Today is one filled with mixed emotions, concerns and thoughts. Today, 18th January 2015 is the last working day for my guide dog Vicky. We have been working together as a qualified team since 18th November 2009, and it has been an amazing 5 years and 2 month.
I maybe should have warned you that this post will probably get soppy and definitely be emotion (for me at the very least). Anyone who has had a pet dog will tell you, a dog is more than ‘just a dog’ they are a companion, a confident and a loyal friend: Then add to that a dog that works for you, a guide dog (or other working dog) and the level of support, trust and love you feel for them increased even further.
Add to the mix, that Vicky is my FIRST guide dog and all of the changes she has allowed me to bring about, along with all of the changes I have had no control over that she has helped me to overcome, even when it felt like I was fading. And it has been an amazing time together.
Before she arrived I was highly dependant on family and friends, I found myself disappearing into myself after my eye condition was finally diagnosed in 2008, the thought of my sight going completely and leaving me blind, unable to watch my daughter grow up, marry, have children of her own, along with no longer being able to earn money to pay for the things she needed and wanted. The question of if my partner would be happy to stay with me, ultimately becoming my carer… All fears of my future.
Which were all quashed with the increasing bond between me and Vicky, with the feeling of independence that she gave me, the feeling of being safe, even on a tube in the middle of London. And as well as guiding me and making me feel safe, she listened, she loved and she showed no judgement.
She gave me so much more than what was on her job specification. She gave me back me, but not the me that was there before. She gave me a stronger, altered version of me. She can’t change how my eyes deteriorate but she has changed the way I think of the future.
She enabled me to feel safe while I carried my son in my belly, she enabled me to take my daughter to pre-school on my own. She allowed me to feel I could be more, do more and even helped me quash my fear of being in a relationship where the role of carer overtook the role of lover. She even gave me the strength (indirectly) to walk away when my relationship failed.
Now that both my children are now at school and my previous career has come to an end, my priorities have changed. My sight is such that I tire from using my eyes, using a computer, reading and concentrating cause pain and exhaustion. With eye strain a daily accurance, I know that I can reduce my stresses by making the changes I have, I no longer have to ‘waste’ my sight while walking in the street or taking the children to school, Vicky gets me there safely, regardless of a rough wheelie bin, dumped child’s bike or even a car parking on the pavement. I can prioritise my sight to sit reading with both my children after school, helping with homework and even cooking dinner (with the help of a few cheats, like pre-cut veg or meat)
If someone had said that having a guide dog would enable me to be a single parent and help my children with their homework I would have thought they were crazy, but that is what she has done.
She has enabled me to live, rather than just exist.
Vicky came into my life to guide me, she came to me as a mobility aid, just like a long cane. But a mobility aid with a brain. I can never ever repay her for everything else.
Vicky will have a forever home with me and the children, she will get to put her paws up and enjoy the peace and quiet, the lead walks where she can finally stop to smell who has wee’d on the gate post! Free-run more with the other dogs in the park… And generally get to be more dog.
My new guide dog, Fizz will replace Vicky as a guide dog, she will take on the role of being my leading lady, but she will never replace Vicky.
In fact, she has some rather big paws to fill. I still have plenty of room to grow, my eye sight will continue to deteriate and only time will tell how Fizz will help with all of these things.
Fizz is different to Vicky, not just in breed (although also black) she is a faster girl than Vicky now is, she has a bit of a cheeky personality and we both have a lot to learn about each other. We will do this, it will take time, but I am sure she will be a great addition to our home and my independance.
So watch this space for updates on our training journey and Tales from Vicky’s time as a retired pup.