It’s January, a month of memories. I look back upon those who have died and I also look forward to keeping them close to my heart through recalling the special times we’ve shared together. My Dad, Bob, and his being a neat freak and a talented carpenter and mechanic and lover of nature. I also recall my mother-in-law, Carol and the way she loved my kids and feeling blessed I survived her erratic driving and feeling relieved I did not have to see the close calls because I am blind. 😓😱 .
Although we lost both my Dad and Carol in successive January dates, both on the sixteenth of the month, I want to also celebrate the life of another family member, my first guide dog.
In January 2009 I met and trained with my first guide dog, Verona and this post is being written and shared to honor her life. I am fortunate to be part of the Guiding Eyes graduate community and because of it I take part in occasional grief and bereavement Zoom meetings. We share how much our dogs mean to us, the bond of trust and love and how much they mean to us even after they die. I always feel better after one of these meetings because I spent the time with other handlers who understand the lifetime bond developed with these incredible dogs and the indelible imprint they have upon our hearts.
Here is one of my favorite stories about Verona, a sweet sixty lb. black lab. My husband, Jerry, took over her care and handling once I retired her and submitted my application for a successor dog. She was seven years old and full of energy but she developed cysts in her eyes and it began effecting her ability to guide me. One day Jerry took her upstate during turkey hunting season. She was a great field dog and not a bit gun shy. He set up the blind, telling Verona to lay down. He soon shot the turkey and got out of the blind, saying “Let’s go get it!” and Verona ran out of the blind and ran for the turkey, grabbing it’s neck. He asked her to let go and she did but kept trying to grab it. After he called me and told me the story, I laughed and between giggles, said, “Well, you told her to go get it and she’s a lab, what did you expect?”
Verona lived a great life, succumbing to old age in February 2020 at age 14. I could not have had a better first guide dog and since walking our first route together I haven’t looked back. Thanks, sweet girl for being able to give me back my independence.
If you want to read more about our adventures, pick up my memoir,