Doggy Diaries – An Amazing Adventure

– This is long –

***

Lately I’ve been questioning whether or not I do enough things “independently”. I read blogs of other blind folks who go out there and tackle the world, and I compare myself to them. I would sit and think that while the world might think I’m a well adjusted blind woman, I doubted it.

Then I slapped myself. Sheesh Ro, cut yourself some slack, would you?

I got angry when people compared me in the beginning yet here I was, doing it to myself. I suppose this sort of thing is normal. I’m very proud of myself for the most part, but then I have those days where I think I don’t do enough, that I’m a waste on a great guide dog. I have to remember that GDB knew about my life when they accepted me, and matched me with the perfect dog. I also remember that I told them that having a guide dog would allow me to do more with life, which it has.

However there was a huge plunge I had not taken. Sure, I travel independently with him. In my home area and to Saavi, or to Gamma’s. However I had yet to just suddenly decide to do something in a place I had never been and rely only on Jayden and strangers. I was too scared. I worried about what people would think if Jayden seemed lost or I seemed frustrated. I waited to do anything until a sightie could come with us.

Until today.

Thursday I found out about a big conference for the fellowship I’m a part of. I’ve been so out of the loop that I hadn’t a clue it was coming up. It happens once a year in a different city, and this year it was here. It was here when I first got sober and I was on the host committee. I’ve gone to others in different cities, in fact it was during the return from one that my first eye went blind. I traveled to California to one before I was sick. I used to love these things. They tend to be crazy, a ton of young people bouncing around a big hotel for three days. While I’ve outgrown this sort of activity, I still ached to go, if only for a few hours.

I couldn’t go though. There wasn’t enough time to find someone to make plans to go. Oh well. I’ll just sit and mope and be resentful no one told me about it.

Wait. Um, hello? Why did you get a guide dog?

Oh, yeah. Duh.

As with anything else I’ve done since going blind, I realize now that just taking off to a place I’ve never been was only going to happen when I was ready. The minute I was ready, not before. I made the decision to do it and made a comment about going to a strange hotel in a cab, to my friends on Facebook. They all became my cheerleaders and I knew I couldn’t back out.

I told B about my plan and he was in agreement that I was ready. He would drop me off; why spend money on a cab?

This morning I was inwardly nervous, but I didn’t let it show. I didn’t want Jayden to feel anything before we went. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable and relaxed. With our issues lately, I didn’t want him to lack confidence in himself. I didn’t want to admit that I had lost some confidence in him. Maybe that’s another reason I took the plunge today. Maybe I needed to shake things up.

I called the hotel this morning to find out if there were steps going up to the doors from where I’d be let off, and if there was a revolving door. She asked if I had ever seen the hotel. I had started the phone call off by telling her I was blind and had some questions. I reminded her I was blind and eased her through her embarrassment by giggling with her. She told me there were no steps, the doors were not revolving but automatic, and she wasn’t sure if there was a curb. I asked where the concierge desk was inside and she told me to walk in a few steps and go left. Sweet, I felt prepared. I thanked her very much for her help.

I packed my backpack with Jayden’s dinner, just in case, a water bottle, Gatorade for me, poop bags, paper towels in case of an accident, my cane, booties and the Gentle Leader. I think one of my biggest fears was Jayden having an accident since his relieving has been a bit off. I relieved him just before we left and we were off.

B dropped me off just like a cabbie would. He kept making sure I didn’t want help. I think at that point he was more nervous than I was haha! I kissed him, said I’d call when I wanted to come home, and went inside armed only with Jayden, my phone, my backpack and my trusty higher power, who I talked to a lot since making this decision haha!

I had thought to myself the night before, God, let me run into someone I know when I walk in. This morning on Facebook I discovered that a friend of mine would be working the hospitality room during the hour I was planning on arriving. This was awesome, because it gave me a destination. I would just need to get inside and ask someone where the room was.

We walked in a few steps and turned left and a couch was there. Hmmm. Then someone said hi to me. I said hi back. He asked how I was doing. He sounded more friendly than a stranger and I just knew he was part of the fellowship. I said I was well, and was he part of the conference. He was, he was the greeter. Fabulous, where is the hospitality room? He doesn’t know so he asks. The voice that answers back is vaguely familiar. They tell me where and I point. I must not have pointed in the right direction because the vaguely familiar voice came closer and told me he’d take me. He told me who he was and it was someone I haven’t seen in I don’t know how long. We embraced and I told Jayden to follow.

We walked through what felt like an endless corridor and into what felt like a large cavern. My friend searched for the friend I knew would be there and there she was! It had been like a year since I had seen her. She was sitting at a table with some guys and she introduced me. I got settled and Jayden lay at my feet. Everyone marveled at how beautiful he was and how good. Everyone seemed to know the rules, which was awesome. Everyone we encountered made a comment about how they wished they could say hi but knew they couldn’t. A child asked if he could pet him but I explained that he was working and the child said, “yeah, I knew you’d say that.” It was tempting to break the rules for the child, but I didn’t.

After about ten minutes or so, after my friend and I exchanged numbers and she listened to my phone say her name, we decided to go explore.

There was a pool party going on as part of the conference and the pool was on the roof. Whoa. It couldn’t have been on the roof though because the hotel is like fifteen stories and we only climbed a few flights of stairs. Jayden did awesome with all of this. I was a little concerned at one point because he kind of waddled in harness, which he’ll do if he has to go, but it was only briefly. We tried to get out to the pool but the door was locked, so down a hall we walked and found a door into the pool. There was a DJ and it was really loud. We asked someone if there was a spot I could relieve Jayden but we’d have to go back down to the lobby and outside. So we found out where the elevator was and walked through the party saying hi to some people as we went. One friend was dressed as Gumby, I found out later, and was proud that Jayden didn’t get spooked lol.

We found the elevator. This hotel is seriously old and the doors didn’t close for like a minute haha! We went back down to the lobby and Jayden took the lead when he saw the doors. He has such a good memory. We had to go down a crazy sidewalk path. I was just trusting that my friend saw where to go haha! She asked me if the traffic would bother Jayden. We were right next to a downtown street. I laughed and told her we trained in San Francisco, I think he’ll be fine. We found some dirt finally and I removed Jayden’s harness. On our way out, we bumped into another friend who wanted to say hi to Jayden and I explained I’d be taking his harness off outside if she wanted to join us. She said she would but must have gotten hung up.

Jayden didn’t go. I was a little surprised. We decided to plop down on the concrete and I gave Jayden some water and let my friend say hi. She’s a very calm person, so Jayden didn’t get all hyper, just gave her kisses. We sat and talked awhile, I gave Jayden another chance to go but he didn’t. So I harnessed him up to head back.

He really wanted to show me a door to a storeroom haha! My friend and I got a kick out of that. We made our way back inside and went downstairs where the meetings were. We went in to a meeting though my friend couldn’t stay the whole time because she had to go to a birthday party. Jayden sprawled out on the floor and kept my friend’s feet warm. It was cold in there.

As we left the meeting room, I heard my name. It was Lish. Jayden recognized her and began to pull but a “steady” snapped him out of it. Lish laughed and said she was ignoring him. It didn’t matter though, he knows her and got excited. We talked for a bit and then I just instantly started to fade. I decided I had better call B.

So my friend and I went back to the lobby where we found a couch and she explained where the doors were in relation to the couch. We said our goodbyes and she left. Jayden sprawled out and I called B. He had just put a load of laundry in the dryer and would leave in about 45 minutes. Lesson learned, I will have cash for a cab next time. I know you can use your card, but that seems like a pain. The couch was comfy so I settled in and just listened to the crazy young people all around me. A man asked if I wanted a soda since he was heading to the machine. I thanked him and declined. Such nice people!

At one point someone asked if they could say hi to my dog, to which I replied he was working, but thanked him very much for asking. Wow. There was not a single person who did anything stupid, the whole day! And the conference had a turn out of five hundred!

Eventually B called and was on his way. A little while later he called again to let me know he was almost there, so I told Jayden to find the door. He found one that wasn’t automatic so it must have been in a slightly different spot. I walked out and stood there and then heard B’s car, but he wasn’t seeing me. I was calling out his name when someone asked if I needed help. I said I could hear my boyfriend’s car. The stranger said oh yeah, there’s a guy over here, but you’re behind some vans, come on, this way. Thank you sir! We found B and loaded into the car. Wow.

We got home and I took Jayden’s harness off, thinking he had to pee since it was passed his usual feeding and relieving time, but he just wanted inside. He knew he’d get a Kong haha! So I gave it to him and he ran around the house before settling in to work on it. I put on coffee even though it was already early evening. I had missed my afternoon coffee and needed it lol! I called Gamma to let her know it all went fine. After Jayden’s Kong, he got dinner and relieved. B and I ordered dinner and Jayden was happily prancing about, bringing me bones. I kept telling him how amazing he was today. He got lots and lots of love and I think he knew he did well, too.

This has just done wonders for my confidence. If we can tackle a conference at a strange hotel, we can tackle anything. I’m so grateful I had the urge to go and it really was the best environment for it. Every turn held a member of the fellowship and we’re like family even if we’ve never met. It was definitely a confidence building environment, that’s for sure.

I turned it all over to my higher power, God, my conscience, my confidence, whatever it is, and it worked. Lots of people go to conferences and events like this to really plug in and get close to God, but I find that I’m so tight with God because of my circumstances, that I didn’t feel the magic I used to feel at those things. It was an awesome experience, and great to see people, but what it really was was just proving to myself that Jayden and I are a great team and anything is possible.

I really see now how they say it takes a year to form that solid bond. I’m thinking it must be especially true with a first guide dog. I know others have gone faster than I have, and people have probably gone slower. I won’t compare myself anymore. I’ll remember that everything happens in its own time, and not to rush it.

I can’t wait to tell Dave! Jayden has been completely zonked the rest of the night. As I write this, I barely have enough room for me on the couch. He’s pressed into me all sprawled out, snoring away. Great job today Jayden; you deserve the rest. I love my guide dog!

PS – He needed no corrections or the Gentle Leader. 🙂

PSS – When we left the hospitality room, someone said Jayden had ignored a ton of food. 🙂 🙂

27 Comments

Filed under Adjustment to blindness, coffeeholic, Doggy Diaries, faith, fellowship, GDB, gratitude, Jayden, sobriety, spoons, working dog

27 Responses to Doggy Diaries – An Amazing Adventure

  1. Woohoo! Go you and Jayden!!

  2. HUGE congratulations!!!!!!!! That is so awesome Ro!!!!!!!! Way to go to you and Jayden!!!!!

  3. See I told you, you could do it! Congrats! I’m sooo proud! Congrats Jayden, way to make your momma proud!

  4. Jen

    Well done to you and Jayden. Sounds like great work!
    Don’t compare yourself to other people, and yes your right, they wouldn’t have given you Jayden if you weren’t suited to him or he needed more work.
    I’m amazed at how much you’ve done already since going blind, and I don’t mean that to sound patronising. I’ve been blind all my life, so I imagine it must be much more difficult losing your sight.
    I often compare myself to other blind people too. I have friends who know their way around busy cities like Dublin no problem. They have the confidence to go new places with their dogs and just ask people when they don’t know the way. I’m quite shy at things like that, and won’t do something unless I’m totally ready either, but I know I have done a million more things independently since I got O.J over three years ago. I’m sure that will increase over the years, and again when I get my next dog etc.

    Anyway sorry about the long comment, but just to let you know we can all think like that sometimes, even if we’ve had years of being blind.
    Jen and O.J xx

  5. I think I already congratulated you on Twitter, but I’ll do it again anyway. Nice work! I’m glad it all went so well. And now that you’ve done it once, it’ll be a lot easier to do it again. They won’t always go so perfectly believe me, but keep at it and you’ll be as close to a pro as there can be.

  6. I have a habbit of doing that too lol. I would say “should I be doing this or that now? Such and such can do it so why can’t i?”.

    Well done though!!! I would have started to think really bad thoughts, so would have probably convinced myself that that i couldn’t do it. Huge well done though, and these things do take time. Xxxx.

  7. Ro

    Jenn, thanks for telling me that. I need to remember that we’re all totally different in our comfort levels, yet so similar in a lot of ways too. Torrie, it took me over seven months to do this, so you just give yourself time, and like is the running theme here, don’t compare yourself hehe.

    Everyone, thanks for your comments and congratulations! Just found out that Friday night, shots were fired outside the hotel, and there was also a drunk and disorderly celeb, obviously not there for the conference lolol!

  8. Even people who have been blind all their lives compare themselves to other blind people now and then. I think it’s one of those human nature type things.

  9. L^2

    Yay, so glad your adventure went well!

  10. Clap clap clap!!! So excited for you two to be getting out on your own! Awesome!

  11. I think my first comment didn’t make it. I’ll try again. Good for you! I think it is an incredible experience to try something that feels scary and then becomes such a victory for us with our guide as you describe. You guys are an incredible team. I can relate to so much of what you describe and something that may feel overwhelming to me — may be a piece of cake for you. It is our own journey.

  12. Ro

    That one made it. 🙂

    I just thought about starting pitchers for some reason. On the Rays team, they always talked about how competitive the pitchers were, so if one had a great outing, the next one wanted to do better. I guess I kinda look at my life like that. Maybe it’s not so much about comparing myself with you or Carin or Jenn or Amanda orSteve or Torrie or L^2 or any of my other role models, but maybe it’s like hey, look at what they did. I want to do something similar. So I’m setting a bar, but I need to realize there’s no set time in the achievments. As long as I’m seeking, I’m successful.

  13. Well done you and Jayden! I’m raising my first guide dog puppy and I’m amazed at all the things they do. I know that if I couldn’t see, the first thing I’d want is a guide dog, especially one like my little Laura. I’m keeping a blog of her progress so that everyone can see what great things they do!

  14. Ro

    Aww thank you Paige, and thank you for being a raiser! I’ll have to go check out your adventures. 🙂

    Jayden was his raiser’s first dog. 🙂

  15. This is a great piece of writing. If you trim it down just a bit (smile) I hope you’ll think about sending it out to a magazine or online zine to get it published. In the meantime I am going to send the link to that grad student I told you about months ago, the one doing an industrial engineering project about guy dogs? She wrote me lately, she is still doing her research and needed to find out how guide dog users get around when they are in an entirely new, unfamiliar place. Your blog post answers this question beautifully.
    CONGRATS on the very successful adventure, Ro, and thanks for providing your blog readers with such an excellent, honest piece of writing.

  16. Ro

    Wow Beth, thank you for the compliment! I wouldn’t have the first clue about how to submit writing haha! Who would be interested in stuff like this? I’d love to start submitting stuff, but don’t know how to go about it.

  17. Wow congradulations on this! It sounds like a huge step!!!!
    You know you might want to go to Top Dog. It is so much fun with other blind people and guide dogs. It would be another awesome place to strengthen your confidence.
    But glad you did this. Take baby steps and soon you will be up and out!
    Good luck and give him a pat from me. What a good boy.

  18. You should submit this to the No Bones About it Blog. They have an e-mail address there where you can e-mail them stories, and this is a really great piece! Congratulations to both of you, and yes, we all compare ourselves to other blind people sometimes, even when we’ve had our visual impairment our whole life, so just know you’re normal!

  19. Hi! This is Eva from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I’m working on a project regarding Guide Dog Harness and Beth Finke directed me to your blog. I just want to say this is a great article! Thank you so much for sharing it. I not only learned a lot for my research, but also impressed and inspired from you. Next time when I encounter some difficulty, I’ll definitely think of you can try to conquer it!

  20. Ro

    Aw, thank you for your kind words! I’m glad my experience is helpful. 🙂

    Good luck with your project!

  21. Eva Foo

    Hi Ro,
    I know this is not a very good place to ask this question. However, I am wondering if you mind taking this short survey regarding your experience having a Guide Dog. It won’t take you long time and I am really in need of users feedback to backup my design. Please let me know if you have time for this. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Ro

    Absolutely! Just post the link in a comment. I’d be happy to write a blog post asking folks to take it as well, if it works with accessibility. Let me know if you’d want me to spread the word, and leave me the link. 🙂

  23. Eva Foo

    Thank you so much for your kindness! It’ll be awesome if I can get as many feedback from the users as possible. It will definitely make a great impact to my project.
    Here is the survey!

    1. How long have you been having a Guide Dog? How many harnesses have you used before?

    2. Do you have an offset handle or straight one? Do you like it the way it is? Why?

    3. Do you clean the harness? Why or why not?

    4. Would you like to have different material and/or shape for the handle part for more comfort? Would you prefer to hold the handle vertically?

    5. How do you buckle up the harness? Where do you hold the leash when buckle up the harness? Do you use both hand to buckle up?

    6. Do you have a trekker GPA navigation system? If not, why? If yes, how do you like it?

    7. Lastly, do you have any problem with the harness you are using? (left arm does not feel comfortable after holding the harness after a while? Hand gets sweaty from holding the handle? Dog developed lumps from wearing the harness?….etc)

    Thank you so much for taking time doing this survey.
    Much appreciate your help.

    Sincerely,
    Eva

  24. Ro

    Interesting. Do you mind if I ask why you want to know these things? Just curious, so when I write the post I can explain what it’s for. Also, do you have an email people can answer the questions to, that I can publish, all spread out to keep away spam of course. Or, people could lave their answers in a comment here.

    I can probably get the post up this weekend.

  25. Eva Foo

    It is Thanksgiving. and no words can describe how grateful I am for you and the people who have helped me out with this project. I really appreciate your kindness.

    my email is : eva617@gmail.com

    The reason why I need the feedback from the users is that I am a Industrial Design Student at U of I and I am working on an International Housewares Student Design Competition. I picked Pets category at first and found out that most of the pet products are overpriced and unnecessary after volunteered to help at a pet show in Taiwan . Then I saw the flyer of a Guide Dog Organization and I realized how meaningful guide dogs are yet not many people have noticed it. So after some research, I decided to redesign the Guide Dog harness. Users feedback are one of the most important part in a design process. I need to know how the users feel and think to be able to put myself into their shoe. Beth has been helping me a lot through this process. However, I need more of a variety of users experience that is why I made this survey.

    Wow….sorry that was really long. I always ramble when it comes to things about my major and project. ; P

    I have some initial concepts drew and written out if you are interested at looking at them, too. : )

    Thank you again <3

  26. Ro

    Awesome!!! What an innovative idea! One more question, actually two: When do you ned the information, like, when is your project due and, can I tell others to feel free to post the information on their blog, ie: link to my post?

    I’m glad you wrote a long description, because I’ll just paste it in my post. I’ll most likely post it tomorrow, if you tell me when your project is due, and if we can spread the word further. Can’t wait to find out more! And yes, I’d love to hear your ideas and I’ll send you an email soon. 🙂

  27. Eva Foo

    This project is due on 12/8 for school. But the deadline for submission to the competition is 12/29. I will try to have a finalized idea before school ends and refine it over the winter break! and yes they can post it on their blog. Actually it would be an awesome idea. I tried to post the survey on some Guide Dog School facebook pages but didn’t work out well. Hope this will help.

    Looking forward to your email : )

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