Hi everyone! It’s Thursday! I need to write this because I’ve been swearing up and down that it’s Friday and not wine o’clock. Sadly, like most 2000s Lifetime movies, that only seems to happen on Fridays after 5. So, instead, Continue reading “#UltimateBlogChallenge Day 16: What They Didn’t Teach Me At Guide Dog School”

Boy am I behind on the #UltimateBlogChallenge! Howdy everyone! I apologize for the late post, yesterday was a whirlwind of spoiling Dodson for his fourth birthday, learning how to use my new Instant Pot, among other things. I wanted to post another post that never made it online. To celebrate my furry love’s very special birthday, here’s the story of when I met my first guide dog, Dodson!
Hello everyone! I am back after a much needed break while I worked on my studies and took care of my mental health. For the most part, my life has been extraordinarily boring, except for the latest (and greatest), change in my life. So without further ado……
Welcome to the family, Dodson! Dodson is a 57 pound, 2-year-old happy go lucky, fluffy, cuddly golden retriever. He also happens to be my guide dog. Yep, your girl finally went and did her long awaited, (approximately 18 month waiting), formal two week training up in San Rafael with Guide Dogs for the Blind. I recently graduated with Dodson on Saturday, June 23 on GDB’s campus, surrounded by friends, love, and SO MANY EMOTIONS, AHHHHHH!
There is much I want to talk about, including the school, my experiences, everything. I will save all of this for later. Right now, I want you to just get a glimpse at the marvel of my life with Dodson, (so far).
On Monday, June 11, 2018, I waited in Suite 112 of GDB’s San Rafael campus with bated breath. I was on the phone with my (then) boyfriend and frantically chatting messages to my friends on Skype, telling them that my instructor was on his way with my puppy. CUE PANIC! Every three minutes or so, I would glance at the clock, fiddle with my digital recorder, and twist the brand new leather leash that my RA had given me to do the CEREMONIAL LEASH CLIP when my dog was introduced to me.
I glanced at the clock: 1:10 P.M. I knew my instructor had said he would be coming around 1:00, so where was he? He only had to give another guide to my classmate and myself, so what was taking him SO LONG!!!!!! (I know, overdramatic, right?) In the Skype group, my friends were taking bets on gender, name, and sex. I was desperately afraid of getting a guide named Fred. I mean really… I couldn’t imagine myself on a street corner going, “Good job Fred! Good boy!” I couldn’t do it with a rolled up rug that was in a harness called Juno, I wasn’t going to do it with a Fred. I know, high maintenance.
I glanced at the clock again: 1:15. COME ON, WHAT IS TAKING YOU SO LONG! As I paced my room, feeling frantic as my hands worried over the leash and I stopped paying attention to Skype and my phone, I began to worry. What if, after all those Juno walks and obedience training from this morning, my instructor couldn’t find me a match? What if he was taking so long because he didn’t know how to break the news to me? And what if, the overwhelming fear that I had been feeling for almost two weeks prior to class… what if my dog hated me? These were some of the things swirling in my mind as I decided to change my shoes. Now, I fondly remember waking up at 5:30 that morning and while getting dressed, I said out loud, “I wonder if my dog will think I look good in this?” I KNOW, THE CRINGE IS REAL. It was like auditioning for the Bachelor, you guys. VERY HIGH KEY EMOTIONAL.
After plopping down on my bed, I placed my binaural mics behind my ears, fiddling and pressing buttons until I was all set up. And then….
I hung up the phone, jumped to my feet, and even before my instructor could get through his whole sentence, I wrenched open the door. Then… I heard nothing. No panting, no claws clicking on the ground and no tags jangling. I immediately began to despair. But my despair was cut short when my instructor asked me to take a seat in my low armchair before he brought a surprise in. With bated breath, I hurried across my room and sat, expectant. Suddenly, this great big flurry of fur, tail, and tongue exploded into the room and headed towards me. I just remember my jaw dropping and my instructor laughing as this great big fuzzball collided into me, nearly rocking my chair backwards. “Meet Dodson, 57 pounds, 23 and a half inches, golden retriever and son of Maureen and Partner.” But I could barely hear my instructor anymore. I was overwhelmed. I was getting kisses and love and just… this amazing buzz of energy through my veins from the presence of this four legged creature. With trembling hands, I clipped my leash to the live ring on his collar as my instructor knelt to unclip his. Then I threw my arms around Dodson, the best thing of my entire life. He was so excited, tail wagging, tongue lapping at any opportunity, just this burst of sunshine that blazed into my room. I was in love.
After my instructor left to give us some alone time, I cuddled and snuggled with my brand new pillow puppy. He was so energetic, that I decided to heal walk him around my room, giving him pets and loads of love along the way. I think we were so entranced with each other because neither of us realized that the closed door was fast approaching. We both unwittingly slammed into it, and I burst into laughter and tears, because this dog was for me. He was equal parts calm, quirky, sassy, and just all around the best thing ever.
And so it began our adventure. For two weeks, we trained, got to know each other, got comfortable with each other’s likes and dislikes. He loves tug toys and interactive play. He doesn’t run around a lot. He knows when I want business and when I want cuddles. We get each other. Now I am not going to say that this wasn’t challenging. It is hard to blindly (quite literally), put your trust into a dog. It’s weird when you do your first walk together and you feel the way he moves and the harness handles in your grasp. It was also hard to give him corrections or to pattern stop or passable clearances that he still managed to run me into. No matter what he did, incident or not, I couldn’t find a flaw in Dodson. We were often found snuggling with each other in GDB’s downtown lounge in San Rafael, or with him patiently at my feet as I did homework while I waited my turn to do routes. Nonetheless, Dodson is my main squeeze.
Above all, what was hardest for me with Dodson was getting comfortable enough to set my introverted, shy and easily embarrassed self aside to kneel down on the street corners to give him some love. I would give him a food reward and a few pets and “good boys” here and there, but I was soon taught that Dodson needed a big red carpet event as his praise. (I told you he was a diva) This boy needed chest rubs, butt rubs, and some kisses and ear scratches to get his tail wagging and his confidence booming. And I wasn’t comfortable with that. I am shy, so putting myself out there and making me be obvious to other people was what was hindering me the most. I was used to giving dogs love, but not to a Dodson extent. After several reminders from my class instructor and supervisor though, it got better. It got immensely better.
By the time graduation rolled around, I felt like I had been with Dodson my whole life. When I went out without him, I found myself reaching out for his warm, comforting presence and was immensely sad when I didn’t find him. Graduation was amazing, full of lots of tears, happiness, and just… wow. You could feel the emotion in the air. Everyone who held that mic cried, not joking. This just goes to show the power and care and just… overwhelming love that Guide Dogs for the Blind provides. I can say with certainty that GDB was my Great Miracle of 2018. They gave me love, support, strength, confidence, and most importantly, Dodson.
I will continue to write, including my experiences with GDB, their services, and my continued adventures with Dodson. I would like to publicly extend my wholehearted gratitude to Guide Dogs for the Blind for taking such good care of me and my pup as we trained, and for having such a loving, caring community that I am proud to be a part of. I would also like to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you to Dodson’s puppy raisers, Chloe and Tyler. I wouldn’t have him without you. And finally, thank you to everyone at Guide Dogs for the Blind for being the place where not only long-lasting partnerships, but also long-lasting friendships are made.
If you’d like to learn more about Guide Dogs for the Blind and their amazing team and community of volunteers, visit their site. And if you happen to find yourself in Austin Texas, give a shout and a wave to the Austin Texas Puppy Club and Dodson’s raisers for the loving sweet boy they’ve raised. Happy birthday, Dodson!