On January 6, 2009 I met Verona, the dog who changed my life. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I paced in my room at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, folding and unfolding the leather leash that would soon be attached to the female black Labrador with whom I’d be matched. The previous evening instructors told us each the names of our dogs and the breed and color. That night I didn’t really sleep so well, being full of nervous energy, like the rest of my classmates. We stayed up late playing cards and talking, many of us first time handlers.
The morning of dog day, I didn’t eat much and after the morning lecture we all went back to our rooms, some of us doing laundry, some making phone calls and others going to the tech lab to check email.
The knock on the door startled me even though I was waiting for it. The class supervisor came in. I stood up and put out my hand. “Ann, this is Verona,” I clipped on my leash and he unclipped his and left. I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I was crying, petting her glossy black head. She wagged her tail and soon we were sitting on the floor together, watching TV.
It’s been five years since that day and to honor our partnership I created a fundraiser on crowdrise.com in order to sponsor the January 2014 graduating class. We’ve reached our goal and even got a little extra, a total of $530. Graduation is on January 25, and it will be a special one, as my family and friends will be there as well as my Guiding Eyes family and another friend who is getting his new dog. Becoming a dog guide handler is one of the most enriching experiences in my life so far and I want to share it with people so they can appreciate how much these dogs increase our confidence and independence. Happy anniversary, my sweet girl.