by Sue Vandegrift
Dear Puppy Raisers --
Today marks a wonderful milestone in my life that I wanted to share with you all. Two years ago last week I received a call giving me the flight information to go to a cold and wet Portland to get my Guide Dog.
As I finished the final preparations and packing, I was nervous and worried how this would all play out. Amanda, my daughter, was only months from graduating high school and I needed to find a new way to get around. How would [my dog] fit into my office life? Would I still be working? I never imagined what and where life would take me. As I took a plane flight across the US, changing planes several times -- it would be the last time I would be so scared to travel alone.
It was two years ago today that I met Apex for the very first time. His birthdate is the same as my kitten's, and he was the tall, dark and handsome man I prayed for since I was in high school (So he came on four legs instead of two -- I had to compromise somewhere - haha). He and I hit it off within minutes and we have been unstoppable ever since. He does not mind shopping as long as lunch is included and he loves to travel and see many new faces and places. As I type this, he lies next to me sleeping (and snoring) in the warm Florida afternoon sun.
I have traveled all over (Eastern Carribbean, Bahamas,Virgin Islands, Massachutes, Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, Texas and Georgia just to name a few) with "my tall, dark and handsome" guiding my footsteps. We watched as Amanda graduated high school and we partied the night away (I had earned it !) We worked several full military honor funerals without a flinch from my guide during the honor gun salutes. We tackled and attended a movie premiere (Letters to God- it was filmed at my office just before I got Apex). We survived two long, endless months with dad in CCU/ICU/PCU and then his death and funeral. We got caught in the October snow/ice storm in the Northeast, and we still continue to work, travel and shop on our own. We have found a new church home and attend every chance we can. I still remain independent, although my brother refuses to let me mow the yard, fix the plumbing, or hang pictures (things blind folks don't do so well anyway).
We (Apex and I) are currently planning more trips: to the Carribbean in early 2013, to go skiing in Utah in the fall of 2012. I am starting the process of planning my dream trip to Alaska to see the Arura Borelis and Hawaii to see the volcano and black beaches (both states are on my bucket list, and I can not believe they will actually become reality in the summer/fall of 2013) as well as a trip, or two, to see family and friends all across this land.
Laying down my driver's license was very hard, as I thought it would be the end of my working and traveling days, but instead God traded me - my driving a car for my wonderful Guide Dog.
Apex has truely lived up to the meaning of his name and been the pinnacle of my life even thru the health scares we have both endured. Two-and-a-half years ago, it took me nearly an hour to go one block with my white cane, finding every crack in the sidewalk and more often than not, I sat at home, totaly fustrated and exhausted by trying to travel or walk. Yesterday, Apex and I did two miles in 30 minutes without thinking about it - what a joy to be able to walk like a sighted person again.
He loves children and so I am getting back into working with them more and more. He also loves to entertain the crowd while I (attempt to) sing, so I am once again beginning to sing on stage --I always hated being taken and led like a small child so I stopped singing when I started losing my vision. I also have begun pursuing things that interest Sue as I begin to enjoy the "empty nest" now that Amanda has moved out. It is amazing how much less house cleaning there is to do when there are no children around...humm (I had forgotten that part of being single...)
Thank you all for your prayers and emotional support over these last two wonderful and event-filled years, and continue to pray for us as I have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. Who knows--you may see me at your door or even hear me as I go by. God truely does give us riches beyond measure and often more than we can think of.
Celebrate today - it is all we know we have - tomorrow is simply hoped for and yesterday was.
On our Happy "Puppy Day",
Sue and guide Apex