Hello everyone, I hope this post finds you doing well.
On April 29, 2011, Campbell and I returned home from The Seeing Eye Guide Dog school program.
Now, in honor of that anniversary, I’ve a special treat for you.
The following excerpt from my most recently released book, Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book One How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved my Life Second Edition, tells the tale of our return.
Those of you who have read my first book, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, will notice some major differences. If you’ve read the second edition, your thoughts are certainly welcome.
From the back text…
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 The Seeing Eye, she soon realizes all is not right in her world.
Watch your step as you journey down the pathway with Patty and Campbell. For there are many obstacles along the way.
There are triumphs and tribulations, tears, and fears. But through it all that forever guide by her side, King Campbell works tirelessly to keep her safe from harm.
After what seemed like forever, we made it to the house. Donnie was in the yard when I got out of the car; he came over and gave me a hug.
“Oh! I’m so glad you’re finally home. I didn’t know how much I missed you until I saw you getting out of the car.”
Campbell, not knowing who Donnie was, immediately walked in between us. My dad chose that moment to take a picture, and we all laughed.
“Gees, jealous bone.” I gave Campbell a reassuring pat. “Never saw you do that before. What’s up, Bug? This is Donnie, your new dad.”
Campbell sniffed Donnie all over and then, giving a rather large jingly-jangly shake, he sneezed.
“What does that mean?” Donnie asked a little uncertainly.
“I think it means he’s not sure of you yet. Give him a pet and let him see you’re okay. He’s had me all to himself for a month now, and he’s not used to sharing me. It’s okay, Sweetie.” Amazingly, it seemed as though Campbell’s reaction had hurt Donnie’s feelings. I wanted to put his mind at ease, so I continued, “Over the next few days, he’ll get to know you, and before long, you’ll be great friends.”
“Old man Bob is here. Can he say hi to Campbell?” Donnie said as we walked over into the yard.
Dropping the harness handle and lengthening Campbell’s leash so he could sniff up a relief spot in his new yard, “Of course. Old Man Bob’s a permanent honorary member of the family,” I declared. “Just let me get Campbell upstairs and settled a minute, and you can bring him up. I’m not ready to bring Campbell down into your house yet. I think it would be total overload for him to meet Kitty Bob and Rocky Dog after just having arrived. It’s going to be enough getting him, and Celine Kitty acquainted.”
“Think I’ll go up with you and your dad. I want to see that introduction first-hand.”
“Yeah,” I giggled. “Should be rather interesting. I mean, Campbell’s used to cats. I understand from his Puppy Profile his raisers went out and got a newly weaned kitten at the same time they took Campbell home so he could learn to live around a cat without hurting it or scaring it to death. Celine has been the only animal for a while. I’m betting she’s going to have her nose out of joint.”
Laughing, Donnie called over his shoulder, “Hey, Bob. Be right back. Going up to help introduce Campbell and Celine. Then you can come up and say hi.”
“Okay,” Bob called. “I’ll sit here on the porch and stay clear of the claws.”
When Campbell had relieved himself and sniffed each blade of grass in the yard by the stairs leading to my apartment, we went up. I stopped on the deck, and once again dropped the harness handle and lengthened Campbell’s leash to let him explore a bit. I wanted him to feel comfortable right from the start. I planned to put a baby gate at the top of the stairs so he could hang out on the deck with me without having to be on leash, so I felt he should get to know his surroundings and begin to learn his limitations. When he’d sniffed all around the deck and underneath the porch swing, I heeled him through the house, allowing him to see inside each room. When we passed my little office, Campbell looked through the door and then tugged me, wanting to go in. I thought I might take him in and let him look around since I spent lots of time there, but Celine Kitty decided to show her truest self. She peeked her head out from under the loveseat and yowled menacingly, then spat at Campbell.
Now, for those of you who don’t know anything about cats, let me enlighten you. When they spit at you, you don’t stop to say, “Hey, kitty, kitty!” If you’re smart, you continue on your way, and you don’t look back. Campbell, however, hadn’t been taught this—or if he had, he’d most inconveniently forgotten it because he continued to ask to go in and meet the kitty.
Meeting the Kitty and Learning Boundaries…
I decided life would be the best teacher, and we might as well get the lesson over with. So in we went. I gave Campbell some slack on the leash. He did as I’d expected and stuck his big, snuffling, sniffing nose right underneath the edge of the loveseat. And also, as I’d expected, Celine Kitty introduced herself. Again, she spat at Campbell and added a very vicious, deep-throated growl. Still, Campbell pressed onward, so he was rewarded with a nice smack to the end of his nose. He gave a slight yelp and jumped back quickly, coming over to me and sitting down to pout at my feet.
I petted his big head.
“Well, Bug, I guess you’ve met Celine!”
Continuing down the hall, I stopped by the bathroom and allowed Campbell to start inside, then giving the leash a slight snap. “No! Pfui!”
Donnie and Dad, both of whom had been following quietly along behind us, demanded. “Why did you do that?”
“He has to learn his boundaries right from the start. I have to show him what he can and cannot do and where he can and can’t go.”
“Seems a little unfair to me,” Donnie complained.
“No,” I answered patiently. “It would be unfair to allow him in there where he might eat something that could make him sick. You know? Like kitty crunchies out of Celine’s litterbox?”
“Eeeww! Yuck!” Donnie conceded. “I guess you’ve got a point.”
As we entered my bedroom, Dad said, “I’m going to set your suitcase on your bed. Do you want your backpack there, too?”
“Yes, Thanks. I’m sorry. I’ve been tootling along like an old woman on a Sunday drive. Didn’t realize you were still carrying all that junk.”
“Oh! Shit, Earl,” Donnie apologized. “I got so caught up with watching the two of them, I didn’t even think about it.”
“Aw, aint that bad,” Dad harrumphed. “I was just Rollin’ the suitcase along, but this damn backpack weighs a ton. I reckon she’s brought half the state of New Jersey back with her.”
Laughing, I led Campbell over to his crate, and giving it a brisk tap, said happily, “Campbell’s Crate! YAY! Want to see inside? Momma’s got to visit with Celine Kitty. And Trainer Drew was right when he said that until she gets used to you when I want to visit her, the best place for you is in your crate. Here, Baby. Let’s put you in.”
Removing his harness and leash and laying them on top of the crate, I said, “Okay, into your crate!”
Campbell obediently entered and, after giving it a good sniff over, plopped down with a big sigh.
Shutting the crate door, I praised him. “Good boy! I’ll be right back.”
As I started from the bedroom, Donnie called after me. “I put two hooks up beside the door for his harness and leash. Do you want me to hang them there?”
“Yes, and thanks. That was very thoughtful.”
“Well, I figured it would be helpful for you to have a specific place for them.” He gave me a little squeeze as we started out of the bedroom.
Going back into my office with the bag of cat treats I’d gotten before returning home, I called Celine to me.
“Here, Celine, come here, girl. Mommy’s got treats. Come on, kitty. Mommy’s girl. Come on.”
She meowed timidly, then as I sat down, she came slowly out from under the loveseat and jumped onto my lap. She had all her claws out and managed to poke me in several unhappy places while settling down. She was clearly saying to me—”You were gone twenty-six darks, and all you brought from the gift store was a huge, hairy, stinking dog? Really?”
After I showed her the bag of cat treats, opened them, and hand-fed her several, she began to purr. “MMMM… Hmmm… Maybe I’ll forgive you. Someday.”
After only a few minutes, though, Campbell was upset and barking. He was so loud even from the other room, he sent Celine Kitty hissing and running back underneath the loveseat once again. She lived under there for the next week, only coming out at night after Campbell was tucked snugly in his crate.
When I’d gotten Campbell out, and Donnie had gone back downstairs to chat with Bob until I gave the go-ahead for them to return, my dad helped me get some things unpacked and talked to me while I was feeding Campbell. He also went with me to walk him again. I explained how he could best help me get used to going down the stairs with Campbell. Understanding well, he coached us down from behind. Then he said his goodbyes and left us.
I took a few minutes to let Campbell get used to and enjoy the yard. The whole time we’d been in training together, Campbell had used the concrete park area for most of his relieving. I’d been warned he might not relieve in the grass, but he quickly made it clear he had no trouble going in the yard. Kneeling down, I picked up after him and was just tying up the bag and heading for the trashcan underneath the deck when Donnie and Bob came from Donnie’s house.
Visiting and Making Up…
I let them go ahead of me up the stairs, we settled in the living room, and I put Campbell on a tie–out at the end of the couch beside my chair. He immediately hopped up on the end of the couch next to Donnie, curled himself into a puppy ball, and promptly fell asleep.
The three of us sat talking for a while, sharing a smoke, and I answered their questions about Campbell and our training. It was wonderful to see Donnie finally showing some interest.
“Honey, he really is beautiful and so well behaved. Maybe he can give Rocky lessons.” Donnie sat for a moment, petting and talking to Campbell. “You’re a good boy and very handsome. Can’t wait to take you and your momma out and see what you two can do. Oh yeah. I got him a T-R-E-A-T. Can he have it?”
“Thanks for spelling.” I laughed. “Are you talking about the Busy Bone you mentioned?”
“Yeah. It’s here in my jacket pocket, and he’s not made one effort to try and take it out. He sniffed the pocket when he got up on the couch beside me but not once did he put his nose in. Has he had his supper? Please? Can he?”
“Sure. I think it’s sweet you got him a welcome home gift.”
“Did you think I wouldn’t?”
I thought but didn’t say, ‘Didn’t even expect you to be here when I got home, let alone get him a gift.’
My thoughts must have shown on my face, though, because Donnie stood up and came over to me. He knelt and put his arms around me.
“Listen, I’m sorry about how things were when you left. I’ve been helping and taking care of you for a long time. I’ve not been the easiest person to have around lately. Leslie’s got all that bullshit going on these days with Little D., you know—to be quite honest, I felt like once you got Campbell, you’d tell me to go fuck myself.”
I held Donnie tightly. “I promise, all having Campbell is going to do is make things better for us. I’ll be able to carry more of the weight. Once we get our bearings around the neighborhood and in town, I’ll be able to run errands and pick up groceries on the way home from work. I’ll be able to walk to the store in the evenings when you’re busy with Little D. or if you’ve cleaned both our houses all day and just don’t feel like doing it. I’ll finally be a real helpmate for you. I never even considered leaving until you got your nose so out of joint. I love you, and soon Campbell will love you, too.”
For a moment, we held each other. Then kissed me, he said, “Okay then, well, let’s give this big dog his bone.”
Yet More to Learn…
“Wait a minute.” I got out of my chair a bit reluctantly. “Let’s have him do a bit of obedience. He needs to earn such things. Also, we need to start getting him used to you occasionally, giving him commands like sit and rest.”
“Really, why?” Donnie asked.
“Well, let’s say we’re visiting at your house, he’s off-leash, and I’m in the bathroom, doing dishes or something, and he starts to get into things, or you need him to sit and rest while you open the door to let someone in. You’ll want to be able to have him obey you. You’re not always going to be able to holler for me to come and make him do something. It’s just like when you and I first started dating when Little D. was a toddler. You let him get used to minding me, right? It’s the same thing here.”
By this time, Campbell had noticed I was standing up, and Donnie had something in his hand that looked suspiciously like it might be for him. He had gotten off the couch and put himself between us, looking pleadingly up at Donnie.
“Now what?” Donnie asked.
“Without raising your voice, tell him firmly to S-I-T.”
Clearing his throat, Donnie commanded, “Campbell, sit.”
Campbell, realizing the thing in Donnie’s hand, was for him, and he must obey this strange man to get it, obediently sat.
“Now, tell him to R-E-S-T. Then tell him he’s a good boy, and then as you’re giving the bone to him, say gently but firmly, ‘Easy.’ Otherwise, you might lose your fingertips.”
Donnie did as instructed, and a moment later, the bone was in Campbell’s mouth. Still tied to the couch, he lay down on the floor and began to gnaw.
“Nice,” Old Man Bob observed. “When he’s through giving Rocky lessons, he can come teach my dog.”
After only a few minutes, Donnie gasped and exclaimed, “Lord! He’s almost eaten the entire thing! I’d no idea he would do that! I mean, I thought it would last him a day or two, at least.”
“Oh boy! Well, we’re going to get lots of practice going up and downstairs and learning our way around the yard.”
“Are you mad?”
“Goodness, no!” I giggled. “It’ll give him the shits; it’s not gonna kill him. Campbell, you’ve just earned another nickname. You’re now officially Chainsaw.”
“Should we take it away?” Donnie wondered.
“How much is left?” I asked.
“Not much. Like maybe the tip end of it.”
“May as well let him finish. No point taking it now. Damage is done.” For a moment, I could do nothing but laugh. “Here I was,” I gasped between guffaws, holding my stomach with tears of joy rolling down my face, “worrying he might get home and refuse to poop regularly because of being in a strange place. I don’t think I have to worry about it anymore.”
Donnie and Bob burst into laughter, too, and for a moment, we were all consumed with hysteria.
New Kid Syndrome…
As the evening wore on, Donnie and Bob decided to go downstairs. Bob got ready to leave, and Donnie said a few other friends would stop by later.
“That’s great. I’m happy to bring Campbell down into the yard to say hello, but let’s not have any more company up here tonight, okay? Campbell seems to be doing well, but I’m feeling a bit frazzled. Plus, I don’t want him to get overstimulated right at first in his new home.
“I guess there’s a lot more to all this than I realized,” Donnie observed. “I had a college roommate who had a dog, and he had rules. But they didn’t seem this strict.”
“I imagine by the time you met him and his dog, they’d been together a while. You’ll see, as the new wears off and Campbell gets used to his surroundings and boundaries, the rules will lessen some. But there are always going to be things he can’t do or must do a certain way. Also, I’ve no idea what school your friend got his dog from. Though the basics are the same across the board, each school teaches a bit differently, and just as no two parents are the same, neither are two guide dog handlers the same.”
Donnie hugged me again. “Makes sense. It’s going to take some getting used to. I guess it’s kind of like having a new kid.”
“Yeah.” I agreed enthusiastically. “That’s it exactly.”
“By the way,” Donnie called as he started out, “I’ve some supper for you. I’ll bring it up in a bit.”
“Oh, wow! Thanks. I’d not even thought about eating or what I might cook. See, you’re still taking care of me.”
When I came down a little later to walk Campbell again, Wendel, another friend of ours, was in the driveway. He called out to me, “Beautiful dog, man!” I called back, “Come and meet him!”
I had Campbell lay down in the grass and let him get petted by this newcomer. Donnie and I had lots of drop-in company, and I wanted Campbell to become comfortable around different people, but I didn’t want to overload him at first. This particular friend understood, and after requesting permission and then taking a couple of pictures to send to his wife over his phone, he left us alone.
Throughout the evening, a few more people stopped by. I tried when I could to come outside with Campbell, and this seemed to be working well. I knew everyone wanted to see the Guide Dog. As I started upstairs for what I hoped would be the last time, I thought, ‘Gees. This really is like having a new kid.’
Finally, the evening drew to a close. I was worn out, and I was pretty sure Campbell was, too. So we called it a night. That’s when one of our first traditions was born. I went over to his crate with Campbell on his leash, singing, “Go to your crate! Go to your crate!” in a happy, upbeat tune and clapping my hands. Wagging his tail, Campbell ran to the door of the crate. As I opened it, he reached out and put his big mouth around my arm. I removed his leash, tucked him inside, and gave him a kiss. “I love you, Baby Bug; go to sleep.” He settled in, and I heard no more from him that night.
After heating up and eating the plate of supper Donnie had made, which turned out to be my favorite meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob, I took a fresh pack of cigarettes and a new lighter out onto the deck. I left the sliding glass door open, so I could hear if Campbell became restless or upset. I hoped Celine would join me.
A few minutes later, as I sat smoking and thinking over the day’s events and marveling, with some relief, at the change that seemed to have taken place where Donnie was concerned, Celine came out and hopped up on the swing beside me.
“Hey, girl. Glad you came to join me. I sure did miss you.”
“MURRRP.” She said as she headbutted me gently on the face.
“So, you missed me, too, huh?”
We sat together on the swing for a while, me smoking and relaxing after what had been a long, somewhat trying day. Celine seemed to enjoy having me home and all to herself.
I was much relieved to see things going so well and pushed the thought that something wasn’t quite right firmly out of my head. I determined that would be the last I worried about it. I decided right then and there we were going to be a happy family, and starting tomorrow, I’d begin learning how to travel the neighborhood with Campbell. I’d also work doubly hard to make Donnie happy.
He’d been under an enormous amount of stress since Leslie, Little D.’s mom had begun fighting to change the custody agreement. I resolved I had to start taking that into consideration when Donnie became impatient with me, and I had to cut him some slack.
I had two weeks before I would return fully to work, and I would use this time to get Campbell acclimated to our new life. Then the two of us would help to make things better than ever between Donnie and me.
Later as I lay in bed, drifting toward sleep with the sounds of Campbell’s snoring contentedly in his crate and Donnie’s TV murmuring softly beneath me, I prayed…
“Please, Goddess, let the truth of all Leslie is accusing Donnie of being shown, and in doing so, make this problem end.”
Had I known at that moment what I’d put into motion with that simple prayer, I’d have packed Campbell, Celine, and myself up and run just as hard as I could. But of course, I had no way to know, and so thinking everything would soon be back to normal, I fell blissfully off to sleep.
*** Reader’s Note
The word park used with Campbell’s relief time or area comes from the early days of ‘The Seeing Eye.’ Way back in the day, when things were just starting out, students of ‘The Seeing Eye’ lived in a hotel while in training.
To relieve their dogs, they had to go across the street to an area park, thus the command ‘Park Time’ and the ‘Park Area.’
For more information See Love in the Lead: The Miracle of the Seeing Eye Dog: Putnam, Peter: 9780761807773: Amazon.com: Books
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 beautiful grandchildren. From April 2011 through September 2020 she owned and handled a black Labrador from The Seeing Eye® named King Campbell Lee Fletcher A.K.A. Bubba. Sadly, after a long battle with illness on September 24, 2020 King Campbell went to the Rainbow Bridge where all is peace and love. It is her hope to one day return to The Seeing Eye® for a successor guide.
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. She used a cane for 31 years before making the change to a guide dog.
WHERE SHE LIVES AND WORKS…
Currently, Patty lives and works in Kingsport, Tenn.
She’s the creator and owner of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing (Author, Blogger, Business Assist), The Writer’s Grapevine Online Magazine and the creator and host of the Talk to Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing Podcast.
Patty writes with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disabled from the non-disabled.
Thank you for reading.
May Harmony find you and Blessid Be.