by GDB Alumna Megan Miller
I have been excited about getting a Guide Dog for several years now, but the timing never seemed right. Finally, this past January, I was able to go to San Rafael, California, to meet and train with my dog.
I knew I would love having a Guide Dog, but I could never have imagined how great it would be to have such a great companion. The partnership that GDB fosters is beyond words. Pasta is everything I could ask for. Probably the most challenging part of the training was keeping my friendly dog from saying hi to everyone during our work. But now, our connection is very strong, and I love her personality -- she is so sweet and loves to play and cuddle.
She makes walking around my crowded college campus so easy. Now, I don't have to worry about bumping into people, trash cans and randomly placed signs. Pasta goes around everything. If a car comes out of nowhere, she knows what to do to keep us safe. She is the smartest dog I have ever seen!
I found out what a fantastic memory she has one night after my class. I had recently tried a new route to and from my class to get around some construction, but I guess I wasn't very sure of it yet. I must have told Pasta to turn too late or something, but the next thing I new, we were at a curb, which we weren't supposed to be. I did a 180 and told her to go forward, hoping to retrace my steps and start again, but I once more had a poor time/distance estimate and wound up somewhere else that was unfamiliar.
Even though I didn't know exactly where I was, Pasta seemed to -- her demeanor changed from her normal, happy, speedy self to an even happier dog with an extra spring in her step. I can't describe it, but I can tell when she recognizes a place. So, I trusted her and let her guide me without giving her direction. This may not have been the best thing to do, but I trusted her eyes and memory better than my memory alone.
After a minute, she walked me up to a building I didn't recognize at first. I was trying to get to steps to take me up to the shuttle stop which would get me to the dorms, so I knew I shouldn't be at a building. I told Pasta to hop up and directed her away from the building. She kept walking with a bounce in her step, and the next thing I knew, she had brought me all the way home, and we had never walked that way before!
Before I had Pasta, I would have been terrified alone in the dark with my cane, but with her, I was not afraid. I trusted that she would keep me safe, and if she didn't take me somewhere familiar, I would have stopped and asked a passing person for help. But, I didn't have to do that because her amazing memory got me all the way home! I never expected that. The trust I have in her has grown exponentially since that night. I know now that she will take care of me, and even if she doesn't always get me home, I know she will keep me safe.
Pasta is pictured below, working in her harness during a guide dog demonstration: