I’ve never really loved dogs. The truth is I’m a bit of a princess and I don’t really enjoy being licked or jumped on or getting dog hair and saliva all over my clothes. When I was little I desperately wanted a dog, but as I got older I realised I’m not actually a huge fan. I just thought I wanted a dog because…well…everybody else had one, didn’t they?
So, the title of this post may be confusing you somewhat. What a weird way to open a post about a guide dog, by saying how much you don’t like dogs. Yes…well…I’m not going to sugar coat anything here. I don’t go mad for puppies and stuff…I don’t hate dogs, I’m not scared of dogs and of course I think they’re cute. I’m not a monster you guys!
I’m not going to go into the whole saga of how I came to the decision to apply for a guide dog, It’s long, and kind of boring, and very personal in parts. But suffice to say I gave it a hell of a tonne of thought, I weighed up the pros and cons, the pluses, and minuses, the good and the bad, and eventually came to the conclusion that it would probably be the best option for me.
Yes, you don’t have to feed a cane, you can throw it in the corner and ignore it when you’re not out and about. It doesn’t shed or slobber or require any food or affection. But for me, as someone who likes to be going and getting places in the most efficient way possible, I think the benefits of a guide dog will most likely out way the perceived inconveniences… grooming, dog poo etc.
I did a lot of soul searching, and a lot of talking with various people and I even had a dog come and stay with me to sort of see what it might be like, (shout out to Ariel) and eventually my application to be matched with a guide dog went in. Almost exactly one year ago.
I knew it would be a long wait, which didn’t bother me particularly. Whenever it happened, it happened. As we’ve established, I wasn’t desperate for a dog. I think my sister and some of my friends were waiting with much greater anticipation than I was. I mostly forgot about it, I didn’t tell very many people I was on the waiting list because I couldn’t stand the idea of people constantly asking me when I’d get a guide dog…enough people did that even when I had no intention of ever getting one. So I kept it fairly on the downlow. I maintain that this was an excellent idea.
Fast forward to late April/early May this year… I was in Bed Bath ‘n’ Table buying sheets and found the cutest darn puppy stuff., bowls, toys, and the like, and I found a Unicorn toy that I thought was super adorable, I wanted it for my not yet existent dog. My sister persuaded me not to get it yet. But when I went back the very next week to buy a present for my Aunt’s new dog I caved and bought the adorable unicorn. I tell you this because it has been sitting in my room taunting me for near on two months…reminding me that any day I could get a phone-call informing me of a match. It still didn’t happen which was still mostly fine by me. Although by June I was sort of thinking, ‘OK its been nearly a year now. Can we get this thing over and done with already?’ Impatient I am very aware. But I’m not a very patient person usually…so the fact I lasted 11 months is mucho impressivo! (I don’t think that’s real Spanish)
Fast forward again to two Mondays ago, (bear with me. I know this is a long one) I got a call saying they had a possible match! I was aghast, shocked, much more than I should have been considering I’d been half expecting it for a few months now. I discovered the dog and I had to do a trial walk, I thought ‘Good. That buys me a bit more time to get used to the idea, and anyway, the dog probably won’t be a good match for me because that’s just the way my life works.’ But no, I got another call later that same day saying this trial walk would be that very Thursday! I know right! The people in my house were very excited. (mostly my sister. I was excited and a bit nervy as is to be expected no doubt.
Thursday arrived and I met the lovely pup and we went for a nice little, freezing, walk. Which just reaffirmed for me that getting a guide dog is the right way forward. The main thing for me is how bloody fast I can move compared to when I’m walking with my cane. The dog did not jump on me, or try an lick my face, but she was V friendly. These were all also big pluses. After our walk and a good chat with the instructors it was decided that since they were happy, I was happy and the dog was happy…that this would be a good match. Photos were taken (see above) they all went back to Guide Dogs HQ, I texted my family, and then I sat there…and contemplated. It still hadn’t fully sunk in. ‘Anyway’ I thought, ‘I still have loads of time to get used to the idea.’ Because of boring scheduling problems, Uni etc, I can’t attend the residential class. Which is what you normally do when you’re a first-time guide dog user. Things had to be organised, an instructor had to be found, arrangements had to be made. I still had weeks, if not a couple of months, to let this whole thing simmer away in my brain.
That night I went to bed and found I was on the verge of tears…I wasn’t sad or worried so much as overwhelmed by the whole idea. I’ve never been good with change, and this is a major change. I know it’s one for the better. But that doesn’t make it any less bloody enormous! I was also sad that my Mum isn’t here to encourage and support me through this whole thing. She would have been super organised and enthusiastic, and I know somewhere she is doing a happy dance and cheering me on.
So anywho…I still thought I had loads of time. Again, I didn’t tell many people, and the ones I did tell were disappointed that it wasn’t happening straight away. Easy for them to say…they’re not the ones who’ll have to be responsible for this dog. I’ve never even had a pet before you guys. I mean there’s Lola the fighting fish. But sometimes I forget to feed him.
Now. Picture this, me on the train to my intensive drama course, kitted out in my active wear that I had specifically purchased for the occasion, feeling very uncomfortable wearing trackies in public, putting the whole dog business out of my head for the moment, this week I would be a focused drama student. When my phone rings, unknown number. Lucky I answered. It was my instructor…turns out we could start in a week, e.g. next Monday, e.g. tomorrow. WHAT!?!?!?
It was all a bit surreal…it still is…I turned up to my first day of drama intensive in a bit of a weird, dazed, headspace.
That afternoon, after I’d told my siblings, my Dad and my Nonni, I decided it was time to announce it to the world. I’m getting a guide dog. So up the photo went on FB, and in the comments poured.
So here we are. Sunday night. The night before it all starts for real. I have had my last dog free day. I did not mean for that to sound as negative as it did…
I’m scared, I’m excited, I’m nervous, and a whole bunch of other things I can’t find words for. If all goes to plan I hope to blog regularly about the process. Partly for myself, partly for friends and family, and partly for people like me who want to do as much research as possible when deciding if guide dog mobility is for them, those people who may not have a swarm of friends with guide dogs to bombard with questions, which I am lucky enough to possess, and of course for all those peeps who just lurve dogs!!!
It is going to be a massive challenge. But I sincerely believe it will all be worth it. I shall put in the hard yards and reap the rewards…hopefully!
Wish me luck!! XX