May 24, 2010 was the day I met my Carmel! I remember it like it was yesterday, but in fact it was one year ago-and what a year it has been.
My time at The Seeing Eye was a tremendous learning experience, and very challenging in many ways. We had a dog growing up, but I had minimal responsibility for it, so learning how to take care of a dog was big for me. All will be interested and amused to hear that I no longer think picking up poop is such a big deal-even though I thought so the first week or two I did it at seeing eye. I can say it is a lot easier to take care of a long cane than a dog, but Carmel is well worth the great amount of work she is. As you know, I have an 11 year old daughter, and Carmel reminds me so much of when my daughter was 2 all of the work…smile.
In addition to learning how to take care of my Carmel, I had to learn to handle her. It is very very different than using a long cane. As stated before, a cane finds obstacles and a guide dog avoids obstacles. Carmel is a great guide dog, and she has done a great job. We’ve avoided most obstacles (smile). I’ve learned to trust her, especially with steps, which was really a difficult trust for me to build. As the year has progressed I have learned I can really trust her. I do occasionally use my cane, and interestingly enough think my cane skills have actually gotten better. I think this has happened b/c Carmel has provided me a level of travel confidence I didn’t previously have, so now I am much more willing to go outside of my previous boundaries. I’ve learned to explore more and go further, with her and with my cane. My orientation has also improved. So many people still think Carmel is there to take me places, but I keep reminding them that I am the brains-I have to know where I am and where I am going. Because I’ve learned to pay so much more attention to my sensory information I believe it has really improved my skills as a traveler who is blind. My confidence in unfamiliar areas is growing every day.
Carmel and I have been lots of places. We’ve travelled in the last year to New York, Chicago, Littlerock, Washington, D.C., Kansas, and all over Florida. We’ve had our challenges, especially in airports, but she has gradually improved and “grown up”. She is still a puppy (2 years old), but maturing every day. And, of course I am maturing as a guide dog handler myself.
Carmel still loves to play and is the most friendly dog you could meet. She loves people, dogs, birds, cats, and ducks. But, most of the time when the harness goes on she gets back to wrok. She loves to get her harness on in the morning and go to work, but she loves to come home to play with her friend Olivia. Carmel is a total piggy-she always thinks she is starving. I’ve had some challenges keeping her trim, but have been able to keep her at her proper size, within 5 pounds.
Just wanted to say a huge thank you to The Seeing Eye and all who have supported my guide dog journey!