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I coach two teams, I am semi-active(-ish)—per Fitbit, I’ve averaged 178 total active minutes a week for the last 4 weeks (and this is a period of time I feel rather inactive, but it still puts me over the 150 recommended minutes a week… although that is really moderate activity and mine is, um, mostly not?). But sometimes keeping it interesting is hard, and sometimes I just want to stick with the typical things because they are familiar, and familiar is easy (except then I don’t do the things).

Late last year, ParticipACTION (Canada’s leading physical activity promotion non-profit) took a vote of which physical activities were the country’s favourites—selected activities (and those voted on) range from the predictable (duh, hockey) to the “WHAT IS THAT?” (snow snake, stick pull) to the “BUT HOW?” (white water rafting, axe throwing, highland games).
These final picks are known as the 150 Play List. So now, I am setting off on doing them all. Sadly I have many from last year that I could have checked off that I have little clue how I will get in again this year (sailing?!).

Finishing week two of the year, I’ve checked three activities off the list so far (note: ParticipACTION apparently counts each time you do an activity as 1, so the site says I’ve done 7. Okay?):

1) Goalball. Well it probably is not any surprise that my favourite activity on the list got completed really early. I play goalball with the guys I coach almost every week, and last week (our first week back after the holidays) threw some pretty hard shots at me. I was surprisingly unbruised (except one tiny bruise on my hip, which I thought would be larger.)

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Doug came to goalball for our first practice back. We spend a lot of time laying around on the floor in this sport, I will be honest. Unfortuantely due to my shortness this is not actually a great defensive strategy for me most of the time.

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2) Walking. That was easy. Well, actually not terribly so, considering the dump of snow on December 26th and the lack of sidewalk clearing crews out (until Steve got on the news about it, anyways.)

3) Soccer. We only had a couple of athletes at Special Olympics practice this week, which meant that the athletes got to choose what we did. After playing floor hockey for awhile, we played soccer. My passes are as inaccurate as ever, FYI.

For the next 5 weeks at Special O, we are trying to get as many of these activities in as we can with our athletes. I already have goalball checked off, but I hope to be adding another 24 activities as we explore them with our athletes!

Now, we’re supposed to be getting some warm weather (after our wicked cold snap) so I hope it doesn’t kill off all the skating rinks or that’s going to pose a bit of a problem in regard to checking of “skating” and “hockey”…

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It’s Monday. Saturday has passed.
Sunday has passed.
Hello Monday.

My head’s been in words lately—I am not creating in colours or pictures, but in words. And sometimes that is the only creation of something I can get out because, hey, that’s work for ya. I’ll try better next weekend :).

So instead, from Sunday, here is a ridiculous panorama from Goalball, in which Gerry’s arm is falling off. It grew back, per his wife, because she was sending him out to do yard work. 😉

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Day 22 Challenge Update:

Plank: 155 seconds, day 2. (2:35)
This one felt super terrible. I’m not sure if it was the difference between doing it on carpet vs. the foam tiles in my office, but as much as I tried to correct my lumbar spine felt super concave and my shoulders and left knee felt unstable.
Tomorrow is 165 seconds. I’ve made it this far without hitting the did not complete X button in the app—I just hope I can keep that up another 9 days

Meditation: I did a 1 minute mindfulness guide last night, and fell asleep right at the end. I woke up at 9 am, about 6-6.5 hours later and I had my alarm clock running in the background, started before the meditation, and the meditation still awaiting me to hit finish! That’s what I get for FaceTime-ing till 2 am, I guess :).

Today is International Guide Dog Day! I’ve been working on this post for awhile (read: since October), but what better day to finish it and share?

Murray the service dog on his 3rd birthday

This is my buddy Murray, on his third birthday last July. I took this picture of him, a smiley-looking Black Lab in his brown leather Guide Dogs for the Blind harness sitting at a bus stop, before Murray and I were basically best friends—I’ll get to that in a minute.

Since before I started coaching goalball last October, I’ve spent a lot of time with my friends Stephen and Gerry, and their Guide Dog partners. I know better than anybody that dogs are cute and furry, and I’ve learned that they even more attractive to people when they’re working dogs and are as smart as they are adorable. As such, I’ve become that person who tells people “Please don’t pet his dog, he is working,” or informing the well meaning people who talk to Murray saying “I won’t pet him I know he’s working,” that talking to him or waving to him can be just as distracting as being touched. The guys don’t mind me doing this: they’ve both been at this for close to a decade—Gerry—or two—Steve, and I get it: it gets tiring. One thing I find never gets old, though, is hearing parents explain to their kids that Murray is a special puppy with important work to do, and that the kids are not allowed to pet him.

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Me with Steve and Murray a few weeks ago

Every person with a service dog will be different with whether or not they allow interaction with their pup while they are working—but if you really can’t resist your desire to pet the dog, ask first, and ask every time. Respect it if they say no: the dog, just like the handler, can have an off day too, where being touched may be more distracting than usual. The answer might always be no, or, it might vary—a crowded bus stop may be a no, as to not invite a parade of people, whereas if the dog is laying calmly under a restaurant table, it could be a yes (…that is, if anybody even notices the dog is there!).
And, just because someone with a guide dog is visually impaired does not mean they can’t tell when you’re petting their dog—after working with a dog for any length of time, handlers are super in tune with their dog’s movements and behaviours—they will usually be able to tell!

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Murray, who is from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA, stops to say hello to a Canadian Guide Dog in the mall. (The Canadian yellow lab is a plastic donation collection receptacle!)

Working dogs in harnesses are smart and well behaved. They have important work to do. I get it: yup, for some reason, being in uniform makes the cute-factor for these pups go up about 1000% (don’t get me started on the rain jackets). It sounds ridiculous, but imagine if you went to work and all day dealt with: “Oh, a human! Here human, hi human!” all day long. You’d get distracted, too (and God, I hope nobody tries to pet you at work…). Praise and treats are how these puppies are rewarded for their hard work—working dogs are fed specific amounts at specific times of the day, and while some handlers will allow you to give a Milk Bone to their dog if they’re behaving well in a coffee shop, often the answer will be no. Just like petting or otherwise interacting with the dog: ask first. If you’d really like to give the pup a treat, you can always ask if the handler would like it to give the dog later—the dog will be just as happy with your gift when they’re not working!

The handler always sets the rules for working dogs. This enables them the authority they need to keep their service pup working hard and focused on their job—to keep both halves of the partnership safe.

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Here comes the confession, regarding my friendship with Murray.

I am a rule-breaker.
I am that person who talks to Murray and pets him when he is in harness—when he is working. The game changer is this:
I have permission. Each person with a service dog sets the rules differently about interaction with their dog—based on what is best for them and with how the dog can handle this. The way Murray responds to me is different than he responds to other people, because he has consistently been allowed to behave this way around me—he’s a smart puppy, after all. My points here are that:
a) Steve has chosen not to correct Murray for being a little silly around me or for his response to me, and
b) We are fully aware I am a potential distraction to Murray.
Murray is serious about his work—even when he’s heeling (walking on-leash on Steve’s left side, kind of like pseudo-working?) as I do the work as a sighted guide, Murray rarely does so much as look at me, and focuses on his work even though I am calling the shots. He’s still in harness, after all! We know Murray may be distracted by me—he is a dog, after all—so it is deliberate that I guide Steve 99% of the time when I am in Murray’s sight, to minimize most risks (I say most. I mean, I do on rare occasion bump Steve into an obstacle because I haven’t moved my arm back quick enough, or sometimes Steve does not listen when I say “two steps down” and miraculously does not get injured after flying down two steps… I do try to pause before descending now! Also the dog is smarter at being able to tell if branches are Steve’s height than I am.)
When I meet up with Steve and Murray (usually signalled by Murray starting to wiggle happily, wag his tail more forcefully, or pick up speed!), I will approach, say hi to Steve, give the wiggly, happy puppy a pat and a hello, usually let Murray give my hand a lick, and then I’ll move to Steve’s right (as the dogs are trained to heel on the left). Murray then ignores me when we’re walking, aside from when we have to do a u-turn and he’s forced to say hello (I presume he’s thinking “Human, I know where I am going, figure it out!” and shaking his puppy head.)

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Fair trade, I think. I occasionally use Murray as a pillow (below), for all the times he does the same to me (above).

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It’s been about 7 months now since Murray decided he and I should be besties. The running joke now is that I’m trying to steal Steve’s dog. Back in October, Murray got sneaky for the first time—he did a little Downward Dog-esque stretch, and moved toward the middle of the table that Steve and I were sitting across from each other at—nothing unusual, the dog likes his yoga. A few minutes later, though, he did it again… this time turning his whole body around to sit beside me, facing Steve.

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Laughing, I told Steve that his dog had ditched him to come sit with me. He reached down to of course not find his dog at his side, but rather a good foot away, beside me. I laughed when he tried to hand me the leash, and didn’t take it.

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Steve’s picture of Murray sneaking away to sit beside me, top, and below, my selfie with sneaky Murray.

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Just look at that face… He knows he’s up to something 😉

It became a pattern: Starbucks after goalball (picture below)—or any coffee shop, sitting on the gym floor before goalball (out of harness). As he learned Steve wasn’t going to correct him, he became less stealthy and would just stand up and turn himself around—Steve would just laugh and shake his head.

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It’s not like I let Murray get away with anything, either—nor had I even fed him a single treat when he started sneaking over to me. I love him to bits, and especially since we’ve bent the rules here, I’m just as strict on catching him doing things he shouldn’t and verbally correcting him with a “Murray, no”, or giving him a little tug on his collar if he goes after floor food, or licks his paws/boots/fur too much, or tries to sniff random people’s shoes (he has a bit of a foot/shoe fetish, that dog).

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Shoe fetish, however, does not mean Murray enjoys his boots. He tries to lose them often—probably so all the “Oh, look, that dog has boots!” people stop discussing his boots.

I’m lucky that I get to have guide dog friends (their owners are pretty okay too, I guess ;)). So, as much as I love Murray-face and as much as it’s obvious he loves me, he knows when he’s working and that I’m not going to let him get away with much besides choosing a different place under the table (or, licking my hand depending on the circumstances… there are just some places that it’s easier to let him slobber all over my hand versus trying to prevent him from sniffing/licking at every gross thing on the ground… Steve agrees!).

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Montreal in January. Nah, I don’t spoil this dog at all. Except I did make him move to the bottom/other side of the bed because, hey, that’s where I sleep.

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Someone looks comfy… Complete with a towel blanket and everything.

And, while Steve has yet to go on a trip without Murray and me since Murray and I have become buddies, he knows he’s got another puppy-sitter. Although, on our last few hotel stays, Murray has been my roommate—the first time, it was just easier with me rooming by myself and Steve being with two other guys, the second was just for fun, and the third was this past weekend in Quebec City—Gerry had his new guide dog, Brody, too, and though well-behaved, the two dogs get kind of silly…

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Murray crashed out on my hotel bed this past weekend. It took him a bit to decide hie did not, in fact, want the pillow.

By the way, Murray knows me as Small Fry, not Kerri (useful trick: Steve can ask Murray “Where’s Small Fry?” and he’ll come find me)… and he was perfectly happy to overtake Small Fry’s bed this weekend. (That’s what I get for, after learning Steve did not mind puppy going on the bed, opting to share my bed with a 75-pound Black Lab…)

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This, in Toronto, is when he actually chose a good spot and not the middle of the bed. Beggin bacon bribery may have occurred this past weekend when he decided he wanted the whole bed…

I mean, other than that, I don’t mind—he’s a pretty good excuse to spend 5 more minutes laying in bed in the morning, as when I give him any indication I’m awake and moving, Murray seems perfectly content to engage in a brief yoga pose with his front paws to my right and back paws to my left, and then end by resting on top of me…

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Murray sometimes decides that Small Fry is comfier than the bed. This often leads to me texting Steve to inform him that sorry, puppy will not let me get out of bed.

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All in a day’s work, right? If only he actually motivated me to do yoga with him…

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You think you’re going somewhere? You’re silly, Small Fry.  My paw will keep you here.

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That’s my story about my buddy Guide Dog Murray. (Your friends with service dogs, and service dog friends may vary.)

Want to read more about Murray? You can follow him on Twitter, @GuideDogMurray. And, as a thanks for reading all the way to the bottom… Here’s Burger Face (for a period of time around Halloween, Murray responded to “Burger Face”. Silly.)

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1:12 am | kitchen. Felt like making something around 11:45. Still making something.

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1:19 am | kitchen. And this is where I stop for the night. Pleasantly surprised with how the hair is coming. (I’m responding to the “draw a song” art journal prompt I saw online, using Feels Like Forever by Lacey Sturm.)

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2:00 am | bedroom. Tweet – “1:58 am seems like a good time to buy the @Smiling_Mind book right? Yup. Now to use the app and go to sleep.”
I did not end up using the app before I went to sleep, but I did almost also buy the November Project book… I restrained myself.

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10:17 am | Perkins. Sam and I went to Perkins to plan practice, because my Starbucks card reload failed during the upgrade to #Crybucks Rewards. Starbucks is refunding it, but why would I go to Starbucks with it not resolved? So, Perkins. And these delightful crepe things filled with strawberries and cream cheese.

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12:23 pm | Kitchen. I should really just start saying office instead of kitchen. I started the process of checking off many things from my to-do list with “file taxes”. As you may recall, they’ve been done since March 12… Submitted.

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3:39 pm | Kitchen. After filing my taxes and scheduling my tooth extraction (being a grown up is AWESOME. Like I wrote the other day, I’ve got a cavity in a wisdom tooth so it gets to get pulled out. Which is better than getting it filled, really.) I got a 20 minute dance workout on. Except I did it wrong and ended with a peak heart rate… Poor music choices (actually due to the song linked above)…
Anyways, yeah, I then did another grown up activity and did some work, which involved writing a blog post about why warming up and cooling down is important, and how despite having a degree in kinesiology I’m not smart sometimes.

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6:54 pm | Special O. Sometimes, we play games like Capture the Chicken that the parents are more intense about it than the kids (it does get the athletes stoked though..!). Yes, this guy is also my sport medicine doctor. 😉

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 9:31 pm | kitchen. 4 things checked off the month’s to-do list today.

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9:49 pm | kitchen. This is my buddy Guide Dog Murray, aka Steve’s guide dog. You should vote for him in the Guide Dogs for the Blind photo contest. He’s raised $25 so far, because he’s cute (and because humans are nice).

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11:00 pm | kitchen. I had a bath, and then put on clean socks… except I have no idea why there is red on this clean sock or what it is… Obviously I was like whatever and did not like, put other socks on or anything. Maybe it’s from that string anklet I’ve got on, but I’ve had that on for, like, months.

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11:34 pm | kitchen. Classic. Cookies and milk. (There was another cookie but you don’t expect me to, like, save them both to take a picture of, right?)

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12:38 am | kitchen. Technically no longer the 12th. But still within 24 hours and back to creating stuff. Because it’s like, therapeutic or something.

Part of me has always wanted to be a camp counsellor. Two summers ago, I spent a week at camp as a one-to-one support provider. And there’s a part of me that, yes, was right before going into that: there is a lot of emotional stamina needed to invest in the kids you are leading 24-hours-a-day, and sometimes, it is hard to have that stamina all day. To be able to pour into campers in a meaningful, patient, intentional way all.day.long.

When I saw a posting for a “camp coach” position at a sports day camp for ten-to-fourteen-year-olds with autism, I didn’t hesitate much to apply. I quickly heard back, chatted with the camp director on the phone, we met to talk (remember, my interviews never really end up being interviews properly) at a Tim Horton’s, and here we are a few weeks later, the night before the last day of camp.

Day camp is way more my thing, probably, than overnight camp. I shadow-ish a camper all day, I rotate campers every day, and we have fun. Mostly. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had successes, sometimes I feel like I do not know nearly enough to do this job. I’m learning. I alternate between “it’s only a week” and “I can’t believe there’s only one day left, it’s gone so fast”. The week was packed. I think today might have been the least packed day and really not even because we went to the trampoline park this morning.

I played dodgeball on a trampoline today. I bowled with the other coaches and totally lost with a 91. With bumpers. My camper from day 1 ended up being my camper for half of day 2, and proceeded to call me a monster both days, except he also hugged me because he was so excited about how awesome the bowling alley was. My camper today resisted a lot and then suddenly became a whirlwind of engagement towards the end of the day. I’ve argued. I don’t really argue in a way that is convincing, probably. Come into the gym for two minutes and see what’s going on, just two minutes. You have another minute left to play Lego. I played laser tag for the first time (I was 28 out of 29. I’m a professional). I’ve high fived campers for giving compliments to one another unassisted. One of my Special Olympics athletes is a camper this week, and I’ve had the joy of seeing him smile as he calls “Hi Kerri!” to me whenever I walk by. I played beanbag toss with my camper today for a long time after he tried so hard to get another camper to play with him, they just weren’t interested (it’s really challenging when all the kids have all these goals they want to/should complete and yet are supposed to engage with other campers to check the stuff off their lists. I’ve watched campers practice asking one another to play, practice complimenting each other, help prepare lunch, and test themselves. I’ve watched them be happy and sad and angry and jealous. Food has been thrown and hits have been thrown—and not just in Tae Kwon Do yesterday—and toys have been thrown and things that are meant to be thrown have been thrown. My camper on Monday was surprisingly fond of Shapes (the fitness centre). Camp songs have been sung. Hello, my name is Joe, and I work in a button factory. I’ve got a wife, two kids and a dog, woof. One day my boss says “Joe, are you busy man,” I say “No, man,” He said “Push this button with your right hand. Non camp songs have been sung. Call Me Maybe?! My team got second place in a cup stacking/design tournament and we talked about good sportsmanship again. I’ve felt connected and disconnected and frustrated and elated.

And I still don’t know if it’s for me, but you know what? I’ll never know if I don’t try and I’ll never learn how to be better if I don’t try either. So, one more day, I’ll keep trying. It could be the least or most challenging day yet. And I won’t find out until I jump in there one more time, and give’r. Because hopefully this week teaches the campers a handful of the things it’s teaching me.

At least tomorrow my camper is not taller than me. Unless he grows a foot overnight, anyways—and I might not even allow myself to be surprised by that. Guess it’s called Adventure Camp for a reason. Oh, and if there’s a place to forget to take my Concerta, I guess a camp is a pretty good place—even better when your brain can switch gears as quickly as the campers’.

A camper also told me the pink space car I made out of Lego looked like it was out of Cloud Cuckoo Land from The Lego Movie.

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I’m not sure I see it anywhere:

But hey, it seems fitting. Pink fun and all.

Also I found this kind of disturbing .gif. While I’ll leave you with. Because WTF.

dinosaur and ronald mcdonald beat up batman, lego version. underneath caption reads