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

Archive for August, 2015

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.

Can’t Believe it’s August. 

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