different beginnings

When I was younger, I didn’t have a dog or any other pet. We couldn’t afford one, but even if we could, my mother said she didn’t know how to take care of a dog and she didn’t like cats. When I went for my first guide, I was excited and nervous. I couldn’t wait to travel differently, but I also had no idea what I was getting into on the journey. When I sat in the room and Jessie brought me Valerie, I put her on leash and brought her back to my room. I remember thinking, OMG, what am I supposed to do; she is bigger than I expected; why is she sniffing me and why doesn’t she wag her tail? When we walked, I was surprised how fast we could move. I also never wanted to cry more, especially when we got completely turned around in the middle of an intersection in the pouring rain.
When I got Zorro, I was feeling horrible. Valerie had retired four months earlier, but I had just given her to her new family the day before. I was at peace with that decision, but I was so numb and apathetic; I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of my depression. Looking back, I should have waited to get another guide, but I missed the fast-paced, obstacle-avoiding that I had with Valerie during the times she was working well. I really don’t remember much from that class, but I know I was very anti-social and I wanted to go home.
When I got Dee, I was in a recovery period of the depression cycle, and I was getting physical therapy, which lessened my back and hip pain for the first time in at least four years. This time, I was anticipating the dog; I went nine months without a guide, and while I was an ok cane user then, I missed the smoothness of walking together down the sidewalk or in a crowd. After the first three days, I knew she was the best dog I’ve ever had, and I told the trainers so. We had an evaluation at the end of the first week to make sure I felt I had the right dog, since it was only a two-week class. I was feeling wonderful, but I was also anxious. My other two guides didn’t work out for me because of Valerie’s health issues and my health issues as well as behavioral ones on Zorro’s end. I had been rejected from seeing eye, so I was anxious about doing well at Guide Dogs for the Blind because I wanted to show that I was a good handler who could take care of my dog. I was relieved when the trainer and supervisor assured me again and again that I was doing fine, and that I should trust my instincts when working with my dog and not second-guess every decision I needed to make.


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