As referenced in my previous post, Bradley graduated from “In Training,” status to “Service Dog.” Anyone, who has read my last post, before I stopped updating this blog, may be scratching their heads, at this point. Where I last left off, I had made the determination that Bradley could not meet my needs as a service dog. I made the difficult decision to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. That is where the roller coaster began.
The Ups and Downs of a Dream Come True
I initiated the application process with the guide dog school of my choice, Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB). After hours and hours of research, I decided that GEB was the best match for me. I was incredibly impressed with everything I learned about them and was absolutely giddy about the prospect of acquiring a guide dog from them. Within about a month of completing the entire application process, including the home interview, I received word that I had been accepted into their program and would be contacted once the right dog and an opening in a class was found for me.
What a surprise it was, when I received that phone call, and my heart sank down into my stomach. I should have been ecstatic. Where had my giddiness gone? I had just been told that a dream I had, for most of my life, was coming true. I must have sounded like the most underwhelmed future GEB student that the admissions director had ever given this news to.
Throughout the month of waiting, my confidence in my decision to acquire a guide dog from a school had waxed and waned. At one point, I learned that if I was accepted into the school, I would receive a phone call, but if I was not accepted, I would receive a letter. Each day I held my breath, as I sifted through the mail, dreading a letter from Guiding Eyes. At times, I maintained a level of eager anticipation that I would receive a call, and not a letter.. At others, however, I secretly hoped that it wasn’t in the stars for me to be accepted, at that point in my life. I was so conflicted that I didn’t know whether I would be devastated by rejection, or if there was a chance that having the decision completely out of my hands would lift the weight I was constantly carrying on my shoulders.
After receiving the call that told me I had been accepted, the roller coaster of emotions that I had been experiencing gained exponential momentum. My life was about to change. I had a fairy tale-like image in my mind, that once I acquired a guide dog, doors would open for me that, before, were neither possible, nor fathomable.
Why Wasn’t I Thrilled with the Realization of my Dream?
Around the time when all this activity surrounding my acceptance into Guiding Eyes was happening, Bradley was about two years old. Because I started training him when he was so young, we had a two year working partnership under our belts. Even though I was accepted by GEB, I planned to continue Bradley’s training. I told myself and others that I made that decision so I could switch dogs, depending on what I needed most in a particular situation (ex. If I felt that I would need psychiatric assistance, which was Bradley’s strong point, I would take him out with me, while if I knew that it was guiding that I needed most, I would take my guide dog out with me). What I was afraid to admit to myself was that there would never be a cut and dry situation in which I could determine which type of assistance (guiding or psych) I needed more than the other- I needed both, all the time. I gradually became more cognizant of the fact that I would always choose Bradley.
The bond between Bradley and I had been set in stone. To abandon that, for a partnership with another dog, would likely do irreparable damage. That was not a risk I was willing to take. Whether I alternated service dogs or not, I knew I would need to spend significantly more time with one dog than the other, in order to maintain the bond that a working partnership fosters. I also knew that, by accepting a guide from GEB, I would be making a significant commitment to them, which would include making a partnership between my guide and I the first priority. Knowing this broke my heart. I couldn’t allow myself to make Bradley my second priority.
Every time I pondered my decision, the knowledge that one decision would undo, what took two years to accomplish, brought me to tears. Of course, Bradley and I would maintain a strong bond, but it would be limited to the nature of a bond between a pet dog owner and her dog. I would still love him, as if he were my child, but there’s no denying that spending every minute of every day together and having a relationship in which one of us gave the other the invaluable gift of independence, produced a connection like no other.
This is the type of relationship I would have to form with a guide dog for us to work as a team. I would have to spend the majority of my time with my guide dog, while entrusting my life with that dog. Without that trust and deep connection, our partnership would inevitably be limited. That can be a recipe for disaster for a service dog team.
I slowly came to terms that, both logically and psychologically, I simply could not walk away from my partnership with Bradley. It was unshakable and it was imperative for me to keep it that way. As I reached that conclusion, I humbly thanked the wonderful people at GEB for the exceptional treatment they had shown me and explained that I wasn’t ready for the precious gift they had offered me. It was a bittersweet experience making that phone call, but I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was the right thing for me to do.