Happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be grateful for this year. I have a very loving family, and while we have lost both of my parents this last year, we still stay pretty close. My grandparents were amazing people and I’m really grateful that they valued family so much, as they instilled that in their children and grandchildren. I also have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me to death and spoils me. Dating a gal with vision loss is just part of life for him and he embraces it. He has a wonderful family that I get to spend the holiday with while my Mom is visiting my sister in New York. I have an amazing job and a wonderful boss and many very compassionate coworkers.
I am also EXTREMELY grateful for Makiko. Guide dogs are known to help their handlers have increased independence, freedom, and companionship. Makiko definitely brings that for me. But what does that mean? Here are many reasons why I am grateful for Makiko this Thanksgiving:
- Since getting Makiko. I have not had one injury while working her. This is HUGE. I have broken and torn too many things to count but Makiko has not once put me in any danger or missed something that led me to hurting myself.
- I serve 14 different high schools as a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State. Makiko knows pretty much the way to the place we office in each of these schools. I can be independent and confident in my schools because together, we can do it!
- Living alone can be pretty lonely. However, Makiko is the best companion. We go for walks around my beautiful complex, just sit outside, go to the dog park in the complex, and play all sorts of games inside together. She is my best friend, my snuggle buddy, and the best companion!
- Prior to getting Makiko (and then a year later starting my job), I loved to sleep in and not do much. I still enjoy sleeping in and not doing much but my sleeping in went from sleeping in until about 1pm to sleeping in til 10am. She gives me a reason to get up and get active. During the week, she is an excellent alarm clock. Most days if she doesn’t see me getting up after the alarm clock has gone off a few times, she starts her silly ways to get me out of bed. She knows.
- She has made me more interested in the ways dogs are trained and think. I have very much enjoyed learning the art of dog training and reading up on it. We have started doing some fun clicker training. Makiko loves learning new things too!
- Makiko can tell when I am not feeling well, often before I do. She helps me figure out something is up so that I can be aware and work on it, like when I’m starting to feel very woozy because of low blood sugar. If I am napping too long and need to get up and cook dinner, she will let me know.
- She has given me the opportunity to care for something. I am a caretaker at my core and she gives me the opportunity to take care of her on a daily basis, and if I skip certain things, she doesn’t “run” as well.
- I can go off in crowded areas by myself. I hate crowds, and this really only started once I started losing my vision. Makiko and I can just go do our thing in crowds and I can be independent. That helps me a lot.. I can do what we need to do to help us and make it enjoyable. For example, there was recently a huge craft bazaar in Colorado when I was there for the weekend. My aunt had my great-aunt latched on (and therefore naturally are slow), plus she really loves to look at everything. I like those kinds of events but am much faster. So Makiko and I just went off and looked at our own booths and bought some fun things.
- She has opened me up to a whole new community- the Service Dog community at large, more specifically the GDB community, and also the puppy raising community. I love helping and talking to other service dog handlers on Facebook groups and other support groups. I run a Facebook group “Guide Dog Handlers Network” that has close to 800 visually impaired guide dog handlers from all over the globe. It is so fun to learn about their experiences. There wasn’t a page quite like it when I came back from guide dog training but I created it to help others and have fun… It has done just that! GDB has some of the most caring and loving people in their organization as employees and volunteers. I love doing activities and talking to others from this organization because they are genuinely good people. That is the same for the puppy raisers. They raise these dogs for 1 to 1.5 years and get so close with them. They then have to “give them up” to GDB to go to “guide dog college” or formal guide work training. That is heartbreaking! A lot of work goes into running a puppy raiser club, coordinating the events, and raising a puppy. I have met some amazing people through our local puppy raising club, Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers.
- Makiko loves to travel and she is wonderful when we are traveling. She is absolutely perfect in airports and on airplanes, and on road trips you barely even know she is down there. She is a great foot warmer though! 🙂 I love to travel so it’s really awesome to have a buddy who loves to travel and helps me do it with such ease. She makes it much less stressful.
- Makiko and my Mom and boyfriend are all best friends. I am grateful that she loves my Mom and boyfriend so much and they love her. It warms my heart to see them all play together and love each other.
- Makiko loves her little place in the office and she has become an essential part of our workplace. I have to set boundaries with some coworkers who don’t quite respect my rules, but for those who do respect them, Makiko is great “therapy”. We have a very tough (yet rewarding) job, and work with a lot of individuals with disabilities with very heartbreaking and difficult situations. Sometimes they come to us and we are all they have left. We also have a lot of pressure naturally in the kind of work we do. Makiko has formed some very close bonds with my good work buddies and brings smiles to their faces daily.
- I totally respect those who choose a cane as their mobility aid but it is most definitely not the one for me. It’s sad but society doesn’t really know how to react to someone with a cane (but we are working to change this!). I also find that there are a lot more obstacles when using a cane and it’s just stressful to me. However, with a guide dog and particularly such a cute, beautiful, and well behaved guide like Makiko, she has increased and changed social interactions for me. I am very social and love the reaction from society with a guide dog much more than with a guide dog. I must talk to at least 10+ strangers a day on weekends when I’m out and about because of Makiko. I love that. Plus, I have the opportunity to educate others and that’s a blessing.
- I have always been known, since college, for being pretty outspoken. However, since getting Makiko, I am a lot better with self-advocacy and advocate for my needs and rights more.
- I am a lot more confident all around because of Makiko. I am confident in myself, my ability to travel independently, my ability to go new places and try new things, my ability to meet new people, and just be me. I experience a lot less anxiety when I am with her.
- Many of you know that I got Makiko two months after my father passed away. My father is my best friend and this has been devastating. Still is. She has helped me grieve and keep going. Dad died one semester into my Masters and I got her my second semester of grad school. Makiko helped get me through grad school.
Makiko is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Over 2.5 years later, she is daily changing my life for the better and helping me become the happier, healthier, and better me. I am so grateful to and for her.