Exactly 14 years ago, my Mom, Dad and sister dropped me off at the Lions Foundation of Canada training centre, in Oakville Ontario.
I remember being so excited about the upcoming adventure.
I had waited for this day.
When I lost most of my sight at the age of 13, I didn’t know what the future had in store for me.
I remember the day my vision services teacher gave me my first white cane. She gave me general instructions on how to use it, and then left me to get used to the feel of it for a couple of days – at this point, I was just instructed to hold it slightly out, across my body. She then explained on how to do the sweeping motion and then explained when it’s best to tap, versus slide it across the floor.
I remember hating the feel of this “thing”, that was supposed to keep me safe.
It was just so cold and unnatural.
I remember the day I learned about guide dogs.
I remember wanting to get one immediately.
I remember being told I would have to work on my orientation and mobility skills first.
I remember getting a chance to work with my vision services teacher’s German Shepperd in harness. She had briefly worked with Leader Dogs For The Blind while going to Michigan State University, and had taught her own pet dog how to guide so that her students would get a feel for what it would be like before applying.
I LOVED IT!!!
About an hour or so after I had arrived at the LFC, the other students began to arrive as well. There were six of us in total; two guys from Alberta (a 60 year old and a 25 year old), a 49 year old woman from Toronto, a 35 year old man from Kitchener, and a 35 year old man from Newmarket. At dinner, we were split into groups of three, I sat with the man from newmarket and woman from Toronto – we got along really well. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with what our trainers had to tell us. We were told what the schedule would be like for the first couple of days.
And, were told that as of tomorrow, we were no longer allowed to navigate the facility with our canes – they wanted us to get familiar with the place on our own, since we would not be allowed to use them once we got our dogs.
I remember the sense of relief I felt, the moment I put my cane on the shelf.
It felt like I was beginning a new chapter in my life.
This was the moment I had been working so hard for.
It’s hard to believe that this moment was fourteen years ago.
Ever since that day, my cane has remained on a shelf or in a box.
I have never once taken it out.
I have never once had the urge to use it.
It’s a chapter in my life I never want to revisit.
I know that working with a dog isn’t for everyone.
But, it’s definitely for me.