I talk a lot about Jenny on this blog.
Jenny… my sidekick, my partner in crime, my guide dog. I’ve had her harness in my left hand for almost eight years. It is abundantly clear that we have far more years of partnership behind us than we do ahead. I’m not even sure that our partnership has multiples of years left. I’ve found myself talking more about her retirement lately – of course I am, especially in the process of applying for Guide Dog 2.0 – but it still feels both like it will happen tomorrow, and like it’s a million years away.
But while she’s still my steady and reliable guide, she still reminds me that I need to follow her, dammit! And she has the most adorable ways to show me that I am being foolish. I often tell the story of the time I seriously over-corrected her – thinking she was distracted and veering way too far to the right. My “correction” had us crossing a busy downtown street… diagonally. Not realizing my error until later, I got up on the opposite curb and asked my dog “what the hell was that?” She calmly walked me around the corner to the light pole, and stubbornly sat down, cocking her head to the side. The thought bubble above her head couldn’t have been more clear: “Are you quite done?”
That instance was years ago – frankly, I should’ve known better. But Jenny is nothing if not forgiving, and smart, and intuitive. I honestly believe that she took her lack of useful work over the past year and a half personally, because she’s rocked every new thing I’ve thrown at her in the past few months. And even in the mundane and routine , she’s got her way of baffling me, while simultaneously putting me in my place.
Today I decided to go to an unfamiliar restaurant for lunch. I’d been there once before (with my dad, traveling in his car, about seven or eight years ago?) I left work and made my way through the parking lot, redirecting Jenny from the other restaurants in the area that we’ve been to before. I waved her forward, through the parking lot, and asked her to find a door. There’s more than one door – in fact, there’s about ten of them – and she took me to the one door to the one restaurant I wanted. I don’t think her tail stopped wagging the entire time she was showing her stuff.
On my way home, my mind was full of complicated thoughts. It has been a hard day and a long week, and I truthfully wasn’t paying as much attention to my orientation as I should have. I made a turn, and about a hundred feet past the corner, Jenny made a sharp turn to the left. Thinking she was severely distracted by something across the street, I waved Jenny forward. She angled in front of me, as though to block me from the rest of the sidewalk. Was there construction? I waved her forward again, and again she angled in front of me, preventing me from moving forward. I snapped out of my mental funk and realized she hadn’t been distracted at all – she was taking me to the crosswalk that we cross regularly. As soon as I turned around and headed back toward that crosswalk, my faithful, forgiving guide dog wagged her tail frantically, as if to say, “See? You really should listen to me.”
I do listen to Jenny more often than I don’t. She speaks so loudly with her whole body. I wonder how Guide Dog 2.0 will communicate? Will they be gracious, or stubborn? Will they throw up warning messages (“Are you sure you want to go straight/cross this way/take this turn?”) or just let me figure out my own foolishness? Will I be open to learn what they will teach me? I certainly hope so.