Today I met a beautiful soul who happens to be my guide dog partner. I could not be more thrilled with this match. It is only the first day of our journey together but I am already in love.
This morning my classmates and I began with some Juno work. For those not familiar with GDB lingo, Juno work is when an instructor holds the harness or collar and simulates common dog behaviors. Using this method allows for handlers to learn commands and offers an opportunity to troubleshoot through possible distractions. In all honesty, I found that my concrete obedience and guidework were really rusty. I felt like I had forgotten everything and had to start from scratch. My patient instructor helped me to gain confidence and find my “guiding legs” again. The muscle memory started to come back to me and I eventually settled into the rhythm. There are a few other retrains (handlers on their 2nd, 3rd… dog) in my class and they had trouble with Juno as well which made me feel much better about struggling at first. Through doing this Juno work, I did discover that I have some less desirable habits that I’ll be working to correct. But I’m up for the challenge.
The fun really began after lunch. I waited in my room and waited for my instructor to bring my new partner. As I listened to all of my classmates open their doors and welcome in their dogs, my heart beat faster and faster. I ran through whatever name possibilities I could come up with in my head “Alejandro? Donald? Ricardo? Luigi? Frederick?” And as I continued to wait, my anticipation ever rising, I couldn’t help but notice that I was overcome with peace. This surprised me. I would have expected to have metal butterflies in my stomach as is normal for me when something new or important is coming. I attribute this serene feeling to none other than the Holy Spirit. This whole journey of retiring Retha and waiting for another guide has brought me so much closer to God. I’ve faced a higher sense of vulnerability than I have felt in a long time yet these past few months have been different. Instead of being overwhelmed by anxiety or stress I found it relieving and enticing to lay my burdens before the cross. I had full faith that God held me in His hand. He had a plan and however difficult it was at times, I had more trust in that plan than I’ve ever had. As Jesus was with me as I handed over Retha’s leash in August and as He jumped with me when I dove head-first into a new year of school without a dog, I know that He stood at my side today as I awaited my new partner. These past months have been miserable in many ways but the soft blanket of Godly peace I felt today is proof that the struggle was worth it.
After an indeterminable amount of time, I heard the promising knock on my door. I leapt to open it and met my instructor leading Wesley, a stout, male black lab. I knelt to greet Wesley as he affectionately licked my cheek. I held back tears as I ran my hands over Wesley’s soft and fluffy coat, listening as best I could to the information from my instructor. Once we were alone and given time to get to know each other, Wesley flopped over on his side and asked for a good belly rub which I of course provided. He couldn’t have cared less about the numerous smells on the floor. He just wanted my attention and I was glad to give it to him. Automatically I knew that this was my dog; this was the partner that God had readied for me.
Wesley and I worked on heeling and some basic guidework around the GDB campus. I admit, it felt much different from with Retha but I felt with every step that Wesley was trying with all of his heart to do the right thing. We used a lot of food rewards and I discovered that Wesley is highly motivated by them but also thrived on physical and verbal praise. At dinner, Wesley laid at my side like a perfect angel. And now as I sit writing this post, he sleeps next to my bed, positioning himself as close to the bed(where I’m working) as possible. He is so mellow and calm and I absolutely adore that. We seriously have the same temperament. I simply adore him and his old soul.
The real work begins tomorrow and I am excited to get walking with this precious boy. I have a feeling that our journey together will be full of joy and discovery. Of course it will take time for us to bond and become a true team but I just want to enjoy every step along the way with Wesley.
Thank you all again for your continued support in this journey! I am beyond blessed to have such a loving community around me and now around Wesley as well. Stay tuned for more updates about our progress in training. Welcome to the family Wesley.