Here it is.
"There's a note in your pouch," my teacher said as I entered the basement of the dormitory.
"About what?" I wondered. I walked to the wall that held pouches containing a card with a record of where we'd been and a label in Braille so we could find it ourselves. I snatched the card from my pouch. My fingers trembled as I read it.
"Your parents will pick you up at 7:20 tomorrow for a doctor's appointment," the note read.
"Did they say what for?" I asked.
"You need to get okayed for Guide Dogs, maybe you should just call one of them and ask."
I slid the note into my pocket and ran upstairs. My heart pounded, more from fear than cardiovascular exertion. Why do I need to go to the doctor? I already passed the home interview and I have my plane ticket. I was up front about my tendonitis, even before I knew what it was. Why are they concerned about it now?
I shoved open the door to the room I shared with two other blind high school students and threw my cane into a corner.
My mind began to trick me; I believed something sinister was going on. I dialed our voice mail at home to see if there were any messages from the school. There were none.
I called my mother on her cell phone and demanded to know what was going on. She tried to calm my fears, but I wasn't listening.
"You should've told me! Why didn't they talk to me?" Mom tried to explain that they didn't want me to worry. She knew how important getting a Guide Dog was to me.
"You're busy. We didn't want you to worry about this too. We hoped you wouldn't have to know."
"Well, I do," I shouted into the phone. "I have to go," I said cutting her response off. I hung up without saying "I love you."
I heard my roommates in the room now, but I ignored them. I walked to the bathroom as quickly as I could, without bumping into walls. I wanted to be alone. I cried so hard I couldn't talk. I left the room without saying a word to anyone.
Downstairs, I talked to my teacher. We've known each other for five years; she's seen me go through a lot of hard times. She helped me prepare to get a Guide Dog. I knew she'd understand.
Other adults gathered as we talked and many of them reassured me. "It's not a matter of if, it's when," they said. But that wasn't what I wanted to hear. I wanted to fight back. I was angry with my parents for not telling me, and I hated the thought that people talked about me without my knowledge. Eventually I collected myself enough to help prepare dinner and join my friends. But that night a panel of blind adults shared their experiences with us, two of them had Guide Dogs. Students naturally asked about them and I could barely stand listening to the explanations of how they worked. That could've been me. But now it won't be.
The next morning the doctor said I needed an evaluation to make sure I could handle the walking. "I think you'll be fine, but we need to make sure," he said. Maybe this can work, I hoped.
I went through the evaluation easily. The walking didn't cause more pain so they concluded I would be fine. Thank You God! I prayed.
A week later, after three days of learning how to use a Guide Dog, the instructors told the class about our dogs. Mine was a yellow lab named Julio. I practically skipped back to my room to wait to meet him; I always wanted a yellow lab.
Finally an instructor walked me to the room where I met him. One of the instructors described him to me. "Did you tell her about his eyes?" one of the other instructors asked.
"They're beautiful. They are dark and expressive. They look like someone put eye liner on them." Those will be my eyes, I thought.
We spent the next week learning to work with each other. I struggled with being pulled around obstacles by a dog who couldn't tell me what he was doing; I couldn't tell whether he was moving to the left to keep me away from a signpost or to chase a squirrel. Finally one day I thought I was succeeding. We were really communicating.
"We're going to do a bus to lounge today," an instructor explained. "We're going to park the buses somewhere and tell you how to get to the lounge. Then you're going to get there with us watching. We'll help you if you need us, but we want you to try as much yourself as possible." Oh no! I'm really going to mess this up, I thought.
The wait on the bus lasted 15 minutes, but to me it seemed longer. My classmates told me I'd be fine, but I disagreed.
When it was my turn to go I fought to clear my mind. How am I going to do this? I can't even think straight. I grabbed Julio's harness and took off down the sidewalk. My first street crossing went well; this isn't so bad, I thought. But when we arrived at the next crossing we couldn't get it right. We veered to the left and had to try it several times. After the third try I wanted to curl into a ball and cry. I want to go home and forget the last two weeks ever happened, I thought. But I couldn't; by this time two instructors were trying to help me and I didn't want to look immature.
Finally we got it right and walked on. Both of us felt awful. Julio knew I was upset; he walked at a snail's pace. We walked the rest of the route with little difficulty; Julio even protected me from a car in a driveway.
I still wanted to go home, though. God, why did you bring me here? Do you want me to leave? I figured if I listened to Him He had an answer.
"I brought you here. I didn't do it to leave you. You went through the uncertainty two weeks ago so you would trust me. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will get you through this."
The next morning I felt better; I was still frustrated, but I didn't want to leave.
On August 21, Julio and I graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind. When they officially presented me with Julio I said a few thank yous, but I knew there were more that I didn't say. That night before I turned out the light, I prayed with gratitude "Thank You God for never leaving me."