I have known since I was a young child that I wanted to one day get a guide dog. At that young age, I still could not truly grasp what a guide dog could do for me, but I knew that it would immensely help me move independently. After I graduated from high school in 2005, I started preparing for the time when I could finally get my first guide dog. After nearly a year of preparation and waiting, the big day finally arrived.
On April 17, 2006, I began the incredible journey of getting my guide dog
. This was a huge step for me in many ways. On that day, five years ago, my mother and grandmother had to leave me eight hours away at Southeastern Guide dog. I was terrified to have my family leave me, but I knew it was something I had to do. Bristol
My fear was quickly replaced by joy when I met my new dog. I still remember that moment so vividly. The trainers brought
into my room and the next thing I knew, I had a seventy pound dog in my lap. And that is when the fun began! Bristol
Thinking back over the last five years is something I have been doing a lot lately. With his upcoming retirement at the end of this month, I can’t help but think back on all that we have gone through together.
has taken me to college, on road trips, and much more. Bristol has even saved my life on a few occasions while crossing streets. He has been my constant companion since that first day. He has been with me through the good times and the bad times. He has been with me during my greatest triumphs and when I have been at my lowest point. He has stayed by my side during the laughter and the tears; through the times when I felt so weak both physically and emotionally that I could barely get up to do anything. He has been with me when I have felt like no one else understood me and I felt so alone and confused. Bristol
Although I am deeply saddened by his upcoming retirement, I know that it is what is best for both of us.
has been the best first time guide dog that I could ever ask for. Bristol has been telling me in his own way over the last year that it is time to let him go. It is time to retire him and let him spend the remainder of his life with my parents. He may struggle with his retirement at first, but I know in time he will adapt to being with my parents instead of me. I too will have an adjustment. I have got to go through the grief of surrendering him to my parents and then starting a new adventure with a new and younger guide dog. I have so many mixed emotions at this point. I’m looking forward to working with the new dog, but I’m also dreading leaving Bristol . Even though I know deep down that I’m making the right decision, I still have to sometimes wonder if I’m doing the right thing. I’ve had to deal with a lot of guilt over the last months about retiring him, but I am getting past it. I am now trying to enjoy the last few weeks we have together as a guide dog team. Bristol