Looking over the online application, I’m struck by the extent to which I’ve allowed myself to forfeit my independent travel, in an effort to keep my children safe. My kids long ago outgrew the need for a watchful parent during our travels together. Between the young family, the aging dog and our city’s lack of public transit, I’ve somehow become lost in the shuffle.
Once applications are submitted, it typically takes 1-2 months for applicants to be contacted. It’s August. Ideally, I’d like to be in class by late February.
I calculate mileage to determine the most realistic routes to list, and ask my husband, Steve, for help learning them. Hedging my bets, I list them.
Steve teaches me the main route. We go over it a couple of times. Between the August Texas temps and demands of his job, it’s soon apparent that this cannot fit within my ideal time frame.
The school to which I have applied, Guide Dogs for the Blind, (GDB) phones me to go over my application. Even with great orientation skills, I need to know these routes like the back of my hand because I will be responsible for teaching them to my dog when we return from training.
They reject my application, tell me to learn my routes and re-apply.
I contact my local vocational rehabilitation office for a referral to an orientation and mobility instructor (someone who teaches independent travel skills to people who are blind and visually impaired). They refer me to Angela, whose company and instruction I enjoy immensely.
By now it’s late October, and I’m ready to do this.
I’m amazed at the freedom I feel practicing my routes. Just like riding a bike, all my skills remain, sharp as ever. I enjoy a confidence and sense of accomplishment that I haven’t experienced in a very, very long time.
Angela and I meet weekly. In between, I work on the routes independently, or with help from family. Within a month, I have two routes down, and begin my third and final route. At this point I reapply, knowing that it will likely take almost a month to be contacted by the school.
I get the call on December 9, from Megan in Admissions. She approves me for the next phase in the process, and emails me forms to be completed by Angela, my ophthalmologist, and my primary care physician.
Once my paperwork passes review, the next phase involves a home visit from a Field Rep…Field reps have been known to call with as little as three weeks notice, so I must be prepared. I set my doctors’ appointments and scan and return the completed forms one month later, on January 9.
It’s January 15, and my phone rings…
“Donna, this is Bill from Guide Dogs for the Blind. I’ll be in your area on January 25. Would you be available for a home visit then?”
I fall asleep that night with a grateful heart, and a prayer of thanksgiving for my dog. I know (s)he exists, and lives on one of GDB’s campuses…Somehow, just knowing where- under this big sky- my dog might be at this moment, provides me with something tangible to hold on to.
(To be continued.)
Copyright (C) 2014 Donna Anderson. All rights reserved.