Blog 10 August 30, 2011
The past events of the weekend made me revisit the idea of waiting to start working on my application for a new guide dog.
I love my wife and friends and family very much, and when you have been as independent as I have been, it is hard to have people telling you where to go and what to do. I have doing my own mobility for 6 years or so and it is getting increasingly harder to have someone guide me around. The fact that my wife still talks to me after we come home after from being outside must prove she loves me. I am not the easiest person to guide and coming from a dog to cane and a guide does not make it easier. We went to a wedding on the weekend which required my wife to guide me around some tight areas normally she would not bother since Jags would follow her, on command and Jags would handle that job without difficulty. Some areas were tight so as my wife was guiding me she forgot to tell me to stop instead she pulled my arm while I was trying to walk through a tight doorway, which caused me to stumble and fall into a door. I was not very happy about that and my reply was “Do not help me”. I know this was the wrong answer but once again frustration took over instead of patience. The rest of the evening was a little easier but it was still hard going around tables and coming to staircases (which she still panics about).
The next day we were at a spiritual retreat and my wife guided for a little while, we had some difficulties with steps and obstacles but we got through it. Some of the things that happened is that my wife would tell me that we are coming to a side walk and I stopped, preparing to cross, but we are still 30 feet from the curb, or as we are crossing she would tell me that the curb is coming and I start lifting my foot but we are still 3 feet from the curb, it must look like I am trying to start a motorcycle or she will tell me to walk in the middle of the ramp or side walk, I finally just said this is not how it works. Walking with a cane or a dog does not train you to walk down the middle. Later on during the day my best friend guided me around and it was very different and the biggest difference is he doesn’t talk to me when we come to an obstacle he stops and tells me that we are at the stairs. I probe with my foot or my cane and we move forward. I had a chance to reflect during the day in what the differences are between my wife and my friend. They both care very much but my wife is protective and that instinct takes over and she wants to ensure that each step I take I won’t hurt myself, but she does not understand sometimes the more information you try to give the more complicated it gets. The hardest part of all this is when you have a dog the communication is done by body language and probing is done by your feet and hands. When someone is guiding you they communicate verbally and sometimes too much communication gets lost between the action that needs to be done and the obstacle. In the time of our retreat I reflected back to the first time when my she guided me around it was very hard for her then, trying to think for two people, herself and myself and do the left right thing how to open the doors and get both of us through the door without getting hit by the door, it was hard for her then and it is still hard for her now. This also reminded me why I got a guide dog in the first place.
I had a chance to speak with my wife on Monday and go over some basic things about mobility and the most important thing I could tell her is that if you’re not sure just stop.
A few days later we were downtown Montreal at lunch time which is very busy with a lot of construction. I know that my wife is terrified of when I go back to classes. I don’t have a dog and how am I going to get around. Her mind is running a mile a minute. I asked her if she trusted me, of course the answer was; yes of course! I then said great you will let me guide you around and you must follow without question and you can’t pull me or stop me, She was very reluctant but agreed, “ she said she trusted me”. As we started she pulled on my arm and pulled back, I started explaining everything I was doing and how I approach a curb what I am listening for when I cross a street. I walked her down a busy street and explained what it is I am doing and what I am looking for. We came to a mailbox. I explained how we check the obstacles and how to get around them. I then asked her if she would be willing to do it blind folded she said no it was hard enough just watching me. In all she was stressed but understood that there is a lot of technique to mobility and I am safe on the street, not as safe as you would be with a dog, but safe.
I also thought about after the retreat weekend and why I was waiting with the wedding coming. I took this time to start my application process sooner instead of waiting. I know, I said; I wanted to wait until the wedding, but as I told my best friend at the retreat, if I don’t start this application process soon, the newlyweds will have to skip the honeymoon. So I have sent off some of the reports to start getting filled out.
Lets face facts, it is not easy at the best of times guiding someone or giving directions, think back to how many people have given you directions on the phone to get somewhere and you got lost, try guiding someone around giving them directions but they can’t see the land marks or the objects in front of them. Then try guiding someone who is highly active and independent.