By GDB Alum Ernie Jones, pictured with his Guide Dog Randy
I had no intention of walking in the snowy woodlands that morning without my Guide Dog--I feared I couldn't make it through the woods. The trail was hardly more than a narrow path cut through the grass, brush, and overhanging trees, and today several inches of snow covered the thick layer of dried grass and fallen leaves on the ground. But when my brother provided a pair of boots to keep my feet warm and dry, I gave in and agreed to walk with him.
Because this was a trip that I couldn't take my guide dog on, I had left my faithful friend at the guide dog training school--and I already felt lost without him. I couldn't use my cane for this walk either, as the trail was narrow, rough, and full of weeds and brush. Still, for some reason I knew I had to give this walk a try.
Burying my hands deep into my coat pockets to keep them warm, I followed my brother onto the trail. I felt my insides tighten as I feared what I knew was ahead. I didn't want to fail, but I didn't want to run into anything either; I had little faith in my ability to complete this walk.
Yet as I started down the trail I was surprised to find how easy it was to walk by sound only, and I began to relax. I did feel my feet walking into deeper snow a few times, suggesting I was off the main path, but I found it easy to adjust my stride and return to the path.
The trail wound around large trees that offered year-round shade to the carpet below. My brother pointed out several large evergreen trees, and I reached out to feel their frozen needles. My blindness was put aside and I began to enjoy this walk as faith that I could do it grew.
We walked into a ravine and carefully made our way before climbing a small hill. We headed across a wooden walkway that went out over marshy, swampy land and part of a lake, reaching a small island; I walked behind my brother with no fear of landing in the water. Back on the mainland, I realized I was enjoying this; I felt relaxed and no longer fearful.
Hardly had we reached the land before my brother warned me that two large loose dogs were approaching. Though their owners called them, neither dog paid them any attention as they checked us over.
When the dogs' owners neared us, I asked, "What kind of dogs do you have?"
The man responded that one dog was a yellow lab while the other was black and a cross between a pit bull and lab, adding that both dogs were very friendly.
Squatting down, I reached for one of the dogs, thinking of my Randy. The dog reacted just like most other labs do, with excitement and friendliness. I wanted to take hold of her and really hug her but resisted.
"Thank you," I told the man as I stood up. "You folks have a great day," and we continued on.
The two-mile walk took an hour and a half, during which time we heard one raven call but otherwise no birds: no ducks, geese or other water birds, not even any of the more typical snow birds, nor even a squirrel. The land was silent but for a few distant cars on the highway and the singing wind overhead. Though the wind made a roaring noise as it hurried through the frozen tree tops, we hardly felt it.
I returned to the house refreshed and exhilarated. Once more I had conquered my fear and proved I could still enjoy woodland walking.
Don't let anyone rob you of enjoying life. As a rule, life is what we make it.