The dorms are brand new, beautiful…and thoughtfully designed for people experiencing vision loss. Jen shows me to my room. The first thing I notice is a padded storage bench to my left, just inside the entry. The bench houses a large canister of kibble, 2 dog bowls, a measuring scoop for feeding, dish soap, a plastic scrubby and extra storage space. There is a series of rubberized hooks on the wall above the bench, one of which holds dog-waste bags. A new-looking kennel, extra-long tie down and fluffy white fleece sleeping mat are located on the right side of my bed, awaiting the arrival of my new companion tomorrow.
My classmates and I each have private rooms, complete with full bath, personal fridge, coffee maker, queen bed, recliner, flat-screen tv and individual patio. Each patio features an outdoor bistro table and chairs on one side, and a planter filled with gorgeous orange flowers on the other. The layout of the planters keeps us from wandering into our neighbors’ space, serving as a landmark to orient us to the back doors of our own apartments.
Although we still appear to be on some form of concrete, the ground slopes slightly downward near the back of the patio area. A drainage system has been installed in the sloped area, and lidded waste cans appear at regular intervals, across from the patio planters. It is the dogs’ relieving area, and is hosed down and sanitized by staff after each relieving session. Two individual fenced play yards are located farther beyond the patio and relief areas.
On our tour, we are oriented to: the main lobby where we meet each morning for class; nurse’s and instructors’ offices; overnight staffers’ room and dining hall. We’re also shown: the library with its incredible selection of audio books, DVDs and adaptive computer stations; student laundry; lounge with fridge, microwave, assorted drink mixes and big-screen-tv for those with low vision to enjoy; weight room and hot tub area—all available for our use during our time at Guide Dogs for the Blind— and all provided through generous gifts from GDB donors.
While dinner is being prepared, the six of us gather around a single dining table and take turns introducing and telling a little about ourselves: Newlywed Michelle is a mom in her 30’s. She has recently relocated and has a promising second job interview scheduled with a nonprofit in her area. Steven is Canadian and a member of the Indian Nation. He is middle-aged, widowed, devoted to his daughter and grandchildren, and possesses a wonderfully dry sense of humor. “Energizer bunny” Kimi is in her mid-to-late 20’s, works in the legal field and attends law school. Her sweet friend, Bonnie, is laid-back, retired and lives in Washington State. Kimi and Bonnie were classmates at GDB with their previous dogs. Since both dogs were retiring, they asked to be placed in the same class again. My favorite, Sharon, is also Canadian. She’s a very fun, young and energetic 60-something who is highly involved in vision-loss advocacy and education in her home province. I’m the only “newbie”. All are getting replacement dogs but me.
We chat during dinner and a few minutes beyond…leaving before we’re asked to by kitchen staff. Jen advises us of our reading assignment in preparation for tomorrow, available electronically or in large print.
The remainder of my evening is spent finally unpacking, reading my assignment and reacquainting myself with the surroundings presented to me in the earlier tour, as my late arrival left no other opportunity for exploration. I fall asleep, exhausted and incredibly excited about meeting my new best friend…thrilled with the promise of all tomorrow holds.
Copyright (c) 2015 Donna Mack Anderson. All rights reserved.