Good morning, I hope this post finds all reading doing super well.
Today, whilst sitting at my desk readying myself for a day of writing and marketing work, I’ve decided to begin sharing the first book in my memoir trilogy ‘Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed’ here with you.
‘Why?’ You ask.
I believe my writing goal says it all.
For now, I invite you to step upon the pathway with me.
Broken and Healed
How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life
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Plaisted Publishing House Ltd
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Second Edition 2020
Before I get to all the humans I need to say thanks to, there is someone without whom I’d have never written one, single word, and that is King Campbell Lee Seeing Eye® Dog A.K.A. Bubba
Unfortunately, Campbell didn’t make it to the publishing of this book. At the end I’ll share his obituary with you. For now, I’d like to encourage you to think of him as he is written of within these pages.
This book is dedicated to King Campbell Lee A.K.A. Bubba my Seeing Eye® Dog. I am your human mother and you’re my son. You gave more to me than any being has ever given in all my life, and in you I am well pleased. I hope this writing does you and all who helped create our team justice.
Speaking of team creation, before I get to the people that helped me through the writing process and stuff, I’d like to give a big shout out to Trainer Drew Gibbon. Now retired from The Seeing Eye.
Drew, you were right. Campbell was the best Christmas Present ever in the whole world. If you’re out there somewhere reading this, and I truly hope you are, I’d just like to say, I’m sorry you got caught up in my madness, and you should know, we totally accomplished our goal. Campbell and I were a Fabulous team.
To My Writerly Humans
There are a few people without whom this book wouldn’t have been possible. I mean, if anyone is telling you that they wrote and published a book totally by themselves without one iota of help from anyone at all, they’re either yankin’ your leash, or they’re Super Author! Anyway, I digress…
The first person I’d like to say thank you to is my partner in crime, my soul sister, editor publisher, Claire Plaisted.
Claire is my rock. When we met back in 2015, I was in the darkest hole ever. Over the years she has advised, encouraged, nudged, and helped shape me into the woman and author you’ve before you today.
If you’re out there, looking for a port in the storm of self-publishing, Claire is your lighthouse.
Next up we’ve, Mara Reitsma of Covered By The Rose Cover and Contractor for Plaisted Publishing House.
Mara totally gets me. How she does it is a mystery. She reads what I write thinks about me and next thing I know, POOF! A cover is born.
Another person who deserves a ton of credit is author and proofreader editor Jo Elizabeth Pinto.
Jo took my manuscript with all its Punctuation perils; sentence snafus and adversarial adverbs and helped turn it into a glowing star.
Although there are varying opinions on the subject, it’s my belief no one should ever publish without having at least one other set of eyes on the page. So, if you’re in the market for a proofreader who won’t break the bank or take your work and try to make it her own, Jo’s your go to girl.
Check her out at: http://www.brightsideauthor.com
While you’re there, be sure to pick up her books. She’s an amazing writer as well.
To my surrogate mother and cheerleader author Phyllis Staton Campbell, I send Big Big Hugs! Phyllis is always there to lend a word of advice or be my sounding board when times get tough. Phyllis, without you, I couldn’t do!
If you’ve never read Phyllis’s work, it’s high time you began. Find her books and more at: http://www.phyllisstatoncampbellauthor.com
I’d also like to give a shout out to the guys on my support team.
To my Father Earl J. Fletcher Jr. Dad, I wouldn’t even bee here without you. I’m Super Happy to have you in my life.
I hate to admit it in writing, but you and me, well, we’re a whole lot more alike than I ever wanted to believe, and guess what? I’m glad.
You make darn sure to take good care of yourself, because when this cursed COVID-19 is over I’m going back to The Seeing Eye for another dog and it’s going to need a Grandpa. Not to mention that I’m gonna probably need more luggage and I’m absolutely gonna need a ride to the airport and back.
Seriously Dad, I love you!
Thanks for letting me be me.
To Dave Light, thanks for all the rides to Food City, the radio show interviews, the words of wisdom and for the occasional mug of beer or glass of wine.
To my friend and sometimes a tad bit more, Bobby Donald.
Dude, you, Campbell and I had some Rockin’ good times
Thanks for some of the best memories with a friend and her dog a girl could ever have. Thanks for the great pictures and videos too.
I’d also like to say thanks to Walt Sutton from The Seeing Eye.
Your time, attention and solid advice during good times and bad are much appreciated.
Thanks for doing the podcast interview too. That was the bomb!
And last but never least to my faithful readers, and friends. After all, at the end of the day, it’s you I sit down at the keyboard for. So, with that in mind when this book is through, please be sure to review.
And that’s it. Well, I mean look folks, I could name a whole passel more, but you bought a book not a gratitude journal, so ‘Forward!’ We go!
Friend and fellow author Phyllis Staton Campbell has since past away.
Also, as those of you who follow me regularly know, I’ve been back to The Seeing Eye® for my successor dog.
A garden with rocks and pebbles are surrounded by grass and trees. A bench sits below a tree with a silhouette of a dog sitting on the grass in front of it. An ethereal glow of gold and green shines through the middle of the picture with the title of the book written in fantasy style lettering in a darker shade of gold with black shadowing.
Pathway to Freedom, Book Cover
Using a mix of humor, heartbreak, and courageous honesty, author Patty L. Fletcher weaves a tale designed to educate and entertain.
In this, the first book in her memoir trilogy, Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book One: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, Second Edition, Patty shares how her decision to gain complete independence with the help of The Seeing Eye Guide Dog school in Morris Town New Jersey reveals to her a glimpse into worlds she had never before known existed.
Once home from guide dog school with her loveable Labrador King Campbell Lee, A.K.A. Bubba, life has revelations in store for Patty about herself and her fiancé she could hardly have believed were possible. Some are wonderful; others are disturbing, but all will change her life forever.
In the end, she finds freedom in ways that were, for her, totally unexpected.
Before I begin my tale, both old and new, I want to thank you for reading this book. I want to thank those who have been reading my story from the beginning for continuing, and I hope you will be with me for many years to come.
To new readers, I thank you for joining me. Good times and bad, so far, it has been quite a trip.
I’ve faced trials and enjoyed triumphs. I’ve had sickness, and I’ve had healing. I’ve learned lots about myself I didn’t know and discovered things I both loathed and adored. I am what I am, and the best part is that I’m finally learning how to love all of me.
Why have I Written This Book?
There are many reasons. But mostly, I want to help people know more about me and those like me in the hope that after you’ve read what I have to say, you’ll understand how persons with multiple disabilities work.
I’m a middle-aged, single, blind woman who has other disabilities as well. I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, Fibromyalgia, and short-term memory loss. Over the years, these things have, at times, been real problems for me and those I love and care for.
The good news? For the most part, I have all of the issues firmly in hand, and other than a slip-up every now and then, I’m doing quite well.
I hope you enjoy this book. If at any time you’ve questions, drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to chat.
Thanks again for reading, and Blessed be.
It was an unusually warm spring afternoon in May of 2010. My good friend Phyllis, her guide dog Emmy, and I were out for the day. We’d been shopping and had gone to lunch in the mall. We were returning to the store where Phyllis had left her packages when I came to the realization that yes, I really did need a guide dog.
We had just left Ruby Tuesdays, and not ten minutes before while finishing lunch, I’d asked her how we would stay together. She told me to simply listen for the bell on Emmy’s collar and stay right behind her. I was cane traveling at the time and had no idea what was in store for me. I’d been around plenty of guide dogs and their handlers, but I’d had some sight then, and I’d never tried to follow a handler in a crowded area—and certainly not while cane traveling totally on my own. So, I had no clue what was about to happen to me. I would come to see what happened next as a true epiphany.
We were going along quite well when suddenly, we came to a very crowded area in the mall; Emmy found an opening in the crowd, and with Phyllis following along, took it. I was left eating their dust, saying, “Where the hell did they go?” I stood for a moment, letting what had just happened sink in, and then realized I had not one clue how to get to where Emmy and Phyllis had been going. I’d never walked through this mall—or any mall, for that matter—alone, and so knew nothing of how it was laid out. I was forced to ask for and accept help from someone who honestly annoyed me. The person had this ‘poor little blind girl’ attitude that always gets under my skin.
Once Emmy, Phyllis, and I were reunited and outside waiting for the bus, I asked what had happened. She explained what Emmy had done and apologetically admitted she hadn’t realized we’d been separated until they’d gotten where they were going.
“You know,” she joked. “These things wouldn’t happen if you didn’t go round chasing a stick.”
I went home that night and gave what she’d said some serious thought. The next day, I phoned her to ask how I could get more information about applying for training at ‘The Seeing Eye.’ I’d wanted a guide dog for years, but somehow, something always seemed to be in the way.
I was a single mom, and when my daughter Polly was very young, my mother didn’t think it was a great idea for me to be away from her for so long. Then when Polly got old enough, she could’ve been left. I wasn’t in a place that would’ve been safe for me to work a dog. Nor did I go anyplace where I could work one because I’d ended up where there was no public transportation. I’d had an orientation and mobility instructor visit me once while living there, and his opinion was that I simply wasn’t ready to own and handle a guide dog. I must say, since having the whole experience, I’ve often wondered how different my life and Polly’s might’ve been had I ignored everyone’s well-meaning advice and changed my situation in the necessary ways so I could’ve gotten a Guide Dog.
Eventually, in 2005, I moved to another apartment complex, where I lived until October of 2010. There, with my then Fiancé Donnie’s help, I rehabilitated myself a little.
Rehabilitating myself meant I needed to relearn some of what I’d forgotten when I’d ended up in an apartment where I had no public transportation. I needed to relearn some cane skills. I had to learn how to navigate the bus system and get reacquainted with doing things I’d always done but had forgotten during my years of living in isolation. It wasn’t until then I began to seriously consider making the change from cane traveler to guide dog user.
Suddenly, I knew I could wait no longer. I knew in my heart that, without a doubt, it was time for me to take this step. I was also quite sure ‘The Seeing Eye’ was where I wanted to train.
Once realizing going to ‘The Seeing Eye’ and getting a guide dog was what I truly wanted, there were a lot of things I needed to do. The first of those was applying for acceptance into the training program.
I emailed Graduate Services in late May of 2010, letting them know I was interested. I was sent an application to fill out; soon, I was working toward achieving my goal. After completing a lot of paperwork, I waited to hear from them. It seemed to take forever, but I suppose, in reality, it didn’t take long. I soon had an appointment set with one of their field representatives. He was to come down from New Jersey to Tennessee and evaluate me to see if I qualified for training.
Finally, in midsummer, the day arrived. When he came to my house, Emmy and Phyllis were with him.
As she gave me a hug, Phyllis said, “Just here for support.”
We talked for a while, and the rep asked me many questions. He asked about my life, about things I usually did; he was trying to get a better idea of my daily life so a dog could be found to be the best possible match for me.
After a while, we went outside, and the field rep observed me cane traveling to and from the bus stop down the street from my apartment and back. Honestly, I was surprised he didn’t reject me out of hand without going any further. Truth is, I really didn’t know my way to and from the stop all that well. Most times, when I took the mass transit, Donnie was with me, and I walked sighted guide. But still, he continued, and we did a Juno Walk.
During a Juno Walk, an instructor has you take the harness handle, one end of which he or she is holding. The instructor can see how fast you walk and how well you sense direction.
By the time we’d finished, I was puffing and blowing like an old steam engine. Again, I was surprised the rep didn’t reject me. Once done, there was nothing to do but wait until the school called.
They contacted me near the end of 2010 to tell me they had a class date for me. They wanted me to come in January of 2011, but I had work obligations I couldn’t turn over to anyone else, so I was forced to turn them down. A couple of days later, they called back to say they could have me come on April second and did I think it would work for me. I told them I’d make it work.
As we talked, I shared a brief update concerning my living arrangements. I explained Donnie and I had moved from the apartment complex, where we’d been neighbors, to a large three-bedroom house with a second three-bedroom apartment above the attached garage, in which I lived.
I described the new neighborhood, explaining I was now living in a more residential area, with houses, schools, churches, and even a nearby park. I told them there were multiple bus stops in the area for me to use and about the little corner market, Donnie and I sometimes walked to.
It excited me to think what great and wondrous adventures awaited me.
I went to my supervisor and spoke to him about my needing a month off to go to ‘The Seeing Eye’ in Morristown, New Jersey. After much back and forth discussion between the two of us and a bit of strong encouragement from my coworker Dawn, we soon had an agreement. Donnie, who was already volunteering as my assistant, would take my place while I was gone. This would not only assure my job would be done well in my absence, but it would also allow us to maintain the income we needed to continue to live in our home.
Then the real fun began. I needed clothes, shoes, and even luggage so I could make the trip properly. Donnie and I went shopping, and my father took me to buy luggage. He wanted me to have a new set, so traveling would be easier for me.
Despite Dad’s being concerned about my transitioning from a cane traveler to a guide dog handler, as was always his way, he made certain I had all I needed to succeed.
Pre-Training and Conflict…
Once clothing, shoes, and luggage were secure, the next thing I needed to do was try to get in better physical shape. Since the training would involve lots of walking, I decided walking each day would be a necessary way to begin. So, walk, I did. I had to start out slowly—or I should say, Donnie and I had to start out slowly. I couldn’t walk anywhere much at all by myself with just my cane. Sure, I went places, but I only went by myself if those places were very close to the bus stop. I know many are great long-distance cane travelers, but I’ve never been one of those. So, I needed Donnie to help with this portion of my pre-training.
Even though it seemed to me we walked a lot, it turned out I still didn’t have the stamina to walk long distances. I knew training would involve quite a bit more walking than I could do, so I talked Donnie into increasing our activity. After a while, it began to get easier, and as time went along, I got better with how far I could go.
Then, thanks to an unusually long cold snap lasting almost all through February and into the first part of March, we slowed down quite a bit. I became slightly discouraged and didn’t work as hard as I should have to continue what I’d begun. When the weather warmed, Donnie didn’t really push me very much, either. He didn’t try to motivate me as much as he should have. Once I began training at the school, I would learn very quickly; this had been a mistake. It was not, however, one I wouldn’t be able to overcome.
Donnie and I had some personal issues. One of many was he felt I wouldn’t need him anymore once I got home with my new guide dog. I was concerned about how he felt, but I couldn’t really understand, so I called the school and spoke to someone in the training department about it. I learned this was a common belief among blind people’s partners, family members, and friends: those who had always had an active role in assisting their blind loved ones. I was encouraged to continue to assure Donnie this wouldn’t be the case, but I was also encouraged to not let this cause me to change my mind.
In fact, on several occasions, due to extremely volatile arguments between the two of us concerning the fact he simply didn’t see why I ‘Needed a dog when I had him,’ I’d almost done just that, but I finally realized I must go. I was tired of being a cane traveler, weary of always finding myself needing someone to help me get here or there, someplace that just wasn’t cane accessible. I wanted the same independence Phyllis had shown me while losing me in the mall. I was absolutely determined to make this happen—with or without Donnie’s support.
Looking back on this time, I realize in truth it wasn’t Donnie feeling like I wouldn’t need him anymore. Instead, he was frightened of losing control of me. Unfortunately, it would be a long time before I would even allow myself to glimpse this reality.
About Patty L. Fletcher
Patty Fletcher is a single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom she is enormously proud. She has a great son-in-law and six Incredible grandchildren.
Patty was born one and a half months premature. Her blindness was caused by her being given too much oxygen in the incubator. She was partially sighted until 1991, at which time she lost her sight due to an infection after cataract surgery and high eye pressure.
Patty writes with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disabled from the non-disabled.
To find all her work in accessible formats visit: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/PattyFletcher
Also find them at: https://www.amazon.com/Patty-L.-Fletcher/e/B00Q9I7RWG