Musings of a Multiple Disabled Guide Dog Handler: 5 Days Out
by Patty Fletcher
Prince Edward pounced onto my chest with a mighty meow at just before 7 AM. “Oh! Sweetie, no chance of my sleeping late with you around huh?”
“MURRP!” was his only reply as I sat up and swung my feet out from under the covers and onto the floor.
“WOW! 5 days left. Can you believe it? In just a few days, I’ll be in the air and on my way to The Seeing Eye Guide Dog school in Morristown, New Jersey, for my second Guide Dog.” My heart thudded mightily at the thought as I wiped sleep from my eyes.
“MURRP! Meow!” Eddy replied.
“OK. I get it. You don’t care, long as I feed you. I’m coming.” I laughed as I stood from the bed and made my way into the bathroom for my morning’s routine. I suppose it seems trivial to some, but for me keeping my simple morning routine of washing my face, brushing my teeth and hair, and taking morning meds is a necessary part of keeping my mental illness in check. And now that I’m returning to Guide Dog school in just a few days this is more important than ever.
Most believe going to get a Guide Dog is a simple matter of going to the school, spending a few days there playing with and getting to know the dog and then returning home. Some have even suggested I should just have The Seeing Eye ship a dog to me. People don’t understand these dogs know over 30 commands and that learning to work a dog in all the various circumstances one finds themselves in is a complexed system which must be learned with great precision.
Not only must we learn to handle the dog in all the everyday situations such as learning to navigate hectic red-light intersections and crowded malls but there is also the matter of creating that magical bond between human and dog. This doesn’t just click into place either. Whilst I will admit that my first dog Campbell and I came together fairly quickly, there’s no guarantee the second will go that easily.
Let’s not forget, that I loved Campbell very much and he’s only been dead a little less than a year so there are going to be some rather confusing moments to be sure.
This training affects the person taking it in many ways and some are quite emotional. That alone could be enough to trigger a stress related episode for me but when you add on the fact that I’m headed back to replace a dog I loved, owned and handled for nearly 11 years, those triggers jump 100 percent.
As I continued throughout the morning, marking off things one by one from my checklist of things to do before I could leave, I found I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and by noon when I needed to make lunch, I was becoming slightly manic, and I was starting to run in circles.
I kept forgetting little details like actually putting my frozen Potpie in the oven after preheating it and bringing the phone into the room with me so I wouldn’t miss important calls. I even caused poor Prince Edward some upset when I took his food from the fridge, then just sat it in the microwave and walked away. He, having had quite enough of my absent mindedness, gave a loud protesting YOWLWLWLWLWL!” which seemed to say, “Enough already! Feed me, feed yourself, and calm down, else you’re never gonna get there to get that old stinking dog.”
Settling myself down at the table beside him as he started to eat, I took a few deep cleansing breaths, began to calm down, and soon things were moving a bit more smoothly along.
While Eddy ate his lunch, I checked my medication supply. This was another thing I knew must be carefully handled. It wouldn’t do for me to find myself suddenly out of my Bipolar and Fibromyalgia medications in New Jersey. I might not be able to get them refilled all that easily with the type of insurance I have. Most likely it wouldn’t be a problem but these days one never knows so I figured a penny’s worth of prevention would be a pound worth of cure.
As the afternoon wore on, I began to check more things off my list and soon I was feeling a bit better about what lie ahead. For me, having a Guide Dog is worth all the preparation. Even with all the extra safety nets that must be put into place to make certain I don’t have an unexpected bout of mania or depression, or a fibro flare up I know without doubt the end result will be worth it all.
On July 19, 2021, at 5:15 in the morning, if all goes as planned, I’ll take off from the Tricities Regional Airport in Bristol Tennessee and and even though there are many more things which must be done before I may go, I cannot wait for that moment when the mighty slamming of the cabin door sounds, the jet engines rev to full-power, and we lift off into what will surely be a watershed moment in my life.
About the Authors
Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant. To learn more, visit: https://pattysworlds.com/.