It has been 6 months since my guide dog Danson and I were matched and started learning to work together as a team. This has not always been a walk in the park and life has made this transition more difficult than I would have ever thought. With Danson being my second guide dog I thought it would be easier this time around and I will tell you that could not have been farther from the truth.
Danson is an amazing guide, he makes life so much easier and gives me confidence and freedom that I have never felt with a white cane. When you are learning to work with a new guide dog it is a long process of learning each other’s quirks and what makes the both of you tick and what you need to be at your best.
I have been thrown some unanticipated health things and that has made this transition a little harder. I have lost the remaining light perception that I had when we were first matched and I have been on a little bit of a roller coaster with my health. Danson has taken this in stride and been there by my side through it all.
As all these changes have gone on, I am learning to trust Danson and work my routes around my home and work with zero vision. Danson is really sensitive and picks up on my fears and anxieties, and this is amazing but when I am having a rough day we as a team are having a rough day. I have found that I have more fears when I am moving about my environment and those fears can manifest more when I am having a bad day. These fears and anxiety can take a tole on Danson so it is something that I am working through and I am doing this with the support of Danson and some amazing people.
It takes a year to become a solid working team. And that year has its ups and downs. That is normal and it takes a long time to get used to each other and learn everything about them.
I am so happy to have been matched with Danson, after the early retirement of my last guide I have become hyper aware of what can happen if Danson is put in a situation similar. There are many things that can happen when you are a guide dog handler that a dog would have to retire early and the fear of that happening to Danson has made this transition along with the other things a little tricky. Danson is the right Guide Dog for me and we are working through life as a team and i am so grateful for his support and love through it all.
With the support from so many amazing people in my life we will be a great team. Having a guide dog isn’t always rainbows and sunshine but it is definitely worth every minute.
I get so many people asking me if a Guide Dog is for them or if I get a Guide Dog what are some of the things you wished you knew before you got a guide dog. I always want people to take as much information about guide dogs and make the choice for themselves. The one thing that I don’t think that I can prepare them for is the emotional rollercoaster that occurs as a guide dog handler.
There are days when it is hard, at the end of the day they are dogs and have good and bad days just like humans. You don’t meet the dog for the first time and trust them with your life. They don’t come in your room and love you right off the bat either. They are looking for who ever they loved before you to come back. When you get home it is not going to be sunshine and rainbows. There will be things you need to work through, issues that arise you never thought of, quirks that drive you nuts. The constant advocacy will get old. At the end of the day no matter how hard it is being a Guide Dog handler is the best thing I could have ever done for myself. And I hope so many others find what makes them as confident and independent as possible.
Danson and I are still learning to fully trust each other and that is hard for me this time with what happened to Rick. I have panic attacks because I am so worried when I am out that something is going to happen to Danson and he will have to retire and I will be left shattered again. I avoid the Starbucks where the incident happened to this day. But I am so happy and grateful to have Danson by my side I wouldn’t change anything. Soon we will be like an extension of each other, we are like a newly married couple right now, still figuring it out.
Until Next Time !
Ashley and Danson