23 Oct 2012, 3:47pm
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Guide Dog Chronicles: Peyton and Beyond

Guide Dog Chronicles:

Peyton and Beyond

By Kate Chamberlin

Journal entry: Friday, October 19, 2012

It started with my 10-1/2 year old guide dog, Peyton Grace, tripping, falling and sliding down the six, wooden steps to the main level.  several weeks ago, Dave had to carry  her down the stairs, so she could go outside to piddle and park.  We stapled a carpet runner on the stairs to help her get a better grip. Sometimes, she’d whine before slowly climbing up the stairs to bed. Her joints were no longer helped by the glucosimin pills.  Her back end was getting too stiff and sore to guide comfortably.  It was time to think of the unthinkable: retirement.

During the past 8-1/2 years Peyton Grace and I have been together, we’ve flown to Tennessee to attend my nephew’s wedding.  We’ve made several trips to California to visit our  son and his family.     Once, we even took three grandchildren with us to CA.  We have been to schools, Scouts, church groups, and other  venues for Feely Can and Sniffy Jar Presentations.  We have raised two grandchildren until they were able to be adopted back by their birth mother.  She has provided me with fodder for numerous free-lance articles that have been published.  The Parishioners of our church and the ladies at DAR have all learned to admire my guide dogs from afar, knowing that my safety depends on their not distracting my working dog.

I have trusted my life to this beautiful, 60-pound Yellow Lab trained by Melissa Reed at Upstate Guide Dog Association  for almost a decade.  She has taken care of me and I’ll take care of her in her retirement years.

Since Upstate Guide Dogs is no longer available, I applied to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, in Yorktown Heights, NY.  My first four guide dogs were from GEB and I feel a loyalty to them.  Bev Clayman tentatively put me on the home training waiting list, but warned me it would be 18 to 24 months before they could get to me.  It   would also depend on the Field Reps evaluation of my situation.

Lisa Derleth came out one morning when, fortunately, the weather was very nice for a mid-October day  in upstate NY.  Peyton Grace slowly walked me down and around the cul-de-sac of my street as Lisa filmed us from the back and front.  Then, we drove into town, where she filmed us crossing the street with the traffic light in picturesque, downtown Walworth.  The video will be sent to a GEB panel to evaluate if Peyton is ready to retire and how well we work together. Lisa also took me on a “juno walk”, using her GPS to determine what would be a comfortable pace and pull for me.

Lisa said she’d recommend issuing another guide dog to me, but warned that because I am elderly and do not have a “fixed route” I take everyday, and no full-time employment to keep a young dog active and interested,  I’m not a top priority candidate.

It is true that I’m neither 29, nor use public transportation to go to a full-time job, nor have toddlers hanging on to my skirts, I tend to disagree with her assessment.  I am not the ancient couch potato  she seems to imply. My new status as an empty nester will enable me to travel more and volunteer my time and experience in ways never before possible. A  well-trained guide dog would enable me to hold my head up high and step out with confidence, not to mention the positive reflection on the guide dog movement and     enhanced perception the public would have of a senior citizen who just happens to have a disability.  .

But, now we wait for what the fates will bring.