This week we mourn the passing of Robin Williams, who shared his extraordinary gift of humor with the world for many, many years in spite of his battle with depression. He taught us that laughter can be our best medicine.
Teddy’s Most Terrible Awful Day
by Peer Advisor DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega
Many factors go into the matching process when a blind person and a dog guide are brought together to form a team. The temperament, walking speed, strength and the life style demands of the handler are all weighed against the potential guides available in the pool of dogs that have completed training. It is easy to lose your heart to these beautiful, intelligent canines.
Teddy Comes To Live With Us
Teddy was a huge golden retriever, with a gentle spirit. He came to live with us and be my guide dog when my eldest daughter was eighteen months old. When I brought Teddy home from The Seeing Eye Inc., located in Morristown New Jersey, there were times that I wondered how I would ever get anything done between changing diapers and brushing out long silky acres of golden fur. Teddy thoroughly enjoyed Angie’s company and allowed her to drag him around by his collar. They were such good buddies, that once when I called him, I heard a whimper. Thinking that perhaps he had been trapped in another room by a door swinging shut, I went to investigate. There he stood in the kitchen pressed against the counter. My not so angelic Angelyn had convinced him to be a climbing structure and was standing on his broad back making a raid on the cookie jar. Teddy was afraid to move for fear of dropping her. I also noticed that he didn’t wag his feathery tail whenever his small playmate stood in too close proximity to his hindquarters.
Shopping for Presents and the Stuffed Dog Episode
Christmas was fast approaching. A friend offered to take us shopping. I placed Teddy in a down stay at the bottom of a shelf full of dolls and toys. When I had made my selections, I gave a tug on his leash and he lumbered to his feet. A startled shopper shrieked; she mistook his luxurious pale blond coat for plush and assumed he was a stuffed dog and part of the display.
Approached by a “Snowman” at the Drugstore
At the drugstore, I placed my twenty-month-old daughter into a shopping cart. A store employee dressed as a snowman started toward us to give my baby a candy cane. Child and dog took one look and both let out a yelp.
Grocery Shopping with “Wonder Bread”
Next, we stopped at the grocery Store. After completing that errand, we stowed the groceries in the trunk and I bent to fasten Angelyn into her car seat. A person dressed up as a loaf of Wonder bread approached to give us a Twinky the Kid ring. Teddy took one look and bolted into the car to cower on the floor.
Stopping for Grizzly Bear Pizza
My friend decided we deserved a break from cooking. She suggested we stop for a pizza. Imagine my chagrin, Debby chose grizzly bear pizza. You guessed it, a person dressed as a grizzly bear came out to greet us. Angie threw herself out of her high chair head first into my lap and Teddy tried to hide his eighty-five pound frame under my feet. I struggled to calm baby and dog exclaiming, “It’s just a big doggy!”
My savvy daughter shouted “No doggy! Bear! Teddy wasn’t convinced either. With a big blonde furry playmate like Teddy, is it any wonder my daughter’s favorite toys were Teddy bears?
Teddy Loses Confidence
It broke my heart to watch this wonderful dog begin to lose confidence. He started getting car sick each time we drove into town. He began trembling at sight of his harness. Sometimes it took ten minutes for us to cross the street because he became afraid to leave the curb unless the cross walk was empty. He stopped to show me each sidewalk grate or crack in the concrete. If my shoulder brushed a door frame as we passed through, he threw himself down and rolled over to expose his belly whining in distress. His desire to be perfect made him so cautious that it was nerve wracking as my need to get places warred with his fear of making a mistake. Sometimes, it isn’t how smart the dog is or how willing to please but whether they have the heart and stamina to deal with a world full of challenges and surprises. It takes a lot of courage to be a dog guide.
It Takes Courage
It also takes courage to become an independent active blind or visually impaired person. Taking charge of your life after vision loss requires determination not to let fear keep you from using the new skills you have learned to compensate for vision loss. Others have gone before you and are willing to help you master the techniques and gain the skill sets you will need.
Laughter can be one of the tools that helps you cope with the challenge of living with vision loss. When you learn to laugh at the absurdities of blindness, it takes some of the sting out of embarrassing or frustrating situations. I will never forget the four months of my life I shared with the gentle giant who was better suited to be a baby’s guardian and teddy bear than a guide dog. I will cherish the lessons he taught me about learning to laugh instead of cry when living with blindness gets tough.
Thank You Teddy
Thank you Teddy for teaching me to laugh instead of cry.