By William H. Grignon
I can’t believe I am doing this. For most of my life, I have been afraid of dogs: they can turn, lunge, and rip off your face. But, over the past seven years, I have lived with a goofball named Percy, my wife’s guide dog. I have learned to trust and love him as a member of our family. And now, I am one step closer to getting my own guide dog.
I just had an interview and Juno Walk with Eric Lora, of Freedom Guide Dogs, and I am now on the list to get a guide dog of my own – probably in the spring of 2021 – less than six months away – yikes!
I have never had a guide dog. Heck, I have never had a dog as a pet. I only had a Guinea pig named Rascal that grew very fat and tried to bite me every time I cleaned his cage. My family had cats, but no dogs. Dogs were always big, loud, and unpredictable. But Percy…he is big and he can be loud, but he is anything but unpredictable. He is as regular as clockwork when it comes to meals and treats, and he is as guileless as they come – just a big lug where what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
Mary Ann is a wonderful trainer. Percy is a completely different animal in the harness: focused, strategic, and all business. And Mary Ann is so much more confident, empowered, and free with Percy than she is using a cane. And, yet…
I have relied on a cane for more than thirty years. Oh, sure, it has gotten me into some interesting situations. There was the time I wandered into a construction site and a woman in an SUV drove off-road to ask me if I needed help. Another time I encountered two guide dogs crossing in front of me in a school lobby and I managed to high step over one then the other dog to come out unscathed on the other side. And there were the times my cane made it simply fine, but my head didn’t… tree branch overhanging the sidewalk, open cab door of a parked truck outside my apartment, you know the drill.
So, now, with some trepidation, I have moved one step closer. I still have doubts. Not about the dog. About me. Do I have enough for the dog to do? Will I be a good handler? Will the dog have a good life?
Mary Ann says I worry too much, and PCB colleagues tell me it will be the best move I have ever made. I never wanted kids because I dreaded having a thirty-year-old child of mine come fresh from therapy and tell me it’s all my fault. I know, I know, a dog is not a child, but a dog is absolutely dependent on me for food, water, bathroom pit-stops, grooming, healthcare, play dates, everything!
This feels like an accelerating slide down a slippery slope. I know, I can say no at any time, but I think I feel some tectonic shifts taking place and I am hopeful that spring will find me eager to meet the newest member of our home.