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….
THE.
KNOCK.
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!

Hhowdy! Below is a post I wrote last year about an uncomfortable experience I had while taking a Lyft with Dodson on my way home from school. I’m glad to say this sort of stuff is still pretty infrequent, but it happens. My words are blunt, but they’re saying something. Please take a moment to hear me out

Hello everyone. I hope your week is going well! Guess what? It’s Friday!

Today, I wanted to write about a recent experience I had while using Lyft. For those who may be unaware, Lyft is a ridesharing service that allows for paid transportation to a destination. Unfortunately Lyft, and its rival company, Uber, are very well-known in the blind and guide dog communities resspectively, for drivers denying service animals into their vehicles.

I’m happy to report that on this particular day, I was not refused service, thankfully. But, oh how I wish I was. Let me explain.

I was extremely grateful when my driver successfully located myself and my pup on my college campus, as it was raining terribly here in SoCal. When we settled into the car, the ride was pretty enjoyable. We exchanged pleasantries, the driver asked about my major, everything was going great. This, of course, had to end, due in part to the (apparent) elephant in the Prius.

“Are you blind?” He asked. I smiled and nodded in affirmation, feeling the dread in my stomach. “How do you do your schoolwork?” I relaxed, thinking that this was a harmless question. I responded by informing him that I did my schoolwork by using a Braille display, showing it to him briefly at a stop light. I explained how I used Word and a screenreader to do my work and affectively keep up with my peers.

Then, the “question” came.

“Do you believe in Jesus?” At this point, I’m pretty sure my stomach got left behind about a mile behind us. I tentatively answered yes. This, readers, seems to be a very big mistake when interacting with uninformed sighted people.

The rest of this uncomfortable Lyft ride was spent with my driver telling me that Jesus would heal me, that one day I would no longer need Dodson, because I would be made whole again. I was so exhausted, and frankly too anxious to be indignant. I fear the utter control this driver had over my safety, so I admit that I was complacent and didn’t advocate correctly. But, unfortunately, this can only get worse from here, so….

When we pulled up to my house, fifteen minutes into the Jesus-shall-save-thee lecture, my driver ended the trip. As I gathered my belongings, he locked the car doors, turned off his car, then proceeded to ask me the Question universally recognized by all blind people as the most uncomfortable and invasive of them all. “Do you mind if I pray for you?” Before I could recover from the shock that my driver had indeed locked me in his car, he began praying. And I became angry. He asked God to join our faiths, as I was (apparently), a fellow Christian in good faith and heart. He asked God to “fix” me. Notice the quotation marks around ‘fix’.

What many people will not realize that just took place is that the driver inevitably told God that I was broken, he pulled a power play move over me as a disabled blind woman. By locking me in his car, he told me that he had control of the situation. What he failed to realize is that, in his attempts to do, what he thought was a good deed, he put me in a vulnerable position that I despise. I felt dehumanized, judged for not “working” by his, and presumably, God’s standards, and boxed in. Worst of all, I felt invalidated.

To give some background, I was born with Congenital Glaucoma, something that is not very likely in newborns. Fifty four surgeries later, I went almost completely blind in 2016. At the time, I was devastated. Frustrated, because I would never know what my children would look like, upset because my nephew had just been born and I’d never see his milestones with my eyes, and scared. Uncontrollably, bone-jarringly afraid. I had moved about 300 miles away from home a few months prior to attend school at UC Santa Cruz, my dream university. All these emotions, fueled by a late night conversation with my partner, helped finalize my decision to reapply for a guide dog. Lo and behold, two years later, I have this golden raggamuffin, (who is currently sleeping with all four paws sticking straight up like the true derp he is).

So yes, my life is immeasurably better. I do get twinges of emotion, wishing I could see in the moment JUST so I could see my nephew in his blue footie pajamas dancing, or to see my just born niecelet sleep in her basinette. But no, overall, I do not want my sight back. If I could have corrective surgery, of course I’d consider it. But my eye condition is incurable, and I’ve long since given up this notion.

So what did this Lyft driver do? Well, besides being intensely invasive of my privacy, he decided for me that I wanted to be fixed. He made a choice for me that I never consented to. Silence does not mean “yes”. Uncomfortable silences and asking to be let out does not mean “keep going, speak for me, do what you want.” My dog whining and kicking the car door with his front paws does not mean “ignore us and our needs and try to fix us.” What this all means is stop, apologize, and Let. Us. Go.

After this prayer session ended, he let me out of his car with the promise that Jesus would save me. Needless to say, I reported him to Lyft and asked never to be paired with him ever again. What many sighted people do not understand is that many blind people do not want their sight back. Are there a few that do? Of course. But our wants and wishes are not the wants and wishes of others and vice versa.

As a community, society needs to realize that not all disabled people want to be “saved”. If you want to take that route, consider that God, or whomever you worship, made us this way because They wanted it to be. What’s even more possible is this: if you must, pray for us in private. Do not back people into a corner and use your able bodied self and ideas to further push the envelope. Trust in us that we know we are a minority. Always remember that your beliefs and your abilities are not the only ideals that exist in society. Remember that figuratively backing any person into a corner and continuously pushing your ideals onto them until they crumple beneath your will, is, and will always be, harassment.

As I conclude this piece, I want to leave you with this idea. What if a blind person cornered you and prayed to God or whomever their preferred deity, to have your abilities taken away? It’s angering, invasive, and feels like you’re being harassed, doesn’t it? Exactly. Safe travels, my loves.