Dee is the best guide dog I’ve had. She has been my travel buddy and helper for the past 1.5 years. I got her NOvember 2009, and we went from Portland Oregon to school. Two weeks later, the semester ended, and we moved to my mother’s house for a week for Christmas. After that, we traveled to St. Louis on a 26-hour greyhound buss ride to attend Urbana a global missions conference attended by 20,000 college students. That was the first time I saw Dee’s wonderful skills. After the first few hours of being stressed, she handled everything beautifully. Her pace was fast, but she slowed when she needed to. Her head was up, and her whole body was wagging. My roommates and others were amazed at how calm and focused she stayed. She even slept through the worship music which was loud and many people were dancing and jumping up and down.
When Urbana ended, we went to Philly to see friends and moved back to school. In May 2010, I moved to Minneapolis to attend BLIND, Inc. I wrote before about her reactions to a close call with a bus. Also while in Minneapolis we went to the Minnesota fair, an 8-mile hike, and just did everyday activities like going to dinner and movies with friends and grocery shopping. We moved to four different apartments while there and camped in Wisconsin, flew to Dallas to a huge hotel with 3,000 other blind people, and traveled to Chicago and Harrisburg to speak about blindness training. Dee was wonderful through all of that travel and change, so I hated sending this email to Dee’s puppy raisers.
Dee is not doing well. She is still a wagging tail dog and glad to see people and be petted, but she isn’t guiding. I think I told you we fell on the ice a couple months ago. We went to the vet where they gave her prednazone for the inflamation. It helped for a little while, but as soon as she was off of it she was walking funny again. We went to the dog chiropractor and he adjusted her; it gave her stronger pull in harness some of the time but not enough to be constant. We are having x-rays done; they think it is a nerve or disk injury since she is a little flinchy when they pull her paws forward and is jumpy when I pet her in the middle of her back. My roommates said it sometimes looks like her back legs are going to give out when she is playing with her kong. She is very slow all the time and has difficulty getting out of the way of fast-moving people and traffic. A couple weeks ago, cars were coming up right behind us and she didn’t speed up at all. She also has difficulty going uphill and making turns. Right now I am waiting for GDB to decide whether they are sending an instructor here or if they want to bring her back to them for evaluation to see what is wrong and if she can continue working. This makes me sad; I miss my fast-paced energetic girl who had plenty of initiative for everything especially crowd and traffic work. I take her with me if I am going to one class, but if I am doing class and errands afterwards, I leave her home and bring my cane.
I graduate next weekend, and I can’t wait to be done here. I got Dee a doggie graduation cap, and I am going to have her guide there since it will be a short walk.
I thought it might be her nails so I trimmed them. She had a paw pad issue before, so I added paw healing balm and musher’s secret but that didn’t help either. She is also taking joint supplements that I get from International Association of Assistance Dog Partners Part of me says the medical issue can be fixed; we just don’t know what it all is yet and haven’t found the right combination of treatment. The other, more practical, part of me says I know the signs of retirement and it won’t be able to be fixed. She runs away from and actively avoids the harness. She wags her tail while working, but it isn’t as much as it used to be. She doesn’t take the initiative to go around obstacles or find a clearer pathway to somewhere. If it took us 10 minutes to get somewhere before, it now takes at least 15 on a good day. I can no longer trust the dog who saved my life from a bus that came too close on the relatively quiet streets of my small town, let alone in a city with all the traveling and moving I need to do in the next three months. Please pray for Dee and me to make the right decision for our partnership.