I had it all planned out: Jenny would turn eight years old in March, 2020, I would run the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May, and then I would drop applications to guide dog schools. Jenny deserves a long, happy, and well-earned retirement after all the work she’s done – traveling to seven provinces and eight states (most notably on an amazing month-long journey where she encountered brand new surroundings every 2-3 days), training for and running two half-marathons, and keeping me safe from random obstacles and inattentive or unreasonable drivers. Sometimes she’s had to tell me I’m the foolish one; sometimes we need to have discussions about her not following her nose. But she’s been my sidekick since the fall of 2013, and while she loves her job, and is still more than willing to do it, she deserves all the couch cuddles and play dates and visits with friends that a retired guide dog can handle. I also needed to buy enough time so that she can both enjoy more work time and a long retirement, and a guide dog program can best find a match for my pace, personality, and lifestyle – no small feat!
I have chosen, for a wide variety of reasons, not to return to BC and Alberta Guide Dogs for a successor dog. With that decision made, I had to make important choices on where I would be applying for Guide Dog 2.0. Over the past several years, I’ve been watching guide dog groups on Facebook, and spoken to many friends with guide dogs about their training and follow-up experiences; I had a pretty good idea where I would be dropping applications based on what I’d seen over a period of four or five years. A year ago, I sent my first email to a potential guide dog school, and felt like I’d just pulled the pin out of a grenade. Over the following months, the world shifted due to a novel coronavirus – now known as COVID-19 – and my plans flew out the window. I didn’t run BMO in May, and the timeline for Guide Dog 2.0 became less crucial as Jenny’s workload decreased. When I dropped my first application in early July, again I felt the pin-pulled-from-grenade feeling, this was really going to be a thing. What I encountered was…. complicated. And it had little or nothing to do with COVID-19.

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