Monday, January 31, 2011

Great things about being blind. adapting and thinking outside the box

I've been blind since birth and have lived in a world dominated by the sense of vision. For those who are sighted, think about it as you go about your day. Street signs, restaurant menus, traffic, print materials, etc. etc. Being blind is normal and natural to me. Moving around my world is natural. Experiencing it the way I do is natural and normal. And so, from an early age, I've had to learn to adapt to activities because there was no way I was letting my blindness stop me from participating fully in life. Adapting games. Putting rice in a beach ball so I could hear it to play an adapted game of volley ball. Finding ways to label jars, cans, print materials. Using all of my senses when out and about. If I get turned around in a big open space for example, what can I hear? Oh yes the traffic in a certain direction, the hum of a building air conditioner in the distance. What can I feel under my feet? What can I smill touch etc? If there is something I really want to do, I'll think of a way to do it. So, a few years ago, this adaptability was the thing that got me through a rough time with a secondary disability.
About five years ago now, I fell on an icy patch and hurt my knee quite badly. I could hardly walk and I had always walked far and fast.
I learned to use a support cane in my right hand and walk with my guide dog at my left side.
She adapted beautifully too. Slowing down her pace. Stopping at uneven terrain. Not minding the cane I held in my other hand. She would stand in front of me and let me lean my hands on her back to steady myself. She would find ramps instead of stairs. I marveled at her. People asked how I had taught her to do those things. I hadn't. She just adapted. Things did not get better with me. They got worse. I began to have pain in my ankles and feet. Pain in my hands and wrists. It turned out, I had and have rheumatoid arthritis. Once I knew what it was, I was very sad and outraged. What, I already have a disability? Well, yes but that doesn't mean we can't get and adapt to others. Once I got medical help and some tips and tricks, I started using my mind to adapt to this too. I haven't had a bad flare up since the initial one. Still, when I am very tired, stressed, or in certain weather conditions, my joints can bother me and I can't hike on very uneven terrain anymore. But, as I started to work my way back to more activity, I had to think about how to adapt things. One hand and wrist were sore. It was the hand I held my guide dog's harness in and it was hard to grip. I asked the occupational therapist if she could bulk up the handle for me. We put some thick foam around it so it was easier for me to hold. Gia still stopped at uneven surfaces and Tulia has picked this up too. I need to go down stairs slowly one step at a time. Both dogs adapted to this. I don't usually use a support cane anymore but know I could if I need to again. When I first started using it, one of my friends said, "Oh you don't want to use one of those canes do you? People will stare at you." And I said, "And you don't think they stare at me now?" Smile. When I went back to get Gia's successor (Tulia) I said I needed a calm dog that was easy to handle, adaptable, able to walk for ages or stay inside, not a hard puller. I got it all. I ride my stationary bike about an hour per day, walk a lot, am back to swimming (I was a competitive swimmer once) and do much of what I did before the arthritis. I do need to pace myself though. I'm grateful to my blindness for teaching me how to adapt when needed and not to give up.
I am currently the secretary of an alumni chapter at my guide dog school (guide dogs for the blind)
The chapter is called guide dog handlers all ways and is for graduates who have additional disabilities besides blindness.
If anyone wants to find out more about this, e-mail me at

Sunday, January 30, 2011

So thankful for you all

I'm so grateful for everyone who is reading this blog. It's almost a month in and I haven't missed a day. I'm going to try to write one thing each day for a year. If you like these stories, wouldn't you like them more if you heard me tell them? Wouldn't they make for an excellent disability awareness workshop? If you want to contact me about booking me as a storyteller or presenter, please e-mail me at
I love doing this so much. It is not a chore yet. It is a great pleasure.

Great things about being blind. My story of money identification

Yesterday I was asked a question about how I identify paper money. It brought back one of my all time favourite funny experiences. In some countries, bills are of different sizes. Not in Canada. We used to have no way of identifying paper money except for something called a bank note reader that you put your bill in and it read the denomination. Half the time though, (if the bill was wrinkled or something like that) it would say "Cannot read." I heard that more times than I would care to tell you. I always felt like saying, "Well I cannot read it either." I developed a system of folding bills in different ways. Putting them in different pockets of my wallet. I still use this system today. Over the past few years in Canada, they have placed tactile bars on the corners of bills. People think that they represent the numbers in braille, but they don't. What they have is one bar for five, 2 for 10, 3 for 20, etc. But still, I fold and place my bills as I always have. We used to have one and two dollar bills which have since been replaced by one and two dollar coins. The one dollar coin has a picture of a loon on it and it began to be called the loonie. When the two dollar coin came along, it became the toonie. I know you non-canadians, stop laughing at our odd names for money. Smile! This happened when we had one and two dollar bills as well as the others. This meant I had to be very innovative in my folding of money. One evening, we were coming through a very busy Canadian airport. After having gone through customs or security, I realized that I had left my purse somewhere. I went back to security and described my purse to them. They said they had found it and turned it into the office. They took me to the office. A very serious sounding woman was there. She asked what I had in the purse and I described what I had, my ID's and cards. She was satisfied that I was who I said I was. She handed back the purse. "Your wallet really was a mess," she said, "all that money folded up and in different places." She sounded quite disgusted by the whole situation. "I unfolded it all and straightened it all out for you," she said sounding very proud of herself. "And I put it all into one compartment." I very gently explained why I had my money in that state. Humbled, she identified my bills for me so that I could re-fold them and put them back where they belonged. She didn't sound nearly so haughty when I bid her farewell.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Great things about being blind. The novelty of braille.

I was going to write about something else today. I had it all picked out and everything. But, you'll have to wait for that entry as I saw in my inbox a message from a friend about great things about having friends who are blind. She said, practicing and learning braille. Everyone is fascinated by braille. they want to touch it which is good as that is what you are supposed to do with braille. People always say, "How can you tell the difference between those dots? They are so small?" When I first touched braille in grade one, I was shown my name on a card and told it was my name. I thought, "No way. They all feel the same." But I learned braille quickly as I've always loved to read and to write and that was the way to go about it. I loved and still love braille. These days, although I use a computer with screen reading software (my software reads what is written on my screen and what I type) and although I listen to audio books from the CNIB library
and from and although I am adicted to podcasts from
selected shorts from PRI
the tobolowsky files,
the newyorker fiction podcasts,
I am especially fond of the Ouch podcast on bbc about people with disabilities
I love to read braille and to write with braille.
When I am creating a story to tell or an article, I like to edit and write using braille when possible.
I have a braille notetaker but would dearly love a braille display for my computer all the time so I can read everything in braille.
They are very expensive though.
But in the beginning, we had huge bulky braille books.
One book could be from six to twenty fat volumes of braille.
When traveling to and from school for the blind, or on vacation, I carried heaps of books.
When finishing highschool in my home community, I didn't have a locker. I had a storage cupboard filled with books.
Many of my friends have wanted to learn braille and some have done so. I am always touched when they hand-braille a card for me.
One time in University, all of my residence floor mates had those little message boards outside their room doors. They used to leave notes for each other. "Are you going to dinner at 5?" Etc. I complained jokingly that I never got any messages. I went off to study and when I returned, found a piece of paper taped to my door. It had bumps on it. But they didn't seem like braille. Not having a brailler to use or even slate and stylus, they had punched holes with a pin and used a ruler or something I don't know.
I couldn't read it. They said, "You'd better figure it out. It took us hours to do." I tried my best.
Another friend once borrowed a brailler and brailled me a short story for christmas.
It took him many hours.
I read it in about five minutes and said, "That was a good story."
"you're done already?"
I appreciated the time consuming effort it took.
My mom learned braille when I did and put notes for me on the fridge, wrote me notes from Santa, the easter bunny (I never figured out how a rabbit could actually hop around on those brailler keys) and even the tooth fairy.
I am touched when I am handed braille business cards.
I hope all young children who are blind will always learn braille.
I hope that braille displays come down in price so everyone who wants one can have one.
I love braille.
Thanks Louis Braille for your wonderful invention.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Great things about being blind. Learning to skate

I live in Canada's capital and here right in the middle of our city is the Rideau Canal. Often called the world's longest skating rink. People come from far and wide to skate on the canal. I was thinking about the canal yesterday and about skating. I was also thinking about how hard it can be for someone who has been totally blind since birth to learn a sport. When I first was learning to dive in swimming, I would stand on the diving board, put my arms over my head, but then instead of diving in head first, I would jump in feet first. I didn't see how people dove. Just heard the splash. The same thing is true for skating.
My dad had grown up on the prairies.
They had had a back yard rink and he played hockey with his friends all of the time.
When I stood at the side of the outdoor rink, I could hear people wizzing by on skates.
I liked the sound of those skates.
The blades cutting into ice. The rhythmic squeaking and swishing and crunching of those skates.
I listened to the sounds of skating at about age five or six and said to myself that I would love to do that. I also felt these furry pom poms with bells on them and wanted some of those for my skates. I pictured myself with the pom pom bells ringing out like faery bells.The smooth ice under my skates. I had touched the ice with my hands.
Smooth and cold like the glass in the window on a winter morning.
I wanted to do that.
I asked my parents.
Sure I could learn to skate they said.
They took me to the rink.
The ice felt slippery under my skates.
I fell on the hard ice.
I got up. I tottered along.
I liked the sound of my skates.
Click click click like a lady in high heeled shoes.
But it didn’t sound like other skaters.
Click click like horse’s hooves.
“You’re not really skating,” my brother said, “You’re walking in your skates. You need to slide your feet.”
I decided that what I needed first was some of those furry pom poms with the bells on them.
I asked for some and we got them.
I tied them on my skates.
This was even better.
As I tottered around the rink on my skates, the tap tap of my skates rang out and the bells rang and I imagined I was in a faery carriage with wonderful horses and a lovely faery queen who was taking me to her castle filled with magical things.
Chocolate fountains.
Rooms filled with magical stuffed animal toys that talked.
Gardens with flowers that smelled wonderful.
I followed the boards of the ice rink with one hand. And I dreamed as I heard my skates tapping and ringing.
“isn’t this great. Don’t you love my skating.” I said to my family.
They said I was doing well but was really only walking on skates.
But, I didn’t care. I loved the sound of my skates tap tapping and the bells ringing.After a while though, I realized that the people skating around me didn't sound like I sounded. I decided I should learn to really skate. But I wanted to skate on the canal and really skate on it.
I asked if we could go.
“The canal can be a little bumpier than the rink,” my dad said, “the ice isn’t as good sometimes and people can fall down more. But if you’re careful, it should be fine to go.”
My brother said that I had to learn to skate better first and he took me to the rink again.
Before he did that, he told me to slide on the kitchen floor in my sock feet.
I liked doing this.
“Now do more of that when you skate,” he said.
We practiced.
I tried to slide more with my feet.
I went a little faster.
I still did a lot of tap tap tapping in my skates but there were some swishing and creeking noises too.
Maybe, I was starting to slide.
The next weekend, mom and dad took us to the canal.
It was cold there.
It was freezing.
The cold wind blew in my face.
But I loved to hear the sounds around me.
People laughing and talking.
The sound of sleds being pulled along the canal.
A swish swish swish of the sled.
The sounds of skates.
Of people stopping fast.
Different rhythms of skating.
The smell of hot chocolate.
The cold night air.
The sounds of music.
My dad tightened my skates for me as we sat on the snowbank.
It was cold taking off your nice warm boots and putting your feet into those icy skates.
I couldn’t tighten mine enough but dad was good at it.
My parents took a double mittened hand each and we set off along the canal.
I was surprised when my feet first touched the ice.
It wasn’t smooth like the window or the glass of the mirror when I touched it.
It felt bumpy under my feet.
It made my teeth bang together and my body shake a little.
It reminded me of touching the rough bumpy wall of our house or a particularly gravely road.
But I still loved it.
My parents were good skaters and I held on tight and we skimmed along the ice.
Looking back, I probably didn’t do all that much work.
I tried to slide and to sound like their skates sounded.
But I also tap tapped and rang my pom pom bells.
And dreamed that I was in a grand carriage sweeping along the canal to the magic palace where hot chocolate flowed from the chocolate fountain.
I loved listening to all sounds around me and feeling myself held up by my parents and skimming along. I was so proud of that first canal skate. I've skated on the canal many many times since. Sighted people are sometimes surprised that blind people participate in sports. Sports and recreation has always formed a big part of my life. At this time of year, as winterlude approaches here, I think back about learning to skate and am grateful to my family who took the time and had the patience to show me how.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Story about Tulia and I on the guide dogs blog

When I was in class getting Tulia in September in Oregon, an article was written about us.
I just want to put in a good word for my guide dog school.
All guide dog schools do wonderful work and it is a matter of preference as to which schools we choose.
I got my first guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind in 1992. At that time, I went to the campus in San Rafael California. I have returned to guide dogs three more times. All of those three times have been at their campus in Oregon. Thanks to guide dogs for all that you do.
Check out their web site at
Here is the story about Tulia and I.

Great things about being blind. Confusion with guide dog names.

A very funny thing happened to me the other day. It got me thinking about mix ups with guide dog names. Last week, I met with a good friend's daughter for the first time to answer questions for a university project. The daughter's name is Julia. My guide dog's name is Tulia. We had a fun time. Miss Tulia was wearing her winter boots and she sometimes does not like to sit or lie down when wearing them. The next day, I e-mailed Julia's mom to say how wonderful Julia was. I also mentioned that Tulia would not sit down while wearing her boots. My friend thought I meant that her daughter, Julia, would not sit down while wearing boots and asked her about it when they talked. I laughed so hard at this picture. It got me thinking back. My first dog's name was Gwenny. One time, while working at a long-term care facility, Gwenny was under the desk sniffing at the garbage can. I said in a firm voice, "Gwenny! What are you doing under there." A voice came from underneath the photocopier. "Only my mom calls me Gwenny." There was a woman named Gwen fixing the photocopier. Once we sorted out the confusion, Gwen thought it was great that my dog was called Gwenny. When Gwenny suddenly died of cancer while still working, Gwen was very sad when she next met me. My second dog was Margaret. There are lots of Margaret's in this world of course. One thing I do remember was standing in line at a bakery. A woman called very loudly to her friend, "Should I get some brownies Margaret?" My Margaret dog perked her ears up a lot. Perhaps she thought the brownies were for her? soon after I got Gia, I was studying volunteer management with a woman named Pia. Often in class, I would say something to Gia. "Lie down Gia. Or Gia come." And Pia would sometimes think I was talking with her. Given the number of women called Julie and Julia, I would think that we may have some more fun times ahead as I often call Tulia Tuly. This situation made my week. Thanks Julia and don't worry Julia had no problem sitting down in her boots.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Great things about being blind. The audeo book experience.

I had a bit of a stressful day yesterday. When I climbed into bed, I took my audeo book with me. I love reading braille but also love listening to books, to people read, and to podcasts now. Audio book players have gotten smaller. Braille displays mean that you can read braille that isn't so bulky too. As I listened to the amazing british reader reading my audio book, I felt almost immediately much more relaxed. Then I thought, no wonder I love storytelling. I've been listening to words, voices, stories all of my life. Both of my parents read to me from a very young age. Before I could read, I told stories. Once I could read, I read everything I could literally get my hands on and still listened to audio books. I can listen to an audio book while exercising (except in the pool) while doing dishes, laundry, brushing the dog, etc. Part of my path to storytelling came through audio books and being read to. And still when I feel wound up, stressed, or upset, those voices of readers, or storytellers, calm me down and put me in a world of words. If anyone wants to find out more about my own storytelling performances and workshops, feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From my sighted friends. Great things about having a friend who is blind.

As I mentioned previously on this blog, a friend who is sighted e-mailed me some great things about having friends who are blind. Other friends sent more. So here are a few.
Great things about having friends who are blind:
They are great at driving bumper cars
They come over and don't care how messy your house or car is
They don't say you've put on a few pounds
They don't critique what you are wearing
They can read to you in the dark while camping or when they are your babysitter
They give you great insights into things
As a writer, they give you practice in describing things
They get you in free to museums, movies, plays sometimes
They allow you to have a dog fix whenever you're with them but you can only pat the dog when given permission of course
You can tell them you look like a stunning model and they believe you.
They can help you out enormously when the power goes off.
They always have interesting adventures
They don't judge you by how you look
One friend said the best thing about having a blind friend is that that friend is you. Thanks for that.
Fun and interesting topic.
Keep any thoughts coming.
I'm starting to think through great things about having friends who are sighted.
It is a freezing cold day here. Thinking about all of my friends keeps me warmer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Great things about being blind. Air travel. The pilot story.

It is an absolutely freezing day outside today. A good day to fly off to somewhere warm. As promised several times, here finally is the pilot story. This did really happen too. When I got my first guide dog (black lab Gwenny) we were living in Vancouver British Columbia. I had gone out there to study Music Therapy and stayed for several years before moving back East. Richard's parents live in Halifax Nova Scotia and we were visiting them one time. We ended up having to fly straight back to Vancouver from Halifax which was about seven hours or so. There was a brief stop but not a long one. This is quite a long time for a dog to last without going to the bathroom. It can be done and has been done but I thought I would ask the flight attendents if there was any possibility for Gwenny to go out on our brief stop over. The flight attendent said that she would ask the captain. She then came back to tell me that the stop over was too short for me to go through security and come back but that the captain would be happy to take Gwenny onto the tarmac if this was all right with me. I agreed to this gratefully. I usually don't make a habit of getting other people to take my dogs out without me, but this was a special case. When we landed for the stop over, we were told that we could get off briefly if we wished. Richard decided to get off. I thought I would just wait for Gwenny to come back. The pilot came. Of course all dressed up in his pilot's uniform. I had taken Gwenny's working harness off but suggested he carry it on his shoulder in case anyone wanted to know what a dog was doing on the tarmac. He said that was a good idea. So he put the harness over his shoulder and Gwenny pranced off with him to explore the airport tarmac. I thought they would be gone for about five minutes. But time passed and time passed. I was a little worried but figured they would be back. After all, the pilot had to fly us on to Vancouver. Richard returned to sit with me. Still no Gwenny. Finally, after about twenty-five minutes, they returned. The pilot was laughing and Gwenny was wagging and happy. He told me they had walked all over the tarmac, that she had gone, that he hadn't given her water as we had a long flight ahead, and then he said, "I had the most fun ever." He walked all over the place. On the tarmac and then a little inside the airport and when people would stare at them, he would say, "What's the matter. Haven't you seen a blind pilot with his guide dog before?" He was still laughing when he headed back to the flight deck. Every little while as the flight continued, one of the crew from the flight deck would come back to see the famous dog. They all asked if I were going to take any more long distance flights across Canada. I'll bet they were hopeful. Since then, a few pilots have told me that they are pretty sure that blind people could fly the airline planes as it is mostly done by computers now. When I came home recently with Tulia, we also had a long flight. When I landed after the first leg of the flight, I asked if someone could take her to the tarmac. One of the baggage handlers did it but they were only gone for about two minutes.
On another note, I'm still collecting tales for what is awesome about having a friend who is blind. Come on sighted folks. Be creative!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Great things about being blind. All of my friends

The other day, I wrote a blog post about the fact that one of my sighted friends wrote me an e-mail about the amazing things about having a friend who is blind. I loved that e-mail and am still collecting comments on it and will post them in this blog in the coming days. I started thinking a lot about my friends though and want to make the following observations. I am glad there are amazing things about having friends who are blind. I've been totally blind since birth and blindness is definitely a part of who I am. Sometimes I wonder, if I hadn't been born blind, what career might I have chosen? Would I have been scared to interact with blind people? It is pretty interesting to think about and wonder about from time to time. Blindness, I am certain, has helped to make me the person I am. But, it is not the only thing that has. I am a woman. I am short. I am a storyteller and music therapist. I am a generally happy person. My sighted friends and relatives become embarrassed when they forget I am blind. If I ask how to lock their car door and they say, "Push down on the red button." If they hand me a photograph to check out. If they say, "Wow look at that!" They often apologize profusely afterwards. But, I am glad when people forget. It means that my blindness is not the thing that is always in their heads when they are with me. They are thinking of me not just as, "That blind girl." But as their friend. There is such a fine balance here. I don't mind answering questions. I don't mind the curiosity of the sighted. But I don't like to be the object of pity or as if I am a project to be taken on. One time in school, a girl asked if she could walk with me to class. We talked as we walked along. I could have found class by myself. I usually did. "You're at class now Kim," she said. I felt glad that she wanted to chat with me. As she turned away, I heard her say to her friend. "There. I just did my good deed for the day." I was shocked. Had I asked her to help me find class? No. I thought maybe we were becoming friends.

Sometimes, I like to be known as the blind girl by those who can't remember names.

There was a gentleman with Alzheimer's disease who lived in a nursing home where I worked. He loved music and had played instruments all of his life. He had no memory for names. I was the Music Therapist there and he would come looking for me. I didn't have a guide dog then or I probably would have been known as, "The girl with the dog." But I have one eye that is open and I can see a little bit out of that eye. The other eye is smaller and partly closed. I tried having an artificial shell in there but it bugged me a lot. Anyway, he used to say, "Where's old one eye? I want to see old one eye." I loved that. I knew that meant that he really was looking for me. Some staff used to get mad at him for calling me that but I loved it and it made me smile every time he said it. I love all of my friends because they are my friends and I hope that I am an equally good friend to them who happens to be blind.

Kim Kilpatrick

Storyteller, Presenter, Performer

Check out my web site and blog at

I am proud to be a MASC artist.

Check out MASC and my profile at

New blog about amazing things about being blind

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Great things about being blind. The squeaking of Tulia's boots

Today was freezing in Ottawa and I do mean freezing. Around 30 something below. I wasn't sure if Tulia would go to the airport and jump on a plane to Oregon and Washington state where it is warmer and where she grew up and had her guide dog training.

I was teaching a storytelling workshop today.

In the winters here when it is bitterly cold, it takes person and dog much longer to get ready.

The person has to find coat, boots, hat, mittens or gloves, scarf. And blind people hate mittens or gloves as they act as blindfolds. Hoods or hats can be problematic too as they inhibit hearing and the echo location or facial vision that I use to figure out what is around me. But, when it is this cold, I do what I must do. Then on with Tulia's little red ruffwear boots and her red coat, and off we go. It was a very sunny, bright, quiet morning. Not much traffic. This is nice in one way as it is peaceful outside. The snow squeaks underfoot. But in another way, it is awful. No traffic means that you can't tell when to cross streets and have to stand at the corners in the bitter cold waiting to hear when it is safe to cross. But we arrived ssafely and tulia found our destination. When we entered the quiet building, the rubber soles of tulia's dog boots squeaked like little mice on the tiled floor. It was the most amazing, hillarious sound. Squeak-squeak! Squeak-squeak! Like a herd of mice at a meeting. What is a group of mice called anyway? The workshop was awesome and my wonderful friends gave us a lift home in their warm car.

I'm home now with two well fed dogs sleeping by my feet.

What can be better than that?

Kim Kilpatrick

Storyteller, Presenter, Performer

Check out my web site and blog at

I am proud to be a MASC artist.

Check out MASC and my profile at

New blog about amazing things about being blind

Friday, January 21, 2011

Great things about being blind. Interesting feedback.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a friend saying what the great things about having a friend who is blind are. It was awesome. I never thought of that twist and was fascinated by it. I asked my friends in facebook land to provide more suggestions and am getting some great comments. You can provide them here too in the comments section or e-mail them to me directly at
Will publish them in a few days all compiled and with names removed of course. I also want to ask my blind friends to say great things about having friends who are sighted. Also, for blind people, what are the great things about having friends who are also blind. My friends are so amazing. Blind, sighted, all nationalities, abilities, etc. I am so lucky.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to dogs eat and drink.

My wonderful friend Gary is driving me to get dog food today. Carrying huge bags of dog food on public transit or on foot is not easy. Thanks Gary. As I was thinking about this this morning, I thought about how interesting it is to listen to dogs eat and drink. And how all of my different dogs have done so differently. All of my guides have been retreivers of some kind. Three labs and one golden retreiver. And so they have all loved their food. If I ate the same thing for each and every meal, each and every day, would I attack my food as if it was the most wonderful thing ever seen? Would I wag my tail furiously when it is presented? Would I drink water gratefully and gleefully? Not always probably. But my dogs have and my dogs do. Having two dogs now, I know always which one is drinking water. Which one is eating. All of my dogs have sounded different and done different things. My first guide Gwenny ate fast but drank slowly. You could hear the clink of the collar against the bowl. The slow steady beat of her drinking. The frantic pace of her eating. My second guide Margaret always tipped the bowl over and played with it when it was empty. Clanging it. Kicking it around the kitchen. Gia is a slow and delicate eater. She takes her time. You can hear her chewing kibbles and she drinks water at a very fast lapping pace. Faster than any dog I have ever had. Tulia eats fast and furiously and drinks with that slow methodical pace. She licks her whole bowl for several minutes afterwards and drinks a whole bowl of water with each meal. They prance around me with great excitement as I get food ready. Tulia scampers to where the food bowl will be placed, sits down beside it, and wags herself so I can hear her body swishing on the floor. "I'm sitting. I'm being good. I'm so good. Is that my breakfast?" Gia always nudges me with her golden head as I place the food down. "Yes that's right. A little faster if you don't mind?' It is a great pleasure to listen to my dogs get ready for meals, and eat and drink with such joy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A blog of possible interest


I am a presenter for a program called All abilities Welcome which is run by the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a disability.  Several people (including me) write for the blog which talks about active living if you have a disability.

To find it go to



Kim Kilpatrick

Storyteller, Presenter, Performer

Check out my web site and blog at

I am proud to be a MASC artist.

Check out MASC and my profile at

New blog about amazing things about being blind



Great things about being blind. Train travel continued. Seat assignments

I know that this would never have happened to me if I hadn't been blind. This story evokes images which never fail to bring a smile to my face. I thought of it yesterday while on the train and almost laughed out loud. Remember a few posts ago when I talked about the well-meaning airline agent who gave me a boarding pass for my dog? If you don't, read back through my blog and find it under air travel. Once in a while, people who give me my train tickets also provide a ticket for the dog. This didn't happen yesterday and doesn't always happen but sometimes it does. On one memorable day, I was given a ticket with a seat in one car and my golden guide dog Gia was given a different seat in a different car. The images flooding my mind were wonderful. The blind woman escorts her guide dog to a seat in a car. She tells the dog she can sit on the seat (my guides always travel on the floor in public transit vehicles). She tells the dog to stay and not to surf the net or eat too much. People around watch in amazement. As the food cart comes by, Gia takes almost all of the food on it. Especially the raw carrots which she loves. After the much lighter food cart has passed, she facebooks all of her dog friends to tell them of her adventures and then settles down for a well-deserved nap. This never happened of course but I wouldn't have had the pleasure of imagining it if I hadn't been blind and issued a ticket for my dog. When we actually did board the train, we both went to my car and my seat and she curled up on the floor at my feet as usual.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Great things about being blind. Sighted people who naturally know the right things to do.

I had a wonderful day today. All of it. It started out freezing cold. I was up early to walk my dogs and to get things together to leave for a storytelling/disability awareness presentation in a town about an hour away by train. I called for a cab to pick me up. I could have bussed it to the train station but it was freezing and early. The cab driver was wonderful, friendly, and pointed out where the station doors were when I got out. And he complimented me on my guide dog too. Once inside, I got my ticket. The man at the counter broke apart my tickets and said he was handing me the one for the journey back first so that I could put it away. Then, he handed me my ticket for the outward trip. This doesn't seem like a big deal but usually sighted folks just hand you the whole thing and then you hand the train people the whole ticket. It isn't a big deal but by doing what he did, he showed me he was aware of what I would need to know and I didn't even have to ask. Next he asked if someone could show me to the proper departure area. Another very nice and friendly man came and without my having to ask, he asked if I wanted to take his arm or if my dog would follow him. Once again, someone who easily and naturally knew how to help and how not to help. The people on the train were wonderful. Tulia was beautifully behaved on her first train journey with me. When I reached my destination, I was met by one of the people organizing my presentation. She too was wonderful, friendly, full of enthusiasm. She admitted that she didn't know how best to guide me but she asked what I needed and listened. At the restaurant, the food was good, the company interesting, engaged, and wonderful. One person said they expected to learn something but hadn't expected to be so entertained. There was lots of laughter and many excellent questions. The storytelling was wonderful in itself but as it often does, serves as a vehicle for disability awareness education. After we were finished, I got a ride back to the train station where (once again) staff were friendly, helpful, not patronizing in the least. the trip home was smooth and relaxing and when I got here, my wonderful retired guide was thrilled to see us back again. So thanks to all of you sighted people out there who make life so fun. And to those who make it difficult sometimes, that is okay too because you may just show up in one of my stories. Everyone today was stellar. Thanks for that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Great things about being blind. Air travel continued. Going through security

Well yes I did promise you the pilot story and we are getting to it. However, as I write, new memories come to me and I thought of a very funny one about going through security with my second guide dog Margaret. Margaret was a little yellow labrador. She was small but not as small as my little tiny Tulia dog. We worked at that time in a nursing home. I say we worked because all of my dogs did as much work as I did for sure. Seeing a dog in that environment did a lot of good for the residents. I was a Music Therapist there and inevitably when I would ask residents if they were coming to music, they would ask if that beautiful dog was going to be there. All three of my previous guides worked in this environment and although Tulia does not work there regularly, she had the pleasure of visiting while I played Christmas carols for residents in December. Anyway, Margaret and I were going through security at our local airport. Whenever guide dogs go through security, something in their equipment (leash, collar, harness) sets off the alarm. So security people have to take a look at them. Well, we went through and Margaret set it off. a man came up and said he would have to take a look at my dog. I assured him that this was fine as long as he didn't take her away from me. Just as he was looking at her, a woman charged out from behind the counter and said, "Wait a minute. That's Margaret. You don't need to look at Margaret. She is a therapy dog. and a guide dog." She worked in airport security but I knew her because her mom lived at the nursing home where I worked.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great things about being blind. air travel adventures 1.

Well I am all rested and ready to write. But before I tell you my pilot story we have to check in to fly right? Yes we do. So here is a check in story. For anyone who doesn't know this, people who are blind and travel with guide dogs have the dogs right with us in the cabin of the airplane on the floor in front of our seats. As mentioned in my previous blog, sometimes that means we get moved up to first class. Usually flying with my guides has posed very few problems even on quite small planes. One time, we were checking in for a flight. When I got to the counter, the person agreed that my guide could travel with me but she insisted that she needed some type of boarding pass. I told her that this had never been the case in the past but if she wanted to give me something for my guide, she could do so. She printed something off and handed it to me along with my boarding pass. "Make sure you show this at security," she said. So off to security we go. When asked for boarding passes, I showed both. The people burst into hysterical laughter. "who gave you this for your dog?" they asked. I told them it was at check in. "Oh I bet it's that woman on her first day." They said and told me about the pass. They said they would call and tease her but asked me to show it to the flight attendents when we boarded the plane. I agreed to this and off we went.
When we boarded, I dutifully showed both passes to the flight attendent and again there was hysterical laughter. That adventure took place with my first guide dog Gwenny. When Gwenny died of cancer, I made a special box of things for her. She died suddenly while still working. I put in a favourite, bone, toy, collar, and a few other things. One of those things was the sign from the plane. Any guesses as to what it said? Wait for it. It said, "OVERSIZED CABBIN BAGGAGE."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Great things about being blind. Sometimes flying first class.

Well, I'm back to air travel but am not telling the long story today. I was teaching a storytelling workshop all day and I'm storied out. But I promised to update this daily so here I am. Tomorrow I promise the longer pilot story. For now, one great thing about being totally blind is that your dog sometimes gets you and the dog bumped up to first class. Guide dogs fly with their partners in the plane's cabins. They lie on the floor at our feet. My current guide Tulia is much smaller than any of the others but sometimes there isn't a lot of room for the dog at your feet. Once in a while, especially if the flight attendents are dog lovers, you and the dog get moved up to first class so the dog can have more lying room. The dog does not get the better food but sometimes the blind person does. Smile. Tomorrow, I'll be much more articulate.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to dog tails wagging

Okay once again I am holding off on the airline stories. After all, I have all year to post something every day. I'm starting to wonder if I was over ambitious? Last night, my two dogs were playing. Gia, my retired guide dog who is a golden and tiny black lab guide Tulia. Their tails were wagging. It makes me smile to hear and feel dog tails wagging. Gia has a long, thin, soft golden tail with that fan like fur under it. She wags slowly. If she is lying on her side and you approach there is a slow and rhythmic thump thump thump of the tail. If she is lying on her stomach you can here a whispering swish swish swish back and forth. When she is in water and wags it, again there is a swishing sound. When she was working and it was summer, I used to love to feel that golden tail tap against my leg. Tulia has a tiny, short, broad, lab tail. she wags it faster. Thump-thump thump-thump and when she is sitting down and wags very fast there is a very fast swishing noise as she wags. She can wag her whole self too which you can feel if you have your hand on her shoulders while she does it. So when the two dogs play together you can hear various tail wags hitting the wall, clanging on the furniture, thumping on the floor. It never fails to make me very happy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to dogs walk in their boots.

Okay okay once again you are on hold with the airline material. I'm a storyteller. I know what it is to build suspense! Smile! Yesterday, Tulia wore her dog boots when we were out and about. I've had quite a history with dog boots. In fact, I have a pile of dog boots at home. Lots of colours, lots of types, but very few full sets. Until now! Touch wood. Tulia tolerates boots and even keeps them on. AMAZING! My first experience with dog boots was with my first guide dog. She hated the road salt as all of my guides have. The vet suggested to get some boots, put them on, harness her up, and go for a walk right away all the time praising her for wearing her boots. So, I did. Now, this was a dog who wouldn't wear a coat. Would actually sit down in the pouring rain until you removed it. Would refuse to walk if wearing anything more than her harness. I should have known she would't stand boots. So off we went for our walk around the neighbourhood. Every few minutes, I kept saying, "Good girl for wearing your boots." Blind rooky mistake. I didn't check to see if boots were all on. Now, this is a problem in itself when you're totally blind. It's freezing cold winter weather. The dog needs boots on. I need gloves on. With gloves on, it is as if I am blindfolded. I can't feel whether or not boots are on. In that first walk, I chirped enthusiastically, "Good good girl for wearing your boots." When I arrived home and went to remove boots, only one boot remained on a paw. So whoever heard me enthusiastically talking about nonexistent dog boots, if you're out there, I eventually figured it out. My second dog wouldn't wear boots either. Gia my retired dog (still living with me now) tolerated them but didn't keep them on well. Once, going to work in the midst of a bad snow, she lost two and work staff went out searching. They found one. In the spring, one of my colleagues found the other hanging from a bush. She almost had a car accident stopping her car to run and grab the dog boot. In the mean time, another colleague went to a pet store, found a package of three boots and begged the staff to give it to the blind woman and her hard working guide dog. He actually did. So now, Tulia will wear her boots. She has nice red ones given to us by guide dogs for the blind
But she also has purple balloon boots called pawz which she wears too.
Her red boots are ruffwear and they are very good as well.
I don't hear it so much with the pawz boots but with the ruffwear boots, I love to hear her walk in them.
Sometimes she sounds like someone shuffling their feet in bedroom slippers.
Sometimes her feet make a little pat pat pat noise on the ground.
I love the sound of it.
And yes yesterday I did the usual.
Get to a corner or somewhere to stop, pull off one glove, lean down, feel each leg to make sure boot is in place, give kibble reward to the dog, put glove on, and proceed forwards.
I've wished that someone could invent something like those strings for mittens moms used to put in our coats so even if the dog loses a boot, she doesn't. It's very cold today. You may see us. Tulia prancing and tapping and shuffling. Me, gloves off, check boots, offer kibble, gloves on. If you do see me, you could save me a little coldness by telling me Tulia still is wearing all four boots. My hands will thank you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to voices.

I know! I know! Ipromised to tell you a funny airline story but that will have to wait until tomorrow. The reason is that I was listening to some radio announcers this morning talking about how when people meet them, they say, "You don't look like what I thought you would look like." A great thing about being totally blind is that I would never say that. Smile. People are always amazed when they call me on the phone and I know exactly who it is right away. Of course I would. I know people by their voices. By the sound of their walk at times. Some people always wear certain shoes. Clicky high heels. Squeaky leather. Some people always rattle their keys in their pockets, jingle coins, some people always wear a certain scent (although in these scent free days that is not as good an indicator of who someone is) People that use a walker or cane or have a squeak in the wheel of their wheelchair I can tell by the sound sometimes. But the voice is the easiest thing to recognize. Although sometimes when I meet someone in a different environment from what I am used to seeing them in, I might take a minute to figure out who it is. Tomorrow back to air travel. Fasten your seatbelts for a great story.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Great things about being blind. Flying on planes

This is the start of a series of postings about air travel. One great thing about being blind is that you sometimes learn amazing things and get to tell others what things seem like to you. For example, for many many years well into my teens, I thought that when you fly on a plane, it takes off, nose first up into the air (which it does of course) but that when the pilot landed the plane, it touched down back wheels first. I thought how amazing that was that the pilot could do that. I thought this because when you land, if your eyes are closed, you feel like you're moving backwards. Try it some time and see if I am right. When I happened to mention this on a flight one time and was told what really happens, that was amazing too. Stay tuned tomorrow for the pilot and guide dog tale.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Great things about being blind seeing the moon

One great thing about being blind is looking at things and thinking they are awesome. Sometimes they aren't what you think they are. I've been practically totally blind since birth. I can however see light in one eye. One time when I was quite young, I was sitting on the steps in our back yard. I saw a nice bright light. It was night time so I presumed it was the moon. How wonderful! I was gazing at the moon. Just like people in novels did or the people in folk tales. I gazed and gazed and felt very awestruck and superior. My dad came out to ask what I was doing. I informed him that I was gazing at the beautiful full moon. He asked me to point to it and when I did, he informed me that I was actually gazing at a streetlight. Nevertheless, the moonstruck feeling was there! And the feeling was amazing!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Great things about being blind

One great thing about being totally blind is that you can focus on conversations without being distracted by appearances or things going on around you.

One time I was having a perfectly lovely conversation with an alzheimer's resident at a nursing home where I worked.

I was outraged when nurses took him away in the midst of the conversation.

When I complained, I was amazed to learn that they had taken him away because he was totally naked.



Kim Kilpatrick

Storyteller, Presenter, Performer

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New blog about amazing things about being blind



Saturday, January 8, 2011

Great things about being blind: being awakened by the noisy snow plough

Last night I was awakened in the middle of the night by a snow plough that was cleaning our parking lot but sounded like it was right by my head. And it went on for ages. I decided to think about a good thing about that for today's blog. Okay. One great thing about being totally blind is that when you are wide awake in the middle of the night you can:
read braille without disturbing others
Listen to audio books without disturbing others
Get up and play the piano keyboard with headphones on without turning on lights and disturbing others
Use the computer with headphones on and no lights
I pondered this blog and listened to my audio book.
I listened to the dogs sleeping peacefully and did go back to sleep.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Great things about being blind. Experiencing the snow

One great thing about being totally blind is the way I experience snow. Sure it can be a nasty thing too especially when you have to climb over mount everest's in your path and when your guide dog chooses to take the little path through the bank and waits for you to clamber over wondering why you don't just follow her through the hole in the bank. But I digress. Snow can also be tricky as it covers landmarks that you find underfoot or along your path. But, there are great things about snow too when you're blind. You don't care if snow distorts your vision. You don't have to drive in it. But also, there is the way it feels. This morning it was snowing when I took my dogs out. Little tiny prickly flakes. When I touched Tulia's back they felt like dust or sand on her fur. They fell with a tick tick tick sound on my hood. They squeaked underfoot. Those big big flakes when they fall, they feel like something gently touching your skin. Maybe like a butterfly would feel. And they feel big and fluffy on the dog's coat. And when you walk in them, it is maybe like walking through whipped cream. Huge mounds of it as it slides away as you kick it with your boots.
Enjoy the snow everyone.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

listening to conversations

One great thing about being totally blind is listening to dialogue and conversations. It used to confuse me when I was little and would be sitting in a restaurant with my family. As they would people watach, I would "people listen" The sound of a voice. The accent The tone of voice. A laugh. the way they spoke. Then, I would comment on conversations I heard. I was always told that it was rude to eavesdrop on other people's conversations. I never understood why. After all, it was just like them watching people wasn't it? Now, as a storyteller, these conversations I hear, give me fodder for stories. they make me better at composing and using dialogue. They assist me all of the time. The funniest conversation I ever overheard took place several years ago on a city bus. Two women got on and sat beside me. They proceeded to gossip for the whole ride and it must have been at least twenty minutes. "Have you seen Betty (don't remember names actually)?" "Oh yes but hasn't she gotten fat." "Have you seen Mary?" "Oh isn't it terrible. She's having an affair don't you know?" Then, luckily the best part took place just as my stop arrived. "Do you ever talk to Elizabeth?" "Oh no I never talk to her. She gossips too much." I was so glad to get off so I could laugh in peace. Takes one to know one right? Maybe totally blind people would make excellent spies. Smile!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Awesome things about being blind

My new year's resolution for 2011 is to post each day one amazing thing about being totally blind. I've been posting them on facebook but I will update here.
Jan 1. One of the most awesome things about being totally blind is that you can have an amazing looking, beautifully behaved, intelligent dog with you at all times and in all locations.
In fact, when my dog isn't with me, I find myself talking to my cane or nothing as if she is there. They are real ice breakers. Nine times out of ten, the first thing said to me is what a beautiful dog I have.
January 2, One awesome thing about being totally blind and a braille reader is that you can read in all vehicles, in all light conditions or lack of them and you don't feel sick. The only thing that might inhibit the braille reading is if your hands become too cold.
January 3, One amazing thing about being totally blind is that when it is very cold, you can pull your hat down over your face, your scarf up and cover it completely. Unlike those sighted folks traveling the world, you don't need to see and can stay warmer.
January 4, while in classes or in a boring meeting at work or seminar, you can braille things unrleated to class or work and no one will ever know.
January 5, You can leave the lights off and save electricity. This means that you are environmentally conscious and since I don't drive either I am still more environmentally conscious. One time I forgot to turn the lights on and called my guide dog down the stairs. She didn't come at first and then ambled down very slowly. I thought she had hurt her legs until I remembered the lights. When I turned them on, she bounded down the stairs. Stay tuned each day for another amazing blindness thing.