I have been keeping this relatively quiet, but now we are less than 24 hours away from reality, it is time to share.
I wrote the below Facebook post on the 14th of March 2022 after being able to have a short walk with a guide dog. For those who use a screen reader, the quote below is what the photo of the post says:
Today at lunch I got a short walk with a guide dog in harness (called Sienna). She is still in training but I got a taste of what it will be like. It made my day after a rather rough week and the fact that she curled up and went to sleep on my feet while we had a chat was awesome.
I learned a couple of interesting things, just how much I use tactile feedback from my cane and how much I think I am a dog person in disguise after cuddles – don’t tell the cats.
Now I keep waiting for matching – wish me luck it could be anything from 1-6 years!
Darn it I should have taken a photo!
The morning after this, I received a phone call asking if I would “take” Sienna. It took me a few repeats of the same question to twig that I had matched with her. The thing that surprised me the most was I had thought the visit of the instructor (GDMI) was in response to a phone call I made about a month prior due to a change in my vision (less visual field than when I went on the list) and the continual construction and moving fences at my work and not to match me with a dog.
The GDMI who visited and I had been playing phone or appointment tag for a while and it didn’t even register when the GDMI said I am bringing a cadet instructor with me thwt this would mean bringing two dogs. In fact there was no mention of dogs at all, but in hindsight, instructors usually travel to appointments with a trainee guide dog in toe. The difference was that in the past, the dogs have stayed in the car. I was surprised that the cadet instructor also bought a dog and we were taking his trainee guide dog with us for a chat.
It wasn’t until after receiving the phone call the following day that I thought it was strange that the cadet instructor had travelled to see me on the North Shore from South Auckland and had to travel back while the original GDMI worked on the North Shore stayed here.
When I received the call I had been on the list for matching for about 18 months and expected to be on the list for some time more as the average was over three years the last time I had Investigated. Since the call I have been both excited but also scared. I reverted to thinking that because I do have some sight that I am not blind enough for a guide dog.
I forgot to remember the many conversations I have had about the extent of my field loss (currently 10 degrees instead of the usual around 180 degrees). However, I also get told a lot that I don’t look or act blind – see my previous post about this. I didn’t realise that I had put more weight on societal views of not looking or acting blind than in discussions with professionals. After some thought, it sunk in that I needed mobility assistance more than I had first thought and perhaps this was because I usually don’t notice small incremental changes to my vision and what I have seems “normal” to me.
I have been trying to figure out why I am so nervous and scared of getting a dog, along with the excitement. I think this is multifaceted.
Getting around independtly is very important to me as my vision has deteriorated this has become more challenging and I had to relearn skills such as crossing a road again. I had been confident with using a white cane for some time and I guess that part of my fear is that I will be somewhat starting the journey of learning to get around independently again while having a sentient mobility aid/companion as opposed to a “stick”. For example, a guide dog can decrease some of the cognitive load associated with travelling with a cane by providing Obsticle avoidance rather than obstacle detection and sswitching from cane to a dog means I am losing the tactile feedback that a cane gives me. In other words it has taken some time for me to trust my cane and decision making now I need to keen to trust a dog.
I have never lived with a dog and currently have two cats. One of them is very upset when another animal approaches his human and tends to chase them away and out of the house. Having a dog in my household will be very different, cats are fairly independant, while a dog is more dependant in many respects and learning a new personality, manageing a dog and learning a new mobility texhnique is a lot in a short time.
I suppose, in a nutshell, I could say I am afraid of change yet I want the difference that working with a guide dog will bring and it is the stage in between these that is the scary part.
I think I will finish this post here as I have a full day of work tomorrow and I need to welcome my new companion as well. I hope to continue to blog my journey through training and working with Sienna. However, I will need to check the appropriateness of blogging as a form of documenting our journey as Sienna is not owned by me nd there are contractual agreements I need to uphold while I am her guardian.
Scary, but also exciting. All the best Sally!