Day three was Guide Dogs for the Blind Fun Day held on the grounds of an elementary school in Oceanside. Three large puppy groups from the San Diego area were there, along with some who came down from Riverside in their cute matching blue shirts. I knew some of them because Debbie Kraimer invited them to the book signings we had at Barnes & Noble for A Gift of Dogs and Steady Hedy. Debbie was in both books, and the Riverside raisers came out to support the events. They even coordinated the transportation of my dad and me to those events all the way from Claremont to Riverside. He was in his early nineties at the time, and was starting to have trouble seeing well at night. Joann Metz picked us up and Ron Chrisman and his wife Shirley drove us home.
There were activities and new experiences for the pups such as different surfaces to walk on. Pat seemed to know everyone in the San Diego groups, and she talked many of them into purchasing all three books. Pat had been a union rep. She was dauntless, shameless, irresistible. Who could refute her reasons that they needed to have the whole picture of the guide dog experience? There was the book of interviews with my classmates telling their stories of blindness, struggles, and the life-changing freedom with their guides. There was my detailed account of Hedy’s and my 28 days at guide dog school. And there was the new book featuring Debbie’s opening remarks and Pat’s story of Hibachi. The extra bonus (and often the final, convincing selling point) was that all three of us — Pat, Debbie, and I — were there to sign the books for them. Pat had paw print stamps that she put next to our signatures to represent our dogs.
The puppy truck arrived to drop off new babies and collect the pups that were being called back to GDB for training. I wanted to see it and experience the excitement of the puppy distribution. I loved how supportive everyone was. The puppies were so little and sweet. Sharon Kret, keeper of the GDB puppy kennel, was handing out those little ones. I didn’t see her. Later, someone came by our booth and, looking at the back cover of A Gift of Puppies, asked if that was Sharon in the picture. She told me Sharon was on the truck and asked if I’d like her to tell her I was there. Next thing I knew there was Sharon, coming by for a hug. I was so happy to see her again.
Towards the end of the day, a young woman stopped by our booth, glanced through Steady Hedy, and asked if any of my books were in braille. I said no, and added that I didn’t know how to even begin finding out how to get that done. She said her name was Kasey, and it turned out she was well-acquainted with to process. She said the Braille Institute has volunteers who transcribe them. It takes about a year to get a book done. “A new book comes out and sighted students get to read and talk about it with their friends, but a blind student may have to wait several months to a year before they get to read it.” Kasey added, “If anyone is interested in becoming a transcriber they just need to contact their local The Braille Institute or School for the Blind for classes in transcribing.” She said books are divided into chapters and each volunteer works on one of them, thus making the book available sooner.
Kasey was looking for a book with a foreword, table of contents, and a continuous narrative. Why? She was working towards certification in a difficult field. She told me, “To be certified as a braille transcriber I have to complete a 30 page manuscript and submit it to the Library of Congress to review my transcribing skills. It’s a very strict process. Because my manuscript is to certify me, no one can review it, not even my teacher. Chapter 1 is reserved for my manuscript. It is very important to be a close-to-perfect transcriber because one miss brailled word can change an entire book or idea in a book. To be a braille transcriber you must be a perfectionist and review your work over and over and over again to make sure every mistake is fixed before it is embossed for someone to read. Not many people know about transcribers, but we work hours every night transcribing/editing and sometimes only get 2 pages done. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to give someone with vision loss the ability to read material.”
Kasey looked through the book in her hand. It had a foreword, a table of contents, and was a continuous narrative. To my immense surprise and delight, she chose Steady Hedy for her project. I was speechless.