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My Journey Into Guide Dog Ownership

Posted in Delivering Access



If someone had told me four years ago that I would have a guide dog today, I would have told them not to bet on it, or they would lose for sure. After all, why would I need a guide dog? I was just about always with someone, using sighted guide, and used my cane when necessary. So how did I get from point A to point B? I suppose I should start at the beginning…


Up until I was 28 years old, I had what I considered good vision. My acuity was borderline in terms of getting a driver’s license, but I remember going out in our station wagon with my dad when I was about 16, with Dad in the passenger seat and me at the helm. I wasn’t doing too badly, actually, until I was backing up, and my dad asked me if I was going to stop before I hit the fence. There’s a fence back there? I didn’t ask my dad that question, I wasn’t that crazy, but I sure as heck didn’t see that fence. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I can tell you what I thought. I knew then that driving would not be a good idea for me. If I didn’t see the fence, chances were that I wouldn’t see lots of things I would have needed to see in order to be a safe driver. But I digress…


When I was eleven years old, well, almost eleven, I lost the vision in my right eye during surgery to repair a detached retina. I was young, and though I knew on some level it left me with vision in only one eye, I just resumed business as usual in my life. I had a couple of detached retinas in my left eye in my teenage years, and that was scary. By then I was more mature, of course, or as mature as a teenager can be, and I didn’t want to lose the vision in my left eye also. Fortunately, the last surgery I had was successful, and I was truly able to resume business as usual, getting around myself, attending high school and college, doing everything all of my friends were able to do visually except drive.


Fast forward to age twenty-eight. The vision in my left eye began to slightly change, and one day, just like that, I had a yellow film over three-quarters of my vision. This reduced my visual ability dramatically. Within a very short time, I was no longer able to get around independently, though I fought it tooth and nail. I would go out walking, but not with a cane, even though I did get orientation and mobility training. As a matter of fact, I would not use my cane for about twenty years. Yes, you heard that right, twenty years.


Then, about five years ago, after making some friends through email lists, and listening to them talk about the places they went on their own, I decided to go through a refresher course in mobility training. I did this, and thus began my journey using my cane for my journeys. That makes sense, right? After all, using a cane is a journey in itself, isn’t it?


So I had advanced to becoming a cane user. About time after twenty years, wouldn’t you say? But then, in the middle of 2012, I began another journey, working for Fedora. The first two friends I made were my cohorts, er, colleagues, Scott and Brie. They each have a guide dog, and were the first guide dog owners I knew since my vision had deteriorated. As I’ve traveled this wonderful path, I have met and made friends with several guide dog users, and listened to them and tales of their travels, or should I say more appropriately, independence.


So I began to think, sort of like I did when I decided to pick up my cane and use it to my advantage, about the possibility of getting a guide dog.


This was a decision that was not going to be made quite as easily as picking up the cane was. It required many months of introspection and thought. That in itself was an entire process, which I will be glad to relate, next time we meet…

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