Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Very Special Day

Today is the third anniversary of when I flew home with Diesel. That day was one of rejoicing and of new beginnings.


Diesel and I have grown so much over the last three years. When he first came home, he was a very high energy dog. He was only nineteen months old. He is now four years old and much calmer.


Walking alongside Diesel has been an adventure. There have been moments of laughter and tears. But regardless of the emotions, it has been a wonderful three years.


Diesel and I have done so much together. He helped guide me through the remainder of my undergraduate studies. He is now helping me navigate the exciting world of a Master’s program in social work.


Our bond is strong. We now work well as a team. Experience has helped Diesel become a wonderful guide dog. His skills are superb. Add in his hilarious personality and it is a journey to remember.


I hope to have many more adventures with my lovable and goofy guide dog!


Today is special to me for another reason. Diesel’s homecoming fell on my best friend Jill’s birthday. This is significant to me because she believed that I would have a guide dog by her birthday. I did not think that was possible. Not only was it true, but I flew home with him on her birthday. So happy birthday Jill. Thank you for bringing me hope when I thought there was none!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bristol's Legacy

It is difficult to believe that it has been three years ago today that my beloved first guide dog Bristol died from cancer. That time in my life was one of the hardest. Upon reflection, there were also a lot of good moments.


Bristol touched the lives of almost everyone he encountered. It was only after his death that I truly understood the magnitude of Bristol’s presence in the lives of everyone he met. Everyone loved Bristol. Bristol helped give my sister the inspiration to get her guide dog Beacon. He comforted people by simply walking into a room. His goofy facial expressions and personality made almost everyone he met smile.  


I am calling this post “Bristol’s Legacy”. Bristol’s work continues three years later. He gave me my first experience of freedom in April of 2006. Through Bristol, I learned that I could navigate the world independently. He taught me to trust. He was everything to me.


I was devastated when I found out he was dying. He died with dignity. During the last month of his life, he was able to do many of the things he loved most. He was able to be a guide dog. He visited many of his countless friends.  On the last day of his life, he played fetch with my dad. Playing with a tennis ball was one of his favorite things to do.


Bristol gave me so much during our five years together. Even in his death, he gave me a remarkable gift. It was through his death that I got to know my best friend Jill. I credit Bristol with how quickly we became such close friends.  Bristol’s final gift to me is still an integral part of my life today.


Bristol brought my family together. My family banded together to cope with Bristol’s cancer and eventual death.


As many people know, Bristol was an awesome dog. I want to thank everyone who helped train him over the years. The trainers at Southeastern Guide dog did a wonderful job with him. I want to thank his puppy raisers, Carolyn and John. They dedicated two years of their lives to raising him from a puppy to a confident two-year-old guide dog to be. Without their hard work, the trainers would not have been able to hand me a wonderfully behaved and superb guide dog.


I still miss Bristol. I will always miss him. He was my first guide dog.  It was through my wonderful experience with Bristol that I had the courage to get my second guide dog Diesel. Bristol’s legacy is Diesel. Diesel continues what Bristol began. Diesel and I have a great working relationship thanks to all that Bristol taught me over the five years I had him.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interactions with guide dogs

Over the years, people have had various reactions when seeing my guide dog. I want to take the time to tell readers about the best ways to interact with a guide dog handler.


Guide dogs are not in public places to entertain people. They have a special mission. The guide dog helps a blind or visually impaired person navigate independently. How the public responds to a guide dog team can either help or hinder them.


Guide dogs are supposed to be ignored when they are working. This is not to be mean to people, or the dog. It is for the safety for both the handler and the dog. If a guide dog is distracted by another person, he or she may lose focus and the handler and/or dog could be injured. People may ask if they can pet the dog. Each guide dog handler responds differently. Some are strict while others are more lenient. Please do not be offended if you are told that it is better if you do not pet the dog. The decision has nothing to do with you.


As for me, it depends on the situation I am in if I allow my guide dog to interact with people. I do allow people to pet my dog in some situations.


Another thing that frequently happens to me is that people will address the dog before speaking to me. Some people do not even acknowledge my presence. Keep in mind, the dog would not be in front of you if the handler was not there. So please acknowledge the owner and ignore the dog. As already stated above, if asked the owner may allow you to pet his or her dog. Please do not assume that it is okay to address the dog by name or reach down and pat the dog on the head.


Many guide dogs are affectionate. My guide dog is very loving. He receives plenty of attention while out of harness. While in harness, the dog still receives attention and praise from the owner. The dog loves to help the handler so please be courteous and help the dog successfully guide the owner.

In upcoming posts, I will write about other questions that I receive about working with a guide dog. If you have a question about guide dogs, feel free to comment on this post, or any future posts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Two Years Later

Wow! Has it been nearly two years since I last wrote on my blog. A lot has happened in those two years. My relationship with Diesel continues to improve. He is now a wonderful guide dog and comical companion.

In May of 2013, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in philosophy. In the fall of 2013, I entered the Master’s program in social work (MSW). I am currently a year into a two year program.

I will use this blog to tell stories about my journey with Diesel. I will also share my experiences in the master’s program and any other interesting life experiences.