Welcome to a series of stories I’m calling ‘The Land of Ago’.
Over the next few days while I make up my mind about which direction to take my blog, I’ll be sharing some of mine and Campbell’s best memories.
A few will be happy. A few will be sad. A few will make you laugh and one or two may make you mad. But if you read them, you’ll know just what a wonderous life King Campbell A.K.A Bubba Seeing Eye Dog and I had.
“For the time of ago is now”
Come with me back in time. Back to the Land of Ago.
Before into my new life together we go.
Enjoy a tale (Tail) or two. For some they will be old and for some they will be new.
Watch your step as we open the door of memories and step through.
When last we visited, I was readying to go to The Seeing Eye to get my very first Guide.
Let us continue the tale (Tail.
Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life
April 2, 2011 had finally arrived, and it was time to go. My dad was in the driveway, waiting for me. My luggage was loaded. I stood at the door with tears in my eyes, saying my goodbyes. On what should have been one of the most exciting days of my life, I was upset. It was because I’d asked Donnie to come with us to the airport, and he had refused. His excuse was that he had his son that weekend, and his son had a friend over. My dad had told us more than once that that would not be a problem; he’d even offered to take the boys and let them stand on the observation deck for a while after my plane left, so they could watch the planes take off and land. But Donnie still wouldn’t go. I asked him why, but I never got what I considered a good answer.
There was nothing to do but go ahead and leave. So I wiped away my tears as best I could, said goodbye, and was on my way. I have to say that my dad was not really impressed with Donnie’s lack of interest. Although he said nothing much about it, I knew my dad well enough to know that he didn’t like it at all.
It would not be an easy trip. The first problem was that my flight from the Tri–Cities (Kingsport, Johnson City, and Bristol, Tennessee) to Charlotte, North Carolina was delayed, and my connecting flight had to be changed. When I arrived in Charlotte, I found that I’d missed my connecting flight and so was delayed again. For a while, due to all the confusion, even The Seeing Eye did not know exactly where I’d flown off to. I had forgotten to turn my cell phone back on while in the airport, so no one was able to reach me at all. At last I was in the air again and on the last leg of my journey to Newark, New Jersey.
When the plane landed, it was four hours past my originally scheduled arrival time, and I was exhausted and hungry. When the gate agent got me to the driver who was to take me to the school, I was immediately frustrated by the fact that she seemed to speak very little English. In addition, she seemed to remain on her cell phone almost the entire time we were together. I had very much wanted to stop for a bathroom break before leaving the airport, but I wasn’t able to get her to understand that. I was never sure if it was because she didn’t understand, or because she simply wasn’t paying attention. But of course that immediately added to my stress.
Once at the school, the driver left me in the lobby and walked away. Soon the school nurse arrived and took me to my room. She set my luggage down, and before I could ask her where the bathroom was, she was gone, telling me as she left that my instructor was busy settling his other students upstairs, but that he would be with me shortly. This threw me a little, because I’d really expected to be met by my instructor when I got there. I felt that things were not as they should have been. Again, I felt frustrated. On top of that, I was beginning to feel that perhaps I’d made a mistake in coming at all. I was near tears and feeling very much out of my element.
Finally, out of pure desperation, I decided to get out my cane and explore the room, to see if I could locate the bathroom on my own. I found it at last, and had just come out when my instructor knocked on the door. He came in and introduced himself. He told me his name was Drew Gibbon and asked me if I was Patricia Fletcher. I told him I was and reached out to shake his hand.
As we shook hands, I staggered slightly as I stepped forward. He reached out and steadied me and then gently sat me down in a chair, asking if I was all right. I told him I’d been gone from my house since 9:00 that morning, that I’d had nothing to eat all day except a can of Pringles and a beer on the plane, and that I was also in serious need of a smoke. He told me we were due in a meeting upstairs, but he promised food and coffee when we got there. I decided that was good enough for the moment. I stood up slowly, and taking his arm, I went willingly with him to the meeting.
Once upstairs, I was brought a very nice plate of supper and a big mug of good, hot, strong coffee. This did a lot to improve the way I felt. After the meeting was over, Drew took me back downstairs and explained that he needed to do another Juno Walk with me so he could get a better idea of me and how I walked—all before we began training the next day. He explained that even though I’d had a Juno Walk when I’d first been evaluated by the field rep, before I’d been accepted into training, he needed to walk with me himself. He wanted to evaluate me now that I’d been doing some walking and exercising. In turn, I explained to him that I had moved since the rep had been to see me. I told him about the nicer residential area I live in now, versus the apartment complex environment I’d been in when I’d been evaluated the first time.
Although I was really exhausted, I knew this had to be done. It wasn’t Drew’s fault that my fiancé was being an ass and had started me off upset, or that my plane had been late on both legs of my journey. Nor was it his fault that he hadn’t been in the lobby when I had arrived. So I agreed with no argument.
We set out and soon discovered that I was having a problem with the difference between left and right. It seemed as though I had simply forgotten all I’d ever known about direction. As Drew took me through the building, teaching me the layout, he laughingly asked me if I’d forgotten to pack my sense of direction, and with a smile, he suggested I have someone get it to me via UPS. Even though he would tell me we were going to turn left and walk toward a specific place, when we repeated the exercise to see what happened when I directed him, as I would direct the dog, two out of three times, I would suggest right instead. We decided that it must be due to my being tired and stressed, and that we wouldn’t worry about it too much that night.
However, even when we worked in town the next day, it was a problem. We learned later that this problem would never really go away. Drew tried several different things to try to help me with this issue, and although I found different coping skills during training, to this day, I have never found a way to completely eliminate the problem. No one ever spoke to me directly about this, in that no one voiced concerns that I might not be able to work a dog, but I am sure it was a worry to the training team during class.
After we’d completed the Juno Walk, Drew began to show me more about my room. He guided me around the room, describing everything in great detail. This did a lot to dispel my unease. As he explained to me what should be housed in various drawers and in the dresser, as well as on the top shelf of my closet, I began to plan out where I would keep things while I was there. This made me feel much more at home.
As I leaned over to see how the night stand was made, I nearly hit my head on the headboard of my bed. Drew quickly reached out and caught me. “Hey, lady!” he said. “Ya might want to watch that! You’ll end up knocking yourself out cold, flat on the floor!” We laughed, and I asked him where I could go to smoke. He told me there was a smoking room upstairs and a patio downstairs, but that they were both located off the men’s wing, and he wasn’t sure if I could go there yet or not.
I folded my arms, turned to face him, stood as straight and tall as I could, and quickly and firmly informed him that should he decide there was nowhere for me to smoke, he would very quickly learn that he would not enjoy having me as a student. I had the feeling he was messing with me, but I was starting to feel a bit frazzled and wasn’t having it. Amazingly enough, he did find a place for me to smoke, but it wasn’t in either of the designated areas. After finally having a smoke, and then going to the lounge on my floor to get a drink, I decided I’d simply had enough for one day and went to get ready for bed. I knew the next day would be very busy, so I decided that sleep was my best option.
As I was getting things unpacked and getting ready for bed, Drew knocked on my door and asked if I was settling in all right. I told him I was feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed. He stood and talked with me for a bit while I finished settling things in my room, and his gentle manner began to put me even more at ease. I found him to be very patient, kind, and understanding. As I unpacked my medications, he asked a few questions, which I happily answered. When I had filled out my application, I’d also let them know about my bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. I felt that it was important for them to know all they could about me. This was so they could make the best match possible for me where a dog was concerned; also, my instructor would know all he or she would need to know in order to make my training go as smoothly as possible.
I explained to him about my bipolar disorder and what that entailed. I didn’t go into great detail, but I did explain about mood swings and what things would trigger them. I also explained about the pain my fibromyalgia caused me. As it turned out, we would have another, more involved discussion about all these things later; but my fear that he would not understand was quickly dissipated by the way he handled the information I gave him. He did not seem to be at all put off by anything I told him, and it seemed that in fact he understood pretty well what I was saying.
All this was a huge relief to me, and I found that being able to chat with him a bit went a long way toward helping me through that first night. Not only did having him know these things about me make me feel better, but it helped me to trust him and feel safe with him, and those two things were very important for me. Over the years, I have sometimes had bad experiences in blind institution settings. Drew would not only be in charge of my training; in many ways, he would also be in charge of my care. Thus it was very comforting to me to have him understand and make me feel safe and secure, and that did indeed help throughout my training.
ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER
Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. And as a Social Media Promotional Assistant.
She is the owner and creator of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing (Author, Blogger Business Assist), and is the published author of two books, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life and Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye: Volume One.
She can also be found in two anthologies which are, December Awethology Light
And A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales.
She is now working on her third book which is to be a memoir trilogy called, ‘Pathway To Freedom: Broken and Healed’.
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Until next time, may Harmony find You, and Blessid Be.