Several people, be they parents, friends, or other instructors or staff, have asked me at different times during the training if I was happy with my dog. This was a hard question for me to answer, for whatever reason. Any reservations were my own and had nothing to do with the dog or the type of dog. Since I haven't used a dog for so long, about 9 years, this training proved to be challenging for me in various ways. Eventually I gave the answer that I wasn't sure if I was happy with her or not; that I would have to wait until I was integrated into my own environment after the first month or two and then see, and that at that point, I would likely be happy with the match I got. All that changed when I flew home today.
I did a simple thing, go to the restroom, with the help of another man from my row. Wehn we got back to my seat and were settled again, he told me that my dog sniffed bags and other people when I was in the facilities. Some may say, "You should have had your dog at sit," and yes, you're right. however, over the next few minutes this wasn't what I was thinking of. I answered his question, of whether my dog sniffed for drugs before she learned to guide me (this was an interesting man, as you can see, and one I'll write about more later perhaps), and explained that indeed she was just curious and had only been trained to guide me. I then started listening to songs on my Victor Reader Stream accessible MP3 player. One of them that came up in the shuffle mode, which I'm sure wasn't a coincidence, was "His Eyes" by Stephen Curtis Chapman, a Christian artist. The song talks about how we as people are always in God's eyes and how he's always watching over us, no matter what. In fact, the chorus goes something like:
His eyes, are always upon us,
His eyes, never close in sleep,
No matter where you go,
You will always be in his eye,
In his eyes.
I had been sniffling a few times before this song came up, but when it started, I began to silently cry, dabbing my cheeks with some small napkins.
Later when I was safely at home and had taken my dog out to park for the first time, with the door closed and locked, I burried my face in her fur and cried more openly. In the last 10 to 15 years, there have been only two times when I've cried so openly and deeply; the first was the weekend after my first guide died in September of 2006, and the second has been today, when I instead cried tears of joy for having a chance at another. For getting a new guide and being able to start the process all over again. For fully realizing my new independence with a Seeing Eye dog, and thanking God for that gift, both the gift of the dog and the gift of another shot.
I have no idea why this crying has just now happened, or why it didn't happen during training. Perhaps I was blocking it out and just focusing on the training. Or, perhaps, and I put more value in this explanation, God was giving me just enough strength and focus to get through the training, and now that I'm home and have a relatively free weekend, perhaps I now have time to shed these many tears of joy over the new dog. This is hard to write, and I've got tears threatening in my eyes as I write this. When I was crying on the floor this afternoon, after a few minutes, my dog put first one then the other of her front paws on my arms, which I took to mean comfort. Part of me wishes that this emotion came out during training, so I could have shared and gone through it wiht my fellow students and instructors. But, who am I to question or know the ways of God? I'm simply grateful that He knows the best times for me to experience different emotions and that He knows what's good for me, such as a new guide.
So, in answer to the question I started with, I can now say that I truly am happy with the dog I received. She's a perfect match, and has offered me already comfort, joy, tears, and happiness at different times during training and the transition to home process we started today. This could be a tough weekend for me, one where I'm close to crying at any moment, but I don't care; I've got my new Seeing Eye dog and I'm not afraid to let people know of it, whether that be through crying, laughing, or other ways.
Tomorrow morning I'll take her to a doctor's appointment and tomorrow afternoon to work, to start getting her used to my work environment and perhaps introduce her to some people. Look out world, Wayne and Gucci are on their way!