A Safety-Conscious Canine

A little story I wrote for a blog I contributed to. The blog is no longer running so I decided to republish it here. Enjoy.

Prim has consistently been rather stubborn about going to church. When I asked my trainer about it, she suggested that perhaps Prim simply wasn’t religious. I laughed at that, but it wasn’t a sufficient explanation, especially when I realized that Prim was somewhat unwilling to walk the route from church, as well as to church. Today I figured out why. 

Our walk to church includes traversing several sets of steps, the top level of a parking garage, and a long, side-walkless driveway, one that is consistently populated by church-goers’ vehicles leaving and entering our parking lot. Because there is no sidewalk, we are forced to stick as close as we can to the edge of the road. Prim is trained to do this. It’s a technique called “shore-lining”, but she is still not satisfied. She often stops in the parking lot or veers to the grass when she sees an idoling car, as I think she recognizes it as a threat. Well, one day on our way out of church, Prim decided to take matters into her own paws. Despite my direction to walk straight, across the parking lot and along the driveway, Prim insisted upon turning left. Curious, I trusted her and followed.

“Let’s go home.” 

I said, hopefully, even though I didn’t actually know whether we could get back to our appartment this way. She led me along a brief strip of parkinglot, then pulled me strongly to the right to step onto a sidewalk. I couldn’t help but laugh. We stuck to the sidewalk, made a right, then walked another good distance, until Prim pulled right again and I recognized the slant of our leasing office parking lot beneath my feet, and a minute later reached out to feel the gate that would take us into our complex. 

We had never walked that route before, but somehow Prim knew we could get home that way, and knew it was safer with side walks. She won’t let us walk any other way now. I love my safety conscious canine.

The Symbiosis of the Guide Dog Team

I am often asked questions about the nature of my relationship with my guide dog.  A topic we frequently touch on is the interdependence of it.  I like to point this out to people, because no one is surprised that I depend on my guide dog.  After all, she is my eyes, in a sense… but they usually don’t think  about the fact that my dog depends on me, too.

My guide dog does have a lot of responsibility, especially for a dog.  Prim protects me.  She keeps me from walking into traffic, or stepping off the edge of a platform or stage.  She navigates me smoothly around things in our path, and shows me when there is an obstacle like a parked car or construction barrier obstructing our way entirely.  Prim provides for me.  She helps me find landmarks like doors, steps, trashcans, and chairs, and is a source of ever-present laughter and comfort besides.

But like with any other dog, I have a great deal of responsibility as Prim’s partner and handler.  I protect Prim.  I make intelligent decisions about when to cross the street, and think about Prim’s physical and emotional safety in any given environment.  There are some places I simply do not take my guide dog due to risk of injury or discomfort.  Crowded bars and loud concerts are just two examples of places where paws could be too easily trampled and ears too easily overwhelmed.  There have also been situations where I had to physically protect my guide dog when she was in danger of being attacked by another canine.  I provide for Prim.  I feed her, groom her, take her outside, take her to the vet for medical care, and of course have the enormous pleasure of being her primary playmate and cuddle buddy.

It’s a relationship of giving, not 50/50, but 100/100.  Of course, we both fail, but the beauty is that not only do we both provide and protect, but we also persevere.  There are days I am convinced I have a two-year-old child on a leash, and there are days that Prim is convinced she will starve to death because we get home late and I forgot to throw her dinner in my backpack, but I keep loving her even after she throws tantrums about not being able to eat the cat, and she keeps loving me after I feed her an hour or two later than our schedule dictates.  In that way, it is undoubtedly a symbiosis of sorts, but not a symbiosis of chance, rather one of choice.  Primie, I’m so glad I get to choose you.

The Soundtrack to my First Six Weeks in Ireland | Songs with Significance, Autumn 2018

There is an assignment this semester for one of my classes that asks us to create a musical tapestry, that is, a collection of songs that reflect different stages or elements of our lives.  For the assignment, we are also supposed to involve various music therapy concepts and research, but it gave me the idea of preserving the music that is meaningful to me now, so that I can look back on it in the future.

I think perhaps I will organize this by month, or maybe season, so here are some of the most significant songs for me this fall.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane”, John Denver 

Because I did, you know, leave on a jet plane, and left everyone in my country behind… I was thrilled to be going, but there is that piece of you that does “hate to go” even so.

“The Parting Glass”, Ed Sheeran 

There are many variations of this song, and this is not the first one I heard, but it was playing in the airport just as I was about to board the plane for Ireland, which I thought was cool, given it’s an Irish song as far as I know.

“Gold”, from Once 

Again, the Irish connection, but actually I just love this song in general, and have been listening to it pretty regularly for a while.

“My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness”, Keith & Kristyn Getty

I love Ghetty hymns, but this one has been particularly relevant lately because my heart IS SO FILLED with thankfulness to the Lord for his provision in recent times.  A year ago, I never would have thought I would be in another country 12 months on from then.  I wanted a job, not more education.  I certainly wasn’t crazy enough to actually think an international move was in my future, but God had other plans, and he’s been so faithful with every question mark and concern in the process.

“Empty”, Ray LaMontagne 

Just such a nice sound, and reminds me a bit of Tennessee and Virginia.

“Let it be Me”, Ray LaMontagne 

“Boston”, Mick Flannery 

Such a sweet song.  I saw Mick Flannery in concert at my university a couple of weeks ago, and this was one of the only songs I really loved.

“No Name”, Ryan O’Shaughnessy 

Granted, I’ve always adored this song.

“Eve, The Apple of My Eye”, Bell X1 

Good song.

Okay, if you don’t like Damien Rice, stop here, because every other song is one of his from here on out hahaha.  A friend and fellow musician here introduced me officially to Irish song writer Damien Rice, and I’m kind of in love with a lot of his songs.  I tried to narrow it down to a couple for this, but I just couldn’t!

“Older Chests”, Damien Rice 

Just really pretty 

““Volcano”, Damien Rice 

I like duets.

“The Blower’s Daughter/Elephant”,“, Damien Rice 

My first favorite. ❤ 

“Colour Me In”, Damien Rice 

My second first favorite! Ah I can’t even it’s just so good!

Wow, that was more extensive than I thought it would be, but kind of cool to see all the songs I have been listening to on repeat for the last few weeks all laid out in a list.  I didn’t realize how many Irish song writers and singers were on this list until now haha.  Irish people just write good music… what can I say?

Reflections on the First Few Days — Our Newest Adventure, Part 2

This is part of a series of posts about my move from the States to Ireland.  If you would like to read about my arrival, you can click here, or if you are curious about why I moved to Ireland in the first place, check out this post.

 

September 2 

I am so overcome by the kindness I have been shown recently. Between the hospitality I received at a dear friend’s over the summer, and the incredible welcome here in Ireland, I’ve no idea how to respond except to praise God joyfully for the many blessings he has bestowed through these creations of his. Your plan is perfect, oh Lord, and I thank you.  You are so, so good to your children, and oh God I deserve nothing from your hand! It is only by your grace. Cause me to have a servant’s heart like these people, to be generous like they are.

Such generosity came in the form of a lift from the airport, time to rest at the home of my pastor and his family for a little while, tea and chocolate with some friends of my pastor’s, dinner with the family, a pillow, comforter, bed sheet, mug, container of yogurt, and some hangers from the same family, a rugby match on Saturday with my pastor, his son, and a few friends, and lifts to and from church both in the morning and the evening on Sunday.  Such abundance!  My cup overflows!

I honestly don’t know what to do about this joy!  It is just so clear that God intended for me to be here, an odd realization given that, even though living in Ireland was always a dream of mine, I NEVER imagined it would actually happen, and certainly not in this way.  If I had had my way, if God had answered my prayers of the autumn of 2017, I would be in Nashville working right now.  It was so painful at the time not to have the answers I wanted, but looking back, I am unbelievably grateful that God had something else in mind.

Some other, more concrete observations from my first few days here.

The fresh Irish air — oh it’s so wonderful!  I was made for this climate!

The Chocolate — I forgot how good the chocolate is here!

The grass — so lush and verdant.  I really do think it’s nicer than American grass.

Rugby is intense — I loved going to a game with my new friends, and receiving a play by play from my pastor and his son.  I had no idea rugby was quite as… brutal as it is.  Definitely a cool experience.

It gets hot here? — The sun was so hot during part of the rugby match I thought I was going to melt.  Granted, I wasn’t wearing the sort of clothes I would wear in American summers, but I was pretty shocked that I was actually hot to the point of being uncomfortable.

I tried to drive — the passenger’s side is on the opposite side of the car, of course, since they drive on the opposite side the road.  Naturally, I remember this well from Scotland, but when I am tired or not thinking I do have a tendency to head to the driver’s side by accident… I’m sure this will become second nature in a week or two, but, I mean, I don’t mind driving.  Hahaha.

Church family — love them all.  I certainly couldn’t tell you most of the names I learned today, but I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the weeks, months, wait, years? to come.  The thing that struck me most today about the church was the worship.  People were singing, and singing with joy to GOd.  It was committed, truth-filled, congregational, and thus, beautiful.

Jet lag — TBH, pretty bad.  I’m tired, but know the Lord will sustain me as we head toward orientation week and the beginning of classes, and soon our biological clocks will be back to normal.  We’ve just got to keep trucking.

Take Off and Arrival — Our Newest Adventure, Part 1

The first several posts detailing my experiences in Ireland will actually be things I wrote originally in my personal journal, and adapted for the blog.  They will be very in the moment, sort of stream of consciousness, so possibly something a little different than what you are used to seeing here, but a very real snapshot of what’s going through my head as we make this transition.  Please enjoy.

We are on the plane to Ireland! I can’t believe this is a thing! I’m excited, but also not nearly as nervous as my first independent international flight.  I’m wearing a paw print necklace for Oleta, the Celtic ring that Dad gave me, and Mom’s high school ring, which was an accident, actually, yeah, Mom I have your class ring right now.  Anyway, I didn’t plan it, but I’m glad I have a piece of all of them. I wish I had something from my brothers.

This is one of those moments that I am so full of gratitude.  I am floored at the way God has provided over the last several months so that we could do this, and humbled beyond belief.  God, Thank you for bringing us to this place. Thank you for providing for everything that had to happen to make this possible before this. Thank you for leading me in your way, not my own.  Please God, let your will be done. Whatever I do in Ireland, let it be for your glory. 

Prim is doing so great so far. Just chilling on the plane. We are in the air. I’m sitting next to an Irish girl.  She said Limerick is a lovely place. I’m looking forward to being there.  We have an incredible amount of exploring to do.

7:05 Am Irish time 

We are here, and by God’s provision we are both through  customs. We are just waiting for the pastor of our church, who kindly offered to give us a lift from the airport.  I am so looking forward to making our first friends here.

Everyone is so hospitable! The agriculture man was so sweet, came and found Prim and I while we were waiting for my paperwork to get looked at, and got us started with that in order to take less time. One of the stewardesses from the airplane found my guitar and brought it to me because we had gate checked it and I completely forgot about it, bless her. The immigration officer was so nice too, and gave me directions to the money exchange place. Haha, and just now I heard someone, I’m assuming someone who works here, singing, “La di da…” to himself as he went. What a cheerful soul.

I am so grateful that God has brought me here and very excited to see what he has planned. I cannot wait for church on Sunday. I feel as if I’m coming to meet family I previously didn’t know I had, which I guess is exactly what is happening. Wow!  I also feel so odd for some reason that everyone back home is asleep right now. I’m like, why aren’t you responding to my text messages… oh, right, they are fast asleep lol.  My first run-in with the problem of time differences.

And so it begins.  Our newest adventure.  Let’s do this.

Second Exciting Announcement — I Moved to Ireland!

Many of you will already know this, but there are several people who follow my blog alone and don’t see my updates on Facebook… and anyway it’s not every day that people just up and move to another country… I mean, actually probably it is, but… never mind.  The point is, perhaps it could be useful to someone.  Either way, I received several requests to write here about the move and related experiences, so here we are.

Why Ireland?

I am here to pursue a Master of Arts in Music Therapy.  I chose this program for several reasons, among them financial considerations, the time required to become qualified (which is significantly less than it would have been in the states), my love for Ireland as a place and people, my love for adventure, and, primarily, my conviction that I was being called here by God.

Why Music Therapy?

That is a complex question that I will have to go into in another post.  Suffice it to say that God made it pretty clear this is what he wanted me to do, and it seemed to fit well with my talents, past experience, and professional hopes.

When?

I arrived in Ireland at the beginning of September.  Thus, I have already been here for several weeks, but have a good deal of writing already on the transition that I can share.

How often will you post?

To be completely honest, I have no idea.  Hopefully once every couple weeks at least.  Perhaps if I can keep posts to a more manageable length, they will be more frequent.

As with all the other stories and experiences I’ve shared here, I”m looking forward to continuing with this one.  Thank you for your interest in my journey and my writing.  I love it, but given my multitude of interests, writing tends to be one of those things that sadly falls by the wayside sometimes, so it is great to have your support as an encouragement to keep at it.

Cheers for now.

Thankful for Safety | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 12

At church this morning, we were introduced to an off duty police officer who will be on guard during services.  It was a project, according to our pastor, that has been in progress for several months now, and not something that was motivated by recent events, though recent events certainly make me consider the change in a different light than I would have before.

The knowledge that an armed officer will be standing at the entrance of our sanctuary both leaves me thankful, and a little sad.  Thankful because I don’t see any reason why we should leave ourselves and our church family open to attack.  Perhaps the recent shootings in Texas, Nashville, and South Carolina could have been avoided had their been an armed guard already on sight at the time of the event.  Indeed, the attacks in Texas and Nashville very likely resulted in fewer casualties due to the nearby presence of a courageous, armed citizen.  Thus, I am thankful that our church family, at least, is no longer as vulnerable.

Still, my heart aches a little at the realization that we have to take such measures.  It aches for the lives already lost in the church families that have seen bloodshed.  It aches for the knowledge that we are so much deeper in our sin than we know, or perhaps than we can even comprehend.  It aches a little too, in a nostalgic sort of way, for the sleepy little village churches of American antiquity, doors open and lights on, ready to welcome any sin-weary wanderer to be received, forgiven, and renewed by the transforming power of Jesus.  Somehow, a church sanctuary with an armed guard at post outside of it doesn’t give me the same welcoming vibe, but then, perhaps those sleepy little churches of American antiquity are figments of my imagination anyway.

Either way, I’m not willing to sacrifice members of our church family merely for the sake of a potentially more “welcoming vibe”, so I’m back to being thankful.  We don’t live in a culture now where it is prudent to go unprotected, certainly not in a city of 700 thousand, and I trust Jesus when he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Protecting one another is part of loving one another, so even in a day an age when we must set armed guards outside of our sanctuaries to protect our church family from attack, I am convinced that Jesus’ love will shine through, and for that, I am also thankful.