The freedom to take a walk independently is a simple pleasure few of us truly cherish. To feel your body working as you move with and against the air; to breathe deeply as legs and arms pump rhythmically; to sense the contour of the earthe, the brokenness of the sidewalk, the birds and squirrels in overhead branches, the cars and skateboards whizzing nearby; life moving in and around you is a positive and uplifting experience.
It’s just not the same with another human being. Even if you could match strides and your fellow walker is a pro at sighted guide, chances are the blind person will not feel liberated.
Walking with a sighted companion transforms the blind person into more of a passenger, as in a car. The sighted person is driving the human pair, and you, as the blind walker, are merely tagging along. Typically, you wouldn’t even serve as the navigator.
But walking with a guide dog is different.
A guide dog is trained to do the driving. He sidesteps obstacles, notifies the blind person of curbs, and his pace has been matched to that of the blind person. The team’s destination and how they get there is up to the navigator, you. So if you tell the dog to take a right turn and your destination is actually to the left, guess what? He will obey, and you’ll both be lost. Still wagging on his part, and a bit frustrated on yours.
I felt this sense of independence many, many times during my years with Ari. Together we walked to and from Temple Beth Sholom, took jaunts around the neighborhood, and ambled along the Oregon coast.
Visiting the Pacific Ocean became an especially sweet adventure for Ari and me. My big loveable boy was not always sure what to think of the tide as it came rolling toward us. In fact, the first few times we waited on shore for the cool rush of water to find us, he planted himself securely between me and the flow.
“Don’t worry, Ari,” I assured with a chuckle, “we’re safe enough.”
And whether he believed me or not, Ari didn’t protest too much as I scooped up handsful of sea water and poured them over his neck and shoulders.
And the absolute freest moment I have ever felt since losing my sight as a young teen came when we ran, yes ran, along the shore, just Ari and me.
Which is why, my darling friends, I have applied to GDB for another guide dog.
I’m not sure how things will unfold this time, especially given these current needs for social distancing, but I can’t imagine life without a canine guide.
Yes, Ari has taught me well. Learn to trust. Find a worthy teammate. Gather your courage. And keep moving forward.
Wishing you sweetness