A Day in the Life for Saint and Dusty

Hello, Everyone! Saint and Dusty here. Every day is a blessing for us and even though we have gone on a lot of adventures in our time, it’s the average ones that stick with us the most. Every day begins and ends in Mummy’s bed. On days we stay right at home, usually we hop on
the treadmill for a little walk (or jog) to keep our hearts healthy and our legs strong to stay in shape. Usually Mummy just works at her desk the whole time while we do this. If we have to go to campus, we then ride the lift downstairs and help Mummy get ready and then we load up in
Miracle and ride to UMPI.

Once we get to campus, most times we will stop by Mummy’s office and help her take off her coat and gloves when it’s cold. Then we make our way down the hall to the classroom and lie down on our bed at the front of the class. Sometimes we sense students looking and smiling at us, sometimes not. Sometimes we fight with each other over who gets the most space
on the bed, sometimes we don’t. A lot of classes involve a lot of Mummy speaking but also a lot of conversations between students and Mummy and students with one another. Each class seems very talkative. Although there are those few times a year when a movie is played and the room
gets very dark. Those are always the best days for sleeping.

After the classes are over for the day, we go back down the hall to Mummy’s office while she stays for a while working on her computer. Our bed in her office is right under her desk so we can be close to her. Sometimes guests will stop in and make things a little more interesting. Some nights Mummy is there very late working, reading her students’ work and giving them

Once we get home, we do everything in reverse, going back up the lift and back into bed. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. We will finish this blog by saying something we’ve heard Mummy say in her classes before. You can have good days and bad days, but most of the time you just have days.

Our Story of Abuse

Hello everyone! Saint and Dusty here.

Today, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on something that happened this semester. While Mummy was with her students and her focus was on their work, we experienced abuse from a student we had thought was a friend. We are very good dogs and would never do anything to make a scene such as barking for Mummy’s attention while in a meeting. In fact, service dogs like us are trained not to bark and we take that training very seriously.

So, when a student came up to us and tied one of our gentle-lead-nosepieces to one of our vests, we became stuck together in an awkward position until the end of the meeting. We might have been stuck for a longer time if a couple of Mummy’s other students had not stayed behind and realized we needed help. Mummy was very upset that we had been treated that way because she knew we did not do anything to the person who tied us together.

We decided that we should share what happened to bring some awareness to the issue. As services dogs, we will not defend ourselves, so unfortunately this means people could get away with abusing us. It hurts knowing that people might abuse us because we love everyone so much. If it can happen to us, then it can happen to any service dog. Even though there is an ADA law that protects us, abuse can still happen. We feel grateful that Mummy was there and that the abuse did not escalate any further. Other service dogs may not be as lucky. So, Mummies and Daddies, please be aware of the company who is around your service dog or fur baby because we cannot tell you if they harm us.

Here is a picture of the newly broken plastic hook on our vest that the gentle lead was tied to.

Until next time. Take care. Be well. Hugs and wags.

Saint and Dusty

Mummy and My Adventures in Denver

Hello Everyone. Saint here! I’m sorry that I’ve been out of touch for a little while. Mummy and I have just been so busy with adventures. But I didn’t want you to worry, so I thought that I would catch you up a little on our time in Denver.

We went to Denver so that we could attend the GlobalMindED annual conference. The conference focuses on helping First Generation and At-Risk students. Mummy learned a lot and got very inspired. I learned, too. But, just between us, I also did take some naps during the presentations.

I was quite a hit at the conference. And you know what? There was another service dog there, too: he had a visually impaired mom. Mummy was the only one who had a beautiful wheelchair, though.

Mummy and I are not really city folks, but as far as cities go, we liked Denver. We made sure to drive into the city in the early afternoon to avoid rush hour. (Why do they call it “Rush Hour”? No one rushes then, that’s for sure.). We found the hotel pretty well, but finding the parking was a challenge. We got that, though.

The people at the Sheraton were so nice. We did find that our accessible room had some major issues, though. The bathroom did not work well for Mummy and most of the things in the room that she wanted to control—thermostat, draperies, clothes rod—were out of reach. There weren’t any automatic door openers on the outside doors, either. Mummy talked with the management to explain the issues. We hope that when they remodel the hotel in the fall that they will fix the problems.

While we were in Denver, Mummy called our next planned stop, the Super 8 in Casper, Wyoming. She was disappointed to learn that even though she had made the reservation for a wheelchair accessible room, gotten a confirmation and held it with a credit card, they had given our room to someone else. I could tell that Mummy was worried. She wondered where we would find a place to stay at such a late date. Wyoming isn’t a very populous state, so our options were limited. After a lot of calling around, Mummy found us a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Cheyenne.

We found a nice park—the Civic Center Park—a few blocks from the Sheraton. So Mummy and I would walk there every morning and evening. It had gardens, statues, fountains.

While we were in Denver, we had the chance to reconnect with some folks from Mummy’s past.

On Thursday evening, we visited with one of Mummy’s former students from the University of North Dakota, Michael Tanner. Mummy hadn’t seen Tanner in 12 years. He teaches kindergarten near where we were staying. It was wonderful for Mummy to have the chance to catch up with him. He and I got along great, too.

Michael Tanner, Saint and Mummy in the Lobby at the Sheraton in Denver--6.6.2019

Then on Saturday, before we left for Cheyenne, we had a chance to visit with Mark Yaeger, a friend from Maine. We became friends with Mark when we were first going to start hiking. We hadn’t seen Mark in a couple of years, so it was wonderful to fill in the blanks. And he even cleaned our windshield for us (we had every bug from Maine to Denver stuck on Miracle).


We don’t have many more visits lined up. But maybe we’ll make some new friends. And I know that we’ll have lots more adventures to share.

I’ll try to blog again soon. Until next time, hugs and wags.


Some Adventures Getting to Denver

Hello, Everyone. Saint, here! Mummy and I have been having so many adventures. I will have to write for a very long time to document everything. But for now, we just wanted to share a few.

It’s such a privilege to be able to drive across the United States. You can’t really grasp what a big country this is if you fly. We’ve driven through some big cities—Chicago, Omaha. We’ve seen all kinds of farm and range land.

Mummy’s ancestors walked partway across the country to Utah. We learned that Iowa City, Iowa, was a prime location for the Mormons to get their pushcarts and continue their journey to Utah on foot. That was very moving.


We also had a huge treat in Iowa City. One of Mummy’s former students, Jackie DeMolee, works in the registrar’s office at the University of Iowa. So we were able to stop and visit with her for a few hours. Mummy hadn’t seen her in more than a decade and I had never met her. But we took to each other right away. I can’t wait to see her again.

Saint Gives Jackie DeMolee a Kiss, Iowa City, Iowa--6.4.2019

When we got to Lincoln, NE, we learned that even though we had a reservation at the Red Roof Inn and had held it with a credit card, they had put someone else in our room. It was the end of a long, hot day and we really just wanted to rest. The lady at the desk was nice and called around and got us into another motel.

Mummy was a little nervous about driving into downtown Denver. The traffic is pretty different from northern Maine. But we made sure to get here before rush hour and really didn’t have much trouble. After we checked in, we found a nice park nearby so that I can walk and do my thing.

Saint and a Lion in Civic Center Park, Denver--6.6.2019

Mummy’s looking forward to learning lots at this conference. I figure that I will get a chance to catch up on my sleep. I try to pay attention, but all that talking makes me so sleepy.

I’ll try to write again soon to keep you all posted. In the meantime, hugs and wags.


Pumping Gas

Hello Everyone! Saint, here.

Tonight Mummy and I are in Morris, IL. That’s a little beyond Chicago.

Today we drove across Ohio and Indiana. It was beautiful farm country. There were lots and lots of trucks on the road and much road construction, so we pretty much just chugged along and didn’t get many photos.

In Indiana, we stopped at a rest area named for Ernie Pyle, a famous war correspondent during World War II who reported on the infantry and was killed during the battle of Okinawa.

Driving through the outskirts of Chicago was pretty exciting. I have never seen so much traffic. I don’t know if Mummy was nervous. I wasn’t nervous, though. I trust Mummy to get through anything.

One of the big achievements for us so far is that Mummy has been able to pump our own gas. Now, most people probably don’t really like to pump their gas, but for them it’s not a big deal. But for people in wheelchairs, it can be a very big deal. Gas pumps usually have a concrete curb around them to protect from being hit by a runaway car. These curbs used to be too wide for Mummy to get close enough to reach the pump. So when we travel, Mummy has always had to go into the gas station store and get someone from inside to pump for us. Most of the time people are pretty nice. Sometimes they are not. They seem to think that Mummy is annoying. And if there is only one person working in the store, we sometimes have to wait a long time.

So before we left for this trip, Mummy worked really hard to try to strengthen her arms enough to lift the pump. And so far, she’s done it! Also, the newer pumps now have a cutout that’s perfect for a wheelchair to get closer. Mummy says that this makes us a little freer.

Who knows what adventures lie ahead? I’ll try to keep you all posted.

Wags and hugs.


Celebrating My Friends

Hello everyone! Saint here. I hope you’re all doing well, and if you’re in school, I hope your finals went well! I don’t really know what they are, but Mummy has a bunch of friends over during finals week and they talk about the semester and how it went. I like having all these visits with my friends. We get to hang out and have a bunch of parties in class. It’s really fun! After the spring semester, my friends in Mummy class who have been here for a really long time have a Graduation Ceremony. That’s really fun to go to, because I go with Mummy and dress up in my outfit that Mummy calls a cap and gown. I get to dress up like my friends who are at this ceremony and show them that I am proud of them. I get to see all my friends get these papers that means that they have done a good job.
We get to take pictures with everyone after the ceremony. Mummy is always a little sad about this, because some of my friends who go to this ceremony never come back. Mummy says this is because they are going onto something better. Sometimes they do come back and it’s really great to see them again and see how they are doing! I’m always sad to lose my friends, but knowing that they are going onto something better makes me happy for them. That’s it for now. Hope you are all doing well!

Greeting Accepted Students

Hi, guys! I recently went to Accepted Student Day at UMPI. It’s where people accepted to the school get to come and meet with professors, learn about campus and interact with clubs and students. Since Mummy goes to meet potential students, I get to go too. It was really fun this year, it was great last year too. Mummy, some of her students and I all went to greet new people interested in UMPI. It was really great meeting so many new people. They all seemed excited to meet me too. Mummy and her students explained to accepted students what we do in the PCJ program and in the U Times. It was nice hearing them explain all the great things we’re doing for the community and the experience mummy’s students have gained along the way.
Some parts were a little slow for my taste because I’m already an expert when it comes to what goes on in PCJ classes since I’m in them all. Since I already knew about things, there were some moments where I was able to catch a few quick naps, which was just what I needed between all the excitement. Everyone else stayed very busy though, moving around campus and interacting with one other. I can’t wait to see all the new students next semester. I sure will miss them until then though!

Facebook Live

Hello, everyone! Saint here. Tuesday was a super exciting day for Mummy and me! After a full day of going with Mummy to classes and seeing all my friends, we had something else very exciting to do! Some of Mummy’s students came to Mummy’s office to see us and we did something called a Facebook Live Event. It was a lot of fun, except for the fact that Mummy put me in my booties and coat, but I didn’t mind too much. Mummy got me those booties a few years ago because the snow and salt hurts my paws. Mummy always looks out for me: she’s the best!
During the Facebook Live Event, Mummy and her students talked about BEYOND LIMITS and they asked a bunch of questions about me! Mummy kept on saying that the Live Event was about me, which was very exciting. That’s why she had me in my winter gear. One of Mummy’s students dressed in his winter gear too, so I didn’t feel too bad about having it on.
During the Live Event, I kept on running over to my bed because I was SO TIRED, but Mummy kept telling me no, and I’m glad she did. Even though it was a long day, I had tons of fun!!
I do need to get lots of rest though because Mummy and I are going on a big adventure next week. We’re driving to Kentucky and going on a hike! Make sure you stay tuned for that.
Have you guys ever done a Facebook Live Event? Do you have any Winter Gear? What do you Love about Winter? I love you all!

Rocky and Her Friends–Nicola Dragonetti

I first heard about this opportunity one day in class. Mike handed me an article and said “Read this. I think you might find it interesting.” I read the article about Dr. J and her dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail and immediately decided that I wanted to be a part of this experience. When I started telling my friends and family that I would be carrying someone while hiking, they all had similar reactions: they thought it was an awesome idea but said I was crazy for wanting to do it. After hearing everyone’s reactions, I started thinking that maybe I shouldn’t go, that I wasn’t strong enough to survive 10 days on the trail. But I didn’t let my fears stop me and before I knew it, I was on my way to Shenandoah National Park.

On the first day, before we left the campsite, we practiced carrying Dr. J. Even just walking around a few feet was difficult and my fear about not being able to do this came back. But it was too late to back out and I knew that this experience would be worth it. My first rotation of carrying Dr. J on the trail consisted of a rather steep incline full of rocks (which turned out to be a recurring theme for me throughout the trip, hence my trail name Rocky). I had to take a few breaks to catch my breath, but I made it through my 10 minutes with less difficulty than I had anticipated. As the days went by, things started to go more smoothly, and you could see the dynamic of your group changing. We started out as a group of random strangers, turned into a team that had to work together, and eventually became a family.

We encountered many different people throughout our hike, but there was one couple that sticks out in my mind. The couple was curious about what we were doing, so we explained that we have a group of six but only four of us carried Dr. J. The man asked the guys how long they carried for and they said 10 minutes. Then the man turned to me and asked the same question. I just kind of laughed and said that I also carry Dr. J for 10 minutes. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys, so I’m used to being the only girl participating in physically demanding activities. Before this point in the trip, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was the only female in the group that was carrying Dr. J. I didn’t start this adventure with any specific point to prove, but I showed that women can carry someone up a steep mountain full of rocks just as well as men can.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with which to share this experience and I wouldn’t change any part of it. Being able to spend 10 days in the wilderness was rejuvenating and reminded me to appreciate the simple things in life. The hike was difficult, but I learned that with teamwork, dedication, and encouragement, any goal can be accomplished. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to go on this adventure and meet such amazing people. And to all the people who said I was crazy for doing it, yea maybe I am a little crazy. But you don’t get this type of experience unless you push beyond the boundaries of what you think is possible.

It’s All About the Journey: Travels With Dr. J. and Saint—The First Week of Hiking — Part 6

After Heidi left us we did more hiking. We were coming to a trailhead to meet Honey and Bear and get some supplies. We also heard that there was some trail magic—a place that was offering a hiker feed. An older man, Jeremiah, and his younger male companion came up looking for us. Honey had told them about us. Jeremiah wanted to try carrying for a while. I was concerned about him. Jeremiah is not a young man and was quite heavyset. I was concerned about the strain that this was putting on him. He made it for about seven minutes, which was remarkable. Then we asked the young man, Justin, if he wanted to try. He hadn’t really thought about it, but stepped up and did well. Their rotations really helped out the Clemson Crew.

When we got to the trailhead, it was time for a break. Jeremiah is part of a group that has some hiker hostels along the trail. Here they had taken a double-decker bus and fixed it into a hostel. Everyone went over to check it out. I stayed put on the tailgate, grateful for the break. The rest of the gang had something to eat and drink, including an unusual tea. They also met some more of Jeremiah’s group, including his wife. His wife came over to meet Saint and me. She had a connection to Maine, so wanted to make herself known.

The crew was tired and there was a ways to go to get to a good camping area. So, again, we thought that we should get a ride for a mile or two. But in this area, the road was paved and had a speed limit, so sitting on the tailgate would not be an option. We thought that we would need to travel in two groups, with one going ahead to wait until the next one could come along. But, as always, we were lucky. There was a woman there who knew Honey and Bear—she had stayed with them some years back. (Honey and Bear are always meeting people whom they have helped along the way.) She offered to take some of our group to our next jumping off place. She was doing this with her own car, just to be helpful, and wanted nothing in return.

We got a ride to Neels Gap. Some of our group checked out the supplier or used the privies. Then we hiked to our camping spot for the night: Bull Gap. We got there with plenty of daylight to spare. This was fortunate, because it gave time to set up camp and send people on a rather long walk for water. It also may have been here that the line for our (Hopper, Saint and my) bear bag got tangled and broke. So from thereon, we used the Clemson Crew’s bear-bag line.

Bears are an issue along the AT. They can be attracted by anything with a scent. So one hangs one’s food and toiletries and cook pot in a bag suspended on a line from a tree limb high enough and far enough out that bears can’t reach it. There are some parts of the trail where bear canisters mandatory. Many hikers try to avoid these sections and also think that they are capricious—do the bears know where the regulations start and stop? :>) The bears are lured by easy food. But this harms everyone, especially the bears. Bears that eat trash don’t live as long. If they become aggressive, they may need to be killed. So there are people whose summer job is chasing bears, trying to re-instill fear of people into them. They may make loud noises at bears, bark at them, may even shoot bean bags at them. We never saw any bears during our stretch of hiking. And Saint would be a good deterrent for me. But we didn’t want to tempt the bears and make things more difficult for them, either.

By the third night, the hike was taking a toll on the kids, in particular. Some were getting serious blisters. They were consuming ibuprofen. But they remained game. We sat around a campfire that night with others whom we had not known. People were interested in what we were doing. One of my favorite moments from that experience came when a young man said, “That’s so great. I hope that when I’m really, really old, someone will carry me.” I’m not sure if he thought that that was what would make him unable to hike. Or if he thought of me as really, really old. Regardless, I did laugh inside. One doesn’t get a big ego on the AT.

Along the way, the four Clemson students acquired some trail names. When we had started, Hopper asked them if they wanted to pick a trail name or just let it happen. They decided to let it happen. Jimmy became “Gold Member.” That came about because he split his pants early on from the crotch all the way up the back. He tried to repair them with duct tape and all that we had available was gold. Brad had several names. Most of the Clemson called him Triple B. His name is Frederick Bradford Bradley. Sean mistakenly thought that his first name also started with a B, so called him Triple B and it stuck. I called him BOS—Buns of Steel. That’s because early on he said that the muscles in his buttocks were on fire. All the kids learned how useful Tiger Balm can be. Lindsay was the only girl and has a high-pitched voice. So she became Screech. Philip also had a variety of trail names. The one that seemed to stick the most was Philbo, at takeoff on Bilbo from Lord of the Rings. I had told the kids early on that I identify strongly with Frodo—a small person leaving behind his beloved county and off on a great adventure. So Philbo seemed particularly apt.

To pass the time as we went along, we would tell stories. I told the students many stories from my life and also about Saint. They said that my voice was soothing and kept them calm and upbeat. I wound up telling the same stories many times because some of them would be out of range and I would need to catch people up. I also tried to learn about the kids and their stories. This was more challenging, because they would be already exerting hard by carrying and could get out of breath. I did manage to learn a bit, though.

Jimmy is a self-made man. He hadn’t really thought much about going to college. He joined ROTC in high school and it changed his life. So as he got near graduating, he began to consider going to college: ROTC would pay his way. Jimmy is a business/human resources major and a junior and 21. He wants to become an officer in the reserves and go into HR to help people. He credits ROTC with helping develop his character. He also does some work with athletics, helping out at games.

Philip was the youngest. When we hiked, he was 19, although he turned 20 a week later. As the youngest and the shortest male, he was an object of good-natured teasing. He was also often the quietest. He has a sweet temperament and a huge heart. He is majoring in mechanical engineering. The others teased him that he was just going to be a fancy mechanic. He also did not know a popular meme based on Dr. Phil—“Meet me outside—how bou tha”–much to the delight of the others. But he stepped up big time when needed.

Lindsay was also a junior and a nutrition major. She is one gutsy lady. She joked and said that being with the guys was like hanging out in a locker room. She probably had the least outdoor experience of anyone. Sean took her for a hike one weekend day before our trip to see how she would do. He gave her a heavy pack to carry and reported that she did fine but that she never stopped talking. She is a chatterbox, but it helps pass the time. Her parents were concerned about her going on the trip, but she decided to do it anyway. She took her turn in the rotation and a few times even exceeded 10 minutes. Lindsay has a heart of gold and is a great believer in true love. When Hopper shared some of her background, Lindsay said that she was the most interesting person that Lindsay had ever known. But we countered that, really, everyone is interesting. Lindsay just got a chance to know more about Hopper. On the trail, people will share the most personal stories to help pass the time. A lot of the façade of civilization gets stripped off on the trail.

Brad was the oldest of the four: 24. He was working on his second bachelor’s degree. His first was in chemistry. This one is bio-chemistry. He was going for a second because he said that he had too much fun the first time around. At one time he had worked in an emergency room and seen quite a slice of life. That influenced him to want to become an ER doctor. He had two older sisters (twins?) who had also attended Clemson. He shared an apartment with one of his sisters in Clemson. Brad was largely putting himself through school. He worked full time for a men’s clothing store. Brad was the fashion plate of the group. He had many, many suits, sports coats, slacks. I was entertained one day listening to Brad give Philip clothing advice. He was talking about his ostrich leather shoes, among other things. He talked about hanging a suit jacket on a cedar hanger to absorb perspiration and help it keep its shape. He explained quality belts and how one should never wear black with brown. When Hopper talked about how few clothes she had, Brad said that that kind of made him question his wardrobe. But that did not last. He got discounts on the clothes and was built like a model: tall and slim. He was about 6’2” and weighed around 140 pounds. He liked to dress up and stand out.

I also learned about men’s jewelry from Brad. Clemson is very big on school rings. One can get them in various metals. Brad had one and the other students expected to get one as well. Brad had a mid-range ring that cost $1,000. Students get their rings in a ring ceremony. That’s when Brad got his first suit. He liked cuff links with shirts. And a wealthy, childless uncle had given him a vintage, refurbished Rolex watch. He didn’t have these things on the trip but wore them afterward when we saw him.

Brad had been quite a baseball player in high school. He and his dad had thought that Brad might make it in the pros. He was a pitcher with a very fast ball. But he tore up his shoulders so that dream did not come to pass.

Perhaps because he was a little older, Brad seemed to be the most immediately reflective about the trip and his transformation through it.

By our fourth day, Thursday March 23, our little bad was hurting. Hopper’s knee was very swollen. She has arthritis in that knee and will probably need to have it replaced. Sean seemed in the best shape—at least he wasn’t sharing his pain. Lindsay was rolling her ankles. Brad’s shoulders, never in good shape, were painful. But his feet were more problematic. He had a split toenail, nasty blisters and an angry blood blister. We tried emergency foot care, including using duct tape. But things were tough. One of the biggest problems was that we weren’t moving fast enough to get to more water. There wasn’t a trailhead to which Honey and Bear could take us that would get us close enough that we could reliably make it. No one wanted to stop. But we couldn’t go on without water. And we didn’t want anyone to get hurt. So we reluctantly decided to get off the trail that afternoon. The kids were relieved but also sad. Jimmy seemed to take it hardest, apologizing for letting me down. I needed more time with the kids and a chance to explain that no way did these folks let me down.

Our next blog will be about camping with the kids back in Dahlonega and then finding our way to and a place to stay in Clemson, SC. Until then, take care. Be well.

Dr. J.