March 4th I met Makiko. It is now March 21st.. 17 days later, and Makiko and I have bonded so much ALREADY and to know, from my instructors and other guide dog users, that this will grow exponentially over our lifetime together, especially over the next six months is just unremarkable. Her guide work is indescribably amazing, with the independence, freedom, confidence, and speed she provides. She is devoted to me around the clock and it is so evident. Even “on the clock” when we’re sitting down somewhere she’ll lay her head on her foot and that is just one of the many things that melts my heart. She is almost always touching me if she can. She’s a cuddle bug and I treasure that. We have lots of cuddle time, play time, and silliness. She makes me so happy, everything about her makes me so happy when we’re working and when we’re not. This is a “match made in Heaven,” and I know that may sound silly because she is a dog, but seriously, if you knew the bond between a guide dog user and a handler, and if you knew the bond specifically between Makiko and I, you would totally understand. I have lots to tell you about the last couple of days that will help illustrate this all a little more.
So I told you about our first day together at my new apartment. Well Wednesday was an incredibly busy day. It started off kind of easy. I got up and took care of her needs and then we went back to sleep for a little bit. Got up and got myself ready and then had to pack our bag for the day. I had to change backpacks to a regular backpack and not a messenger back anymore because I have stuff to carry for her too. I have to bring poopy bags, portable food bowl, food, a light-up collar in case we need it at night, etc. I had to bring all my school stuff too of course. So one of my very best friends got to meet her and took us to lunch, where we worked on a presentation a bit. Then we went to several meetings with department faculty, and then we went to an organization meeting that I’m an officer for. I relieved her in between meetings and also fed/watered her before my last meeting. The portable food dish came in really handy, just had to figure out a good time to let her eat. She eats really fast though so no problem. Then we headed to class.
While my class is all here to work with individuals with disabilities and they know that no petting of guide dogs is allowed unless the owner says, I knew it was going to be difficult. All but one person were totally understanding of it and I was so appreciative. They all admit that it is hard but they are really good with respecting our boundaries so that was awesome. My professors “met” (and by that I mean looked) her and everybody was really happy for me. She slept very quietly through class, then on the ten minute break in the middle of class, I relieved her. She did absolutely great! After that a good friend and I went and ran a few errands, which she also did great on, and then we went home. I have no vision at night whatsoever and Makiko just does phenomenally. I LOVE IT!
My friends joked last night quite a bit about how we “book it” (aka we walk really fast!) And yes, part of matching a guide dog to a handler is matching the pace. Makiko does sometimes go a little faster than my “natural” pace but you have to realize that my “natural” pace is partially slow because of orthopedic issues but also slow because I am so afraid of hurting myself on something. With Makiko, I don’t have to worry about hurting myself. I have also gotten in much better shape over the last several weeks and so walking that fast doesn’t bother me at all. I enjoy it! When I get a little tired or I need to walk with someone who doesn’t go as fast, Makiko has a second pace, and its slower. Not all guide dogs can go two paces but I am very blessed that she can.
Our dogs are supposed to stay on leash or on tie-down at home all the time for several months. This is to reinforce good house manners, etc. A tie down is basically a thick cord with two leash clips on either side that you can tie the dog down to a chair, or something else with. Well, Makiko was tied down to the chair and the chair was about 2-3 feet away from where my head is on my bed. Well, Makiko wanted to be AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to me when sleeping so she had the tie down completely straight/pulled tight. I felt so bad because I want her to be next to me too but I don’t want it to be uncomfortable and that just didn’t satisfy me. So I moved the chair out from under the desk and just set it out kind of in the middle of the room. Makiko doesn’t move around at night much so I knew she wouldn’t move the chair and that would allow her to be RIGHT up beside my bed. She curled up instantly and went to sleep, very happily. That made my heart very very happy.
Today we got up and did our morning routine and then we came back inside and played for about 25 minutes. That was tons of fun. She doesn’t exactly play tug of war all the time with her tug of war toy, she more like just plays with it and when she does, she gets rambunctious so it lets us get silly with each other. She usually brushes up right beside me and I tickle her and scratch her and she loves it! 🙂 So after we played for awhile she laid down on my lap and went to sleep. Well, I don’t know if anyone can understand how hard it is for me to wake her up when she is so adorable on my lap asleep. I laid back against the wall and closed my eyes while she rested for about 20 minutes and then I decided it was time for me to get in my own bed because yes, you guessed it, I wanted a nap. So I took a nap for about an hour, woke up and did some stuff around the house and then got ready to go out with another best friend of mine, who is also a guide dog user. Makiko isn’t really a huge dog person but she really liked this dog. They were both off harness and we just wanted them to meet in a relaxed environment. It went well. Then when we got to our restaurant we put them both in harness and they acted a little distracted at first but then did really well from there. My friend kept telling me that she was being so amazing for being around her dog and that made me happy. So we hung out at the restaurant for a few hours and I got really into talking and wasn’t paying attention to the time. Well, I had 29 minutes to make it clear across campus, feed, water, relieve her, and sit down for class. Guess what? We did it in 24. We “booked” it clear across campus in no time at all. We walked a route I never have walked before and would never have done by myself before Makiko. The speed and confidence we walked at made me feel so free. On the way into the building I let her relieve, then I fed her and gave her water, and then we went into class. Again, she did great. This professor always gives us a break in the middle of class but for some reason she didn’t tonight. So 3/4 of the way through, Makiko poked her little head up. I couldn’t tell if that was her wanting to play or if that was she wanting to use the restroom. We went back to my apartment and I let her relieve there. She did just fine and wasn’t uncomfortable it didn’t seem so that was great.
Whenever I remember I fill up the small Kong we have with a few pieces of moistened kibble and freeze it. She LOVES it. You know what else she loves? The surprise present we got from our puppy raiser tonight! Now, I knew that my puppy raiser was going to send this at some point but I honestly have been so busy that I didn’t really think about it. Tonight my Mom picked me up for me to come to Dallas for the weekend and when we got back to Dallas we had a large package waiting for us. I opened it up and there is this HUGE ball with a rope going through it. A JOLLYBALL/ROMP n ROLL! So, it is midnight, dark, and we can’t go inside. Well, that’s not gonna stop us! I take her to a large open room and give her the jolly ball and around and round she goes! You’ll just have to see it. I took a video tonight but I’ll take one tomorrow outdoors and show you that one. Makiko absolutely loves this toy and watching her play with it is SO much fun. She is hilarious and adorable with it. Our puppy raiser, Jenni, has spoiled Makiko and I so much and she is truly a blessing in our lives. We couldn’t have asked for a better puppy raiser for our personalities and lifestyles!
I have an extended family member who lives with us and she is older and has an intellectual impairment. She is one of the sweetest ladies on the planet and our relationship is so very close. She has thought that me having a dog around me all the time is just the funniest! Well tonight we were all standing around doing laundry and she bent over to pet Makiko and I let her. She wasn’t playful with her, she just kind of stroked her a few times and Makiko wasn’t really phased by it. My family member really liked it though so that was wonderful. I also decided that several days had gone by and I wanted to reintroduce my Mom and Makiko and get that relationship a little more civilized so that Makiko could have some interaction with my Mom every now and then but not be out of control. My Mom and I are super close so that was important to me. I had Makiko sit and I told my Mom she could say goodnight to Makiko. My mom just stroked her a few times and said good night and Makiko loved it but she was focussed on obeying me the whole time so that was truly great. Then we just went on our way to bed and no problems after. PERFECT! This really made me happy because I didn’t want Makiko to anticipate too much attention from my Mom. Mom has been amazing though, willing to do whatever I said needed to be done about not petting/paying attention, etc. so that there aren’t any problems. And it worked out really really well so I’m very grateful with that!
So tonight as we go to bed, I don’t have a chair in my room so I figured out a way to tie it around a bedpost with an extension. And of course, she is RIGHT up beside my bed. I am happy.
I honestly have cried happy tears a few times. I applied and went to guide dog training because I had heard that it would make my life a lot more easier in terms of navigating the world and I have always loved dogs. What I got was this dog that makes my life so incredibly more rich, happy, efficient, safe, and full of lots more love. We travel so remarkably well and she does great navigating me through this visually based world. And then when she’s not guiding me, she is this incredibly sweet loving partner of mine, who happens to be a dog. After my Dad died, I have gone through rough periods, naturally, and Makiko has really gotten me out of a few sad spells already. She is the BEST!
Thank you all for your support. Here are a few pictures!