Back in January, GDB Alumna Kim Kilpatrick decided to post daily on her blog "Great Things About Being Blind". Her topics vary, but she often writes about her relationship with her Guide Dogs.
In some ways, I've come full circle with my Guide Dogs. I've had Guide Dogs since the spring of 1992. All from the same school: Guide Dogs for the Blind in California and Oregon.
My first Guide Dog was born on this day in 1990. She was a wonderful black Labrador named Gwenny. Gwenny was calm, smart, happy, and had a real mind of her own. She would let you know if something you did didn't please her. One of the first times I found this out, happened on her birthday.
Gwenny's brother was also in our Guide Dog class. There were about 16 people in class I believe. Gwenny was black and her brother was yellow. so, the student who had her brother and I bought cake and ice cream for the class. Chocolate cake in honour of black Gwenny and vanilla ice cream in honour of yellow brother whose name I forget. Then, I bought biscuits for all of the dogs from Gwenny.
Anyone who has a retreiver knows that food is very important to them. Gwenny loved her food very much. She was excited when she saw and smelled the bag of biscuits. She had guided me to the pet store to get them. We walked down the hall and at each door, I knocked and presented a biscuit to the owner of each new guide. Gwenny started walking more and more slowly. She kept banging my leg with her head. She would tilt her head to look at the bag of biscuits each time one came out and wasn't offered to her. There were very few biscuits left when Gwenny sat down and stayed there wagging her tail.
"Hey woman! What about me? It is my second birthday after all. And I guided you safely to that store and guided you up and down these halls. Now just where is my biscuit?"
Point well taken. Gwenny did get her biscuit.
Gwenny died suddenly of cancer at age 7.5 while still working. Her loss was so devastating to me and all who knew her. She is now on high and I hope eating well on her birthday.
This past winter, when I took that last journey with my retired guide who also had cancer, I thought of Gwenny waiting for my wonderful Gia.
And, as I sat on the floor stroking my Golden Gia for the last time, talking to her, my second small black lab lay at my feet. Another calm, compassionate, fun dog with a mind of her own. Not like the others and yet like them.
For her wonderful raisers who I still keep in touch with, for all my raiser families who are now friends, for all of the trainers at GDB who had a hand in training my wonderful guides, for all the raisers and trainers out there, you are awesome!
Have a piece of cake or dog biscuit in honour of the best first Guide Dog any person could ever have.