MY JOURNEY WITH TITAN
Going to the S A Guide Dogs Association to get my first guide dog. Was I nervous? That is the understatement of the year. I am a partially sighted woman and I was told that a person can wait up to two years for a Guide Dog. Hearing this, I decided to make plans early in preparation of my complete loss of sight. Little did I know that Guide Dogs are not only for totally blind persons, but also for the partially sighted. WOW – no more walking with my cane.
Back to the story though. Could I prepare myself for this life changing experience? Never in a million years. When I arrived at the training centre (where I would reside for three weeks while on training), my nerves increased because I met my classmates. All of them were completely blind and not only was I going to get my first Guide Dog, but I had never socialised or interacted with a totally blind person. One of them was getting her third Guide Dog and the other two were first time candidates.
I cannot give away all the juicy details about the training, but while on course, you not only bond with your Guide Dog, but also learn how to walk with your Guide Dog, take care of them, which toys and treats are best suited for them, and of course the do’s and don’ts.
My most important lesson on course was trust. And funny, that is always the question everyone asks you when walking down the streets – how can you put your life in the hands of a dog? Honestly, this was a challenge, because a person so readily falls into their created comfort zone and now that has to change. Titan however was so confident, that he boosted my confidence. He just looked at me with those loving eyes and lifted his eyebrows as if to say really now I know what I am doing – maybe you should be trained. When we did our first walk alone, I burst into tears when I got to the end, and gave him such a huge tight bear hug, by then, I think he was probably ready to swap me for another owner.
Titan showed confidence and pride leading me on the various routes. But, as you all know, life is not always perfect and Titan had his own setbacks – other dogs. He used to dart passed gates with barking dogs behind them and take me on a Ferrari safari down the road – something he was obviously not supposed to do. I however thought that this was finally now my turn to help Titan. When I knew we were coming to a gate with dogs, I merely stopped him, hugged him and whispered in his ear that I was there for him like he was for me. This was not an instantaneous fix, but we worked on it and by the end of the course he was not only more confident walking past gates but also bonded us closer than ever.
Everyone reading this might be going aaahhh, but the question should be whether getting a Guide Dog is worth it – most definitely, it is a life changing experience. The reality of it is that this experience is not for every visually impaired person. Getting a Guide Dog is not only dependent on your health but also on your willingness to share your life, put your trust in and take care of your Guide Dog. These Guide Dogs are totally dependent on you, as you are on them, for their care, wellbeing, happiness, and to maintain their training received. This being said I will concede that change within oneself is sometimes a journey well worth shared. On this note, I bid thee all farewell until next month.