On Grief and Truth 

New Year’s Eve for many is a time of renewal; a time for starting new; for reflecting and moving forward with new goals and ambitions.
 
I am not ready for 2017. Yes, yes I know, unless someone comes up with a new way to control or turn back time in the next few hours I don’t have much of a say in the issue. But I am having a painful and heart breaking time with the mentality of putting 2016 behind us and moving forward to newness.
 
This year has ripped me apart. I have hit rock bottom multiple times this year and in all honesty, I am still not ok. Serving in student government, while transformational and profound in very positive ways, depleted my mind, body and spirit to a point where I truly had nothing left in June when my term ended. My health deteriorated to a scary point, I mistreated people I love and my grades dropped dramatically. Even now, it is hard to admit this but there is power in truth. I gave everything I had to the work I did. I know now that my boundaries suck and I am not skilled at caring for myself through intense criticism, high tension and conflict. But despite all that I lost as VPIA, I gained something priceless. I found an authentic and intimate understanding of who I am in the most vulnerable way. I found that when everything is stripped away, I live for justice. But simultaneously I learned that living for justice requires health both physically and mentally. If I don’t eat all day and work for hours on end without any breaks on high intensity projects, I have little to offer to the justice work that is at the center of my identity. I have to love my work and my people enough to offer my whole and healthy self and nothing less.
 
Summer was spent resting and recuperating from a taxing school year. With the support of family, friends and a fantastic team of health care professionals, I entered fall quarter of my senior year at SPU feeling strong. I landed in a student worker position on campus working on structural advocacy to better support students with disabilities. My passion found its target in this role and I was able to apply all of the lessons I learned from student government in a new capacity. Constructive conversations were had and wheels started moving to change university systems. I was balancing well, finding my people and investing in my education with new vigor.
 
In late October, several of my social justice family were planning a trip to travel to Standing Rock, North Dakota to stand with the water protectors in the indigenous struggle to resist the Dakota Access Pipe Line. One of my best friends, Erin, and I started collecting donations and preparing to take four days away from classes to make the journey. On the morning of November 2nd, Erin and I in addition to two of our good friends, set out to make the 20 hour drive from Seattle to Standing Rock. We drove through the day and the night and arrived at camp on the evening of November 3rd. We set up camp, hunkered down and got some rest before jumping head first into volunteering in camp. We spent three days doing what we could to help the functioning of the camp including washing dishes (difficult to do without running water), serving and preparing meals, picking up trash, delivering donated supplies and participating in nonviolent direct action training. We kept our ears to the ground for any word of a direct action at the front lines where we could use our bodies to further the water protection efforts. We witnessed grass roots organizing that completely transformed our view of activism and protest. We met individuals and a larger community who embraced us as if we were family. Erin and I were inseparable during the whole trip. We worked and served side by side and burrowed into our sleeping bags and blankets together each night. We shared many life changing moments and conversations and grew even closer as friends as we worked to support a cause we believed in with every fiber of our beings.
 
Even though we seriously considered staying longer and disregarding classes and meetings back home, we set out from camp on the afternoon of November 6th with a fire in our bellies to organize in Seattle to make a return trip to Standing Rock with more donations and friends to join in the collective efforts. Before we left the camps, a native elder blessed us and our drive home. We also picked up a fellow Seattleite who was looking for a ride back west. We drove rather uneventfully through North Dakota and much of Montana. We listened and attempted to rap to Kanye West and laughed at food podcasts. Erin and I planned our action steps and decided we would try to return in December to work more in the camps.
 
Our seemingly insignificant drive took a turn close to midnight on November 6th. As my guide dog Wesley, our passenger Josh and I dozed, Erin drove while listening to music. At close to midnight, Erin fell asleep at the wheel and the car went off the road, flipping down a small bank until it skidded to a stop upside down. While Josh, Wesley and I walked away with little to no injury, my dear and precious Erin was killed on impact.
 
The tears flow writing these words as they have every day since the accident. Saying I am heart broken, lost and devastated does not nearly explain the depth of grief I am feeling. Erin was everything. She had an unflinching commitment to justice and hospitality that brought light to everyone who was blessed to know her. She was a devoted activist, loving friend, caring daughter and beloved sister. Erin embodied the wisdom, heart and humility known only by historic revolutionaries. She meant the world to me and to so many others.
 
I still struggle to sleep at night. The trauma of the accident and aching loss have made it nearly impossible to function. I catch myself in disbelief that she is really gone. Moments of anger, sadness, guilt and numbness remind me that this world has lost a remarkable human.
 
And as I sit here trying to wrap my head around a new year, I feel panic. I am not ready to leave Erin behind. I am not ready to bring in a new year without her. I still can’t believe that life will go on with her missing. How do I go back to classes with part of my heart lost? How do I carry on when someone so important is no longer by my side? We can talk about the magnitude of her legacy, the lives she will touch in death as she did in life, the principles she stood for and ultimately gave her life for. But that seems too final. It feels like searching for a silver lining when the cloud is too consuming.
 
So I sit here, watching as the minutes pass, bringing us closer to 2017. I am not excited. I am limping into January and it will be a long time until I run full force again. But as Erin so expertly taught me, there is power in truth and in being wherever I am. So in honor of Erin, I embrace the limp and the pain and the gaping hole in my heart because all of it is power even though it feels like weakness. It is power because Erin is in the limp and in the pain and in the gaping hole. And wherever Erin is, justice thrives.
 

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Not About Me

Warning: longish post ahead!! Reader discretion is advised.

Halfway through winter quarter of this school year, summer was finally in sight. Talk began about housing for the next year, summer plans, studying abroad and opportunities for student leadership positions. I had the privilege of serving on hall council for Emerson-Arnett halls this year and as I began to plan for the year ahead, I knew I wanted to be involved in student leadership again. Clicking through the SPU website, I considered several student government positions. Not all leadership positions at SPU are elected and the thought of going through a campaign terrified me enough to avoid learning more about those positions. Maybe I can find a senate seat that is vacant or seek out a club in need of something. There had to be something that didn’t involve going door to door, trying to convince my fellow students that I was the best candidate for a position. But slowly, and ever so slightly at first, God spoke into my desire to lead. With the well placed words of good friends and mentors, I came to realize.

This is not about me.

This is not about what is comfortable or easy. I have witnessed over and over again that the best leaders do not lead for personal gain or for comfort and praise. The best leaders lead because they are first led themselves. The best leaders choose to embrace leadership because they seek something greater for those around them. By giving into fear and allowing my discomfort of an election to dictate my next steps in leadership, I was doing everything I could to place limits and boundaries on the way God’s hand moved in my life. In a sense I was like the spoiled kid with impulse control issues, trying to outsmart the arcade game where you insert a quarter to have ten seconds to direct a claw to the prime candy or stuffed animal and drop your prize into the shoot. Only I thought I could outsmart the almighty claw by shaking the entire machine, determined to finagle my way to the honey hole of Smarties (

With much prayer and reflection, I made the conscious decision to let go of my control over the situation and put my trust in God to lead me to where I belonged. I tried to listen for God’s calling and through a series of events, I knew I needed to pursue applying for Vice President of Intercultural Affairs, a position designed to encourage and facilitate collaborative discussion on the needs, desires, concerns and perspectives of students from diverse backgrounds within the student body and in a variety of campus departments. The VPIA also works to engage strategically with other student leaders to create an environment of cultural competency, racial reconciliation and appreciation of diversity. And the big kicker? VPIA is a position elected by the entire student body (of course!). Despite my paralyzing fear of a campaign, I leaned on my passion for the beauty of human difference and the power of advocacy and relationship to empower individuals and communities. I know what it feels like to be marginalized, forgotten or misunderstood and I desired to see SPU address the struggles that students of minority face as well as create a community where justice thrives and all students feel valued and embraced. With all of this running through my head, I placed myself in God’s hands, seeking nothing more than to be a vessel of God’s work.

As I began the application process and started to formulate the platform for my campaign, I was haunted by self doubt, continuously asking myself the question, why would my peers even vote for me? I let my fear get the best of me and knew I was subconsciously trying to man handle the most powerful claw once again.

Scrapping my entire first draft, I began again, slowing things down and vacating the space in my head for God’s direction to come through. This time I wrote from my heart. I wrote of the struggles I saw my peers from diverse backgrounds facing. I wrote of the hope I had for SPU and the community that had become my family. I wrote of a future that all of us could experience if we worked together. Below is a brief summary of my platform.


Vision: Continue Growth in Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Reconciliation
One of the greatest aspects of diversity that SPU is lacking is within racial and ethnic inclusion. I strive to implement events and programs that continue and enhance the efforts being made to celebrate the racial differences that make our community so unique. I plan on increasing and awareness and attendance for the events and programs already in place such as Multicultural Night of Worship, International Dinner and In Context as well as creating new events to further SPU’s commitment to diversity.

Promotion: Expand the Boundaries of Diversity
SPU is a community of individuals that come from many different economic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, ability levels and philosophical viewpoints yet these additional aspects of diversity are often overlooked. It is my plan to magnify the voice of all students within university planning, event production, social awareness and community involvement. I seek to be a voice for students whose presence may not be as widely known.

Integration: Greater Presence of Intercultural Coordinators in Residence Halls
The Intercultural Coordinators in each residence hall on campus have the ability to directly promote diversity within student life and it is my goal to empower these leaders to take a more active role in advocating for the needs of students of minority. I also strive to partner with ICs to plan and implement more events within the residence halls that promote diversity from all aspects as well as work to improve attendance to existing events.

Accessibility: Improve ADA Compliance on Campus
As an individual with a disability, I have directly experienced the struggle surrounding interaction with the many accessibility features on campus that are not in working order. I have also witnessed the difficulties faced by students who could greatly benefit from operational accessibility tools but are instead met with inadequate accommodation. For example, there are many automatic door buttons in place across campus that are meant to ease the strain of passing through a doorway by individuals in wheelchairs, on crutches, with service dogs or simply in need of an extra hand. However, many of these specific buttons do not work which creates an unnecessary breach of accessibility. I plan on working to ensure that these features and many others are corrected and maintained to meet the needs of students who benefit from adaptation.

Spring quarter began and with it the campaign for all elected positions was off and running. I hung my posters and created a social media page, fighting the voice in my head of self doubt and insecurity. It was already way harder to keep the big picture in sight than I expected. My close friends endured the ups and downs of my confidence and God bless them for sticking with me as I know it was a crazy time. It seemed like a constant battle in my head to maintain confidence but in my heart I knew God was at my side through every moment of doubt and every moment of joy in connecting with my peers.

By the grace of God and a loving support system, I made it through the primary election and prepared for the homestretch. Visiting the residence halls and connecting more intimately with other students left me humbled and in awe of the heart and intelligence within this student body. This was not about one candidate winning an election. This was about a collective conversation about what we need to do to empower and appreciate each and every student. In getting to know the other candidate for VPIA, I realized that this was not a competition. We were not opponents with a prize to be won. We shared a common desire to see SPU grow and that was what mattered. Embracing this, I reached a place of grateful acceptance that whoever was elected would be a reflection of the desires of the student body. If that was me and the vision I sought after, then I was eager and ready to work hard in another way. If someone else was elected, then I was excited for the direction SPU was headed and would do everything in my power to support that student leader and the mission they brought with them.

On the night of the final election, I received a phone call and was told that I had been elected by my peers as the Vice President of Intercultural Affairs for the 2015-2016 school year. I felt a mix of relief that the campaign was over, disbelief that my peers had spoken in voting me in and an eagerness for the road ahead. In addition to myself, 5 other students were voted into office and one more was hired directly to form the ASSP Core Team (Associated Students of Seattle Pacific much like ASB in high school). The 7 of us would share an office for the entire school year and work collaboratively to serve our student body both within our individual areas and as a united team.

In the weeks and months since the election, I have learned a great deal. For one, I know now that words are not enough to enact real change. While I reflect on my platform and feel that I wrote from my heart at the time, my heart has already changed. Saying that SPU needs to better embrace diversity is not enough to positively impact lives. Saying that SPU needs to better embrace diversity doesn’t make a student of color feel more comfortable or supported on our campus. Saying SPU needs to better embrace diversity doesn’t change the lack of diverse representation in leadership both within student and staff departments. Recognizing a need for change is important to get the ball rolling but if recognition never becomes action then those words are empty. I fervently desire to do God’s work and make my words count. I strive to create spaces for people to share their stories, foster conversation on reconciliation and push for systemic change on behalf of students from diverse backgrounds. Throughout this year, I commit to never stop learning and seek to understand that with which I am not familiar. The journey ahead will not be without it’s challenges but I know that those challenges are God’s reminders to step back and remember that this is not about me. This is God’s work and our God is a God of unending, unbiased, unrestrained love and grace.

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Guide Dog: Take II Graduation

It’s finally here!! Today is graduation day! Wesley and I are both very excited for the day’s festivities. I will get to meet Wesley’s puppy raisers who flew all the way to Oregon from Alabama to see him graduate. Just from speaking with them on the phone last night, I can tell how much heart and soul they poured in him. I feel so grateful to be benefiting from the care and compassion they shared with Wesley in his puppyhood. I already consider them family and can’t wait to reunite them with their special boy. I’m sure Mr Wesley will be thrilled to see them again!

In talking with many people these past two weeks I have a different perspective on graduation. It never really made a lot of sense to me why we as handlers would be considered graduates as this is only the beginning of our journey and we honestly haven’t done a whole lot in training. In truth, today’s purpose is to acknowledge and thank the hard work and generosity expressed by the people who make Guide Dogs for the Blind happen. It is the puppy raisers, staff, volunteers and donors that set this school apart as the elite guide dog organization in the country. As I said in an earlier post, GDB could not run without even one of the contributors to its success. Today is a day to honor all that has been invested in these wonderful dogs. They are the true graduates. The dogs walking across the stage are the ones who have made it through all of the tests involved in becoming a guide dog. They have successfully completed all of the requirements and can now enter into a lifelong career. It just so happens that we as blind people get to receive these new partners. To say I feel blessed would be a major understatement.

Today is not about me or any of my classmates. Its about recognizing others for what they do. Here’s to a smooth and joyful celebration of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Cheers all!!

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Guide Dog Take II: Day ? Reflection

Clearly I have lost track of how many days we have been in training but it has been going well. Over the last few days, Wesley and I have gotten a lot accomplished and we are starting to really settle into a good partnership. I am finally whole with Wesley by my side and am more grateful for him and his old soul every day.

As we near the middle of Week 2 of training, the group is getting into more specific instruction based on common specific situations and custom work catered to our living and working routines at home. My partner and I did some sidewalkless work with our instructor as it is something we both encounter at home. Wesley did great even when I was a bit uncomfortable with a new environment. We have also walked a night route that went well despite everything looking (and smelling) differently in the dark. Wesley was a champ as always. We worked on an obstacle course with PVC pipe overhead obstructions at head level. Wesley struggled with this but it is a difficult skill for any dog when they have to be aware of the space so much outside their personal clearance. Yesterday we worked on public transportation which will be a major part of my life at home. It was refreshing to feel confident traveling on a bus and train in a relatively unfamiliar city. Today we had a traffic route where our supervisor drove the dreaded Prius in common traffic encounter situations. The dogs are trained to respond to a potentially dangerous situation with any obstacle but especially cars. This can come in the form of a car pulling in front of a team in a driveway, veering in the direction of a team, coming up behind or coming straight at a dog and handler. Wesley did great for all of the situations with only one mistake with the head on confrontation. And might I mention that it was freezing cold outside for this route with a bitter wind chill. I have serious respect and gratitude for my instructor who walked this route six times with each team in such cold weather. He continues to impress me with his dedication to thoroughly training our wonderful guides and walking alongside (figuratively and literally) as we begin to bond and become a true partnership. He has said several times that he is instructing me as if I were an apprentice trainer and I have a lot of appreciation for his acknowledgement of my abilities. Wesley and I are definitely blessed to have such an awesome coach.

Earlier today my partner and I went on a unique route with our dogs and supervisor. We went on a walking trail type route that had a defined path but still involved obstacles, direction changes and surface changes with bridges. My partner and I are both fast walkers so we were cruising through the trees and taking everything in stride. This route in particular was the one that left me feeling empowered. It felt so good to almost jog down the path with full trust in Wesley. It may be cliche but I really felt free; free of the limited speed of a cane; free of any worry or doubt in navigating and most of all I felt free of my own insecurities. I was fully connected with Wesley and that was all that mattered. We were both enjoying the moment and it was refreshing to just let go. I felt like my fearless self again.

We are now nearing the end of training with graduation coming up quickly on Saturday. Although I am happy to be returning home with my new partner at my side, it will be bitter-sweet to leave such an uplifting group of people. My classmates and I have really bonded into our own little family and it will be sad not to banter and hear their stories every day. I will miss the encouragement of our instructors, supervisor and staff but I know that support extends past our training time on campus. I am so amazed by the time and energy invested by volunteers as well and their kindness and generosity is honestly inspiring. Hopefully I will get to meet Wesley’s puppy raisers before graduation and thank them for raising such a loving and gentle guy. Wesley is clearly a reflection of the family that cared for him in his puppyhood. And although I have not met them personally, I feel more connected to GDB donors here in training as I am benefiting and growing from the generous contributions to this one-of-a-kind organization. Their investment lasts for the lifetime of these dogs and I am reminded of what a blessing that is. Guide Dogs for the Blind could not reach such success without any of these integral components that make it such an effective agent to monumentally change lives.

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Guide Dog Take II: Day 5 and 6 Thankful

This post is a combined update from Thursday and Friday (Day 5 and 6). I apologize for the length in advance!!

Thursday Day 5
Today Wesley and I went to Portland in the morning and worked our primary route. It felt so awesome! Things just seemed to fall into place and it felt like we were clicking nicely. Even though it is still very early in the journey, I can already feel a bond forming between Wesley and I. One thing I am really noticing this time in training is that my voice and body language communicate so much to Wesley and he is super sensitive and responsive to what I do or say. And today I started to settle into the routine that Wesley works best with which means being purposeful with my voice volume and intonation and making sure I follow through with presenting the appropriate body language for what I am asking of him. He is looking to me for direction, encouragement, praise and leadership and I am trusting him to keep me safe. It is a mutually beneficial relationship with very dynamic two-way communication.

After our morning route, we returned to GDB campus for a big Thanksgiving feast with all of my classmates and also our instructors, supervisor and their families. It was so incredibly delicious!! For those who know me well, I love to eat good food and a lot of it! I cleaned my plate and still had room for two pieces of pumpkin pie that was amazing! Even though I spent Thanksgiving away from my family for the first time in my life, I really enjoyed the company of some really wonderful people. I am also really grateful for all of the kitchen staff and volunteers who came in to serve us on such a family-focused holiday.

Thanksgiving is a really fun holiday for many reasons and I’m realizing as I mature and get older that it is becoming more and more of a day to reflect on all of the blessings around me. I couldn’t list everything that I am thankful for if I tried but there are some things that are profoundly humbling today. The fact that I am in a beautiful facility eating delicious food and receiving training with a life changing partner is reason enough to give thanks. And the fact that I am given all of this free of charge is even more incredible. I am grateful for Guide Dogs for the Blind and all of the work they do on a daily basis. Every person in this organization has a distinct role and and I wouldn’t be here if even one of those roles didn’t exist. So much energy, so many resources and a huge amount of genuine love are poured into these beautiful dogs who offer blind people a whole new world of independence. It may sound cheesy but I just want to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to anyone who contributes to the GDB mission. Your selfless actions do not go unnoticed and the impact you make is one that lasts a lifetime.

I am thankful for many other things including my dear Wesley, my beautiful family, wonderful friends, supportive community and most of all I am grateful to have a good and gracious Lord who is my rock and salvation. It is through His love and sacrifice that we live to enjoy His kingdom and all of His living creations both two and four-legged.

Friday
Up until this point, the weather here in lovely Boring, Oregon has been more than cooperative. My classmates and I have returned from routes sweating and commenting on how warm and pleasant it is outside. All of that came crashing down today! By the time we go to Portland and I headed out for my route, it was pouring rain. Now I’m a proud Seattle girl and I can handle pretty much anything in terms of weather but this wet, windy morning was just plain uncomfortable. Thinking I was just being whiny and needed to pull up my big girl panties and suck it up, I pushed through and focused as much as possible on the sweet boy at the end of my leash. Despite the awful weather, Wesley tried his very best for me. But eventually the wet started to get to him too. He occasionally drifted toward the overhangs on the buildings trying to get out of the rain but I politely asked him to maintain our straight line despite my similar discomfort. He wanted to go as fast as he could so we could get inside and got a bit antsy while we were waiting for traffic. I understood his unease but eventually had to firmly remind him that he still had a job to do. I made sure to talk to him and tell him that it was ok to slow down because we were in this together. Toward the end of the route he began to calm down and settle back into the plucky little trot that I experienced earlier in the week. Maybe it was because we were working our way back to the gdB Portland center or that I relaxed but I was still proud that we were able to pull it together for a solid ending to an otherwise difficult outing.

After we finally made it back inside, Wesley and I dried off as best we could. I’m not going to lie, it was slightly adorable how he leaned into me as I rubbed him down with a towel. We then packed up the team and headed into Gresham for an afternoon route. The plan was to practice some sidewalkless work but when we got there I started to feel a bit sick. Airing on the side of caution, I decided to pass on the afternoon route so Wesley and I just cuddled up in a comfy beanbag. The picture is of us all hunkered down, catching some snuggle time. As our wonderful nurse went to take the picture, Wesley leaned up and licked my face (kind of precious!).

When we returned to campus, Wesley and I worked on some clicker training with our instructor. I found this part to be super fun. Wesley got so excited when he figured out that if he showed me the chair we were targeting, he got a click followed by a food reward. His earnest effort to play the game and receive the reward just made me smile. It is something that he obviously enjoys and it builds his confidence as there is really no way he can lose this game. Its all about setting him up for success every time. In the evening we practiced brushing our dogs’ teeth and cleaning their ears. This is a review for me as I did these things with Retha but it was good to see how Wesley did with them too. He did not like the ear cleaning very much but as usual was very patient and trusting for me. I just talked to him and he did just fine. He seemed to like the teeth brushing though. I guess any dog would as we were using the delightful poultry-flavored toothpaste (Yum!!!). I was sitting on the floor next to him while I brushed his teeth and right when I wasn’t expecting it, he licked my face and let’s just say I got a little taste of the toothpaste too! Just for the record it is not as delicious to this human as it might be to my lovely canine. Despite my surprise, I couldn’t help but smile at his little sign of affection.

Now as I sit writing this post, listening to the rain outside and enjoying the soft sound of Wesley sleeping at m side, I am happy. I finally feel complete again and it is such a simply good feeling. I hope everyone gets to feel this sense of wholeness at some point in their life.

Thank you all for reading and following my journey. I hope I get to know your story as you get to know mine. Feel free to shoot me an email if you’d like to connect.

Good night world!image-2

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Guide Dog Take II: Day 4 Building Confidence

This post is for yesterday. I know I said I would be better on posting about each day on that day so that will start now after this post. 😉

Today Wesley and I went walking on our route in Portland. Our first route in the morning went really well. We noted several things to work on including my turn mechanics especially to the left. On our way back to the GDB Portland Center, Wesley and I approached a curb as usual and when I cued him to go forward and cross the street, he resisted. When I asked again, he tried to move to the left so we reset. I asked him one more time but we just decided to go sighted guide across the street. The principle here was to “get to the good” stuff and reward for that. So when we walked forward with my instructor being a sighted guide, Wesley did come alongside me, maintaining the line we were traveling. When we got to the other side, my instructor informed me that there was a large puddle of water in front of the down-curb which was why Wesley did not want to move forward. We noted this as something to pay attention to in our afternoon route. The rest of the morning route finished out nicely and ended on a positive note.

When we went out for our afternoon route, everything seemed to flow a bit smoother. My turns were better but did get a bit sloppy toward the end. The big accomplishment happened when we approached the very scary dog-eating water puddle. Wesley showed me the curb as usual and when I asked him to go forward he didn’t even hesitate. He took a big step and went through the puddle like a champ! I felt like an overly proud mom when we got to the other side and he looked up at me seeking approval and reward. He got that praise in full! It seems like such a small accomplishment but to me it just showed how hard Wesley tries to do good. All the way back on that route, he trotted with a little hop in his step. It was like he was proud of himself too.

With every day that passes, I feel Wesley and I growing in confidence and connectedness. With each moment of praise or encouragement, he works a little bit harder for me. I can’t even describe how good it feels to be behind the harness again and especially with such an earnest and honest partner. Wesley continues to endear himself to me and I just love every second I spend with him. He seems happy to be with me and work as a team.

After dinner, Wesley and I did some snuggling on the floor. He was so affectionate and kept leaning into me as I pet him. He licked my face and laid his head in my lap. I really enjoy how responsive he is to physical praise. I feel like it connects us on a deeper level. We played a little with his bone and kong and eventually he decided it was bedtime and tucked himself in a ball in the corner. Before I went to bed, I made sure to give him some love and tell him how good of a boy he is and how much I love him. This partnership is just plain awesome. I know it won’t be spectacular like this forever but the love I feel between us hopefully will never go away.

Tomorrow we work in Portland in the morning and Fred Meyer in the afternoon for inside work. I’m looking forward to just another day with Mr Wesley.

I’m going to try and get some pictures of us working on some of our routes.

Stay tuned and may your Thanksgiving cooking go smoothly!

Continue reading

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Guide Dog: Take II: Day 3 Playtime

This was technically yesterday. I’ll try to write subsequent posts on the day they happen!

photoToday Wesley and I had some really awesome routes! It felt so good to be behind the harness again. Our paces match perfectly and I absolutely adore the way he works. He needs more encouragement than Retha did but he is so sincere in how hard he tries. Even when he is unsure of what I’m asking, he still tries to do the right thing. Working with Wesley is providing many opportunities for me to learn as well. I am working on making my voice intonation with commands more consistent and confident. This is something I never even realized with Retha but Wesley responds extremely well when my commands are firm but still encouraging. My instructor suggested thinking of Wesley doing whatever I am asking him to do instead of waiting to see if he will actually do it. I found this really helpful. It’s definitely something I will have to keep working on but Wesley is a patient teacher.

In between routes, Wesley is so mellow and relaxed. I had some homework to get done and he just laid quietly at my side even as other dogs came in and out. Occasionally he will become curious about what the dogs near him are doing but when I ask for his attention, he is quick to refocus. This level of consistency is so refreshing and exactly what I need in my life right now. I can already tell that he will do great in a class setting and in the dorms.

After returning back to campus from our away routes today, we received instruction with our grooming kits. This was largely a review for me but still exciting with a new dog. Wesley really likes being groomed but is very sensitive. Sometimes he gets unsure about what I’m doing but just looks around to check it out. His coat is so soft and fluffy and super easy to groom. Selfishly, I admit that I am really happy he has black fur because I can finally wear my large collection of black yoga pants that have been in the back of my closet for too long!!

After dinner, we were given Wesley’s favorite thing… toys!!! We have a bone-shaped tug toy, a kong and a nylabone. Wesley loves all three and is so gentle when he plays. He has such a soft mouth and likes to just run back and forth with a toy in his mouth. i threw the kong just a few feet away and he playfully ran to get it and bring it back to me. It seems that he really just wants to be close to me when we play. At one point, he was chewing on his bone a few feet away from me and I was sitting on the floor watching him. He then got up and left his bone, walking over to me and nudging my arm around him. He laid down against my side and took a little nap. I almost cried because of how precious this is. After some snuggle time, Wesley got up and went straight to his bed and fell asleep. Again this is just adorable.

Tomorrow we head into Portland to begin our new routes. I’m really excited to practice more with this sweet boy. With every minute of our journey, I adore him even more. Stay tuned!

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