“How do you spell that?” I said, as I typed frantically on my BrailleNote (a Braille note taker which allows me to write and do cool techy things in Braille). Meanwhile I was thinking But I wanted a girl. And who’s named Julio? What language is that, anyway?
It was Wednesday July 28, 2004, and I was sitting in a comfortable chair, with five other blind students who were daring or crazy enough to go to Oregon and attempt the adventure of life with a Guide Dog.
The instructor spelled Julio’s name “J U L I O.” and I tried to smile pretty and say thank you. We all filed out of the “lecture/discussion room” and I headed back to my room. I didn’t cry, but I wasn’t sure how I felt. I hadn’t wanted a boy dog.
I passed the time by talking to friends, wondering what this dog would be like and figiting. Stress the figiting.
When my turn came, I held onto my instructor’s arm just below the elbow, and followed her down the hall. She led me to the couch in the instructors’ office, and I sat.
The next few minutes are a blurr of descriptions, pictures, smiles, a wagging tail and Julio sticking his head in my crotch. I learned that Julio had carmel stripes on a cream-colored body, beautiful eyes and a great personality. Somehow, even as unsure as I felt about what to do, he melted my heart. I started to want to get to know him. I also learned that his birthday would be the day we came home.
Together, Julio and I walked beside the instructor. We got back to our room, and I called my parents and friends. Julio seemed curious about who this strange girl was.
That day was filled with obedience sequences “Julio, sit. Good boy! Julio down. Good boy! Julio stay... No, stay... Good boy! Julio come... What do I do now?”
“See if you can get him to play a little bit. He seems a bit stressed.”
I learned quickly that mistakes happen, much more than we like. I learned that Julio doesn’t listen as much as you would expect if you subscribe to the “Guide dogs are perfect” model. So I learned to get rid of that idea quickly.
The day also included learning to eat dinner with a dog at your side (no begging allowed). I learned to feed Julio, take him outside, groom him, brush his teeth and clean his ears.
I learned to cry when I needed to, and that working with a dog is harder than you’d expect. But I learned that Julio and I would get along.
I fell into bed and wondered how Julio and I would do on our first walk together. The best part of this memory is knowing that we’re still together, three years later. He survived my mistakes and I survived his.