Seeing Eye Eve – the preparation and reflections of a Guide Dog User

Well, here we are again with yet another Seeing Eye journal as I undertake the journey with my new guide dog. This comes at a time in my life where I have been doing a lot of self-reflection with an emphasis on my family, my career and my activities outside of all these things as well. Suffice it to say, life has been busy for the Bishop family. I have moved back to Tucson Arizona, left Microsoft Corporation, returned to the University of Arizona, I now serve on the Board of Publications of the American Council of the Blind, I have gotten back on track with my exercise and health journey and so much more. Now comes another major step, my next Seeing Eye dog!
As I have been packing up my technology and other items for the trip, I have been thinking a lot about the guide dogs I have had in the past:
• My first Seeing Eye dog was Sunny. She truly was an angel and introduced me to my sweetheart and love of my life Keri. I was 19 years old and had a lot of learning to do in my early adulthood, but Sunny was there to assist me in college, the early part of my career and most importantly was a critical part of our larger family when I married Keri in 1988. Sadly, Sunny passed away shortly after we were married, and it was one of the most difficult times in my life. She taught me how to love and to truly cherish things that were important. Thank you, Sunny, I love you. BTW, Keri forgives you for eating her stuffed animals the day we were married.
• Tawny, Jacinda and Rory were all amazing dogs in their own special ways, and I could not have been as successful without each one of them in my life. Thank you, girls, for leading me, guiding me, teaching me and most importantly loving me for who I was as a person. I love you and miss each of you.
I will write more about each of them in future posts.
Today the journey starts with a flight from Tucson to Phoenix. I leave Tucson at 2:57 and arrive in Phoenix at 3:57. Then the waiting game begins. The flight to NJ leaves at 11:42 PM so I will spend the afternoon and evening visiting a family friend with the hopes of having a nap.
You might be interested in the tools I am planning to utilize for the posts to the blog this year. I am planning on using a combination of the following:
• Microsoft Word along with Writage.
• WordPress on my website.
• The Drafts iOS app along with the WordPress iOS app.
• I expect there may be some video posts late in the journey and I will use the iPhone’s camera along with other voice recording technology to bring some sound seeing tours and other activities from the Seeing Eye.
Note: I will get links in this post added later.
In class we learn by completing routes. This year I am hoping to utilize several iOS apps to assist me in this process. Before I list these let me first say that the most important is the work that we must do with our guides. Technology is not meant to replace the bond or the working relationship with our new companions. A close friend put it this way, “I don’t want to have to memorize the number of blocks and turns to complete a route. I want to complete the route with some slight guidance from technology so I can stay tuned to the important aspects of the process, that being the communication from the dog, the harness and the teamwork and bond that we are building”. “Well,” said Ms. Anonymous!
I respect the opinions of our instructors and their wisdom so I will determine what will be allowed when class starts but I am hoping that these tools can at least play a small part:
• VoiceVista – this is a new replacement of the former Microsoft SoundScape app. If you haven’t tried this app then you really must give it a strong look! On July 15th the developer added iOS Shortcut support for the app so investment in the app continues with lots of great features coming quickly for the app. I just wish it had a few more things to make it the gold star of travel apps:
o Better Street Map Preview support.
o Let me move to a place of my own choosing by providing an address and letting me plan routes from a distance.
o Better recognition and automatic adjusting of routes as you travel.
• GoodMaps Outdoors – This is another app you really want in your toolbelt. I don’t think it is as feature rich as VoiceVista, but I have used it with great success.
• BlindSquare – If you just want to know where you are heading and keep on the straight path then this is a tried and true up to have available.
These are the three apps I use most often. I am eager to hear from others on what you may be using for your travel and route planning efforts.
I have been preparing for class by picking back up on my exercise. All the moving activities and other things happening put 2 or three months pause on my exercise, so I needed to get the ball rolling again. After gaining about 5 extra pounds, it was time to get my butt in gear! This has been difficult due to the record level of heat we are experiencing in Arizona. Most days lately have been 105 or warmer so my exercise process has been done in the very early morning hours and late into the evening. I have been getting between 4.5 and 6 miles of walking in a day along with other exercise activities. All of this is paying off. I lost a total of 8 pounds so go team Jeff!
Stay tuned for more. I will try hard to keep everyone updated on all things going on at the Seeing Eye. Expect the next update to be posted Monday evening, probably after lectures are complete. Here is what I am expecting to take place on Monday:
• I should arrive in NJ around 7:40 or so and I expect to get to the school at around 9:00 or 9:30.
• Generally, the instructor will guide us to our room and will give us a couple of hours to unpack and get settled.
• I expect a Juno walk will take place in the morning or early afternoon. It all depends on the scheduling and arrival of other students.
• Lunch is generally around noon, and I am hoping to get a nap in for a few hours in the afternoon due to taking the red eye flight this evening.
• Dinner is around 5:00 or so and then I expect a lecture at around 6:00 or 7:00. This is or at least has been an introduction to class, a review of the rules and expectations for us while at the school and we may get some supplies at this first lecture. We will see.
We will see if this is true or not. I will report more on this tomorrow evening. See everyone then!