Guide Dog Files – getting my first guide dog part 1

Fauna the guide dog

I recently got my new guide dog Fauna, and we are learning to be an effective traveling team. It makes sense to have articles and tips for traveling with a guide dog, on this site. Before that  however, I thought I would tell you more about myself, and how I got here. This week I begin a new feature here on Bind Travels, called Guide Dog Files, where I will be sharing my guide dog story with you.  Each Tuesday I will continue the story, I hope you enjoy. 

Getting in line

I lost my sight in a car accident in 1999 after working for years in the videogames industry. I released 35 titles to market for consoles, handhelds and PC platforms during the time I worked for Atari, Accolade and Mattel Toys. The car accident stole not only my career, but my independence. I’m a very stubborn person and don’t accept assistance readily. Shortly after the accident I began orientation and mobility courses which gave me the fundamentals to navigate my world again. I started out as any student does in O&M classes, by using a white cane and learning to read traffic surges at intersections. After completing the classes, I started to notice something different when I was walking around the house and neighborhood with my cane – I was starting to remember locations of everything, and often walked without my cane using what I can only explain as echolocation, carefully listening to the sounds around me and how they were interacting with the environment. After traveling in a location under sighted guide I was able to navigate most areas unassisted (unless the furniture got moved of course) I later found out there is a term for this and it is Proprioception, a heightened awareness of one’s body in space. Here is an interesting article on the topic if you would like further information. article

That is how I have rolled through life for almost 20 years. At one point I thought very seriously about applying for a guide dog, but in the end the time required for training (at the time it was one month) and the feeling that others needed the dog more than me kept me from ever pursuing a guide. I stumbled through life (literally) and one day after breaking my little toe for the umpteenth time, I decided to log onto the Guide Dogs for the Blind site and look at the application process. That was almost a year ago…

A few weeks after submitting my initial application to Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) I received an email informing me that I met the initial requirements for a guide dog, and a phone interview would be scheduled to determine further eligibility. Three more weeks passed, and a two-hour phone interview let to the scheduling of an in-home interview to determine if our home was suitable for a guide dog. A few more weeks, a five-hour home interview and another phone interview later, I was in final acceptance mode for the guide dog program. All I needed to do was schedule a physical and a visual field test to finalize the process – then the waiting began. I eventually received an email with a date for my two-week training course, which would be held in the GDB campus in San Rafael California.

I don’t make life-changing decisions in haste. It took me 17 years to start the ball rolling to get my guide dog, and all of that led me to the first day of guide dog training…which I will talk about next week.

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