The following is a submission from Megan Miller, a 24 year-old student at CalState Long Beach working toward a masters degree in criminal justice (she received her bachelors degree in criminal justice in 2008). She is working with her very first Guide Dog, a female black Lab named Pasta.
I cannot begin to describe what a tremendous impact Pasta has had on my life. She makes all my travels so much easier and makes me feel so much safer and more independent than I have ever felt before. I wanted to share one such instance that we had today, on what some would call a normal walk. But for me, it was again proof of how amazing Pasta is and how much she has enhanced my life, for I would never have taken this walk without her.
I decided to take Pasta out for a nice evening walk. I hadn't really been out all day since I had been doing school work, and it was a nice day. I wanted to take advantage of it and give Pasta some exercise. Initially, I thought we'd just go to the main part of campus and turn around and come back. Along the way, I changed my mind, but I'll get to that.
When we got to our first street crossing, I of course stopped to listen for traffic. I heard a car, but it was far down the street so we went ahead and started across. But halfway through the crossing, a car coming toward us sped up and drove right in front of us.
Pasta stopped dead in her tracks! Good girl! She got lots of praise and kibble for that, and I petted and hugged her once we got to the curb.
Once we were across the street and heading to walk toward the main part of campus, I thought we might as well try something new instead of just going to campus for no reason. I got brave, which is kind of rare for me (smile), and decided that instead of crossing the next street we came to like usual, we'd turn left and walk up a new street. I figured we'd try to do a block or two and make our way back to the dorms.
I had no idea what to expect on this street, since I'd only ever crossed it - not explored it. I knew about how far we'd need to go before turning back toward the dorms and trusted that Pasta and I would figure it out even if we got disoriented. Pasta and I have taken walks to a semi busy street that also intersected with this street, so I figured that we'd eventually run into it and get back on track. In addition, even though the sun wasn't out, light was still visible in the West, so that could help me get oriented as well.
There ended up being lots of parking lot entrances to cross right away. Pasta did great stopping at each one. But then, we ended up walking on a sidewalk that had a parking lot on the left and sort of a wall on the right. Weird, but we kept going. Then, the sidewalk stopped. It turned into just a thin island with bushes. On the right of it was a fence, so we couldn't trail it like we were supposed to. I was hoping the sidewalk would come back, so I risked it and had her walk in the parking lot with us as close against the side of the island as we could be. I didn't know what else to do.
We walked along for awhile and still no sidewalk emerged. I ended up seeing the parking structure to our right at some point, which was helpful since I knew it was directly to the east of the dorms. I knew we needed to turn left, but of course, being in a massive parking lot, we couldn't just go straight left. So, for quite some time, we zigzagged through the lot, trailing the backs of parked cars as best we could.
It was kind of nerve-wracking, but I was surprisingly calm. It was really good for us, I think. I'm nervous about parking lots so it was good for me to have to deal with them. I knew we'd get home eventually because I knew the general direction we needed to go and knew that once we got close enough, Pasta would know where to go, too (if she didn't already!). She sure acted like she knew where we were, and I trusted that she'd get me home. I just kept occasionally saying, good girl Pasta, let's go home.
Eventually, and I'm not quite sure how, we ended up stepping up onto the curb and sidewalk at the corner just north of the dorms. Cool! Again, I'm not quite sure how we did it, but hurray, we did!
Pasta got lots of praise and kibbles along the way for staying so focused and doing such a great job. She got plenty more once we got to that familiar corner! The final stretch was smooth sailing, and Pasta flew down the sidewalk. Woo hoo! I would never have taken that walk through the never-ending parking lots without Pasta by my side. Great job Pasta - I love you!