Five years ago today I was sitting at my desk in the lofty office of a prestigious architecture firm, staring at my computer screen as I stabbed at my mouse clicker. It was the Monday of my second week at my architecture internship, but instead of being immersed in CAD drawings I was immersed in guide dog research.
It had been 3 years since I learned about my diagnosis of Usher syndrome, the disorder that is causing me to go deaf and blind. My diminishing vision was affecting my ability to walk anywhere with the ease and confidence I once knew. Within the first week of my internship my newfound clumsiness to bump into walls and knock fragile items off desks made it obvious that I needed help getting around.
So on that Monday, July 19, 2010, I was clicking away at my mouse to search through a website I had looked at a million times before. It was called Leader Dog’s for the Blind. I scrolled through the pages until I found myself pausing with the pointer hovering over the “x” to close out the browser. I had been hovering over this decision for months. Upon a sudden impulse, I picked up the phone and called the number on the screen to request my application for a guide dog.
It wasn’t until a year and a half later when I finally received the call from Leader Dogs and was told I had been matched with a guide dog. On my way to the training I was terrified. Everything in my life was about to change, and I wondered if I was ready for it or not. Even more frightening to think about was the underlying acceptance that it was going to change regardless of my readiness.
I remember the first time I called Sunshine’s name as she came trotting into the room to her new owner’s voice. She melted my heart immediately with her genuine sweetness and delight in letting me pet her. Later that evening, she let her chin rest in my hands as she slowly fell asleep. And I fell in love.
As easy as it was to fall in love with Sunshine it wasn’t as easy to fall in love with the idea of going home with a guide dog. Doubts, anxieties, and insecurities dug at me throughout the training.
“Will my family and friends look at me differently when I see them again with my guide dog?”
“Am I really vision impaired enough to get a guide dog? I’m only 25…,” were a couple of the doubts I carried with me.
My instructor was aware of my uneasiness. She took the opportunity to help me get to know Sunshine better, and brought out all of her paperwork, notes, and health records. As my instructor spoke, I noticed Sunshine’s birthday in the midst of all the paperwork. She was born July 19, 2010, the day I sat as an anxious intern, hovering between denial that I was going blind and desire to move forward in my life.
That moment showed me without a doubt that Sunshine was born for me. In spite of my anxieties, doubts, and insecurities, she and I were going home together, destined to embrace the changes in my life as a force to be reckoned with.
Happy birthday, darling Sunshine.