Verona and I follow the wide sidewalk in downtown White Plains. It is a route we traverse every work day. She puts on the brakes so hard I’m jerked to a full stop. “Whoa,” I say out loud, and I put out my foot and feel some kind of construction barrier. My hand feels the yellow warning tape strung out above it.
I praise her and say “Forward.” She hesitates briefly, sizing up her options. Then, she pulls me to the left and slowly eases us through a clear area between a large tree and the broken walkway. We skirt the barrier with careful steps and when we’re clear, I stop and praise her, rubbing her ears and letting her know just how much I appreciate her work. I imagine her satisfied look, as if to say, “I know, Mom, don’t worry, I won’t let you down.” After three years, I still get blown away by her ability to keep me safe, make judgments and decisions that would otherwise have me at a serious disadvantage if I was out there with a white cane.
On the way back, with lunch in hand, we face the barrier again. This time, since the clearance is trickier going in the other direction, she takes me out into the street, parallel to the curb, and back onto the sidewalk when we are past the barrier.
I think to myself, as we go, I hope someone was watching. I want to tell everyone how special she is and I know that there are no true obstacles a dog and a person cannot overcome with perseverance, practice, and patience. I wish the other human interactions and challenges in life were as simple to solve.
For instance, sometimes days blur into one another and routines dull our senses. Fortunately, working a dog guide limits the dullness of repetition, and a good example of this is what happened today. I wish I could take away the lesson I learned of working past the barricade and apply it to some of the other concerns at issue in my life right now. I wish I could heal the problems facing me and those I love. Most of all, I want to share that feeling of complete trust and unconditional love and the solid bond felt between me and Verona and hand it over to those I am at odds with, to show them that if we allow it, working around barricades like misunderstandings and communication failures can be overcome.
I want to tell them, what could be more important than working together to get past a hole in the ground? That if we allow it, we can work around the road blocks of life, just like a guide dog team.