Guide dog handlers use our canine partners to go just about anywhere. We work our dogs to the office, the gym, to the market, the mall, and so many other locations it would take half a page to list all of them. I’ve even worked my dog at wakes and funerals.
The most unique and memorable locations Verona and I went together occurred during a trip to Ontario in 2010. Our family spent the week going to all the tourist attractions and the Maid of the Mist was on my bucket list.
I should have gotten a clue when the staff handed us each a waterproof poncho but I had no clue what was about to happen and how it would affect Verona. We boarded the ferry like boat and set out for the base of Niagara Falls. As we got closer, the mist hit us. Verona didn’t like getting wet and huddled under my legs. Then the sound of the falls hit us and the roar , the wind, the power of it all was awesome. I was holding on to my husband, feeling it all and when it ended I looked down at Verona. She was still huddled against my leg, dripping wet. My husband said she looked miserable. I stroked her head and told her she was a very good girl for tolerating all of it. I don’t know many dogs who could have stayed and been exposed to such sensory overload and rode it out like she did.
When we finally disembarked she made double time getting us off the boat and didn’t stop to shake herself off until we were on solid ground.
Another experience I thought was unique was touring the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and the Madam Trousseau’s Wax Museum. We wove and darted amongst the crowd in Ripley’s, Verona leading me through the exhibits, up and down the stairs, through doors, and following my husband the whole time so we didn’t get separated. At the end of the Ripley tour, we were led to an optical illusion room. Part of the experience was to walk through a large tube with flashing lights. The illusion of the flashing lights made one think the tube was rotating. My daughter went first, telling me about the footing and that it was okay for Verona. When it was our turn, I gave the forward command and we stepped in to the tunnel. Halfway through my husband followed us. As I stepped out with Verona, both of them were laughing.
I asked them what was so funny. My daughter said that Verona was walking crooked, her legs splayed out as if the tunnel was really spinning. We concluded that optical illusions work on guide dogs as well as people.
Next we toured the wax museum. It was interactive and a lot of fun. Verona and I sat with Oprah, which I thought was very funny. We also found the row of bronzed copies of celebrity faces and I guessed most of them correctly. Leonard Nimoy has a huge, crooked nose and Angelina Jolie has a very delicate facial structure, making her appear via touch as very beautiful. William Shatner has a very chubby face, which I still think is very funny because when he was younger he was supposed to be very handsome. Being able to touch them was one of the best parts about it.
Anyway, back to the next unique experience. We entered the science fiction hall and as we passed the Alien exhibit, the damn thing popped out of the egg and scared the crap out of me. I yelled and jumped back and so did Verona. Then I started to laugh along with my husband and I told her it was okay and we moved on. It really was very funny. At least I can rely on her sense of self-preservation, right?
Since then, we’ve been on many other vacations and have had other wonderful experiences, but I will always remember Ontario as one of the most exciting and fulfilling. It was the first trip with my first guide dog and my entire perception of what it is like to be a blind traveler has changed for the better. In fact, every time I travel I find it rewarding and I know it’s due to having a great canine partner with whom I can share it.