9 years ago, this week, I met Pippen. It was cold and rainy in Morristown, NJ, as we trained together, at The Seeing Eye ®, but it was cheery and warm inside as our classmates formed friendships. One of them was a retired pastor, and one had a beautiful singing voice, so as we approached palm Sunday, we made plans to have our own worship service in the lounge. Traditionally, we were allowed to go to church on the Sundays during training, but I forgot just why we didnt that time. Anyway, being there on Palm Sunday always helps me remember our anniversary. Pippen and I came home together on the Wednesday before Easter. We were on our own to explore the neighborhood and to settle into a feeding and relieving routine. The day after Easter, a traveling instructor came to assist us in learning the safest routes to work, to church, the restaurants in town, the beauty shop, etc. It was pouring down rain the whole 2 days he was here. I mean, I had to wear the full rain gear from head to toe to keep from getting drenched. But he was here, so we had to go out and do it. From that time on, Pippen has refused to walk in the rain, unless its necessary to get to a car in our driveway. Even if it looks like rain, she wont go farther than the driveway. No amount of encouragement or scolding will convince her that its not a bad idea. One day, when she smelled rain in the air, I managed to get her halfway up the block, and then sure enough, the skies opened up. I gladly admitted she was right and turned around, and she practically ran back to the house. Another day, she made her statement by doing an about face, the moment we got out the front door, and faced the door. She might as well have said, Im not going. Take your own self for a walk.
Early in our partnership, we would walk to the track at the school near our house and walk around the track. One night, we were halfway around the track, when the thunder cracked, and the rain suddenly came down in buckets. Pippen came to a dead stop. I dont do rain, she said. But with considerable prodding, I got her to lead me to the gate. It was one of the scariest nights of my life. Cars were streaming out of the parking lot, as the Little League game was called off by the rain. I couldnt hear anything because of the thunder and stampeding rain on the pavement. We needed to walk beside the cars to get out of the parking lot, but I couldnt tell if I was in the path of a car or not. That night, I had to put my faith in God and just move forward. If you are a dog guide user, you might say, Why didnt you put your faith in your dog? Remember, this was a very young dog, and she was terrified of rain, so this night, it was up to God, not only to get us out of the parking lot, but also across the busy street. Pippen was so eager to get home, that she crossed the street in a diagonal, instead of going from corner to corner, and it was only the Grace of God that kept us from getting hit. When we reached the far corner, still alive, albeit soaked, I thanked God profusely. From now on, I vowed, if it looks like rain, Ill listen to my dog.
Every March, when its cold, windy, and wet, I celebrate, because its another year with my little golden/lab girlfriend.