When my amazing guide dog Molly made her transition across the Rainbow Bridge, I could barely breathe. A bright shining light extinguished. Still, almost 21 months later, I am crying as I write this. That should tell you how much she still means to me.
The photo above of Molly in her harness sitting in the airplane seat, looking quite pleased with herself, is my favorite picture of her. Oh, my heart still aches after all this time! I am so very grateful she was part of my life! She touched so many lives!
I had to retire her a couple years before that last awful trip to the vet, because her joints were failing. She hurt herself umping out of an SUV because she wouldn't wait for me to help her. Thattrip was our last. I got along with a white cane.
The interesting thing was that even though she only went with me down to her Grammy's house (my mom), I could still rely on her senses through that tight psychic bond we shared.
Car rides and active guide duty were a thing of the past, but as a home owner, I could keep her and continue to shower her with love.
Grief Beyond All Comprehension
I'm surprised I didn't cry every ounce of water out of my body. the first few days without her I felt almost dizzy. Not really head-spinning dizzy, but I was reaching for a spirit no longer there and trying to use her senses to enhance my own, with nothing there upon which to lean.
My grief over my first dog Thunder was the worst grief of my life - until Molly. I kept holding out a hand to pet her, wanting to save her a bite of bacon, a morsel of meat, or my pizza crust for her. In so many little ways, a thousand times a day, reaching out to my bonded companion.
Amazing how fresh it all feels still, after all this time. Losing her tore me apart.
Dogs have a special power no human has, no matter how loving or caring that person may be. Why must they live for a decade while careless, destructive humans live eight or more?
I wasn't the only one who loved her, though our bond was strongest. People who met us at conferences loved her. My friends loved her. Her Grammy was devastated at her loss as well.
My life without her felt - and still feels - so hollow.
No more dog to walk. Good news for her, as I knew she would suffer too much through another winter with her hind quarters getting bad. Nice not having to go out in the heat or rain or snow.
But... no dog to walk.
No more silly dog rolling in the grass making stupid dog noises.
No more playtime.
No more cuddles.
No dog to share her senses with me to help me navigate the world.
No dog to love.
I didn't cope well.
I guess I'm still not coping well.
Oh sure, I travel well and safely with a white cane. Learning travel with a cane was the best thing I ever did in my early life.
The white cane means holding my head up high instead of gazing at the ground and yet still missing the fact that the shadow was a hole or that seemingly flat ground was a set of cement stairs gleaming in sunlight with no edge markers to warn me.
The cane tells me about obstacles, stairs, and the difference between shadows and holes.
But a cane can't help me find the end of the line at the airport or grocery store.
A cane can't take me around that construction zone so I don't have to figure out how to get past it.
A cane requires no food, brushing or et bills, but it can't help me cope with large crowds, and it can't snuggle with me at night and give me daily reasons to laugh and smile.
Time for a Change
After a year and a half of sobbing, longing, and trying to convince myself I wasn't getting another dog while living out here in the country, I couldn't take it anymore. But I didn't want to train my own again.
Training my own guide dogs meant:
- I started from ground zero with a puppy.
- I didn't have to leave home to get and train with a dog.
- I chose the dog.
- I didn't have to deal with anyone else's rules and hoops through which to jump.
- I trained the dog from housebreaking to sit to stay to all the guide dog functions, like finding curbs and knowing when to cross a street.
- I paid all the expenses, including replacing the underpants and shoes and power cords that got chewed.
- I had to have a harness made.
- I had to do all the socializing and make sure the dog could handle everything fro escalators to crowds to rural roads to city buses myself.
- Getting a dog who had past unknown traumas. Molly came from a shelter and had been abused before that.
.I didn't want another puppy to housebreak and train from scratch, as I had done for my first two dogs. I'm done with puppies. Puppies should be like grandchildren. Spoil them for a little while and hand them back to their parents for all the hard work.
And while I had all sorts of great experiences to use as learning parties for my other two dogs, living rural means NO access to things like escalators, revolving doors, moving sidewalks, elevators, public transportation buses, commuter trains/Light rail, elevators, and taxis.
My sensible brain finally got my attention to remind me that I don't have to train my own from scratch. I could go to a school and get one pre-loaded with guide training. The reasons I didn't do this the first two times were not an issue anymore.
Getting a Trained Guide Dog from a School
Going to a guide dog school means:
- Filling out an application.
- Going to an eye doctor even though I'm no less blind today than I was decades ago.
- Going to a doctor, because...why? Oh yeah...because they said so.
- Jumping through hoops
- Letting someone else pick out MY dog, not me.
- Dropping everything and leaving home for about a month to learn how to handle the dog.
- Not owning my dog for a year.
- Dog bred for guide work.
- Dog raised by someone else.
- Dog lived in stable loving home before coming to me.
- No charge for the air transportation to class
- No charge for food or lodging (at most schools) during training.
- No charge for the dog.
- Going to class for the dog on their schedule.
- Bypassing a year and a half of training, vet bills...and bonding with my dog.
And because of the school I chose, there were a couple more hoops through which to jump:
- Making a video showcasing my independent travel skills with a white cane.
- Asking six friends to be character references for me
- Having one of the people I love most say, "That's a BAD idea" in a derisive nasal voice the moment I told her I was applying for a dog.
.I'll go into why I chose Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in another article. The support I have received from so many people who've met me at conferences and along my author journey astounds me.
Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me, and atch for the next episode in the Leader Dog Chronicles.
My new guide dog is Jemma!
Meet & Follow Leader Dog Jemma on the Social Web
Jemma is a busy dog. Not only is she my guide, toy reviewer and treat tester, but she also shares her adventures in her own voice on her own Facebook page and Instagram Feed.
- Watch for her hashtag is #LeaderDogJemma
- LIKE Jemma's Facebook Page: Leader Dog Jemma's Adventures
- FOLLOW Jemma's Instagram photos: LeaderDogJemma on Instagram
- WATCH her videos in the Leader Dog Jemma's adventures YouTube Playlist
- READ about her Leader Dog Chronicles
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Ronda Del Boccio
#1 best selling author, speaker, and Amazon Top Reviewer
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