Sublime Sunday Read – Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book One How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life Second Edition 2020 – Intro – Preface, and Chapter One #Blindness #disAbility #DomesticViolence

Sublime Sunday Read – Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book One How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life Second Edition 2020 – Intro – Preface, and Chapter One #Blindness #disAbility #DomesticViolence

As I began work on “Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book Two the Raw Truth, I realized I needed to go back and reread the first book again. I need to find the dropped thread of the story so when I continue the tale I’ll know exactly where I left off and what I want to say.

This morning, as I sat down to begin my work, I thought, “Why not share this with my faithful followers?” So, here I am telling my tale to you.

Each week, I’ll share a bit of the book and if you’ve got questions, comments, etc. as we go along together, please put them in the comment section. Some may be answered as chapters are revealed, others may need to be answered in the next book. Your feedback will be most welcome and wanted. For now, let’s begin.

Pathway to Freedom

Broken and Healed

Book One

How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life

Second Edition

Patty Fletcher

Copyright 2020 Patty L Fletcher

All Rights Reserved

Plaisted Publishing House Ltd

The cover of "Pathway to Freedom". 
A garden with rocks and pebbles, surrounded by grass and trees. To the left, a bench sits below a tree with a seated dog silhouetted 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 darker gold and with black shadowing.

Introduction

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.

Preface

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: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com. I’m happy to chat.

Thanks again for reading, and Blessed be.

Chapter One: Epiphany

Clueless…

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.

Preparations…

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.

To be continued…

A soft green circle with a light blue border and handwritten text reading Patty’s World. The text is also light blue with a teal outline. The circle is topped with headphones, a microphone is in the foreground, and grapevines wrap around the border.

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. In July 2021, she returned to The Seeing Eye® and was paired with a Black Labrador Golden Retriever cross named Blue.

PATTY’S BLINDNESS…

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.

WRITING GOAL…

Patty writes with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disabled from the non-disabled.

HOBBIES…

Patty’s hobbies include reading, music, and attending book clubs via Zoom.

FAVORITE TUNES…

Some of her favorite types of tunes are classic rock, rhythm and blues, and classic country.

FAVORITE READS…

Patty enjoys fantasy, science fiction, and books about the supernatural. She loves books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Norah Roberts, and many more. Some favorite books include Norah Roberts’ Hide Away, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.

SPIRITUAL FAITH…

Patty describes herself as a spiritual Walker. She says she knows both Mother Goddess and Father God and embraces all they have to offer.

CONTACT…

Email: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com

 

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Walk alongside Patty and Chief Seeing Eye® Dog Blue on the Pathway to Freedom.

 

2 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this glimpse into your story, Patty. So much about being blind and dealing with the emotions and other people that I know nothing about.

    1. Hi Carla, most of what blind people feel are the things everyone feel. emotions like uncertainty, excitement, and fear. We all have those. The blindness aspect of this book, will soon give way to much more.

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