News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t blogged for a while, because aside from getting Lancer, July was not the best of months for the Kragnes household. A freezer we had for only 5 years bit the dust, and it’s worth less to get a new one than to put money into fixing it. We didn’t take out the extended warranty, because we pay for a total appliance repair plan. But the plan doesn’t cover what’s broken. We had to have three different sets of people out to fix our AC’ before that was up and working again. The total appliance plan paid for itself with that deal! Our dryer is also threatening to bite the dust, but we’re trying to keep it going with smaller loads.
We’re also still waiting for the contractors to come fix our bathroom. It will be nice to have a walk-in shower, but right now, with no grab bars, balance is an issue. 
Our cleaning people decided to stop, because we’re the only clients in this area. Our lawn mowing person warned us earlier this summer he’d be having surgery this month. Luckily we learned of an app which has really helped called next door. We’re trying the cleaning thing on our own, but I’ve seen a couple adds for cleaners in the area should we decide to go that route. We’ve also found someone to mow, and Phil found a couple people to help deal with some trees. We also got rid of two motors left in our basement by the repair people. Apparently they can’t reuse them. Next Door is a fantastic app for getting in touch with your neighborhood. We’ve learned about several things about which we’d never know without it. Our block is so quiet and private it’s good to read about so many things happening around us.
These things plus stuff I won’t even talk about brought my depression out. I usually feel OK in the summer, but not when there’s all this stuff going on. An increase in medication has helped some, but I hated to write a blog of complaints. At least now I feel like I can just say stuff as fact without all the drama.
This summer has brought some good news. I obtained a raise at church which should help our finances a little. We are also no longer paying for some kind of insurance on our mortgage which has knocked a little off. Phil’s having some dental work done which will be an expense for an unfinished procedure, but at least we’ve both reached our out-of-pocket number for most medical expenses.
The Internet Radio Shows are still going well, although I’ll take a week’s break on Blessing Blend in order to celebrate our 20th anniversary however we choose to do that. We haven’t made any big plans, and that’s OK. Phil did say he might take a half day off which would be cool. We’re trying to get Phil over the summer cold I had first. But he’s had it the worst of the two of us. He’s really enjoying being able to work out at home (and even listens to me on Friday nights). 

Lancer is still doing well. Nope, we don’t make it out every day, but we do good work when we are. Lancer’s puppy raisers sent me a photo album of pictures of all the things they did with lancer. He had a Halloween costume among others and dressed in a sweatshirt with Devil’s horns for the NJ Devils Hockey Team. He was known as “Devil Dog”.
 Phil and I are reading a 23 book series by Randy Wayne Right, and I have several books I’m looking forward to reading after that’s completed. We also still have our book club which meets the last Thursday of the month. We still go out once a month with a group of people we call “dinner delvers”. If it’s someone’s birth month, they pick the place. Lately I’ve been sampling a lot of mac and cheese usually with extra toppings.
Before everything started going crazy, Phil surprised me with a new set of BlueTooth speakers for my phone he found on sale. I like having something rechargeable, portable, and that sounds good too.
Speaking of music, I’m to be part of a marathon Ninth Floor Radio (.com) is doing on Labor Day. I don’t have any details yet, but I’ll post when I can.
Phil still waits to hear about a class date to get his dog. It looks like it probably won’t be for a month or two yet, but whenever it is, that’s the kind of surprise we’ll like. 
OUR lives are not that exciting, but most of the surprises aren’t pleasant ones. So we prefer our lives to have as little excitement as possible.

Today Lancer was an angel, and I wasn’t or at least didn’t feel like one. The last couple days have been brutally hot, and aside from the Malt Shop, we didn’t have anywhere to go. Storms were also either forecast or in progress if it wasn’t hot. I’m a very destination oriented traveler and generally don’t get out just to go. Especially in this weather. I’d take the cold over the heat. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel guilty about staying home. Lancer just seems to be taking it in stride and doesn’t seem restless at all. He did pretty well at both church and the Malt Shop for the first times. At church, people definitely noticed him, but I tried to wait to exit until most people had gone in order not to have Lancer distracted. One little kid distracted Lancer at the Malt Shop. The funniest thing was that somehow he got out of his harness during the latter part of the evening when I was eating.
Today we signed a contract to have our bathroom wall fixed and our tub converted into a shower with a door. It all sounds impressive and like I’m really going to enjoy my showers even more than now. We have the funds, but it’s also a little scary. I tend to be a worry wart about all this, and I’m hopeful nothing goes wrong in the process which should begin in between 7 and 12 weeks. The process takes approximately 3 days, and then we hope there’s not a weekend in there. Spunge baths will be the name of the game.
I start back with my radio shows this week, and probably better start on getting plans underway for at least 1 tonight. Tomorrow we take the Metro van downtown and then work and bus to the vet’s and home. Lancer came to me with a mild ear infection,, and I want to make sure that’s gone. 

I

‘m lying quietly while Mom listens toMichael Jackson in headphones. We had a great first route without an instructor with us. Last week Mom and I targeted a bus bench. I’ve made it my business to show Mom every bus bench at our stops I can find. Because she is a sitter, Mom appreciates it and gives me lots of praise!!! I found two for her today which made our first route extra special.
The Downtown part of our route was new for both of us. Mom had to correct me once for almost tripping her up on an obstacle. We mistook a parking garage for an overhang too, but a retrace of our steps got us back on track. 
We were late for lunch with an out-of-town friend, but she understood. The huans had a great time, and Mom’s attempt to put on the Gentle leader settled me right down. Mom had a Shepherd’s Pie. (Hey, what about a Lab’s Pie? That sounds better anyway). Actually, so did the “Muddy Paws Cheese Cake. Mom ate all of that too, the dog!! Mom treated us to cab ride home, since she didn’t want to do too much on only the first day.  

Nicole is on the way to the airport to go home, and she’s ready!!: She looked forward to going home all day, but was nothing but professional on this last day of formal training and every day. I can’t say enough good about her.
We went to Phil’s office using bus and light rail. I’m not crazy about transferring on and off the platforms, but we targeted the bus stop c (for clicker) where the 23 going West bound stops.
Phil had his Juno Walk while I hung out in his office. Then we went to lunch. But don’t worry. I had my work with Lancer doing a bus, and two light rail trains each direction plus a fairly complicated route to Phil’s office. We ate at Big Ten, but they were out of their famous Nelly Mo Bars!! That might be worth another train ride back to the restaurant at some point.
After returning home, Nicole, Lancer and I got in her rental car to target an audible pedestrian signal poll which is mid block and between two bus stations on either side of the street. 
I’ve learned that I have a tendency to go right, and Lancer is starting to learn to compensate for it. This was apparently shown after I took a fall in the street. Lancer tried to go right, but I knew that was wrong. instead of going left (as it turned out he had a pole in front of him), he took me to the street which I didn’t know. Nicole and another gentlemen helped me up, and luckily my ankles didn’t rebel. My sore knee wasn’t so lucky, but it will recover.
Back here at home, Nicole” gave me an informal lecture on play and massage particularly pointing out things Lancer likes. She took a couple more cute pictures I’ll have up on Facebook soon.
As always after an instructor leaves, I feel a little overwhelmed and wonder if my new dog and I are ready to be on our own. With all of the construction downtown plus the neighbors’ deficient landscaping and slanted sidewalks around here, we have our work cut out for us. Tomorrow we meet another friend for lunch at Brit’s, Saturday is church and possibly our Mexican place, and Sunday is the Malt Shop. Nicole really stressed that although we don’t have to walk far, working a new dog every day in some form is important. With all of the above, it will be a challenge to get him out every day, but I understand the more we work, the better we bond, and the more confident and competent we are as a team.
I’ve been so concentrated on training that I haven’t mentioned a challenge we’re facing on the home front. Yesterday our grab bar in the shower collapsed, and Phil discovered the tile is breaking. The whole wall is rotted through and falling down. Phil did a temporary job, so we can shower and was up until one in the morning. He did his Juno Walk with some pain due to crawling in and out of the tub. The pain has worsened as the day progressed. Fortunately we have a lead on a good handyman to help us figure out what to do about the situation. 

Lancer’s Day 8.

Today was another trip downtown for us. I think I only made one clearance error the entire trip. I’m a serious little worker, and I’m glad Mom notices. Yes Rebecca didn’t give birth to me, but she is definitely a female caregiver, and that’s close enough to Mom for me.
We tried coming in on a different street, but though it was less construction, crossing Nicollet was just as bad along ninth as eighth. Downtown is just going to be a mess, and Nicole reminded Mom there was no shame in asking for assistance when crossing the street when construction is this involved.
The Medical Arts Building was a snap. I enjoyed all three of the offices we visited, but my two favorites were the dentist and the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist let us come into the office proper, not just the waiting room, because the office path was so narrow. We also exited from a different door than we entered, which is a regular occurrence. We had to target the dentist office, which meant lots of clicks and treats for me! Mom doesn’t go there as often, but it’s guaranteed I’ll remember where to go on that floor.
Mom mentioned a friend wanted to meet at Panerra Bread for socializing after appointments, so we went there for human lunch. I kept my nose to myself, so no gentle leader needed to be applied.
Then we redid the IDS building including our trip to the bank via the elevators. Nicole showed Mom the path using a tactile map kit. Little pieces of different shapes are Velcroed onto this cloth board thing. After feeling the route plus our experience there yesterday, it was a lot easier to make the trip. Our trips to Panerra and IDS were during lunch time, and at one point, I even showed Mom a chair!! There are some humans like Nicole who like to stand and others like my mom who enjoy sitting when possible.
We had time before our bus came so Nicole lifted me onto the bus bench to take our ID photo. Mom has to figure out how to permanently put it into her phone before uploading, but it should show up very soon
Tomorrow we do the lightrail to Dad’s office. Then we have one final trip yet to be determined, but it will either be the gas station or targeting a midblock audible pedestrian signal on the way back from an uptown doctor’s office. I showed Mom the office last week, but we didn’t look at that signal.
Mom let me loose from the leash after I parked, but I was so tuckered out, I didn’t do much. She may try again after this next park time and when Phil’s home to see what happens. 

Day 7

Our first trip was taking the bus downtown and back with work in the IDS center to get to the bank via the elevators. We’ll be taking another downtown trip tomorrow, and although I hope to repeat the IDS center again, I hope we can avoid some of the construction we encountered today. There was one corner at 8th and Nicollet we couldn’t cross. If I was on my own, I think I’d go a block to cross at a better intersection. As it was, we had to treat a corner like it was an obstacle and cross by going out into the other street. It’s definitely not a maneuver I would have felt comfortable doing alone with a brand new dog. I have some ideas about how to circumvent this on our downtown trip tomorrow, but Nicollet is under construction all along the Mall, so we’ll probably just encounter something different.
The IDS is a little confusing. Nicole is going to make a tactile map of the route, so I have a better understanding of how to get to the elevators.
We survived our traffic checks, because Lancer is a very good boy! They got faster and closer as we went, but Lancer really kept an eye on that car!! We went to the DQ, but not for the Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzard I’ve heard about and am determined to try. It was purely for traffic checks and obstacle work.
One of the biggest concepts I’ve had to learn this training is when to sidestep. There are times when Lancer tries to get me around something, and it feels like a turn instead. I’m unsure if it’s the offset handle which is making this harder, or it might be how definitive his moves are compared to my other dogs who felt much more subtle. I think this is just going to take time to learn to read him. The offset harness is still great on my back, but it, Lancer’s Height, and possibly his less subtle maneuvers are making our work a little different than I’ve had in the past.
The one thing about Lancer which drives me to continue is his willingness. I can tell he puts his heart and soul into his work, and even his puppy raisers say they felt he’d make a good Seeing Eye Dog because of his love of having a job. Zane’s work ethic was great, and I said hands down he was my best worker. However, whereas Zane’s work ethic was about enthusiasm, Lancer’s is about caution’ intensity’ and care if that makes any sense at all. 

Day 6

Today we had one big trip. We went downtown by car to have lunch and then do some work at Target. I learned several things along the way.
1. I am not the slowest walker on the planet. I may not be able to go that far, but I’m a low-average walker.

2. Lancer doesn’t distract easily, and when he does, he’s honest about it. He turned his head toward a guide dog team. Because he doesn’t move his body when distracted, I should go with him whenever he moves unusually.

3. Target doesn’t have in and out doors. In fact, Target wants people to use the narrow, revolving door. I hate revolving doors, and this one is particularly narrow. Instead, there are two regular doors side by side, and either of them is OK to use to enter or exit Target.
This trip was my least stressful yet, because downtown sidewalks are much flatter than the sidewalks in South Minneapolis. There’s more for Lancer to do in terms of construction and people, but I’m getting better at reading his signals. 

Phil went with us this trip to meet Vanessa another TSE grad, for lunch at Brit’s Pub. I had a salad and their White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with peas and bacon. The meal and the conversation were both great.
I couldn’t use the target on the bench, because someone was sitting there, but I healed Lancer while picking up a few things I needed. Having Phil using a cane behind me made me realize how much faster and more efficiently I was moving with Lancer. When Phil gets his next dog, it is likely Lancer and I will take the back, because of how quickly Phil and his dogs tend to move. However, until then, Lancer and I can take a pretty comfortable lead.
Tomorrow Nicole and I will do more downtown work. Then the second trip will be full of traffic checks with another trainer driving them. For those who don’t know, traffic checks are when vehicles pull out in front of us from driveways or turn in front of us. It’s anything which makes a dog need to stop suddenly or even back up. It’s good practice for reading the dogs signals in serious situations.

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