One year ago today, I received one of the greatest gifts of my life. I knew I was getting a guide dog as I sat nervously with my classmates in the lecture hall at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, but little did I know I would receive so much more. That day, I received a gift, which held many other gifts. I received independence, self-confidence, adventure, laughter, acceptance, and an unconditionally loving best friend. All these gifts came wrapped in a ball of yellow fur, brown eyes, and a black nose with a little pink in the center. My little yellow lab, just over 50 pounds, a little doll with a big job.
Ah my Jingle-Belle. During those first few weeks of having Jingles attached to me at all times, trying to learn all the commands, and wrap my mind around my sudden doubling in width, I had no idea just how much she would bring to my life. I don’t think it’s possible to understand what having a guide dog can truly mean until getting one and going through the process of bonding. Jingles and I have had so many adventures over the past year – from mundane (to most) activities like going to the hairdresser or visiting a coffee shop to taking up running and tandem biking to discovering new places in the city and traveling alone. We’ve laughed together (if a dog could laugh) when I do something embarrassing or after she very proudly shows me she’s found what I was looking for by wagging her tail until she nearly hops off the ground. We’ve cried together (at least I cried) over frustrations, confusions, and life in general. We’ve overcome challenges – from Jingles’ and Muffin’s (cat) less than amiable relationship for the first several months to sniffing episodes when presented with the boatloads of trash and doggie smells that come with the territory of living in Brooklyn to walking on ice for a solid month in -5 degree temperatures last winter. We’ve shared plenty of love and kisses, and every day I am truly amazed at her intelligence.
As I reflect on the last year, I realize how much I have changed. The Rebekah of August 2014 is completely different than the Rebekah of now. I was still going through the stages of grief regarding losing my much cherished sight. Halfway in denial, I would wander in and out of anger, bargaining, and depression. I’m not saying I was a miserable mess, but I certainly wasn’t in the place I am now. Today, I feel like I really have moved into acceptance. I rarely find myself angry at my condition, and only feel a twinge of sadness occasionally. Now, I even make jokes about myself, and laugh about the challenges I face and the peculiarities I exhibit as a result of my own journey through blindness. I know it was Jingles who helped me over this seemingly never ending hump. Having her by my side, guiding me through the obstacles of daily life inadvertently guided me through the emotional obstacles of grappling with the physical condition I never wanted to accept. She restored my confidence and made me more like, well, me.
Last Sunday, I was lounging on the bed petting Jingles when Adam remarked “that dog is your favorite thing in the world.” He pretty much hit the nail on the head. While I love Muffin from the bottom of my heart, there is just something extra special about the relationship one shares with their guide dog.
Happy Anniversary Jingles! Here’s hoping we have many, many more!