One Year !!! I can not believe it has been one year since I was in Portland having the emotional roller coaster journey of a life time. It was this day one year ago that I was sitting in my room at Guide Dogs for the Blind waiting for my trainer to bring me my new partner. I had so many emotions going on I didn’t know what to do. I sat on the bed, then I would pace the room I was a mess. I was trying to think about what my dog would be like, would he like me, would he fit in with my kids and husband, would he be happy living in Canada with me. My palms were sweaty, my stomach was in nots like I said I was a mess.
After a few minutes I could hear the knocks on other peoples doors and the happy exchanges going on as well as the clicking of the dogs paws on the floor outside in the hallway. I remember thinking don’t come to my room yet I am not ready. Then the knock on my door, I took a deep breath and opened the door. My trainer was there with my new partner in crime. She brought him in my room and explained wheat he looked like that he hwas a yellow lab that was quite blond in colour and he was 72 pounds. He was not hyper at all. I was petting him and he let me but he was very concerned with where my trainer was. She explained that his name was Rick and she had been the one that did his formal training so he was a little attached to her. I put my leash on his collar for the first time and my trainer left. Rick went to the door as soon as it closed and sat there waiting for her to come back. I tried to pet him and make hiim feel better but he simply laid on the floor facing the door, every time he would hear his trainer’s voice in the hallway his ears would perk up and he would sit up hoping she was coming back for him.
Rick and I seemed to get along ok he laid on the floor at my feet and didn’t seem to care what I was doing he was always watching the door for his trainer to come back into the room. Every time we would enter a room I would know if she was there without her speaking since Rick got very excited. Needless to say for the first couple of days I was concerned if this was going to work.
We started going on our routes and doing some work and slowly we started to bond and develop a relationship. The time I was there flew by in no time and we were standing on the graduation stage in awe that we did it. There were many times in training when I thought I am not cut out for this guide dog business.
I remember doing a sidewalk less route and breaking down in the middle of the route because I felt like I was in the middle of the street, I didn’t have that tactile reassurance from my cane telling me it is ok you are right by the curb. That was a rough day for me, and also a turning point for me. That was when I had to let go and trust that Rick would do what he was trained to do and keep me safe. This was reinforced when we did the traffic day. I was the only one in my class that was getting their first Guide Dog so everyone else knew what was coming, when I found out they were going to try and run us over I almost lost it. I thought you are out of your bloody mind. But there was no backing out if I wanted to graduate this had to be done. We survived and I learned that I was not too young to suffer a heart attack and yes I can move quickly.
It amazes me what Rick has done for me over the last year, I feel like I have come so far and really become a new person. I was always worried about people knowing I had issues with my vision and hid it for so long, now that is not the case I am proud of where I am today and what I have accomplished. I went into my training with Rick quite shy and reserved always worried about the street crossing, people around me, would I fall would I run into things was I safe. Always worrying and now I want to go go go, I hate sitting at home I want to be out in the world doing what I want and making a difference. Rick has done more than given me back my mobility but truly given me the life I always wanted but was to scared to go for.
I will forever be grateful to the trainers and staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Boring Oregon, Rick’s puppy raisers and anyone who shaped Rick into the amazing dog he is today, and the friends that I made in that life altering two weeks !
We survived the first year ! Bring on year two !
Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick