Friday, May 5, 2017

Standing on Ground Zero with a Hero

Mr. Dick Girocco, a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec 7, 1941.

We have been on Oahu for the past 11 days staying in Kailua Town on the windward side of the island.  It's our first time on this side of the island and really our first extended stay on Oahu.  Most of our island visits have been to Maui or in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.  Kailua on Oahu is a great town.  Up until a few years ago, there wasn't much development, I can't say that now, but it still has the small town feel and the residents here are quick to befriend you and offer their aloha.

Today, we made plans to visit Pearl Harbor.  While in the Navy, I stopped at Pearl on our way to WestPac and our tour of duty supporting ground forces in Viet Nam.  But, I never did visit the memorial due to time constraints.   We didn't visit the Arizona Memorial or the USS Missouri this day either, but instead went to the fairly new Pacific Aviation Museum.  Only 10 years old, it is the newest of the museums on Ford Island.  Our guide Solomon, a native Hawaiian, was a retired teacher and worked at the shipyard for over 30 years before becoming one of the original tour guides at this museum.  His knowledge was amazing and the 90 minute guided tour seemed to last 10 minutes.

Missing panes of glass and bullet holes greet us at Hanger 79.

We were then sent off to visit Hanger 79 on our own.  There they are in the process of the restoration of many aircraft that have been donated.  The Swamp Ghost is one such plane.  Ditched by its pilot in 1942 on Papua New Guinea in a swamp when the plane ran out of fuel after taking a hit from a Japanese fighter that punchured a hole in the fuel cell, it sat for decades before being brought out piece by piece.  It now sits intact but unrestored in Hanger 79.  There is no plan to restore this craft.  The crew all survived and actually continued to serve and fight during the rest of the war.

The newly named Swamp Ghost, recovered from the swamps of Papua New Guinea.
The highlight of this tour was meeting a true hero, Dick Girocco.  A Pearl Harbor Survivor who was stationed on Ford Island as a crew member on a PBY, a flying boat used during WWII.  It was parked at Hanger 39, right next door to Hanger 79 on the infamous day.  He was gracious enough to allow Chris and I to take a picture with him.  Sitting next to Dick was Ian Birine, who was only 6 on Dec 7, 1941.  Ian, born and raised on Oahu, told us he remembered being excited to see so many airplanes in the sky over his house.  Little did he know.

Chris with Mr. Girocco and Ian Birine.

Trying to explain my emotions today is difficult.  Walking the tarmac and visualizing what happened that day was chilling.  The unbelievable loss of life and the shock of such an attack is not lost on me.  Having served onboard a ship, feeling a kinship with those sailors, soldiers and women who died and survived this attack and standing at ground zero with a living survivor made this a day I will never forget.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Irish Eyes are Smiling

March is one of my favorite months.  Mainly because St. Patricks Day falls on March 17th and I get to do one of my favorite things, cook!  Or more exactly, bake, as in Irish Soda Bread.

Traditional soda bread consisted of four ingredients; flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk.  Also, it wasn't really invented by the Irish.  The first reference of soda bread was established by the American Indians.  But the Irish baked a bread during the famine years that was easy, cheap and used just those four ingredients.  It became widespread throughout the country and they laid claim to this bread.  Soda ash was used, hence the name, but it was refined to use baking soda.  Made in cast iron pots over open fires, the bread was round, crusty and filling.

Coming to America, immigrants baked this bread and thankfully, more ingredients were used as they were available.  Currants, butter, sugar and eggs were added to make a more flavorful bread.  Then someone decided to add caraway seeds.

So why post this?  Well, like I mentioned earlier, I'm baking Irish Soda Bread and if you would like to purchase some, drop me a line at before March 12th and you can purchase a loaf or two.

It's $8 dollars for a single loaf, or $15 for two,  all the bread is hand made using just those ingredients mentioned, which include the butter, eggs, sugar, golden raisins and caraway seeds.

It goes great with corned beef and cabbage as it is a sweet component to the brined beef and cabbage.  It also makes a great French Toast and a killer bread pudding.

Hope to hear from you all.

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Getting and Giving Back

Tuesday we were out and about doing stuff.  We had updated our family trust and were on our way to lunch when Chris received a call from the 818 area code.  Now that area code is where Sylmar resides and we instantly knew something was up with Dylan.  The GDA veterinarian was calling to explain that Dylan was continuing to show signs of ear infections and spotting on her skin.  In short, they were dropping her from the program.  She explained that the blind are unable to spot these conditions, therefore it is in their and Dylan's best interest that she not continue.  As I explained in my last post, the first two weeks are used primarily for health exams.  Dylan was not able to get pass these two weeks.

So now what happens?

Today we traveled up to Sylmar and brought her back.  She becomes our new pet and a member of the family.  We'll get her medical records and have her examined again to see if these allergies are food related or related to something else.  Bailey gets her baby sister back.  She may even stop moping around.  I really think this has been hard on her without a playmate to pal around.

Hey, remember me?

Dylan still needs more training. She is apt to run off when she is off leash, so boundary training is in my immediate future.  She can't go into restaurants anymore, or visit museums or the Hollywood Bowl.  Small prices to pay when you have a gift like Dylan.

So we ask ourselves this question; would we again raise a guide dog puppy for GDA?  Having two dogs now plus training a new puppy seems daunting.  Just this Monday was our monthly GDA meeting and two brand new puppies were present.  Eleven week old litter mates, one black one yellow, both females and as cute as could be.  Sigh...

The people of this organization are so great.  Regardless of what we do in the puppy arena, we will continue to be part of GDA.  I would think that given a little more time, we would jump in and see if we could get a dog all the way to graduation.  My sanity may suffer, but my heart would be glad.

In the meantime, we will look to take advantage of Dylan's training.  Therapy dogs are always needed and we believe she would be great at this.  Also, working again with BARK, (Beach Animals Reading with Kids) is something that both Chris and I have done and would do again in a heartbeat.  I believe giving back is what's important.  More that ever, it's what I see us and Dylan doing.

Ah yes...Home!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Turn In Day

The day broke bright, a warm wind blowing from the East greeted us on turn in day.  We drove up to Sylmar with Brian and Nancy, our area leaders, who were also turning in their dog Morgan and a third dog, Addie, was being brought up by Paula.  Peggy, who interviewed us as potential puppy raisers, also was along to see the graduation.  Six adults, three dogs in the van, ten dogs graduating and 28 dogs being turned in for formal training.  A very busy day.

Graduation was great, 10 people getting a new lease on mobility.  Two were getting their very first dog, others as many as their sixth.  After graduation, we milled about waiting for lunch and pictures to be taken with litter mates and such.

Litter Mates, Dozier, Dusty, Daisy, Dylan and Dinah along with their mom.

Then, GDA explained what was to happen during the next 6 to 8 months.  Two weeks of medical testing was first up.  Then skills assessments, followed by intense training as guide dogs, then 3 weeks with their new handlers (blind person) and then graduation.  Fairly straight forward process.  About 50% decide not to become guide dogs.  GDA also works with veteran groups and place many of the dogs who decide not to be guides as therapy or service dogs for those veterans.  Some are returned to their puppy raisers as pets.  GDA told us, "we puppy raisers have done our job, regardless of the outcome of the dog you raised."  No blame, no shame, just gratitude for the job we as puppy raisers have done.  The dogs are then paired up and we walk them down to the kennels, say our goodbyes and cry.

Chris and Nancy both said, "coming home to the house without your puppy was the most difficult."
There is no easy way to explain the feeling of knowing you're helping someone and at the same time the loss you feel in doing so.

Bailey feeling the loss
 Would we do it again?  In talking with others, not one person said they would not do it again.  Some get a puppy right away.  "You replace the tears with the smell of new puppy fur" one said.  Some got another puppy before turning in the one they were raising.  Us, we are going to wait a bit.  See what happens and then decide.  

In Appreciation

My next post will be when Dylan decides what she wants to do.  Until then, thank you to all who have followed along with us during this adventure.  Your comments here  and on Facebook have been uplifting and reassuring.  I urge you to look into GDA by going to their website, and consider helping in their noble effort of helping the blind.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Village

Sunday, we had a party for Dylan.  We had asked neighbors and friends to stop by for an open house to say goodbye to our girl.  She gets turned in on Saturday, Jan. 28 and we wanted to give people a chance to see her one more time and to say thank you for their support raising Dylan.

Of course it was the wettest day since 1995 and the rain was a coming down hard.  It may have hid the tears, but the mood was festive and Dylan was great moving from person to person.

We wanted to let all our friends and neighbors who have been so supportive in helping raise Dylan know, it truly does take a village.

Thank you.

The Village

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Fire Academy

Chris was asked to go back to work part-time with Orange County Fire Authority and is now working with the newest class of recruits in the fire academy.  Working on skills they will need to become the next generation of firefighters and/or paramedics, Chris is helping by teaching skills classes.  She was hesitant to bring Dylan to these as she felt Dylan would be in the way and she did not want to upset the process of this very important time for these recruits.  But after reassurances from the cadre of instructors, she took Dylan to work with her.

Recruits working on first aid while our girl just chills

With her jacket on Dylan is a different dog.  It is amazing to me that she somehow understands that this is no time for being a dog, but a time to be a service animal.  How?  I wish I knew.  So as the nurses were teaching skills to the students, Dylan was placed into service.

After having Dylan go into "cradle mode" Chris told a few students to place a splint on Dylan's leg as if it were broken.  Three went into action and with great affection and care, proceeded to work on our girl.
Getting ready with Dylan as the patient

Reassurance is important when working with a patient. Face and belly rubs help.

On goes the splint.  Good job!

Then it was time to place their new found knowledge to the test by working on each other.  With Dylan acting as emotional support, the recruits begin to work on a fellow trainee.

Being the support dog
Dylan is reassuring the patient.

Recruits breaking character by laughing

It was great to see our Dylan in action.  Doing what we hope will be her new lifetime job of being there for those in need.  Chris also said she could see it in the faces of the recruits,  the stress of becoming a new firefighter seemed to melt away with our girl there working hand in hand with them.

Maybe a new chapter for the fire academy is being written.  Emotional support dogs for recruits.

I could see it happening!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Health Update ...Final Monthly Report

We continue to monitor Dylan's skin and ears.  Her itching seems to have quieted down some and the blotches seems to be clearing up.  Her ears are also better as we continue to put drops in twice a day.
The pills will be gone just about the time we turn her in on January 28.

This is our last month for Dylan's monthly evaluations.  Seems like these 18 months have flown by.  Each category is broken down with ratings 1-5 with 5 being best.  For example:
Obedience Commands

Sit - 5
Down - 4
Formal Come - 4
Heel/Loose Leash Walking - 4 (maybe more like a 3.5)
Sit/Stay 1 minute - 5
Down/Stay 3 minutes - 5
Down/Stay 5 minutes - 4 (I can't even stay for 5 minutes)

Discipline issues - Well Dylan likes to nose job you right in the crotch when she first greets you.  Not sure where she got that, but we listed that as an issue.

We also have to list any social exposures for the month.  In December, Dylan saw the King and I at the Pantages Theater, walked in the Downey Christmas parade, went to two pot lucks and visited a fire station with Chris.

So as you can see Dylan has been exposed, trained and is now ready to move on to her next step.  We can only hope it's enough.  The rest, they say, is up to her.

Just two of the many things we will miss with Miss Dylan:

Sleeping on her bed bug


Her sitting position