The latest #edublogsclub challenge was released this past Tuesday. The prompt was simply: “Write a post that includes an image.” That seemed simple enough to me. I put images in my posts all the time, at least just one. There was some guiding text with the prompt as well to help generate ideas of what to write about, and I knew instantly that I would share about my favorite photo editing tool, PicMonkey. I was thinking about how I wanted to frame the post when something rather sad occurred in my life. I then debated on if I should bring that to my blog at all, if it was relevant, or if I should just do as I often do and pretend nothing sad at all has happened. So I will warn you reader, this post is not going to be a cheery one. It is going to be an authentic one, that will serve many purposes, including that of the prompt this week. So if you are not in the mood to read something sad, or you are simply looking for a quick photo tip, then it is best you read the next two paragraphs and skip the rest.
So I will start with the photo tip up front. PicMonkey is a web-based image editing and creation tool. It is free for basic features and has a small cost for extended features, which I highly recommend. I first learned about PicMonkey from Second Life blogger Strawberry Singh. Second Life is the 3-D virtual world I have been involved in since 2007 and that I blog about separately. If you are curious about it, Strawberry has all kinds of useful posts and videos that explain it all, so feel free to explore that if it interests you.
PicMonkey was a blessing for me. I had been attempting to learn and use Adobe PhotoShop and as with most Adobe software, learning it in order to be able to use it effectively can be rather time consuming. PicMonkey did pretty much what I wanted to very simply and I then lost all desire to learn and use PhotoShop. My life had been simplified! I have used PicMonkey to write on photos, to place frames around them, to add filters, to make banners for my website and for my YouTube channel…PicMonkey has been indispensable!
Now onto the photo and story.
My 13 year old Labrador Fiona passed away Thursday night. Some might react, “Oh? your dog died? I’m sorry” and move on. Those of you who are, or have been, pet owners know it is much more complex than that. I am of the camp where our pets are a part of our family. They are loved and they matter. You do whatever you can for them to keep them comfortable and happy. Dogs are very special creatures who can truly bless our lives with their presence.
Fiona was the last of a very special kind of dog in my family. She entered my life as my second guide dog puppy in training. I had been a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar, CA. I had puppy raised a German Shepherd I got to name Frieda, Fiona was my second, then I had a black and tan Lab named Riva. None of my puppies actually made it to be guide dogs, but they sure did try! Frieda had an aggressive streak so she was not allowed to continue in the program when she was 6 months old and I got to adopt her. Fiona was considered for their breeding program because she was so well tempered and obedient, but she failed the dysplasia test (elbow or hip, I don’t remember which) and I got to adopt her too. Riva made it all the way to being turned in for official training, only to demonstrate mild aggression in harness and be offered to me for adoption as well. They were my guide dog pup trio. I adopted them all. Frieda and Fiona became therapy dogs. The only reason Riva did not is because my son had been born about that time (Riva’s birthday was my my son’s predicted birthday…he arrived 6 weeks early). I had to put Frieda down at 7 years old due to severe spinal cord issues. Riva died suddenly at 10 years old. Fiona outlived them all.
Fiona was an amazing dog from start to finish. She was the one I brought with me to my first school board meeting when myself and another teacher/puppy raiser in my district petitioned them to create a board policy allowing service dogs in training and therapy dogs on our school sites. Which the board ended up doing. Fiona then began to come to school with me as a guide dog pup in training and eventually as a therapy dog. I had her in class with me for years.The kids read to her and wrote to her. I created my own little books of the kids photos with Fiona and their words. It was my “Dogs in the Classroom” series. Kids at my school (DGE of course, see my post on Leadership if you don’t know what I am talking about) knew me as the teacher with the dog and there was no getting anywhere quickly. Everyone always wanted to pet and hug and generally love on Fiona and I never denied anyone that treat. When I retired her so I wouldn’t lose my mind trying to take care of an infant and manage a therapy dog at the same time, the kids were sad and often asked about her. She would come back for visits here and there. She loved school and she loved the kids.
Fiona was a change agent and she showed me how much dogs can do for others first hand. My life has gotten too busy to truly dedicate to the raising of another service dog puppy, but I highly recommend it.
We have the next generation of dogs at home now. When Riva passed I allowed my son to select our next dog. Since I am so techy we had to do that online of course. We used Adopt-a-Pet and my son found Dot, who just so happens to share his exact birthday. That fact gave me the chills as we did not know that beforehand. I only happened to notice it when I was signing the adoption agreement. It was clearly meant to be. Four month old Dot was too much energy for the then 12 year old Fiona, so I used the site again to look for a Lab mix (I am personally partial to Labs thanks to Fiona and Riva). I could not find what I was looking for so I turned to Purebred Breeders (who apparently now is known as PuppySpot) online and found Ryker, who was flown to me from Texas. Ryker is a handsome red lab that I have big plans for. He only just turned one and has a lot of training ahead of him, but I would love to bring him into therapy work once my doctoral studies are done. For now, my son and I attend obedience classes together with Dot and Ryker. Its a mother-son activity I really enjoy.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I welcome your comments about PicMonkey or your own dog/pet story or whatever strikes your fancy!