal was well behaved (as usual )and slept, wrapped around the microphone stand at my rhythm- tapping feet. We finally got home after 10 PM and eventually got to bed, but not before her ritual settling period had passed. (Opal needs to relax when she finally gets out of harness, and usually does so by picking up a soft object and running around like a nut. Lately, my panties have been the object of choice. She turns them into lingerie confetti.  That’ll teach me to leave my dirty clothing lying about!). Early this morning, Opal  accepted my unreasonable demand to ‘saddle-up’, (good sport that she is), and off we went to church again. This time we were helping out in the UU orientation for the newcomers. We participated in the day-long UU boot camp until early afternoon and then left the group  to tend to our last UU mission of the day; A hospital visit to a church member who has been beset by surgeries and the aftermath of infection.

One of the perks of the harness which Opal wears, is its status and how it can act as a pass to enter into places where pet dogs can not go. A hospital is such a place. My friend, M. who is the unfortunate soul in ill health, has two dogs of her own…at home. What a smile I heard in her voice when Opal gave her a huge greeting!  She had no roommates in her hospital room and the place was oddly quiet, so I took Opal’s harness off for a minute to allow for some big time kissing and goofiness. THIS is true medicine, UU canine style.