Graduation and the First Week Home

Wow, so apparently I’ve fallen off the face of the planet…sorry!

Day 21 – Graduation
First, I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since graduation. I woke up thinking to myself that I couldn’t believe the day was finally here. Three weeks had gone by so fast, and I surely didn’t quite feel ready to face the real world yet. But, training at the school was over and it was time to present ourselves to the world.
After breakfast and graduation practice, we got to let all the dogs play together one last time. We all journeyed over to the community run and let the dogs be dogs 100%. We also had the freedom to pet and play with each other’s dogs. What fun it was!
Lunch was soon after, and then it was time to get ready for graduation. While I was putting the final touches on my ensemble, there was a knock at my door. My boss had come out to support me at the graduation! How incredibly sweet  He congratulated me, we hugged, and let our dogs meet, and then he was off to the hall, followed soon after by me.
We proceeded into the room, one by one, and stood at the front facing the audience. After each of our names were called, we sat down and put our dogs under our chairs. There were a few words spoken by the president and training director, and then it was time for the graduate speeches. First, my classmate sang a song he’d written for the school accompanied by his acoustic guitar. It was completely heartfelt and left the audience in tears. So sweet. Then it was my turn.

I walked up and tried to get my dog to settle. When she wouldn’t sit, I kind of gave up and began my speech. Halfway through it, I noticed Jingles was…a little distracted. She was giving kisses to my friend’s dog, who was doing her best to keep them settled. I paused in my speech, made a joke about Jingles having a boyfriend, and moved her to the other side of me. Then, I finished. I was pretty happy that I’d remembered all the words. After my speech, another classmate – a returning graduate – gave her speech. It was beautiful. Once the speeches were over, the certificates were given out to us and the puppy raisers, and the ceremony wrapped up.

We were each instructed to take the harnesses off our dogs, and then our puppy raisers were allowed to come up and meet us and see their darling dogs. I was excited to see that mine had come out to the graduation! She led me and Jingles out of the crowd to her group of friends – two of which had helped a lot in raising Jingles – and we went back to my room to talk.

I learned that Jingles had been raised in western NY by a lovely lady who also ran a dog watching and obedience training business. She brought me a gift bag with some treats and a bone for Jingles, and a lint glove and a photo book of Jingles’ life for me! It was so incredibly sweet 😀 We chatted for quite a while, and before I knew it, it was time for her to hit the road for the long drive back home. It was so wonderful to meet everyone who was such a crucial part of Jingles’ life. I definitely made some lasting friendships that day.

That evening, my classmates and I stayed up late (in school-time late was 11:00 pm ha), not wanting our time together to end. But, we all knew we had to go to bed eventually, and said one more good night.

-Going Home and the First Week –
There was a definite sadness in the air Sunday morning. We were all excited to get home, and yet, we knew that going home meant no more hanging out in between training with our dogs and after dinner in the evenings, sharing stories over coffee and laughing. The first van departed at 7:00 am. Those of us going later gave our classmates a hug, knowing that we may never see each other again, and wished each other well. The rest of us had one more breakfast at the school and wrapped up packing. I left at 9:00. The school was amazing and got me a car service from their door to mine! I gave my remaining classmates a hug and got into the car. What a bittersweet morning. Of course, it’s nice to go home…but the school was wonderful, and my classmates were fabulous. We shared so many moments, and I really think we built friendships that would take months, or even years, in a matter of weeks.

I chatted with the driver all the way back to Brooklyn, and before I knew it, I was home. The drive had only taken an hour…I still can’t believe I was so far away and yet, so close. Adam met me out front and we brought Jingles into her new home.

This first week was crazy, I’m not going to lie. It has been quite the adjustment for everyone. For three humans, a cat, a dog, and some rats in a 2 br apartment, things can get chaotic fast. We’ve had our ups and downs, but overall things are smoothing out. I think the biggest thing on my plate at home now is getting the cat and dog to get along. Jingles thinks Muffin’s a toy. Muffin is stressed out, and I love them both, so I get stressed out. I’m sure time will help them get used to living together. My hope is that one day they are cuddle buddies.

It took me a while, but I am starting to get used to the 5:30 am schedule…get up, shower, get the dog fed and parked, finish getting ready and get out the door…then to work, and back by around 6ish. Then dinner, take care of dog, and bedtime.

The first day I was back, I basically tried to get used to being home. I took Monday off, and with Adam’s help, taught the dog the route from my house to the subway.

Tuesday, Adam came with me to make sure I made it to work all right on my first day back. My work is basically the best job ever. I couldn’t ask for more understanding and caring colleagues. When I came back to work the first day, my boss had set up his crate under my desk, brought me toys, and bought me a new bed for the dog to sleep on. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. Everyone welcomed me back warmly, hugging me and asking all about school. It took a little while to get adjusted back to work, but I’m in the swing of things now.

Thursday was Jingles’ first “public” appearance for a function at work. She did pretty well, considering she had to behave ALL day. Friday, I was completely drained, but after some sleep, the weekend was better.

Friday evening, I let Jingles off the leash in the house (the dogs have to be attached to you at all times for the first while home) and that helped relax both of us, I think. Saturday, Jingles and I went for our first long walk to nowhere in particular. It was really an amazing feeling. Its funny how with the stick, sure I could go for that walk, but would I ever want to? Absolutely not. With the dog, I stick out just as much, but it’s different. I have this living, breathing thing guiding me, thriving off my praise, wanting to please me. We’re in it together, and I don’t mind sticking out so much with Jingles by my side.

Sunday Adam, Jingles, and I ventured into the Sprint store to check out the new iPhone. Then we journeyed to Downtown Brooklyn, and after a little walk, we left Adam to finish his errands, and Jingles and I made our way through the subway, and back home.

Today – and I’ll stop droning on after this – I decided to venture into Duane Reade after work to pick up a prescription. Again, I probably would’ve never done this with my stick unless I had to, out of sheer embarrassment, but with Jingles it was an adventure. We got off the appropriate subway stop and made our way up to the surface. Aside from Jingles wanting to check out every trashcan (I’m still working on this one) and attempt to eat some nasty piece of bread, she did fabulous. I, on the other hand, have a little learning to do. I knew generally where the door was, but I went to the back entrance, so it was hard to tell exactly when to turn. With a little assistance from a person on the street, we made our way inside and got in line. I had to wait a few minutes while they filled it, but no one was nasty to me, which was nice. On the way out, I turned a little too soon and ended up in a waiting area. Again, after some help, we were out of the store and on our way. We walked the seven blocks home, through rush hour crowds, with no problems. I came home thrilled that I had accomplished this new adventure, as small as it may be, and did not feel the least bit like crying. It’s hard to imagine that only a month ago, I was coming home nearly in tears out of frustration walking with Bob. No offense man, but Jingles blows you out of the water, even if I can pack you away and don’t have to take you to the bathroom.

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8 thoughts on “Graduation and the First Week Home

  1. Rebekah, Your Strength is giving so many others Courage, they didn’t even know they had, in their own lives. I’m so Proud of You.

  2. So proud of you. Sent a really nice pic of you to your grandma, with jingles. Kim sent it to me, and your grandma hadn’t seen that one yet. She loved it. You have accomplished so much in so little time, you are truly amazing. Best wishes to you and Adam, you are both doing a great job. Love cousin marion

  3. I stumbled across your blog this evening. Sitting next to me- is the guide dog I had raised as a puppy 10 years ago. He is now retired. My “puppy” recently came back into my life as his handler has recently passed away. I remember attending his graduation as his “puppy raiser” and meeting his new handler, and being so very proud. I often wonder what his life was like, about his many adventures, and how he had changed someones life. I laughed out loud when you mentioned Jingle’s stopped at every trash can. My dog does exactly that! Has he gotten any better at this?

    1. So glad you stumbled on my blog! Sorry to hear about the passing of your dog’s handler.
      Jingles still likes trash cans and other sniffable things. Winter has been a bit rough, but now that spring has arrived, i think we’ll get everything sorted out. WWe’ve been actively working on her love of sniffing and food over the past few days and i think it is beginning to help.
      I think it’s important for everyone who has a guide dog to remember that they are in fact, dogs, and they all have their weaknesses. Even so, i would never give up mine in a million years 😀

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