On July 20th 2008 I received one of the greatest gifts in my life my Seeing-Eye dog a German Shepard named Robin! We worked for about 8 and a half years before she passed in December of cancer. She worked up until the end we took it easy the last 6 months, because I knew something was wrong just had no idea it was cancer until about the last week. For this post I want to focus on the first days and months after receiving Robin, because I think people would be interested in that. Some of the things I’ve said before, but hopefully you’ll learn something new. Before I start my girlfriends first dog that passed celebrated a birthday a few days ago. Even though I didn’t get to meet you I hear stories, and I bet we would have been great friends so happy birthday Alice!
I got to New Jersey on a Saturday in 2008. For the next day and a half, we would walk where trainers would watch your pace, personality, and get to know you. You got your dogs on Monday back then I think it’s changed I will soon see hopefully, and blog along the way. On Monday after lunch we all went back to our rooms, and waited to be called in to receive your dog. I remember that moment being nervous not sure what to expect. Rivi called me in she was my instructor, and described Robin to me. She then brought her in and she licked my hand and seemed excited. We went back to my room where that excitement melted a bit, because now Rivi was gone, and I was alone with her, and Robin wanted Rivi not me. I would sit on the floor and pet her and she would move as far away from me as she could. I’d scoot to her again, and she would again move away from me. During training she was always on leash for the most part or on tie down. We would do obedience every day where you practice sit, come, rest, and down. She was really good at it, but tested me the first few times to see what she could get away with.
We would get up about 5:30 and take them out to park and feed them. I remember the first morning I woke up and Robin licked me in the face. That was the first time I felt like she wanted me. For the next few days she would cry when Rivi was near, but she was pretty good about it for the most part.
After we first get them you go on your first walk where you walk around the Seeing-eye’s leisure walking course. It’s basically a circular shape with a gazeebo in the middle. I may not be accurate it’s been 9 years. Anyway we had to put the harness on and go outside. I ended up putting the harness on upside-down somehow. Robin was so patient not carrying she knew what the harness meant though we were going to go somewhere. We went out and walked, and man it was so neat. For the first time I didn’t have a stick I had to rely on her to tell me what we were approaching, and feel her to know what to do. I never had been out there without a cane, and we moved so fast. I felt really great after that walk.
The next few weeks we would go in town and walk around sidewalks doing routes learning each other. I remember one-time Robin told me to stop, and that I should turn I didn’t listen so I said forward and she wouldn’t go. I started moving forward and fell over a bush. Rivi said I needed to start to listen to girls because there always right or something to that affect.
There was part of the training where I felt like maybe a dog isn’t for me. I was so used to the cane, and being without it was difficult for me. I wanted a dog, but I just felt lost, and unclear of what to do. I have this dog stopping and communicating, but I couldn’t understand it to a degree. For 21 years all I’ve ever known is cane travel, and I’m good at it with the dog I am falling and tripping on things is it for me?
We went out for a night trip, and I remember we did really well. We got to a part where Robin thought I would clear a sticking out step and I didn’t and I fell. We continued on and on the way back she slowed down and watched for me I felt that. We went in to New York City, and that was the first time I really felt like man I couldn’t walk this with a cane. To feel her weave around people was amazing. I felt sighted I was passing people. You know people were actually in my way for once! Robin would slow down or bump them with her nose, and we’d move around them. I loved that trip I think that’s where I made my decision that I wanted to keep her.
When we got home to Muncie I had to walk her and practice some routes. I remember I took her on a bus route I did a lot, and I got turned around. With the cane your traveling and it’s objects you feel along with changes in pavement. Your mind is always processing things. With the Robin I could just sit back, and she’d get me by something and I never knew it was there. I got off the bus to go home from Wal-Mart, and we got turned around somehow. I had to ask someone where I was. I felt frustrated, because again I’ve done this successful hundreds of times why with Robin can’t I do it? The answer is you have to pay attention to what the dog is doing I know longer feel trash cans or brick columns at corners I am just on the curb. It took me the longest time to get that. I’d say about 6 months and we were fully in sync with each other.
One thing I remember I had to take a test my final writing assignment at Ball State, and I couldn’t sleep. I laid down on the floor with Robin, and she let me hold her which she never let me do before. That was like are first moment where we had been together for a while and she trusted me. I did things with Robin I hate doing with a cane or now I can’t even imagine trying with a cane. I will do it, but I hate it. Example we went to several Louisville Bat games together, and crowds never bothered me, because Robin would get me through them. I took my cane out about a month ago, and people are tripping on it, or I’m having to hold on to Abby and Bandcroft I just can’t do things as easy as I could when I had Robin. It’s funny how my thought process changed from thinking I couldn’t be without my cane to not wanting to have to use it.
That bond you share with a guide dog is so incredible. She was never too far from me I will never forget the last week we had together. She followed me everywhere I miss that. I miss her I still can work myself up and cry about it.
I’ve shared this story several times, but my first job interview was with an Apple Call Center. I had some interviews when using a cane, and they were uncomfortable, because I had to use sighted guide where you grab someone’s elbow. My thoughts on that are that person already thinks something of me, because they have to lead me around. When I went on this interview Robin followed the guide, and I was just part of the group. I was so amazed by the end of that tour I was speechless. It was the first time in my life where being blind really wasn’t mentioned other than people asking about the dog. I felt sighted. When we would walk in to restaurants, and I could tell her to follow the hostess to the table without having to do sighted guide it was such a confidence builder. With a cane I don’t have to do sighted guide I’m not saying you have to rely on it, but for me why struggle with saying where are you hello I lost you. I just take their arm to each blind person to their own I just want to get to my table or to an Airplane and move on why add stress.
I wish Robin could be with me at my new job she’d love being back downtown. I’d like to explore the area more, but I’m a bit nervous to do it with the cane. Abby and I walked to a bar the other night, and I lead the way for some of it, and it was okay, but man nothing beats walking with a guide. I learned Louisville with her I never used a cane here until now. Anyway happy anniversary to my girl, and thanks for every memory I cherish them all.
I used to think about how I’d react when the day came when Robin would pass, and nothing could or can prepare you for that. Time has helped, but I still find myself randomly getting sad wondering about her. Is she okay? What happens to us? People say it’s hard to lose a child as blind people we outlive are guides so I think that we really feel that loss. Abby and I often talk about Alice and Robin. I’d say once a week we share a story or rehash a memory. It’s nice she understands that I’m not sure someone sighted would. I know Abby thinks about Alice as much as I do with Robin. I have 2 videos I watch about once a month one is of Robin barking. Another is of her eating her last meal. Abby brought Doab over, and Robin had a kids Chicken and Rice. She couldn’t keep anything down for long anyway, so I wanted her to enjoy it. She did she licked the bowl clean. Then I gave her chips which she loved. In retirement I planned to spoil her a bit with people food something I never gave her. I am really strict and will be with my next dog on that. They have their food, and I have mine. Lol
Happy anniversary to are partnership!!! I plan on cooking spaghetti and trying out a new beer delivery service tonight. They charge normal store pricing then $5 to deliver. I don’t drink that much anymore, but it will be nice to be able to see all the beers they have. Nothing frustrates me more than asking what wheat beers they have or what loggers they have and only getting one choice. I wish sighted people could experience that one time maybe things would change. Say I go grocery shopping I have to know what brand and exact thing I want. If I go to a coffee isle and say what types of coffee do you have? That person would think I was nuts or they’d fire back with what do you usually drink? I don’t blame them, but we often miss new products or aren’t aware something is even available. Anyway just wanted to rant about that. The internet has changed this that’s why I love Amazon so much. I will report back on how this goes tonight! After I have one or two for Robin!!!