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 we last visited, I’d shared the prologue of this book. Now, here’s more of the story.
Once I realized that going to The Seeing Eye and getting a guide dog was what I truly wanted to do, there were a lot of things to do to make that happen. The first of those was applying for and getting accepted to the school. I contacted Phyllis and asked her what I needed to do to apply. She gave me their phone number and the name of the lady in charge of Graduate Services, and I began the task.
I contacted Pauline Alexander by email in late May of 2010, letting her know that I was interested in coming to the school and training to get a guide dog. She sent me an application to fill out; soon, I was on my way toward achieving my goal. After completing a lot of paperwork, I waited to hear from them. It seemed to take forever, but I know that in reality, it didn’t take that long. I soon had an appointment set with one of their field reps. He was to come down and evaluate me to see if I qualified for training.
Finally that 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 me about my life, about things I normally did; I knew he was trying to get a better idea of what I did on a daily basis. That would help them to give me a dog that would be the best possible match.
Then we went outside, and he observed me cane traveling to and from the bus stop down the street from my apartment. Then we did a Juno Walk. During a Juno Walk, an instructor has you take the harness handle, which they’re holding, and walk with them to see how well you walk and how well you follow directions. This way, they can get an idea of your walking speed and how well you can sense direction.
Once that was done, there was nothing to do but wait until they 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 that I simply could not turn over to anyone else, so I was forced to turn them down. A couple of days later, they called back to say that they could have me come on April 2,and did I think that would work for me. I told them I would make it work.
As Ms. Alexander and I talked, I updated her concerning my living arrangements. I explained that Donnie (who was my fiancé at the time) and I had moved from the apartment complex where we’d been neighbors to a house where we were still neighbors, but sharing living expenses. I explained that we’d found a large, three–bedroom house with a second large, three–bedroom apartment up top, above the attached garage. I lived in the upper–level apartment, which included a raised deck.
I explained to her that my surroundings had also changed. This is more of a residential area, with houses, schools, churches, and even a neighborhood park. I told her there were multiple bus stops in the area for me to use, and I even told her about the little corner market that Donnie and I walked to sometimes.
It excited me to think what great and wondrous adventures awaited me, but to be honest, it also frightened me a bit. I had known that moving would change things for me, but I would learn that, in the end, it would indeed do huge things for my life.
I went to my supervisor, Lynn Sorrell, and spoke to him about my needing a month off to go to Morristown, New Jersey to The Seeing Eye to get a guide dog. 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 in place. Donnie would take my place while I was gone. This would not only assure that the 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. Of course all this was a huge relief to me.
Then the real fun began. I had to have clothes, shoes, and even luggage so that I could make the trip properly. Donnie and I went clothes and shoe shopping, and my father took me to buy luggage. He wanted me to have a new set, so that traveling would be easier for me. At first, Dad was not very accepting of the idea of my going to get a guide dog. He had issues with my using a guide dog, because he just wasn’t sure that it was as safe as everyone claimed. He’d seen up close how others worked a guide dog, but it had always been in a setting where there were plenty of other sighted people around. He had never really seen what a guide dog could do, so his fears were understandable. But he still made sure that I had all I needed to make my trip as successful as possible. That’s how my dad has always done things, even when he hasn’t always agreed with me. He has always made sure, whenever necessary and if at all possible, that I’ve had whatever I needed to be as successful as I could be. For that I will be forever grateful.
Once clothing, shoes, and luggage were secure, the next thing I needed to do was try to get in better physical shape. Since training was going to involve a lot of walking, I decided that walking each day would be a great 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 went by myself only if those places were very close to the bus stop. So I needed Donnie to help with this portion of my pre–training.
Even though it seemed to me that Donnie and I walked a lot, it turned out that I still didn’t have the stamina to walk long distances. I knew that training would involve quite a bit more walking, so I began to try to talk Donnie into increasing how much he and I walked. After a while, it began to get easier, and as time went along, I began to do better and better with how far I could walk.
But then we hit a real cold snap that lasted almost all through February and into the first part of March; this slowed us down quite a bit. I became slightly discouraged and didn’t work as hard as I should have to continue what I had begun. 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 that this had been a mistake. It was not, however, one that I wouldn’t be able to overcome.
Donnie and I had some personal issues. One of many was that he felt that 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 this. I learned that 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 that this would not be the case, but I was also encouraged to not let this cause me to change my mind.
In fact, on several occasions, I had almost done just that, but I finally realized that I absolutely had to go. I was tired of being a cane traveler, tired 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 that Phyllis had shown me while losing me in that mall. I was absolutely determined to make this happen—with or without Donnie’s support.
Thank you for traveling back in time with me today.
Please do come by again soon.
May Harmony find You, and Blessid Be.
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’.