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.