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

october Update

I spent over two hours writing a post which for some unknown reason did not publish. If at first you don’t succeed …

I’m sitting in front of the second fire in our fireplace this fall. Yesterday’s high was 84, and the air conditioning was running. Welcome to another Minnesota fall and a very strange time in the Kragnes house.

I had a bad moment when turning off the first fire, because I unconsciously must have expected to hear standing and shaking then padding behind me to the bedroom. That was the routine when the fireplace was turned off at night when Zane was here. I hear great things about Zane adjusting well to his new environment, but not having any dogs in the house is difficult. We both have observed times when it was probably better we had none, like whenever we dropped anything. Zane would eat anything on the floor in a heartbeat. Phil cleaned the medical supplies off the mantle and desk, and a lot of stuff dropped. Z would have had a field day! The house just doesn’t feel complete without at least one dog here, and I feel it even more in public using my “stupid stick”. Cane users, don’t get in a tizzy. I call it that, because I think we can all agree guide dogs are more intelligent than inanimate canes.

Phil’s been at work about a month, and it seems to be going well. Taking Metro Mobility everywhere is getting very old for him, and he gets home much later than on a regular bus or taking a car ride.

Phil’s wound seems to be healing a tenth of a Centimeter at a time. The wound vac has been on longer than anticipated, and the ramp will definitely be up longer, too. Originally we thought we’d see it come down at the end of this month. Now it looks like we’ll be lucky if it’s down by the end of December. Phil is also still attached to his wound vac which is inconvenient and somewhat stressful.

I had my Juno Walk with a Seeing Eye instructor two weeks ago. A Juno alk is when the instructor holds on to the harness and walks at different paces and pulls pretending to be Juno the dog. Tom felt my strongest leash correction and then felt the average correction I want to give. We talked about environments in which the dog would be working, expectations of him or her, and other needs or wants. I received a follow-up email warning me I could be in for a long wait.

That might be just as well with winter coming and because I twisted and sprained my ankle coming out of the Apple Store on Saturday October 3rd. I knew there was a step but was unaware of a big crack in the street. My ankle twisted in it, and down I went. This put me out of commission for both Masses I was to play that weekend plus the Malt Shop. I had difficulty walking, and it was my sustain pedal foot too. I still have a dull ache a week later, and especially on damp days. I feel fortunate October has a lot of Saturdays, so my Mass income shouldn’t be affected as greatly. If I couldn’t walk it didn’t hurt to have a new iPhone 6s to keep me occupied. Phil joked we should make a movie called “Lame and Lamer.”

That weekend was a bust for yet another reason. When I started doing my Internet radio shows at the Legend in August,I was reassured the restrictions of playing music from the 80’s or earlier wouldn’t apply to me. I asked multiple times to be sure. That weekend, I learned restrictions were not only going in place, but that all Christian programming was to be moved to Sundays. That wouldn’t work with my schedule and Blessing Blend. I quickly but pofessionally resigned and wondered what was next. I felt pretty beat-up having been at three stations since March. I left the Phoenix, because I was uneasy with management. I was dismissed from Ultimate Radio Experience for reasons too comlicated to get into here. Suffice it to say those outside the station who know the details reassuhe me that wasn’t my fault. Now this. God definitely had a hand in helping me find homes for my shows. I think I have finally found stations perfect for each of the shows and where there will be mutual love and respect among friends. Blessing Blend will be on Wednesday evenings from 8 to 11 PM Eastern, 7 to 10 PM central on Radio For Life, a Christian station out of Dallas, Texas.

Keyboard Kaleidoscope is moving to a station out of Atlanta, Georgia called Peach Tree Radio FM. They play soul, R and B, gospel, blues, and soft rock. There are lots of keyboards in those genres, and they are letting me go outside of them with the understanding there will be music within those genres, too.Peach Tree was the first stN where I ppied before being advised to get eshperience “where there aremore listeners”. I tried that and picked up few listeners along his way. I’m tired of thinking about numbers. I’d rather focus on pleasing the listeners I have. Anyway Keyboard Kaleidoscope is on Friday nights into Saturday mornings from 11 PM to 2 AM Eastern, 10 PM to 1 AM Central.
Both shows debut at their new homes this week. 

October Update

Zane’s retirement letter

My Dear Zane, AKA Z, ZZ, Zeez, Zeezerz, Zeezerz Pup, Bongo Puppy, Black Vac, Black One, and Atomic Tail,
I’ve been putting this off all day long, but finally, I have a quiet time and space to write your retirement letter. You lie so quietly near me with a toy near you and seemingly at peace. I wish I could explain to you how things are going to change on Monday. You’ll know and greet Kathleen as always, and I’m sure you’ll know something’s up when we start gathering your toys, bowls, food, and beds and carrying them out to her car. The last thing we’ll do before you leave is take off your working collar and give Kathleen the opportunity to take any tags she desires. She’ll put on a new collar and leash and lead you out to the car. This time, I won’t be accompanying you, because I won’t want you to be anymore confused about things than youre already going to be.
It breaks my heart to do this, because I feel like I’m betraying you. But I also know Kathleen will give you a great home, and you’l have your new Black Lab “brother” to play with you and be with you while Kathleen does her parttime job. At first, she’ll have a friend check on you and gradually she’ll give you the run of the house. Most of the time, she’ll be with you both, and I understand there are lots of dog lovers in the neighborhood. She knows about your fear of water, so I know she’ll deal with that gently and kindly. She’ll also be good to you when loud noises make you shake. I’l bet she’ll take you out on leash in the rain like I have. But you probably won’t be able to get away with not coming until food is offered. She’ll be able to make eye contact. I’ll miss you terribly, but you’ve been giving me increasingly obvious signs that although you’ll do fine as a pet, your working career needs to be over. With Phil going back to work soon, I know you’d be very unhappy left here all alone and watching me leave without you.
As much as I wish Phil’s Garron hadn’t died, the side effect was that you got to be the center of our worlds for a while. It must have been nice to have full attention on you when you wanted it without being pushed aside by the love sponge. I know you were a comfort to Phil these past months, and you guys got to be buds. He could show you affection in ways I really couldn’t. At first you were afraid of his wheelchair, and now you travel beside it as his “blac sidecar”.
I’m so glad I gave you a chance despite my reservations about having a Lab. I was so accustomed to Goldens, but when I heard you were “screaming my name” to trainers, I found it petty and stupid to reject you because of the breed. You didn’t necessarily love the kind of affection I was used to giving my Goldens or show empathy in the way I was used to from them. Effusive hugs were not your style, and the only times you crawled into my lap were when I’d been away and when you were trying to tell me you wanted something. You weren’t happy about being groomed for some reason, so we probably didn’t do it as often as we should have. Still, I’ll never forget those soft, velvety, black, long, draped ears!
Your way of showing love was the dedication, loyalty, seriousness, and attentiveness you brought to your work. Despite my feeling down at times, you always seemed to know that most of the time, it had nothing to do with you. You’d work like a champion. I always told people that my Goldens worked for me, because they loved me. You loved me, because you worked for me. I’ll never forget the graveness with which you took any falls and how careful you were on the ice almost from the very first. I’ll also never forget the times when you weren’t leashed or in harness yet walked beside me every slow step when the ice built up as I came in from taking something out to recycling or trash.
You were the first to know something was wrong healthwise as I shamefully dealt with that internal growth, until it was finally discovered and removed in 2013. You always wanted to be near as I showered, because that’s when I seemed to have the most problems. I was sad to have to shut you out due to your propensity for getting ear infections.
It was fun to have all the people who knew and loved you at church as Father gave you a blessing. Sure, I wish he would have remembered during Mass, but the important part was that he explained your retirement to the congregation. Whether at Mass or the Malt Shop, you were happy to lie by the piano as long as I asked you to do so. It probably didn’t hurt that you could absorb all of the adoring looks and compliments you received.
I can’t write a letter without touching on what a foody you are, and it’s not just real food you loved. I never got the thing about the rubber gloves. I wish you could tell me why rubber gloves tasted so good to you. The chicken bones were somewhat understandable, but a dog booty bag? And how about that $80 of titheing you ate? OK, that was their fault for leaving the open purse on the floor. I’ll still never forget when you were ill, and you pulled me toward what I thought was the door. Instead, you stopped at the counter and put your nose as close as possible to the sealed can of white chicken we bought for your bland diet as if to say, “That’s what I want!!!” It brought me such pleasure to watch how enthusiastically you licked the strawberry jam off our plates this morning. We’ll likely have rolls with frosting left on our plates tomorrow morning. And perhaps a sugar cube may accidentally on purpose hit the floor in the next couple days. I know you’ll be right on it. Jen the waitress at the Malt Shop is bringing you a treat tomorrow night, and we’ll have one more treat after your last relieving time. 
I’ll miss you following me around from room to room and the satisfied sound you make as you crawl into your bed beside ours. The only side benefits will be that maybe I’ll catch up on laundry, and I’ll also be able to spend significant time downstairs without worrying about you marking near the vents where you smell the cat who used to live here. Those are small consolations, as we’ll get a carpet cleaner to get rid of that residue. The biggest one is that I know that — even though it will be rough for us both for a while, we’ll learn to be happy again in our new situations. I hope you’ll get to meet your successor someday. I’ve never had two of my partners meet, and that’s something I’d love to experience. We’ll make sure your bond with Kathleen and mine with my new dog are both strong before we can meet again. Until then, have a fantastic retirement, and show Kathleen even more of what a wonderful, smart, and sweet dog you are. 
I love you and always, always will!!!

Zane’s Retirement

Hi, everyone
Zane’s retirement looms closer and closer, and it seems every time I work him, I get more and more confirmation that retirement is what needs to happen. Earlier in the summer I was in this gray area where I wasn’t sure. Now, I definitely know, but it’s the timing I’m trying to get right for everyone possibl: Zane, me, Phil, and his new family.
If it was Zane only, I’d have no problem putting the harness down today. As it is, I’m working him only in familiar environments and especially crossing familiar streets. Tonight we went to dinner five blocks from where we started, and due to construction and unreliability on his part, we took a cab. I’m taking either rides or paratransit. 
Phil has a surgery tomorrow which will hopefully allow him to start working in a week and a half. Work means no more home health nurses coming almost daily and cluttering the space. I’m hoping to retire Zane the weekend before Phil goes to work. I’m hoping some of the emptiness will be offset by the positive factor of having our space back. I’m also hoping to have some final things like knowing when he’ll have his final evening at the Malt Shop. Also, I’d like to have a little blessing ceremony to acknowledge his retirement the last time he comes to Mass with me.
Zane has been a comfort to Phil after having to come home 2 days after his dog died in March. He’s comforted Phil when in pain and especially when he felt he had little control over his own life — dictated by doctors, nurses, and the wound.

We had the meet and greet with his new Black Lab “brother” four years his junior last Friday, and it went very very well. My friend Kathleen is a single lady in her 60’s who is a retired teacher. She has a small parttime job a few hours a week and volunteers some as well.Otherwise, she spends time with her dog and the dogs of other dog lovers in the neighborhood. There are a lot of them!! Zane reminded her of her Lab Shaimus from the first, and I couldn’t ask for a better home. I want to give her notice,, so she can schedule a few days away from her job as she wants to help Zane get acclamated.
A friend of mine told me tonight I’d survive retireing Zane and will retire other dogs, but I think we have a situation many don’t have in that usually, there’s another dog in the equation. I remember having “dog envy” when Phil and Wanetta were such a unit between Tanner and Shelly and a year later between Shelly and Wynell. Phil remembers Wnell’s presence comforting him but not to the extent Zane’s has over the last few months. Wynell’s retirement was difficult, but it was offset by how Garron made sure to include me in his love. Now for the first time in 19 years of marriage, neither of us will have a dog for a while. Yes, we can function, but as a couple, we are often identified as the couple with the guide dogs. Dog envy aside, saying goodbye to a dog is softened, a little by the presence of your significant other’s dog. So this is unchartered territory for us having absolutely no dogs in the house. And let’s face it. We’re already feeling the loss in public, and then we notice people treating us differently due to the dog’s absence. That makes it tougher, but even that’s softened by the presence of the other person and their dog. 
My application for a new dog is in, and although I asked for home training given Phil’s wheelchair etc., I don’t know whether I’ll get it. Phil is not likely to be ready to work a new dog until next spring. If the school asks me to come there I’l have evaluating to do. I feel pretty strongly that either my dog should come home months before a Minnesota winter or train in it. The school doesn’t understand that snowy sidewalks and street corners aren’t always shoveled like they tend to do for us during training. I’ll also have to consider what stage Phil is at if asked to come to school. There are a lot of things up in the air. In some ways I’m holding out for Phil but it’s more painful and drawn out to see the inevitable coming. The only comfort is that I’m doing everything I can to prepare and help others prepare for Zane’s retirement. 

Started Late August 4th.

It’s a nice evening with crickets outside as I sit on my front porch attempting to write this for the second time. I have no clue what happened to the first entry, but I’m trying something a little different with this one. With a mug of iced vanilla hazelnut coffee without Caffeine, I should be ready to go.
Yesterday was the day the doctor thought Phil would be back in the office, but we still have an open wound. His next appointment is next Tuesday, so we’ll see where things go from there. Phil hopes to have one more ramp payment in September and have October’s be the take-down payment. That might be a little premature now, but it’s good to have goals. After a period of nurses coming only three days a week, the doctor stepped it up to every day again. Although nurse free days were very nice, I am more perturbed with the papers and other crap they put places without telling us. I have my own clutter, but it’s different when someone sighted comes into a home of two blind people. I always seem to be knocking something off the desk or the mantle.
Just because Phil isn’t at the office doesn’t mean he isn’t working. Yesterday he and a friend spent several hours prepping the garage for the painting on August 16. Phil hasn’t been in the backyard much, and he’s dismayed at all of the unwanted stuff in it. We just learned today that someone stacked a whole bunch of tree branches against our garage, and Phil’s trying to figure out how to cut them down and get them disposed before painting. He and the same friend will do more prepping tomorrow.
He also has been helping me through an unexpected and painful transition. I had to change radio stations again, and I hope this is the last time for a very very long time. The last station asked me to attend to some technical issues, and although I disagreed with what they were asking, I was in the process of fulfilling their requests. One of those issues was getting a microphone of better quality. That in turn meant getting an interface between the higher quality mike headset combo and the computer. I’d been using a cheap wireless combo, because in the winter, the computer room got bitterly cold. Wireless quality sets were way out of budget, but Phil and my friend Dave helped me set up a wired system with long but sturdy cables. I will admit I sound much better these days, but that particular request was stated as an ultimatum. I wasn’t happy with that and asked other friends who did this radio thing what they thought. Most thought the way they asked was way out of line. Because I spoke out and let them know that although I’d be doing what they asked but wasn’t very happy about their approach, I was dismissed from that station on the same day the equipment arrived. The reasons were inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, and they even wrote up an announcement on their page regarding my dismissal and their reasons why. If the new equipment hadn’t been ordered, I may have quit broadcasting. There have been several junctures during the past year and two months where I’ve almost quit, and my friend Dave who got me into this and Phil have always found ways around the problem. 
The transition to the new station hit a snag when my very first show had some technical issues. Dave who brought me to the station wasn’t very happy and lashed out at Phil. He has since apologized, but man that was tough. I really needed both of them, and the four shows I’ve had since have gone on without any of the problems associated with previous shows. Most of my new colleagues are supportive, but I am aware of one who is trying to trip me up. Station politics are a bear, but at least this person isn’t in a position of management. This new station has far more listeners than the others while I’m on. Part of this is the other two are based in the UK. This one is in the good old USA which makes me feel far more comfortable. It’s called the World Wide Legend and can be found at

Phil’s exposure to the softtware I use to broadcast has sparked an interest in doing his own show. He wants to wait to get back to work before taking this on as another commitment.
Rehab and especially physical therapy has also sparked his interest in lifting again. Obviously his focus is now exclusively on upper body strength. Barbells and a rack to hold them are in our bedroom, while he uses the bed as a quasi bench. Once on prosthetics, he would like to take everything to our utility room and set up a mini gym for himself. I can tekl working out is boosting his morale, so I’m in favor of it.

Tuesdays are my days downtown, and today I met a woman for coffee who brought me the plaque from a recent award I was given. I’ve been writing a series of articles for PawTracks the magazine of Guide Dog Users Inc. called “Preaching to the Choir” about various experiences with our dogs. My award was for excellence in writing, and it has been a definite highlight of my summer.
I’m contemplating the next couple entries in that column as Zane continues to give me more and more indications it’s time to retire. He doesn’t have the oomph he used to in his pull,, he has slowed down, and crowded obstacle courses are things he avoids now rather than the challenges he seemed to relish in the past. I’m hoping to work him until Phil goes back to the Office, because I know Zane and Phil have developed a very special relationship since Garron Died. He’s still keeping me safe, but I think the day is coming when either he won’t want’ to work or may not be able to keep me safe. His home is ready when he’s ready to retire, and I’ll be able to get updates on how he’s doing very readily. I haven’t been feeling all that great emotionally which is why for many it seems like I’ve fallen off the planet. Zane’s impending retirement plus the loss of people I thought were friends during this station change have been eye openers. I have the essay written for the application for a new dog. I just have to fill out the rest of it. I’m still doing my Malt Shop gigs, although the busier they are, the less money I seem to make. I’m also still involved playing for my church which gives me solace. I’ve been tackling the seemingly never-ending pile of laundry. Phil’s gets done OK, but when it comes to my own, that’s another story. 
I recently spent time at the home of a blind woman who makes jewelry out of stones and bought some really neat stuff. Her husband is in food prep as a job and came right home and cooked a meal of shrimp, rice, and dessert beans which are like a sweeter version of baked beans. 
The last two or three weeks, Phil and I have been going back to our Mexican restaurant on Saturday nights after I go to Mass. Strangely, that normal routine thing has helped both of us feel better, and I’d forgotten how much I liked their food. As we have more normal things, I hope life will continue to get better for both of us.

Early on the Fourth

I am officially a Fourth of July Scrooge and probably will remain so whenever I have a dog. Zane isn’t like Garron. He doesn’t climb all over me when fireworks go off, but he’s a velcro puppy inside the house and needs to be babied while relieving when there are lots of fireworks. Tonight was only the third, and after my show, we turned up the music really loud to distract him and ourselves. We put on some sound activated lights, and it was a glorious three hours!!
It was also a distraction for me, because I’m off air for an undetermined period of time. I have had some off-and-on technical issues, and though I believe many of them have been solved by installing the latest version of the software (without paying for the upgrade which seems useless), management still feels I need to test despite two perfect shows after the installation. Taking a break isn’t as bothersome as the undetermined time they want for me to be off air. It’s been days since I asked how many perfect shows are needed, and I’ve received no answer.
Anyway, complaint over. Blasting the music with the sound activated lights made me wish my nephew and neeces could experience our sound and lights. I remember all too well the fun my cousins, sisters, and I had blasting music, and I’m guessing they would enjoy the lights too. There are very few times I think about being an aunt, because I’m so far away, but the majority of my neeces and my nephew are old enough, that I’m guessing our house might be a fun place to visit for a while. I don’t know any of them too well, and it’s a shame I’m just someone they have to call aunt and be nice to because I’m family. I remember finding something fun about most relatives’ houses whether it was the juke box or a whole bunch of marbles.
I don’t have too much new to report on Phil, accept the wound is still slowly healing, and the leg’s swelling seems to get smaller in spurts. It seems like once every week or two, fluid leaks from it, and it shrinks. Phil sees the doctor again next Tuesday, and we’re all holding our breath. The next step is going back to work and stopping home healthcare. More healing and shrinking will need to occur before prosthetics are prepared. He’s thinking he may not be ready for a dog again until next spring. He trained a friend on her phone this week, while I went out to visit another friend’s vending store in St. Paul. 
Phil’s trying to find things to fix from his wheelchair. He hopes to make our gates spring-loaded to automatically shut. People seem to be careless about leaving them open, and we want to make sure it’s safe for the dogs.
I talked to the school about Zane slowing down, and if they are in the area, they’ll come and look at us. In the meantime, if I make the determination he isn’t safe anymore, I should retire him. The school says I have no obligation to seek their permission. I have a good home lined up, and I know he’ll have another Black Lab four years younger as company when the retired friend is gone for a few hours. The next step is going to her house and making sure the chemistry between the two dogs is good. There’s also filling out the online application. I’m dreading the prospect of a Kragnes house with no dog in it and still have a little hope that maybe we can avoid that scenario. Zane wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t go out with me and stayed home with Phil. Zane’s been a real comfort to both of us in the last few months, and I can’t imagine life without him.

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