Before I answer what I’m grateful for, I want to describe another dog guide adventure. We set out to get a bite to eat for lunch, an ordinary thing for folks who can see but full of unpredictability for someone with vision loss. Fortunately Verona and I have been working together for almost five years now and we do what I call auto pilot. Whenever we are out on a routine walk, she knows what I want and how to get there from my office. For instance, I say “bank” and she will take us the entire way without me having to direct her. Door to door service, like a canine limousine.
On this day, though, I changed it up, crossing to the opposite side of our normal route to keep her interest and avoid some of the afternoon foot traffic. We get to the corner and begin crossing the one way street with traffic coming toward us. I listen, hear the traffic begin to merge the other direction, and give the forward command. We are about ten steps into the street when she puts on the brakes and pushes me aside. I praise her, and then feel the pressure of a quiet car drive past. I praise her again, then give the forward command and we take a step, then she again puts on the brakes and I can feel her looking to our left. There must be another car waiting to turn right onto the street. I wait for it to turn in front of us but it doesn’t. Now we are standing in the middle of the street and I feel like we’re at the edge of danger like in the Old West. Will the car lurch ahead or can we trust that they will allow us to get to the corner? I count to three, then realize the car is most likely gesturing us to go. The moment I think this, Verona pulls ahead and we are once again safely across the street.
I tell her to turn left and I take a deep breath as we wait to cross the next street. We get lunch, then make it back to work without another traffic check.
Now, back to what I’m grateful for: my dog, my independence, and folks who will read this and learn a little more about what it’s like living with vision loss.
May those who read this have a loving, safe, and content Thanksgiving.