Amazing Roselle – Hero Guide Dog

Roselle – Hero Guide Dog

Michael Higson was reuinted with Roselle, a female yellow Lab at the start of 2001 when he was 50. She had been trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind. As he got to know her, Michael’s appreciation for Roselle grew. When she was “off duty” she had a pixie sense of humor, and liked to
steal Mike’s socks. But when she was working, she’d throw a
switch and she would be all focused in her work.

They became a team. Michael would direct her and she would
safely guide him. Michael would take her to work every day. She would guide him to his office building, walk him to the elevators. Mike would feel the braile bumps to select the correct floor, and up they’d go. When they got to his desk, she would lay down and wait patiently at his side until he needed her.

Nine months later, on an early weekday morning, Michael
couldn’t see what happened, but from the shaking of the
building that he felt and the explosion that he heard, he knew
something major had happened. Then he smelled a strong gasoline odor.

As an ex-California resident familiar with earthquakes, he
only knew that the rocking office tower “was in terrible trouble”.
Mike talked to David and Frank, the two people in his office
who had already arrived, and told them to “get out of there”
and to take the stairs “because he believed the elevators
surely wouldn’t be working”. He still had no idea what had

He called his wife to tell her that there had been and
explosion in his building and that he would be home as soon as
he could. He grabbed Roselle’s harness to tell her that it was time to
work, but Roselle already sensed this. While Frank described to
Mike how flaming debris was falling outside the windows,
Roselle led Mike “through the disheveled office and,
eventually, to the stairwell.” “The crowds weren’t huge at
first…but as we started making our way down, they got
bigger.” The temperature in the stairwell started climbing
above 90 degrees. He was sweating and Roselle was panting.

The smell of gasoline got stronger when they were a third of the way down.  Soon he felt people bumping into him and Roselle, but
they were going the wrong way – they were heading up. “I heard
applause and was told they were firefighters…I clapped a few
on the back, but I was scared for where they were going.”

The temperature in the stairwell kept rising as people opened
the stairwell doors to enter. Mike “wasn’t sure he would be
all-right. The stairs were thick with people clambering down –
not stampeding, but moving quickly.” And he was increasingly concerned about Roselle who was was feeling the heat and panting heavily, her throat also  irritated by the gasoline fumes. No air was circulating in the stairwell, All the way down, his co-worker Frank had stayed with Mike and Roselle. It took them 50 minutes to
descend the 1,463 stairs to the lobby. In the Lobby, there was water on the floor from broken pipes. Roselle stopped to drink it to cool herself and get relief for her enflamed throat. It took another 10 minutes to get out of the building and onto the street.

The plan was for Frank was to get his car and drive them away, but that suddenly changed. Mike heard a crumbling roar above and behind him. “It sounded like a metal and concrete waterfall. We
started running for the subway”. Around them were shrieks of
terror but Roselle focused on her task. Mike kept his instructions to her simple – right, left – and a police officer steered them to the subway.

When they emerged,Mike was told that the North Tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed and the top of the South Tower was on fire. “It was unbelievable,” Mike said, “I felt lucky to be out of there. But I wondered about the fire fighters” who had climbed up past him in the South Tower. Twenty minutes later, the South Tower collapsed sending a fast moving, blinding cloud of “ash, glass and debris” towards them. A woman who was near them couldn’t see with this stuff in her eyes, so Roselle and her blind owner helped her get to safety. Everyone and everything was covered with this soot. “If Mike could have seen her, Roselle had become a gray Labrador.

Since no trains were running that day, Michael and Roselle
stayed at a friends’ house in Manhattan. He was able to return
home the next day to his wife and emailed all those people who were
concerned and were waiting to hear from him. Two of these
friends who saw the television reports were Kay and Ted Stern who had met him and his new puppy Roselle back in 1998. Kay and Ted helped train Roselle to be a Guide Dog. Mike also contacted the San Rafael based Guide Dogs for the Blind who supplies Guide Dogs for blind people around the country to let them know that he and Roselle were safe. Their spokes-person said that Roselle was the first puppy the Sterns raised to be a service dog. “The Sterns for their part, said that Mike and Roselle’s story inspired them to continue working with service dog. ‘We’re training our fourth dog now… but Michael’s story sure gives us a lot of validation.”

You can read the full story in Michael Higson’s book Thunder Dog.


Canción de Cortez

Once in my lifetime, the planets aligned –Alignment

my heart, soul, body, and mind –

I  committed completely my life to the risk,

and firmly hold the hot torch afire in my hand,

Burning Ship

walking inexorably to the beach,

ready to burn all my ships,

mis ojos te buscan…

McBane – Detector of Ovarian Cancer

McBane – Learning to Identify Ovarian Cancer

Top Secret Writers, August 2013

Dogs have an incredible wide range of talents. They have the capacity to be trained to detect glucose levels in diabetics (see article on Dakota), bladder cancer based on the smell of a person’s urine, lung cancer and melanoma. Now, the University of Pennsylvania is researching the ability to train dogs to detect ovarian cancer. There is currently no test or diagnostic tool to discover ovarian cancer. Those who are diagnosed early are typically identified by physicians who recognize possible changes during normal examination.

Out of the 20,000 women diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, 60% aren’t diagnosed until the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body. 14,000 American women die each year of the disease and it is the fifth cause of cancer deaths in women. If patients are diagnosed in the early stage of ovarian cancer, they have a 90% increase in the 5 year survival rate. What makes it so “difficult to diagnose is the lack of specific symptoms that would alert the patient”. The generic symptoms are weight gain, constipation and bloating, and an increase in the frequency of urination and are common to other illnesses or even to changes in daily habits.

Previous research has shown that Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), better known as “odorants ‘are altered in the earliest stages of ovarian cancer, even before the cancer can be detected by current methods’ “. Several department of the University are working together to train dogs, since they were eight weeks old, to distinguish between blood and tissue samples of healthy individuals and cancer patients. The goal is to get the dogs to recognize the signature scent of ovarian cancer. The scientists plan to “incorporate the dog’s sense of smell in developing a screening process that will combine chemical and nanotechnology”. The hope is that this technology will then be “capable of analyzing the patient’s odorants to detect early stage ovarian cancer. One of the dogs, so far, has a 90% accuracy rate.

Dakota – Living Health Monitor

Sarah Forgany, KHOU TV, San Antonio, May 2012

At the tender age of 17 months, Ben Ownby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which can become deadly, so, it has to be monitored hourly. It is important if the sugar is either too low or too high. Ben had to receive seven or eight shots of insulin a day to survive, and he still had seizures.

As Ben was growing up, a cute brown Labridoodle named Dakota, was being trained as a guide dog by the Guide Dogs of Texas in San Antonio. He didn’t, however, pass the demanding final requirements, but with his good scenting ability, personality and temperment, Dakota was retrained for months to detect glucose levels and became a scenting, diabetes alert dog. Dogs have over 200 million scent receptors in their noses compared to a human’s five million. “When blood sugars begin to fluctuate, the human body releases chemicals that change the body’s smell”. It’s unnoticeable to the human nose, but to a trained dog, “it’s an alarm.”

Dakota became Ben’s dog three years ago. They’ve been inseparable since then.  “He can tell my blood sugar by the scent of my breath”. If the blood sugar is too low, Dakota will jump up on Ben. If it’s too high, he’ll nibble on Ben’s wrist band to signal that Ben needs to use a traditional machine to measure his blood sugar levels.

Ben woke up in the middle of the night and found Dakota standing on him and looking down at him. Ben got up and tested his blood levels and found it was low. “He’s usually very accurate.”
Dogs “can actually detect a rise or a fall up to an hour before you know it or your meter would catch it” said Cherry Campbell, with non-profit Warren Retrievers in Virginia.

Dakota even helps Ben’s classmate. “He’s come next to me to signal that I need to check my blood sugar” said a class member. “I have been low.”

Ben’s father, Bob, said that “it was love at first sight.” Dakota helps us with the “safety of our son” and provides us “a sense of security”.

“There’s an undeniable love and bond between Ben and Dakota – a friend and a partner, who may one day save Ben’s life”

Life – Thursday Thoughts

It’s late. Just finished the next episode of a program I got addicted to, Scandal, about which I now feel very mixed. The characters started out wearing white hats, and they are all turning out to have done major sins that are starting to out-weigh their virtues and attractiveness. The show is now getting to be more of a display of cleverness rather than heroic virtue. It’s still captivating.

At the end of the show my dog, Awesome, fell asleep and started to do something that made me wonder when Advertising and big Pharma are going to get together and put on late night TV commercials asking:

“Does your dog’s snoring keep you awake at night? If so, give him K-nine Kno-snore. Not recommended if your dog suffers from thirst,  seizures, flea bites, leg humping, allergies, hunger, liking to be scratched, or low testosterone. Caution: Side effects of Kno-snore may include, but are not limited to: heart attacks, strokes, hair loss, hives, gout, puffy lips and dry skin.”

A suggestion about your significant other: Find out what makes her/him tick. The pattern is ask a question, pay attention to her response, and then give something back to her about how you feel about the question. The key part is to pay attention to not only what she responds with, to but also HOW she responds e.g.:
Is her response quick – like it is something viscerally close to her feelings, or is it a slow response like it’s getting thought out? Did her energy level pick up or was is a flat response? Did her eyes open wider or remain the same? Did she animate more – like using her hands to express herself? Did her breathing pick up or remain level? Do her eyes and face seem happy, or agitated, or unengaged?
Pay special attention to what animates her and gets her juices flowing – those are the things that are close to her and make her happy. Notice what they are.

Also, by paying attention to her tone, pacing, breathing, energy, you can sense when she is making a decision. I remember setting up a time to do explore a possible business opportunity with some other people. I got the date of my free day reversed and she couldn’t reschedule to join me on the changed day. Since I no longer had another person going with me, I reviewed my priorities, and thought I could better spend the time finishing another activity before starting a new endeavor.

When she and I talked on the phone a day later, she asked if I had gone to talk to these people. I told her I hadn’t, and I could tell by her voice that she was disappointed that I hadn’t done it. A red flag went up as I “heard” her making a judgement of some type about it. I usually don’t feel the need to justify myself, so I let it go by. In retrospect, I should have focused my attention on the flag and asked her why she sounded disappointed and taken the opportunity (never let a crisis go to waste) to discuss it and explain the circumstances to her. You’ve got to try something to find out if it works.

Another suggestion: If there is something that is important to you that you want to ask her/him about, but you feel awkward cause you don’t normally talk about the subject, or don’t know how to ask it, don’t delay until you figure out a best way to do it – it’s better to just go ahead and ask her. It may be ill-formed, and not in the way Shakespeare might have asked it, but go ahead and ask. You will be able to replay it later in your mind and figure out how the Bard would have said it, but if you don’t ask, the moment will have passed, and you didn’t get your idea or need out there. Not throwing it into the conversation will end up making a much more awkward situation. It will set off her female antenna and she won’t know what it is she’s picking up. It’s a lot easier, and safer, simply asking it.

Regarding asking, I read today that the word courage, derived from the French word for heart “coeur”, had an original meaning of “speaking one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” The writer, Brené Brown, continues: “Asking for what you need is one of the bravest things that you’ll ever do”. What is in one’s heart can be a statement or it can be a question. Stating what’s in one’s heart does take courage. That’s something I want, and need, to consciously practice.  We should all work on building that muscle.

Have you ever wondered why some things that seem so right, that fit so well in so many ways, that really “should be” – fail to thrive and survive,
and other things that are odd fits, that struggle, that appear “on borrowed time” – can’t seem to be killed regardless?

A prayer:
God, I am a wealthy man (thank you) but I am not a rich man.
Please send me a woman who is either too rich, or too poor,
to care. Or just a woman, neither rich nor poor, who simply doesn’t care…
(and help me surprise her about the rich part).
Thank you for listening.

Life – Wednesday – Odds and Ends

A tip – for when you are doing repetitive exercises that get challenging towards the end. Say you’re doing 50 pushups. It gets tough when you’re in the 40’s because you remind yourself that you have already done 45 pushups, then you’re doing a 46th push up…

Instead of this, count backwards. When you’re in the last tough ten of the series you can focus, not on the difficult road you have traveled, but on the small remaining task – eight pushups diminishes to seven, then six (and you know you can do six), five – you’re almost there, four- you can do this, three- I can do three!, two – I can do this, one -just one more – I’ve got it!!!! Yes!

President Lincoln had a lot of wisdom. Two of his quotes that I like are:

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”


In her enjoyable book Happy for No Reason, author Marci Shimoff observed that people seem to have an internal “happiness thermostat”. They can win the lottery or lose a leg, and after a while the euphoria or depression dissipates and they return to their normal state of happiness.  I think Lincoln and Shimoff are both right. I try to be conscious of my own state of happiness and make the conscious choice to keep it up (especially if things don’t go as I would like them to go).


 Lincoln was not a good looking man. With today’s emphasis on telegenics, he would never be elected today.  In the Lincoln – Douglas debates, Senator Douglas accused Lincoln of being two-faced. He responded:

“Honestly, if I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one?”

I had the great fortune of meeting a person who astounded me. She was a person who inspired one to think about the possibilities of life. She was intelligent, happy, immensely curious, artistic, an explorer, willing to try out new things, up for adventure. Being around her was interesting and exciting and joyful. Old dreams that had been dormant began awakening. Things that were “just thoughts” began to look like they could  become very do-able realities that I wanted to make happen. She was also a very “planfull” person. Her life was more organized than 95% of the people I know, complete with goals she had chosen for her life.  I thought to myself that “this is the way I want to approach and live my life”. I am truly grateful to have had my life changed by getting to know her and seeing how she LIVED.

There’s the old joke:

If a man speaks in the woods and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?

Some advice to guys:

1. If your gal ever asks you what can be done to improve the relationship, and you answer what you think, and she responds “is that all???” (see joke above), do not be defensive or sit there like a bump on a log. Turn it around into a great opportunity and ask her what she would like to happen to improve the relationship. Another situation is that if (when) you screw up, accept that you did it and honestly tell her “I’m sorry. If I could do it over, I would do it very differently. I can’t change the past, but I can change the future. Next time, how would you like me to handle/do it?”(and do it that way). It could make a huge difference.

2. If you are fortunate to wake up next to someone you love, take the time to softly wake her with a massage starting where her neck and head join, move down along the shoulders and down the shoulder blades, down both sides of the spine, hips, butt, thighs, calves all the way down to the heel and sole of the feet. (Don’t get distracted). She’ll love you for it and it’s a great way to start the day.

The Beautiful, Odd Couple

People – Pets , May 1, 2012

Tanner had ended up at the Woodland West Animal Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The good people there felt sorry for him. Tanner was a golden retriever with some major strikes against him. He was blind. On top of that, he was epileptic and suffered “horrifying seizures” almost every night. Although only two years old, he already had two previous owners. The people at the animal hospital were thinking that euthanasia might be the most humane act for him.

But all that changed when another dog had the terrible misfortune of getting shot. A one year old, scared, street dog named Blair was brought to the Woodland Hospital after the shooting. There, Blair and Tanner met. “The connection was immediate.” Dr. Mike Jones, the hospital’s director, noticed a miracle. He said. “It probably took us a few weeks to kind of go’ You know what? Tanner’s not seizing and Blair is getting [less skittish].’ ”

Blair acts as Tanner’s guide dog and leads the way by holding Tanner’s leash in his mouth. And Tanner is a calming influence on Blair, who was highly anxious after his shooting. Everyone at the clinic has watched their unusual friendship blossom. Tanner stays “pretty close to Blair” and will actually follow his lead. They both now share the same pen. Blair seems to be the balloon in the relationship and Tanner the string.

The local TV station reported on the canine Odd Couple, and adoption offers flooded in. The Clinic is taking its time to select their new home. Given their ages, “this is a relationship that’s going to be ten plus years, hopefully” says Veterinarian Jones. “We’re looking for that needle-in-a-haystack type owner that will be able to handle” the inseparable pair.