Many many blog posts have been written…in my head. They never made it to the computer. I feel remiss, so let me do some updating here.
First off – K went to the State 4-H tournament for .22 rifle. She had scored better at other matches, I have to say, but we are talking just a few points in variation. There were some pretty experienced shooters that she was competing against and two had gotten a higher score than Kaylee in the regional level. After competing, the participants could look at their own targets and protest for any changes. K did contest a score, but it was low key and not intimidating. It was a long and hot day. The awards ceremony was hot and very sunny, but we stuck it through all the different disciplines and all their awards. We waded through and were able to cheer on a few of the kids from K’s club; one of which scored high enough in shotgun to be invited to Nationals in 2015.
Finally, the rifle awards came around – LAST! of course. They started going through and calling kids up – target score were not being mentioned, just placement, so we had no idea where she stood. In addition, there are different age groups. Finally, they got to seniors and they called the white ribbons up, then the red ribbons up, then they started on the blue ribbons – so it was looking good, but there are a fair amount of kids. They keep calling names and K’s is not one of them. Finally they get to the Reserve Champion (2nd place) and it isn’t K… is your heat skipping a beat? Mine was! K ended up being the Senior and overall Champion and qualified for an invitation to next year’s National 4-H shoot! Holy Cr*p! She won a really nice rifle case and additional bag and now we are planning a trip to Grand Island, Nebraska (I know, you are so jealous because you have always wanted to go there!) The highlights according to Trip Advisor and all other travel sites are a water park and a shooting range…and that is about it. LOL! Now K’s job is to help find ways to finance the trip. So far, she is looking at applying for a grant from her rifle range where she practices and participates in her adult league. From there, she will need to see what she can do within 4-H for fund raising.
Next – We have a new – old dog. We have raised 4 guide dog puppies. One career changed to do search and rescue. One is our puppy Journey – she career changed to our pet after stressing out at the last moment of guide dog training. The other two became guide dogs. Faith, our third trainee, worked for over 8 years for a young man who was going to college at the time he was paired with Faith. Over the course of those years, they became best buddies. It was a very difficult decision, but he retired her this past July. One of his hardest issues in letting go was feeling good about her placement. He remembered when we meant him at their graduation that we said we would take her when she retired, if he couldn’t keep her. Knowing we would take her back and love her, helped him make the hard decision.
We agreed to take her back and we planned for August. Then the detail figuring went into full swing. How to get her to Oregon? The simplest way was to fly her back in the cabin, not in cargo. That is something that working guide dogs get to do and puppies in training sometimes get to do. Retired dogs, do not have the same privileges. I took a chance and called Alaska Airlines. I was connected to a very nice booking agent in Arizona. I explained the situation of the dog being in California and needing to get to Oregon. The agent was not sure of the policy, but decided it was her mission to find out. She put me on hold and talked to her supervisor. She kept me on hold, checking back to keep me on the line several times. Finally she came back and said, “Guess what? I’m authorized to make that kind of decision! I say YES!” She took all the info down to make a detailed record of it.
From there, here is my account from that day:
“Today, Faith and I got to the Orange County airport about 11:30. We walked in the terminal door and were right there by the Alaska Airlines check in I was just starting to input the information in a kiosk and then planned to visit the desk to make sure the flight was going to go smoothly. Within a minute an Alaska Airlines employee rushed over and asked if we were going to Portland and if the dog was Faith. I said yes and printed out my boarding pass. the employee then took my boarding pass and went to a computer to make sure that all the appropriate information was in the computer so we would not have a problem at the gate.
From there to security, Faith and I were able to educate several people about the program and the TSA agents were thrilled to practice their protocols for taking service animals through the check point. After security, we were within feet of the gate. There we met several other people who had questions including another puppy raiser for a different program who had raised approximately 50 guide dogs. We then took a short walk and double checked with the gate staff that they knew we were there.
A few minutes later, another employee came over to find out more about Faith and her history. Each employee was quite emotional about the sacrifice that Christian has made in letting Faith retire and about the work that Faith has done. Before I knew it, the terminal had an announcement going over the general P.A. system that they were paging Faith and I. They then went on and explained Faith’s history to the entire terminal and invited her up to the gate. Our walk over to the gate was met with a standing ovation. At the gate, the flight crew and gate agents were overcome with emotion as they proclaimed that this was Faith’s retirement party. They gave her a fresh flower lei, a gift bag of toys and a goodie, and took pictures. The gift was a handmade card, a treat, and a toy — ALL came from the booking agent in Arizona who had helped us get the flight. Then they honored her by letting us have special boarding. The flight crew were stumbling over each other to be the first to offer help, greet Faith, and talk to me to hear more about the program. Everybody on the flight was excited to have us aboard. I met and talked to more people who wanted to know more about the program or congratulate Faith for her years of service. Really there were few dry eyes in the plane.
In all the excitement, I was able to get out a message to Mark and a Facebook post before the plane took off. While I was in the air, tweets about Faith’s adventure started spreading over the internet and Alaska Airlines even commented on how happy they were to make this Faith’s special day. We made sure that everyone was thanked and recognized for making it a great flight for Faith.
By the way – Faith slept soundly for most of the flight. She only woke up to eat her inflight goodie that the airline provided her.”
Since then, the news spread and found its way to the President of International Guiding Eyes, the parent organization for Guide Dogs of America. He requested a picture of Faith. My guess is that she will be making the next newsletter.
Journey and Faith have both been learning to play with other dogs, neither seems to be proficient yet at figuring the other out. Journey does seem to be able to see that Faith needs to be treated a little gently and encourages her to play. When Faith is feeling frisky, she has less finesse and grunts, giving Journey nudges and the occasional stomp on the belly. Journey is very tolerant. They have had some rip roaring playtimes…as evidenced by all the coffee table clearing they have done with their tails as they have run by. Crazy puppies!
What else? Well we are finishing a major kitchen remodel. As weekend warriors, it has taken us a looong time, but we are in the finishing touches stage. Tired of kitchen stuff and needing to finish other summertime projects now means we need to cram here at the end before the rains start to come. An added unanticipated job was added last week when the winds came whipping through and destroyed our canopy carport. It was getting old and brittle, so it is not terribly tragic, but it is not going to be an easy job. First, the carport was flipped around WITH cement blocks attached. It landed nearby, slightly down hill in a bit of blackberry bush. K and I were able to pull it up and move it to a level area of our yard. We took off part of the canopy so it wouldn’t catch wind, but we are talking serious winds – much like the Santa Anas in California. I headed out after that only to get a call from K. “I got your good news and your bad news,” she said. “Well, the good news is that it isn’t moving anymore. The bad news is that it caught a big gust and flipped and flew down the ravine into the really big patch of blackberry.” Crud!!!! Yeah, it is going to take some thinking to get it up and out without killing ourselves in the insidious vines. UGH!
Okay, that was a long post. Next happenings include the fall term for K in her quest to do early college. Cross your fingers that all will be smooth sailing!