Hello readers. Welcome to day 4 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Over the past 13 years, I have been introduced to four loves. Their names are Santana, Railey, Perla, and Pi. Each of them served as my guide dogs. Some worked longer than others, but each of my four legged loves has left their own paw prints on my heart.
For most of my life, I didn’t want to work with guide dogs. I was always impressed by the work they did, but in my mind, having one would make me look more blind. However, after getting a couple years of college under my belt, I decided to apply for my first guide. So, at the end of May in 2007, I flew out to
Guide Dogs for the Blind to receive my first dog. I was introduced to Santana, a fluffy black lab. With this being my first dog, I didn’t know exactly what I should be looking for in. A partner. All I knew was that I wanted a dog that could navigate me around my college campus safely. I trained with her for a month and headed back to my life in Illinois. On July 4, the fireworks made her a terrified shaking mess, and from then on, the problems kept coming. She generalized her fear of fireworks to thunder, to the sounds of trains running by miles away. At the end of her life, she was afraid of bells ringing on TV. When we worked together, she wouldn’t work in environments where everything was set up in a grid pattern. For instance, if we went into a restaurant where tables were placed randomly, she would sit and shake rather than walking through and around the seats. The final straw came when I was crossing a street with her, and she turned around and tried to run back to the sidewalk to socialize with another dog. She retired around Thanksgiving of 2008, and my parents adopted her as their pet. She was a wonderful pet, and a favorite of the kids in my neighborhood. She would push our cat around with her toys, much to the annoyance of the cat. Unfortunately, Santana passed away in 2018 just before her 13th birthday.
After Santana, I knew I still wanted to work with a dog, and I was also still taking college classes. In May of 2009, I flew back out to California for dog number 2, and received Railey, a big yellow lab. When I met him, the first thing he did was pee on my shoes. People say he was marking me, and I think they’re right. Railey was an amazing guide. He worked with me for 8 years. We walked in two graduation ceremonies, and when I rreceived my master’s degree, he received a degree as well. He moved with me from Illinois to DC, and when most dogs would balk at the extreme change in scenery, Railey thrived. He rode the metro, guided me to 3 jobs, attended all of my classes, moved into 3 different apartments, and charmed every person he met. Well, except for the Uber driver who didn’t want us (especially him) in her car, so she drove away while I was still holding the door handle. But that’s another story for another day.
The decision to retire Railey was very difficult for me. But I’ve always wanted my guides to have lives after they work. My former neighbors took Railey in, and he is currently living the life of luxury with them. He has more toys than I probably did as a child. He’ll be 13 this year, and I can’t believe it. I have never had a dog so happy to be alive and working. People still stop me to talk about him. He guided me through so much, and I’m happy that he gets to spend the rest of his life as a spoiled pet.
After I retired Railey, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted another dog. However, DC, while navigable with a cane, is still more easily traversed with a dog. So, out to the GDB Oregon campus I flew to get dog number 3. I received Perla, a little chocolate lab, in February of 2018. When I trained with Railey, the class was 3 weeks long. Perla’s class was two weeks, and boy what a class that was. We spent most of our time in the dorms due to snow. We didn’t get to work in city environments pretty much at all. Perhaps if we had, I might have switched dogs before leaving Oregon. Perla never seemed to settle with me and my then boyfriend. She constantly had accidents in our apartment, and was generally anxious and high strung. There is a difference between anxiety and high initiative, and when living in an environment like DC, the dogs need to have high levels of drive and high levels of resilience. Sadly, Perla didn’t come with the resilience. There was a stretch of street she hated walking on. Unfortunately, we had to walk it every day so that I could get to work. I had instructors from the school fly out to watch her work. We thought we might have turned a corner. But one day, I decided to surprise my boyfriend by walking to the mall and getting something he needed. When we tried to cross at an intersection to walk down the street she hated, she veered out of the crosswalk and started walking in the street. Thinking I had done something wrong, I walked her back to the curb and tried again. When she did the same thing, I walked her back, called the school, and we retired her on the spot. She worked with me for 3 months. The hardest part for me was flying her back to California, putting her into an instructor’s crate, and walking away with her wondering why I was not taking her with me. She tried to become a diabetic service dog, but she didn’t take to that career either. And so, she ended up being officially retired back to her puppy raisers.
GDB knew how much of a struggle I had gone through with Perla, and they wanted to make things right. In September of 2018, the school called me and said they thought they had a dog for me, a lab/golden cross,, and could i come out at the end of the month to train with her? I dropped everything, packed up, and flew out to California for dog number four. Before I left for class, my instructor called me, and we discussed preferences. I said that if they were looking at two dogs with the same skill set, and one was male, I wanted the male, but I already knew I was getting the lab/golden cross. On October 1, I opened my door, and my instructor introduced me to Pi, a male black lab with yellow eyes. He was born on March 14, and my boyfriend, soon to be fiancé and then husband, who is a scientist, and I reveled in the nerdiness of his name.
Pi is an amazing little guy. He is more mellow than Railey was as a puppy by far, and he is incredibly intelligent. So smart, in fact, that if I show him something incorrectly once, he remembers for eternity. He was the ring dog in my wedding, loves to snuggle, and knows how to ride up and down on our power recliners. Our partnership is still young, but like Railey, I see Pi having a long and fulfilling working partnership with me. My husband and I have also agreed that when he retires, we will keep him no matter what. I’m glad we own our own place now so that pet rent doesn’t become an issue.
So, there you have it. Four of my life’s loves.If I can get to them, I’ll post some pictures for your enjoyment.
Also, if you have any questions about guide dogs, please comment below.
I hope you all have a great night.