My plan for this week was to write a blog post about the trip Hanni and I made to Fairview Elementary School last Monday, but wouldn’t you know it. I got scooped! A story in the local Trib describes our trip to Mt. Prospect, Il far better than I ever could. Aside from two teeny-tiny numerical errors (Hanni and I have been together eight-and-a-half years now, and our walk to the train station in Chicago is only 12 blocks) the story is perfect!
On Monday, February 22 local author Beth Finke visited with grades 1,2, and 3 at Fairview Elementary School in Mt. Prospect. Because Beth is blind, she was accompanied by a furry, four-legged friend. Hanni, a ten year-old golden retriever/yellow lab mix, has been Beth’s guide dog for the past seven years.
After navigating a 16 block walk from their apartment in Printer’s Row to the Ogilvie Train Station, Hanni and Beth were picked up at the Mt. Prospect
station and headed to Fairview where Hanni made herself comfortable on the Library Resource Center rug. The students were enthralled with the adorable
dog, but Beth made sure they understood that when a guide dog is wearing a harness, it is working, which means no petting or feeding from anyone other than the owner. Guide dogs are performing important work and cannot be distracted while in the midst of their duties. To demonstrate Hanni’s remarkable skills, Beth had Hanni lead her through the crowded LRC to the door and into the hallway by uttering just a few commands. Once the harness came off, however, Hanni became a playful pet, rolling on her back for a belly rub.
Told through Hanni’s eyes, Beth’s award-winning children’s book “Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound” illustrates the special relationship she shares with her trusted canine friend. LRC Director Laurie Oh read the book to all classes to prepare the students for this visit. Beth brought a special braille version of the book to Fairview and showed the kids how she reads with her fingers, a skill she is still learning. Beth lost her sight at age 26 from diabetic retinopathy. Beth had to learn a new way of living and her positive attitude has no doubt helped. She developed lots of little tricks like putting safety pins on all her black shirts or using rubber bands to distinguish between lotion and shampoo. When asked about not being able to see people and what they look like, she said she can tell a person’s beauty by the kindness he or she displays.
The story gives credit to Betsy Griebenow, the kind and beautiful volunteer who arranged our visit and picked Hanni and me up at the Mt. Prospect train station. It ends with a quote from April Jordan, Fairview’s principal, saying how much the kids benefit from cultural arts programs and meeting authors.
The Trib writer didn’t have column space to list all the fun questions the Fairview kids asked after my presentation, so here’s my favorite: “How do you know if you picked a four-leaf clover?”
I must have picked one that morning without knowing it. Hanni and I sure were lucky to spend our snowy Monday safe and warm with that beautiful bunch at Fairview.