Hi all, this is Mike–also known as husband of Beth. She’s in New Jersey at the The Seeing Eye, training with her new guide dog. I’m holding down the fort with Hanni, and will post occasionally over the next three weeks. I’ll try to get you the latest news from New Jersey and maybe mix in a little of my experience during the transition.
Before I get to dog news, though, some of you probably had trouble listening to Beth’s WBEZ radio essay last week. The link was broken, and though it was labeled as Beth’s story–and had a photo of Beth and Hanni–it went to a story about pies. Well, this one is supposed to work better:
Now, dog news. Beth called to tell me she just got matched up with her new guide dog. It’s a boy! He’s a yellow Labrador Retriever, and judging from the sound of her voice, Beth seems already to have fallen in love with him. And, she reports, he snores while napping.
Hearing her so happy is what I expected–but it was still a relief. Last week Beth and I both moped, knowing that Hanni’s working days–and really, a whole wonderful era for Beth and me–was coming to an end. Beth got Hanni in 2001, not long after 9/11. We still lived in Urbana, and when I went to pick Beth and Hanni up from the airport, they wouldn’t let me go to the gate to meet her. The beauty of Champaign’s Willard airport, though, was that I could see the gates–all four of them–from my little bench on the other side of security. What I remember is Hanni’s tail wagging straight up in the air, and the two of them walking so fast they were a blur.
Since then, our son Gus moved to Wisconsin, we moved to Chicago, Beth’s had two books published, and well, really, she’s built the career and life that blindness had interrupted. Hanni’s been there for all of it, so the retirement decision has been especially tough on Beth.
Hanni–and Pandora before her–have meant nearly as much to me as they have to Beth. Not because they’re great dogs to have around when they’re off duty (they are). But because when Beth heads out without me, I know she’s not alone. When Beth first lost her sight, I worried constantly. In the beginning, before she got orientation and mobility training, the thought of her walking to the mailbox down the corner from our Champaign apartment terrified me. Even after she learned cane skills, though, I struggled with anxiety when she’d go places without me.
That all changed when she got a guide dog. When Beth goes out, she’s always got a partner. For better or worse, people have responded to Beth much differently since she began working with a dog than when she used a cane. With a cane, they were hesitant to engage her. They’d get out of the way and not utter a word. But with a dog, you can’t beat ‘em off with a…stick. I don’t mind that
a dog provides a little security, too–they’re not trained for that purpose, but I have to think a would-be mugger is deterred by a 65-lb. dog.
Which is all to say, I really can’t say enough about what The Seeing Eye has done for Beth–and for me. I’ll always have a place in my heart for Pandora, Beth’s first dog, who lived to 17–and was one stubborn Lab. I know I’ll love the new guy Beth brings home. In the meantime, though, I gotta go play with Hanni. We’re both off work today.