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The Silver Month of March

March 4, 2015



The Silver Month of March:


25 Years with My Three Guide Dogs (An Essay and a Pi Poem)


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



While we may most associate the month of March with the color green, this year the month of March is a special silver one for me–thanks to my three guide dogs.  On March 21, I will mark twenty-five years of happily working with my three Leader Dogs–Keller, Heather, and Zoe.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have written a number of posts about my three guide dogs.  Each of the four posts on my Wordwalk blog during this month of March will be devoted to and dedicated to my golden retriever Keller, my yellow lab Heather, and my black lab/golden retriever mix Zoe–all of whom changed my life so dramatically for the better.


As long as I can remember, I have especially loved dogs.  My pet dogs–Queenie, a beagle; Pepper, a beagle mix; Little Prince I, a beagle/terrier mix; Little Prince II, a toy Manchester/chihuahua; Chico, a cocker spaniel; and Chelsea, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel–paved the way to my life’s road turning to Rochester, Michigan’s Leader Dog School, where I trained with each of my guide dogs:  Keller, in 1990; Heather, in 1998; and Zoe, in 2009.


While my parents and my doctors knew when I was five years old that my vision would be significantly diminishing, I remember coming to this realization when I was in second grade.  Nevertheless, not until age sixteen did I become “legally blind.”  Throughout the next few decades of diminishing vision, I always felt fortunate that my vision loss was very gradual, involved no surgeries,  and was certainly not a surprise.


Thus, for many years, I quietly assumed that a guide dog would be in my future:  I just never thought about exactly when.  Then, in October of 1989, my beloved and precious Chelsea, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, suddenly passed away.  The sadness and heartbreak of her passing somehow prompted me to take the biggest and possibly the most important step in my life:  I applied to Leader Dog School.


On January 5, 1990, I received a very important letter informing me that I was accepted for training at Leader Dog School and that I would be in the Class beginning on March 18, 1990.  How excited I was to receive this letter!  I had about 72 days to read further about the school and guide dogs, to plan, to pack, and to dream about life with a guide dog.


Sometimes, I wonder why I waited until age forty to train with my first guide dog.  My gorgeous golden retriever Keller gave me a wealth of independence, helped me to earn a second master’s degree at Western Michigan University, guided me into a renewed career of teaching in a new state, and filled my heart with love.  Her harness, which was the smallest of my three guide dogs, led me into these twenty-five remarkable and amazing years of successfully working and joyfully living with my guide dogs.  Although each day with each of my Leader Dogs has been a gift to me, March 21 will be a special celebration to remember and honor my three extraordinary guide dogs–as well as Leader Dog School, the trainers, and all others who help make possible these magnificent guide dogs.


Since March 14 is “Pi Day” and since I have been writing a few pi poems, I decided to write another for the special occasion of marking twenty-five years with my Leader Dogs.  (If you are not familiar with the poetic form of a “pi poem,” please refer to my Wordwalk blog post of February 18, 2015, for a complete explanation and another example of this poetic form.)  For the following pi poem, I used the numerals of the infinite pi to the first zero:  3.14159265358979323846264338327950 for creating the number of syllables per poetic line.



A Pi Poem to Celebrate a Twenty-fifth Anniversary:


March 21, 2015


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa





of my working


three amazing guides–

first Keller, then Heather, now Zoe–

give us

reasons to celebrate

grand independence,

special bonds,

true companionship,

which led to unbelievable

trust–a trust that grew so easily,

yet so hard to understand.

Nevertheless, when I place my hand

on my guide’s


handle, I

trust in my guide dog and follow

across the street,

around an obstacle–


but I do know the work

of a good guide,

amazing guide,

Leader Dog

whose path seems effortless and bright,


to me–

the lucky one who thanks God

on each night of these twenty-five years,

for my Leader Dogs.



Happy March!

Alice and Leader Dog Zoe


March 4, 2015, Wednesday



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  1. Dear Alice,
    Congratulations on the Silver Anniversary of working with your remarkable guide dogs! Each one of your Leader Dogs holds a special place in our family and in my heart: Keller for her knowledge and devotion in guiding you through new experiences; Heather for her strength and courage through so many years of service; and Zoe for her poise and patience in every situation. I will look forward to reading the upcoming posts about each of your special Leader Dogs. Happy Anniversary!
    With love and best wishes,

  2. What a wonderful and fitting tribute to three of your dearest friends and bravest companions. If they could, I’m sure they would raise their hats high into the air.


  3. Carole permalink

    Alice, I never tire of hearing or reading stories about your wonderful guide dogs and companions. They have been truly extraordinary in their love and devotion to you, as their exceptional and amazing work has provided forever freedom and safety through the years. Long live Leader Dog School, and Happy Anniversary! Love, The Morgans

  4. John and Sue McKendry permalink

    Dear Alice and Zoe,
    Congratulations to Alice on her Silver Anniversary of working with leader dogs, and a cyberspace hug to Zoe. We feel fortunate to have known all three of the dogs as well as visiting the Lions’ Training Center in Rochester, MI. I plan to share the poem with fellow Lions at our meeting this week, as we recently doubled our contribution to Leader Dogs. The respect and love between you is a wonderful thing, a true partnership.

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