Graduation, Trip Home, and the 1st Day

I am combining a lot into one post. Graduation was absolutely amazing. We woke up at the normal time and did our normal processes. I went to breakfast (yummy) and then went back to my room to start getting ready. Well, I ended up back in bed for a bit. Then a classmate brought a hair dryer by for me to borrow because I needed one. She needed it back by 10:30 so I showered and blowdryed her hair to get it back to her at 10:29. Haha. I had time after that to finish getting ready. We were told to be ready by 11:45. Well myself and another classmate’s puppy raisers weren’t able to come so we had a little more time. At 12:20, we went and had professional pictures taken with our dog. The classmates who had their puppy raisers come had the opportunity to talk to them a lot before and after pictures. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the Kennel Assistant who knew Makiko really well after she came back from Jenni, her puppy raiser. That was a lot of fun. Then we had to “give” our dog to either the puppy raiser, or in my case the Kennel Assistant, while we went into graduation. Then, when we were introduced on stage we were presented with our dog. We had the opportunity to speak and then the puppy raiser/Kennel Assistant spoke. I was crying from the very beginning but not super bad. I started talking a million miles a minute, what’s new? Emily, the Kennel Assistant, had a beautiful speech about Makiko and how she could tell we were already perfect. She then read a very sweet letter from Jenni, Makiko’s puppy raiser. Makiko and I then walked off the stage and sat down and Emily followed. It was a very emotional event. After the ceremony, I took a picture with one of my good friends/classmates, Heather. Then there were dogs everywhere and Makiko was completely overwhelmed so I let her go sit in the room for a bit. When I got done in the gift shop I went back and got her and ate some graduation cake. It was awesome.

We were officially graduates! Now we had a little time to relax. One of my classmate’s puppy raisers had to leave right away, and then there were us two whose puppy raisers didn’t come. We had thought about going out the night before but we weren’t sure because of the taxi prices. Well, one of the GDB staff found us a great price and we went into town, the three of us and our dogs, for a nice dinner and a drink. This was our first time off campus with our dogs WITHOUT the instructors. Our dogs did wonderfully. It was funny though, the first question the taxi driver said to us when he pulled up – “Can the dogs get in the back?” I said nicely, “No, they stay with us,” and he seemed to accept that. It was funny that he asked that coming to a GUIDE DOG SCHOOL and all. πŸ™‚ Dinner was great and then we headed back and all went to bed for the evenings after saying our good byes and getting what we needed to head home. We all had early flights the next morning. The two other gals that had dinner with me had to leave at 4, I had to leave at 5:45 the next morning. I packed most everything that evening and thought I would be fine in the morning.. boy was I wrong.

Next morning I get up at 5, relieve Makiko (didn’t feed her because we were traveling), get ready, and start to finish packing. Well, everything was in except the five million jackets that I brought with me. Well, realistically there were about 5. Brett, the staff driver, came in at 5:30 to see how I was doing and I told him I was having trouble with fitting everything. He managed to make it work. I had a whole suitcase for my dog (it was a small suitcase) and he just crammed two jackets in there, I held one, wore one, and he fit the other two in the bag. He looked around for anything I missed, I scanned the room, and we were off. I had extra Dr. Peppers so I told him he could take as many as he wanted. I also got a packed breakfast/lunch from the cook the night before. We headed to the airport and did curbside. Well, the big suitcase was 4 pounds over. I asked him if he could do anything since I had to bring home all my guide dog stuff and he said no but inside they had the power to make that kind of decision. So, we went inside. They told us that it was 4lbs over but then we told them that it was guide dog stuff and they made an exception for us. Sweet! 100 dollars for 4lbs over would have been ridiculous, especially since that would have to come out of my pocket!

My class supervisor had called after I had the issue with American Airlines and they told him my exact seat. Well the seat that the check-in counter told me was completely different so they changed me to a bulkhead seat again; however, the way this aircraft was designed the bulkhead seat I was assigned to didn’t have the wall in front of it so it was practically part of the aisle. That wasn’t going to work. So I asked the person in the window seat if I could switch and he graciously agreed. I was also extremely lucky that the guy in the middle really liked dogs and he was okay if Makiko stretched out. At the beginning she was in her own little ball but after about 2 hours she wanted to stretch out a bit. I positioned my legs so that she wouldn’t invade too much but it was still really nice.

I had sighted assistance waiting for me in Dallas. As I was getting off the plane the flight attendant told me “Make your dog pick up her feet and you do that too, there are towels on the ground because we had a water leak.” (This was in the airplane next to the bathroom). Well, I can’t exactly walk and make her pick up her feet while doing so. Regardless, she did just fine. There was a guy outside that insisted i get in the wheelchair but told him that may not work so well with the dog so I had him guide me sighted assistance. Well he wasn’t doing very well despite me trying to teach him so I just told him to tell me directions and I would work Makiko instead of having her heel. That worked well for awhile until we were about to cross a threshold and he jerked me back thinking we were gonna hit it. I told him that Makiko w0uld guide me just fine. I asked him to stop at the restroom. We did and when I came out he was gone. So, I wasn’t going to wait around more than 2 minutes so I headed to baggage claim. All of a sudden I heard this woman come screaming at me, running, “STOP! STOP! STOP!” and then she started telling me I needed to go a different way, why did I leave, etc. I told her that I waited outside the restroom for a few minutes and he disappeared so I went. Anyway she was quite ridiculous many times during the walk to baggage claim. It was so great to see Mom and Betty there.

Afterward we went to Mom’s work because her co-workers are like my family and they wanted to meet her. We made a stop right before work at my parent’s house to relieve her and give her some water. All Mom’s co-workers loved her. Then we went to two pet stores to get her some of the things I wanted/needed, then we were home for the evening. The transition was going really well until all of a sudden Makiko started whining when Mom was across the room. Well, this is a no-no. We want Makiko to be satisfied with me and not anticipate attention from others. She met my boyfriend later that evening and all went well with him. So in the future I’m just going to be a little more strict with Makiko and my mom. There could be several reasons she whined: she’s just getting adjusted to home life/not as much exercise, the day was a little hard on her, my Mom reminds her of somebody, she senses the closeness of my Mom and me. So we’ll just have to see how things go.

Today we had a relaxing day with mostly just Makiko and me. My boyfriend was there in the morning and he did really well with not giving her attention. I’m really impressed, actually. Mom is also very understanding about the rules and how we need to make this work so I’m very appreciative of that. My great-aunt was around today but she didn’t interact with him at all, so we had good time to bond and get adjusted. In the morning she whined more than normal and it wasn’t just one big whine, it was whining at various times when all was quiet. I got worried and called GDB and they called me back saying they don’t think there’s anything to really worry about but that she is probably still adjusting or one of the other reasons I said above. They recommended regarding my Mom, to reintroduce Makiko and Mom again and just have Mom pet her a few times and then that’s it. We’ll do this every time I come home. We’re still in that critical time period.. we’ve only known eachother for 2 weeks, she’s transitioning home, we’re really working on that bond and our expectations of each other. I got to the foundation firm right now.

We went on a walk around my neighborhood today and that was really quite nice. She did amazing and you could tell she was enjoying herself. Tomorrow we will definitely start working more and I think that will help her get more back to normal. Today we mostly relaxed inside and she is used to a lot more activity.

We relieved as normal, fed and watered as normal. I haven’t changed her schedule yet but will start to do that gradually tomorrow. I won’t get to groom her tonight because somehow I left my grooming bag in my room. They are shipping it to me. I head back to my apartment tonight and we’ll get settled there. That will be nice. And then tomorrow we have several things we have to do and then classes, meetings, etc over the next several days. Will be good but busy!

Makiko is doing really well, I think. We played a lot today, she did great on her guide work, all her eating and relieving habits are normal, it’s just the whining. But what we all have to understand is there is a lot of transition for her this week and lots of new places/people so I’ll give her some time. She’s normally super easy so I know this will fade away if we do everything together and properly. Everybody is being so understanding of how we need to make this work and of how strong the relationship needs to be between a guide dog and a guide dog handler. I’m super appreciative. I’m hoping everybody at school is the same way.

Here are a few pictures from the past few days:

This is a picture of myself, Makiko, and my instructor, Jaymin, right before we were taken intro graduation.
This was Emily, the Kennel Assistant who was in charge of Makiko’s kennel, and who really loved Makiko. She basically took care of Makiko after she came to GDB from staying with Jenni. Emily presented Makiko to me on stage.
We went to Tollgate Inn in Sandy, Oregon for a delicious celebratory dinner (and drink!). I had clam strips– delicious!
I noticed this and the waitress was very surprised at how I could see this, haha. But really? “Employees ONLEY”… she said it was supposed to be funny but even she didn’t think it was funny. Lol.
Makiko settled in once we got the window seat. πŸ™‚
Makiko, think you are relaxed at all? πŸ™‚ She was finally settling down and becoming more comfortable today. We had a bit of an uneasy morning.
She decided to just lay out on the floor. πŸ™‚

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Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

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