Flashback Friday: Prologue

Original Post Date:

18 May, 2009

I walk into a store and someone screams, two people “aww” as I go past, a sales person rushes to ask if I need assistance, and I snap “leave it” at the cause of all the trouble—Prada, my German Shepherd, quickly pulls her curious little nose away from the folded fleece jacket on the display table she’d chanced to investigate.

This is a typical shopping trip for me. Yes, I’m one of those people that take their dogs everywhere. No, she’s not a purse pooch. German Shepherds, as most people know, are big enough to cause a stir. The difference between me and the average pet parent is that I’m legally blind and Prada is my Seeing Eye Dog.

I was born about 75% blind, and used a cane throughout most of high school and my first year of college. But after a year of the cane end catching on every sidewalk crack and broken brick of campus, I’d had enough. If the tip jams, the other end sticks straight up into my stomach. By the end of my first semester  I had a permanent bruise and a burning desire for a guide dog.

My fantastic mom did the research while I suffered through fall semester finals, and during Spring Break I toured The Seeing Eye, the oldest civilian service dog school in the world. I talked to graduates and trainers at the school, toured the facilities, and took Juno Walks. Here, a trainer takes on the role of Dog and holds onto the dog end of the harness while I hold the human end. The trainer, taking on the persona of Juno, a generic guide dog, gives the student a safe demonstration of what it feels like, without risk that the student will confuse the dog because of their own lack of training. It was a strange experience, but I could feel my heart lifting.

Then I spent one glorious, ineffable afternoon walking around downtown Morriston, NJ, with a lovely German Shepherd steering me expertly around obstacles and delicately navigating complicated intersections. With a trainer on hand to ensure Prada and I didn’t get into trouble, we cruised around outdoor café furniture, bike racks, and people, and I never once worried I’d step out in front of a moving vehicle.

I can’t describe what it was like, that first walk. Being able to look somewhere other than the sidewalk, feeling like a partner rather than a child hanging onto an adult’s coat-tails…More than 10 years later and my eyes still well up as I relive that experience.

So now you begin to catch up to me. At this point in the story I’m breathlessly awaiting May 23rd, the day I’ll travel to New Jersey and begin a journey of independence I could only dream about.

P.S. Check out this new novella in the Royal Investigative Service series by my co-author Galadriel Coffeen! Magical Mechanics Or How a Fairy Found His Place

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