– 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.
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. 🙂 🙂