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Unexpected Consequences

September 26, 2018


From the Soapbox or Tide PODium:


Unexpected Consequences


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



NOTE:  This blog post is NOT about grammar and punctuation, but concerns travel with my guide dog in a city which is now less “walkable.”


* * *


After I posted  “How to Become a Connoisseur of Pronouns” on this WORDWALK blog last Wednesday, my sister wrote a comment which ended with “I’ll get off my soapbox now ….”


My reply was:  “Mary–Thanks for sharing your observation on the state of grammar and punctuation today.  Nowadays, I think you would not be on a soapbox, but on a Tide Pod [registered trademark]–or a Tide PODium!”


Well, I feel I must bring out the soapbox or Tide PODium to share some thoughts about unexpected consequences which have nothing to do with last week’s topic of grammar and punctuation.


Shortly after Labor Day of 2015, the preparatory work for the streetcar project began and began to impact the lives of those of us who live and/or work in downtown Milwaukee.  At that time, unbeknownst to me, I was also beginning the final seven months of working with my third guide dog–the beautiful Golden Retriever/Black Labrador Zoe.  Throughout those final months of her too-brief life, we dealt with the initial stages of construction.


After Zoe’s sudden and unexpected passing on March 16, 2016, I brought Willow, my fourth guide dog, home with me to Milwaukee in June of 2016.  Here, at her new home, my British Black Lab has only known working in an area that has been greatly impacted by the various construction stages of the streetcar project.


On the third day after arriving home from our training at Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan), I told Willow to “Find the curb” at a major intersection near my home.  She did.  As we were standing at the curb and waiting for the signal to change, a gust of wind knocked over a construction sign directly in front of us.  My new guide dog did not even flinch although I jumped.  I praised my perfectly steady Leader Dog.  Yes, the trainers at Leader Dogs for the Blind did select the right dog as a “match” for me.  I thought this incident was a “sign” that my Leader Dog would work especially well in the construction area and in the frequent windy conditions.  Nevertheless, I tried and continue to try to choose the paths or routes of least resistance–of least challenge for the safety and well-being of my guide dog and me.  For example, after this “sign” incident and another at a different location on State Street, I requested that sandbags be placed to secure these construction signs during high winds or gusty conditions.


In inclement or wonderful weather, can I ever explain to you or even thoroughly understand myself how much trust I have had in my four magnificent guide dogs?  Throughout the numerous stages of construction over the past three years and one month, both the guiding of Zoe and then Willow have been impeccable.  I trusted in their top-notch training at Leader Dogs for the Blind; I trusted in what I had learned well from my first two Leader Dogs, Keller and Heather–lessons that made working with Zoe and then Willow so much easier.  None of the four gave me a reason not to trust in her guiding abilities.  Trust in a guide dog is a wonderful, magical gift for which I am most grateful.  This level of trust is as much a part of me as is my heart:  the trust functions automatically, without my giving a thought to it.  The trust does work like the beating of my heart.  Although I was not blessed with “normal” vision, I have been blessed with the trust in treasured guide dogs.


When family members, friends, or strangers tell me, “Your dog is amazing.”  I often respond, “Yes, after working with guide dogs for over twenty-eight years, I am still amazed at my guide dog’s work.”  Somehow, with their amazing ways, Zoe and then Willow did guide me safely through these past three challenging years of unnecessary construction.  I keep telling people that the mayor should give Willow, my current guide, a blue ribbon for all of her impressive work during the construction of the streetcar project.  Although she has not received a blue ribbon or the key-to-the-city (in the shape of a Nylabone (registered trademark) yet, Willow is presently my “Best-of-Show.”  As with my prior Leader Dogs, each night when I put Willow to bed, I thank her for her work of the day.  She deserves all of the praise she receives each day and night from me.  Her devotion to me is enormously appreciated.


In late June of this past summer, just before the kick-off of Summerfest, the worst of the construction era  and the streetcar project seemed to be over.  While I was grateful and almost in a state of disbelief, I was not celebrating as much as I thought I should have.  Willow and I still had to learn the “curbless” curbs with only tactile markings (rather than an actual curb); we could then learn to cross over the tracks in other locations in our East Town area.  Some places, some curbless curbs were easier to learn than others.  We did re-learn all of our usual routes with their modifications.


Earlier, a couple of years ago and since, one of my worries was that the streetcar (or “trolley”) would be too quiet; however, I was told that the streetcar would emit the same level of noise as a typical car.  No one mentioned what I first experienced two weeks ago.  During this testing phase of the six streetcars, I experienced the “unexpected consequence” of the trolley’s making a high-pitched screeching sound when the streetcar progresses through a turn.  I never expected this type of painful sound.  I am told that after the “routine dynamic testing” (testing of the brakes), a lubrication may be applied (by hand) to the tracks to reduce the screeching sound.  Further, I am told that time will also help to diminish the high-pitched noise–although no one seems to know how much time such a reduction will take.  Currently, Willow and I are trying our very best to avoid being at an intersection or near an intersection with a turn of the tracks when the trolley rolls by.  (As you probably know, a dog’s hearing is much more acute than a human’s.)  Believe me, Judy Garland would not be singing happily about this trolley!


As I told a city official today, “That high-pitched noise from the streetcar impedes my making a street-crossing with my guide dog, as much as an old-fashioned curb impeded the street-crossing of a person in a wheelchair.”


Thus, the most unnecessary streetcar continues to impact our lives negatively.  As I do what I can to improve conditions, Willow remains ever calm and steady at my side and in the lead.  Our “walkable” city is certainly not as easily walkable now, but Willow and I continue to try to walk forty to fifty-plus blocks each day.


What unexpected consequence will arise next?  What unexpected consequence will materialize with the onset of hard and persistent winter?


Thanks for “listening” to the message from my soapbox–or Tide PODium!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 26, 2018, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice,
    Your saga of the streetcar certainly shows that you and Willow have bravely and successfully faced challenge after challenge during the past years. The amazing work of Willow and your complete trust in her are truly remarkable. Recently, at a VIP tour of Leader Dog School in Rochester, Michigan, I had the opportunity to wear a blindfold and walk with a trained Leader Dog in harness. What an emotional and uncomfortable experience that was for me! Your degree of trust and level of courage are extraordinary, and I admire you and your four Leader Dogs for all that you have achieved and continue to accomplish every day as you address those unexpected consequences!
    With love and best wishes to you and Leader Dog Willow,

    • Hi, Mary–I was and still am so very happy that you and Ric took the tour of the Canine Development Center and other areas of Leader Dog School.  What a remarkable place!  You surprised me by walking with not just one, but two guide dogs as you were blindfolded.  Such opportunities are few and far between, so I am pleased that you took advantage of these opportunities to see and experience the amazing work of Leader Dogs for the Blind.

      Many thanks for your comment–Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Since you and Willow have endured so much, and thought you might be at the end of the series of unnecessary challenges, the screeching must just seem a very unfair unexpected consequence. It’s bad enough we all have winter in our future without another streetcar consequence in yours. One of these days I sincerely hope you and Willow have a pleasant unexpected consequence as surely one is due.–Sue

    • Hello, Sue–Your kind, thoughtful, and comforting words were just what I needed to read.  Willow and I had a wonderful Saturday and hope you did also.

      Special thanks for your perceptive comments–Alice and Willow

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