My Bubbly Life..Ch. 3-Coming home to California!

Raman took me home to CALIFORNIA! I had no idea how wonderful this relationship was going to turn out to be. I was just excited to fly for the first time! It was scary, exciting and wonderful all at the same time!

This isn't me, but this is how we
boarded the aircraft!
We had left GEB around 1.00pm for a flight out of JFK at 3.00pm(raman told me so!).  It was my first flight ever! We were allowed to get in well before the others (I learnt that it was called pre-boarding..we were to do loads more of that in the years to come!) I was confused.  First, we entered a door into a room that was really really long.  

There were so many chairs and just a thin road in the middle! I could barely fit into was I supposed to take Raman through it safely?I was going to have to let myself be bumped by the chairs to give space for Raman.  We went through a few  rows of chairs, and then we came to Raman's seat. Hold on! where was I supposed to sit? There was no place for me? I first thought the thin road would do fine, but Raman pulled me inside and made me sit at his feet...I sat there, scared now because this room was shaking faintly, and the noise? I was scared.  I had my head facing the thin road (thats where the people walked before getting to their seats!)

Soon, I saw people start coming through the door! They were all carrying bags, and bumping seats, and many times I had to turn my head away in time or would have had my face in someone's bag!  There were so many people!  There were also those ladies, one of whom had spoken kindly to me when we entered the door.

If I'd been scared of the soft shaking and the noise, I was terrified when after a while, when everyone had sat down, the plane (for thats what I was on!) suddenly shook hard, the noise went even higher..I went out of my mind! I wanted to run, hide.  I tried hiding under Raman's legs.  I was trembling so hard, that I wasn't sure if it was my trembling that was shaking the plane or if it was the other way around! Then I felt my heart slowly rising and making its way to my mouth.  What was happening, the plane was moving, but I couldn't feel any bumpety bump, like I had earlier on as a puppy! I felt light and funny ( I was to learn later after flying a zillion times that this is what you felt when the plane took off from the ground!)

This went on for nearly 15 minutes, when I felt Raman bend down and remove his winter boots! I was still trembling with fear from the strange feeling I couldn't describe.  Then, I felt Raman's leg on my back, warm and soothing.  I felt comforted.  I was with someone who cared..I was not afraid anymore.  I settled down and from then on, enjoyed the flight!  The lovely ladies (stewardess) came and played with me.  It was fun! I slept  a while and then felt the plane hit something, roll and slow down!

We had arrived! I was so happy to be back on my feet.  We left the plane before the others, and soon I was pulling at the harness hard, eager to see the new place, but more importantly I had to desperately relieve myself! C'mon, it had been hours since I had done my business! Aah! that was a relief! Now, I would find out what California was all about!

California smelt wonderful! It was crisp, bright and sweet! I was going to love it here! I wagged my tail as hard and fast as I could possibly manage! Oh! I loved Raman more for bringing me here!

We reached home in San Jose, which was a smelt wonderfully of Raman but I was a wee bit disappointed that I didn't have much room to run around...and I loved doing that! :( However, a few seconds later, I smelt what I had been looking forward to, for such a long time..almost all the way through the journey! FOOD! Yipppy! crunch, crunch, gulp, gulp..I,..gulp, umm, crunch..was...crunch...famished! Ahhh...thirsty now! glug, glug, slurp, a tummy happy gal now!

One of Raman's friend called Krishnamurthy, came with us as Raman took me out for a final 'gal's business'.  This place was awesome! The smells! It would take me hours and hours to get my fill of it all!

That night, despite the fact that I was in a strange place, with a strange man (who was definitely becoming less of a stranger each passing second, and whom I already loved), I slept peacefully...happy and content! It was Sunday,  Feb 27, 2000!

This was Home! You see me here with Raman, standing just outside the Condo Complex.  This is where for the next few years( about five or six), we would wait to be picked up by friends from work.

I am home..sitting by raman as he works.  Its not a fun thing to do.  Just sit while he works, but I have learnt to be patient, to lie down and rest, to gather my strength, so that when he is done working, and plays with me, its fun fun fun! He worked from home that Monday, the day after we came home.

 I love giving my paw to him.  He holds it gently in his hands, and gives it a gentle squeeze.  I squeeze back to show him I care too!

We play with the Kong, shake hands some more, then he goes back to his work.  This was our daily routine, of course, other than the  times he would take me out so I can relieve myself.

Sitting by myself waiting 
for Raman.

This is such a cozy position!

When things were slow, like when Raman was at work, or working from home, it would be a quiet, lie-down period for me..but when he travelled, it was rush rush, fun fun...but, I always found reason to be happy about..I even made a friend here! Her name was Neesha.. I think ! She hadn't made it as a guide dog, but she was fun to play with!
We went to work at IBM Almaden from that Tuesday, March 1, 2000 for the first time (for me).  I was excited, because it was my first official work day at his work place! I was excited as always and was pleasantly surprised to find so many people who worked with Raman, smile when they saw me.

As soon as we reached his desk, I was pleasantly surprised (this seems to be happening to me quite regularly if you notice!) to find..".toys!"  I smelt belonged to another dog, I was sure of that, and it had Raman's smell on it as well..(I was to later find out that it belonged to Aster, who had been Raman's Guide dog before me..he often called me Aster all through my life!)..there was a Kong..and a bone, partly chewed! I tentatively took it into my good..sniff sniff sniff...I wrapped my tongue around it..ahh..nice...I positioned it just right, and sank my teeth into it...crrrrunncchhh! Within seconds, I had reduced that bone, that Aster had just managed to chew in all that time, into tiny bits of unrecognizable junk! Oh! the satisfaction it gave me! Feeling very proud of my achievement, I went and lay down in a corner, aiming at trying to reduce the Kong to the same state...only, that turned out to be harder!

Soon, I was wagging tail around all of them.  They all came out with us, to show us around, so that I could learn the different places inside the campus where Raman needed to go to.  What fun! All of us went for a walk for a mile around the lab complex every afternoon after lunch! I found a spot that looked just right to do my business..and another perfect spot, to do my 'other' business :)!

There I was, tugging at the leash, pulling Raman, urging him to walk faster so that I could take in all the interesting smells, sounds and sights around the complex, and then, there were the dozen or so who came with us, laughing and talking and enjoying themselves, am sure in their own "Humanny" way! I felt sorry for them, for they had no tails to wag to show their excitement and tongue was out, I was panting from the adventure and loved being pampered! Raman had the rule in place...NO petting when the harness was they would all wait, till he took the harness me, that was a sign that I was "off" duty! Who said work was tough? It was nothing but sheer enjoyment! (letting you all on a little secret...we learnt later that, those people who came on that afternoon walk..stopped at those two 'special' places I stopped at, even on the days we weren't there! Imagine that! )

We would go for a walk every morning and evening around the lab complex too, but didn't always have people come with us during those times.. So went a couple of months..and then...began our exciting travel adventures..and oh! my puppy life...weren't they the best years ever?...wait till you hear about them!

April 27, 2011

My Bubbly Life..Ch.2 GEB

Its hard to fill the harness of an experienced Guide Dog - Courtesy GEB

From the next day on, we were into rigorous training. We were to find out what it meant to be someone's eyes. There were so many people in this world who couldn't see for some reason or the other. Not being able to see is very difficult for everyone. How do you go from one place to another? I later saw a few of them use a long stick to guide them, but the stick didn't tell them so many things that eyes could. I was beginning to realise how important my eyes were!

We learnt how to wear a harness (that's what blind people hold on to so that we can lead them to places they want to go to), we learnt to cross streets, to wait for the traffic lights, to go around an obstacle, to plan the route to take when there is a car parked or is reversing, to decide so many many things that would make it safe for both myself and the person I lead.

We were taught that when we were at work (as a guide dog), we couldn't relieve ourselves everytime we felt the urge..that we had to learn to go at regular intervals, and only when told. I found that very hard. I mean, c'mon, when a gal has to go, she has to go, right? wrong! Any decent, self respecting guide dog would tell you that to learn when to go, without being a burden on your master is the right thing to do..

I'm going to let you on to a secret here..I never could resist the urge to keep exploring my surroundings..who went where, which animal had passed by, how many dogs had left their scent know what I mean. How can you not look around and find such things fascinating? The smells, the scents, the fragrances, oh so many interesting sounds, sights and wonders around you.. I did try so hard not to let these things distract me, but they were sooooo enticing..I couldn't help take a sniff here or there in the middle of my 'serious' training.

Four months of rigorous training and we were all deemed ready to take on a real job!

I was waiting eagerly, to show that I could do it; that I could be a good guide dog. The classes had started. It was the first day and I had not been given to anyone yet. Was I going to fail? Did I not do well enough to warrant a master? I was beginning to feel nervous. The day was over and no one came for me! Was it my exhuberance? or...was it my excessive tail wagging? I can't help being overexcited..its in my can I be blamed for that?

These kinds of thoughts went on an on for a short while, then I forgot all about it and went to sleep.

I woke up the next day, looking forward to loads of excitement as I usually did!

February 11th, 2000 - It was a few hours after I woke up, and had done my business, had my meal. One of my trainers came by and put me on a leash. I was so excited, I wagged my tail hard, panted harder to let them know I was happy and strained to run around, to rush forward, to jump with joy! I was going out!! I was being taken somewhere!

I was being taken somewhere! I went to a room, where my trainer kept by my side, holding on to my leash, while all I ached to do was run around. I had never been in this room. It looked like someone slept here. I could smell that person, and I liked that smell. I wanted to know more.

There were footsteps coming this way. I knew they stopped right in front of the door. I heard the key turn, and the door fell open. There were two people there. Another trainer, whom I really liked, and this stranger, whose smell was all over this room!

The trainer who was holding on to my leash, bent forward, released the clasp on my leash and looked up at the stranger and said, "Catch her, if you can!" and smiled (I wonder why?). I was beside myself! Freeeeeeeee! At last! to be able to run around and explore this wonderful room. I raced around, trying to get everything a smell the bed, under it, the closet..what wasthere under it? I ran round and round..wagging my tail, zipping past everyone, feeling the rush of speed, until, the stranger caught me..

I stopped, my heart beating fast, my breath coming out in gasps...and in those gasps, I took in a deep breath and smelled him. He reeked of kindness, of softness, of gentleness. He was wonderful. I couldn't resist myself. I put my front paws on his thighs (he was sitting on the bed) and with one big stretch, I licked his face. There! I had told him that I liked him!

He seemed happy. He told the trainers that he liked me! He liked me! can you believe that? I was going to train with him and if I did things right, I would go home with his house, and live with him forever. This wonderful man, this stranger who smelled so nice..was Raman. He couldn't see and now needed me to do the seeing for him! He had such a gentle voice! I knew he would be the kindest person I ever knew. He had such laughter in his voice too. I hoped at that moment that I would be chosen for him. I wanted it so bad. I went through the rest of the day, trying to climb his lap and lick him. I liked him that much!

Thats Raman & I
at the Graduation
Don't I look Grand?Proud?
Am a Graduate
We went through 3 weeks of training (Raman kept a diary of the days we spent training..want to read it? go here..(Raman's diary of GEB training.) Because of my excessive curiosity and childish playfulness (as they called it), I almost didn't make it as a guide dog. Another fact was that I apparently came from a pure gene pool (trust me, I had no idea what that meant.. and still don't). I was so good, that they almost considered me for breeding good purebred puppies! (Imagine that!) Anyway, I am glad that didn't work out, and by some miracle, I passed!  We had some photo sessions, where I had to sit still for a while (which was soooo hard, because I kept wanting to sniff here and there), then we met with our trainers who said goodbye to us, and we left for 'Home'...CALIFORNIA!!


My Bubbly Life..Ch.1

This could have been me! I was born in Yorktown Heights on 21st December, 1997. (I found out later, that this was a breeding farm in Upstate New York, belonging to the Guiding Eyes for the blind.) I hardly knew at that time what my destiny had in store for me. All I cared about was the delicious milk, the cozy bed, those ooh so lovely stretches I gave with a moan and a groan (tiny moans and groans, as I was still a baby), hours of good sleep, doing my business (I hadn't been taught yet to do it in the right place or the right time!)...I was at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind (it was 'home' to me at that time, although, I hardly knew that I was to move to another home before finally finding my 'real' home!)

I was told later, much later, that I had belonged to the batch of puppies that went with the letter 'H'...and so was named Hubbell. I had brothers and sisters, all of whom had names starting with the letter 'H'! I would meet a couple of them during training later in the year or two..

This went on for a few weeks (about 6), when one day, we were all bundled off in trucks, to some place called Virginia! We were all a bit scared and confused because we had no idea why we were rumbling and jolting along this strange machine that made us go bump, bump, bump. A kind lady came, picked me up and took me with her. Along with her were two little girls, who became my first human 'best friends'! Her name was Lauri and the little girls...twins by the name of Chloe and Whitney . It was the 19th of February, 1998. I was about six weeks old!

Thats Lauri, holding me with a smile! I was going to live with her and her kids in VIRGINIA!!! for a while

What fun we had! It wasn't long before the twins and I had taken over the house and ran around creating so much noise and clatter.
We jumped on the bed, rolled over fresh laundry...I even enjoyed lying down with my head on the kids' tummies...sigh! those times were the best!

They taught me how families loved and cared for each other. They introduced me to such wonderful things...the softness of a carpet, the cool hard floor, the polished wooden floor, soft linen, warm hugs, salty tears, shrieking laughter..I could go on and on! I enjoyed my crazy run through snow. I played with the kids till we were all tired, and then I wanted to play some more!

I had my own toys as well! I would go to sleep in my own tiny space surrounded by these wonderful toys!

Every other week, Laurie would take me somewhere, where I would meet the other dogs who were living with similar families. We were brought here because we had to learn a lot of new things. It was called 'Obedience training'. I had to sit when Laurie said "Sit", stand when so ordered, and so many other such commands. It was tiring at first, but then I started to enjoy myself. I wanted Laurie to be proud of me, so I did everything she told me without a mistake! I was to learn later, that this training was going to help me in the future when my main purpose in life as a guide dog would begin. Laurie would praise me each time I did things right, and I wagged my tail so hard because I was happy.

Ever since I was a tiny tot, I had one real pleasure in life...wagging my tail. It felt wonderful! It was liberating! It was heaven expressing myself..and I had only one strong emotion to express...HAPPINESS! Everything around me made me happy..the crip fresh air, the smell of cooking (aah!), snow, wind, rain, fresh green grass, flowers, sunshine, children,loving words, gentle pats on my back...there were so many many things to be happy could one NOT wag their tail and say..yes, yes, yes..isn't this life WONDERFUL?

I had begun to settle down with this family, happy that I had found my 'home', when one day, Laurie put me in a cart and drove me somewhere. I didn't know then, that the time my for my 'calling' had come. There was a truck with many crates piled on top of each other, and I got on almost at the end, so was right on top of the pile! I found myself with other dogs, who later told me they had gone through the same experience as I had..we were confused. The same bumpty, bumpty bump happened and we were finally at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Yorktown Heights, New York. It was the end of July, 1998.

What were we doing here? What was I supposed to do now? Why had Laurie walked away? Who were these new people? They seemed nice, but I wanted to go back home! I almost didn't wag my tail then. I missed the girls so much! I was sure they missed me too. It was all too much for me. Thankfully, the day wore off and it was time to sleep. Tomorrow would be another day...


My special Angel!

Looking up with those chocolaty innocence,
wagging your tail in constant happiness,
you touched my heart the moment I saw you
and wrapped it around those gentle giant paws!

I lost my heart to your purity,
your smile and sunshiny presence!
That childlike quality of shadowing me
and filling my life with bubbly essence.

Two years of bliss with you,
each moment a lifetime,
The soft nudge of your nose
the pink wet kiss saying "thank you"!

Your face on my lap
comforting me in my sadness
licking my tears away and
wagging away my frustrations.

You may be gone my darling
but are always in my heart
with every beat I hear your thump
every glance I see you around!

Time may have stolen you from me,
but your memory will stay forever
you were, are and will ever be
my darling little baby Bubbly bear!

Aarthi Raman

A new beginning!

After years of trying to express myself in many ways, here is one more attempt to do the same!  I can not at this moment tell you what I propose to write in my blog...but, I do know that it will be something close to my heart...a recipe perhaps, or a short story...or..even a few lines of poetry.  I do not aim at trying to entertain everyone.  Those who think the way I do, will find this to their liking, others...well..I leave that to you!  Since it is mainly for my own peace of mind...I guess its my blank canvas and I can splash any color I want into it, draw it, spread it or do with it as I please!

If at any point of time, you feel that you can add to what I have said, in order to make it sound better..please do so...

Making the first baby steps....from this moment on... :)