Sunday, August 12, 2012

Diesel: The Dog Who Continues My Independence

A year ago today, I flew home with Diesel, my new and very energetic second guide dog. At that time Diesel and I were still trying to figure each other out. One thing I knew for certain was that life with Diesel was not going to be dull. And I have been right about that.

Diesel was only eighteen months when I received him from Pilot Dogs. When he was first given to me, he was very difficult to handle. He did not know who I was and as a result acted like a wild animal. Thankfully, a lot of his out of control behavior diminished some after a few days of being together.

Once we got home last summer, we immediately had to begin working on my college campus. A new dog and a difficult path to a class meant that I had a difficult and interesting few weeks.

The biggest challenge however, was not the new school year, but adjusting to Diesel. He is so different than my first guide dog. Bristol was so calm. Diesel has a lot more energy and has a tendency to get over-excited. But with time, some of that over exuberant behavior has calmed down.

A year later I am beginning to enjoy working with him. The bond was slow to come this time. I know that part of that stems from losing Bristol so suddenly. I didn’t have time to grieve before I had to begin training with Diesel. My heart was not in it at first.

In fact, I questioned last summer whether I was ready for another dog. But I knew that without a dog, my life would be more difficult. A guide dog gives me so much more freedom than a cane does. My friend Jill has helped me to understand that I have to think of the positive aspects. Yes, I will inevitably have to go through another devastating loss. I hope that that is years from now. The reward of having a guide dog is stronger than the painful loss though. I know that throughout my life, I will have many dogs to keep my life interesting and fun.

So how has Diesel changed in the last year? As I’ve already said, he is calmer. When I first came home with him, I couldn’t touch him without him going crazy with excitement. Today I am able to sit down beside him and pet him without being jumped on. He has also become more loving. At first his excitement level prevented much affection between us. Now I can reach down and hug him.

One thing that has not changed, and I’m glad it hasn’t, is his fun personality. Ever heard of the class clown? That is Diesel wherever he goes!

The last year with Diesel has certainly been a fun one. We both have changed in so many ways. I hope to have many more anniversaries with Diesel on August twelfth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life After Bristol

This time a year ago, I was in Columbus, Ohio receiving my second guide dog. I was still reeling from the sudden death of Bristol from cancer. But as I quickly had to realize, life had to go on.

Even in the midst of grief, I was happy to have a new guide dog. Last summer, I wasn’t even sure if I would have a dog in time to start school again. I had a lot of feelings of hopelessness last summer as I waited for news about a new dog. My friend Jill insisted that I would know that I had a dog by her birthday which is on August twelfth. She was more than right.

I not only had a dog by her birthday, but I was flying home with him to begin our lives together. My guide dog’s name is Diesel. He is an energetic black Labrador Retriever. Life with Diesel is certainly been interesting so far.

It has been a year since I last posted to my blog. A lot has happened since then. I will be sharing with you all that has happened since the loss of Bristol. I still miss him. The pain is still very much at the surface, but I also have a lot of things that bring me happiness.

In his final days, Bristol gave me a gift. It was through his illness that I gained an incredible friend. Jill and I knew each other before his cancer diagnosis, but it was as I struggled to cope with the diagnosis and the inevitable loss of Bristol that Jill became more than a friend to me. Jill was with me through all of last summer and is still one of my closest friends. She is more than a friend to me. She is like a second mother to me. I have a connection with Jill that I do not have with anyone else. She will be mentioned frequently as I recount all of the events that have occurred in the last year.