How true it is that you really appreciate something or someone when you no longer have it. I have been a dog guide user since 1982, when I got my first Seeing Eye named Mindy. Between dogs, that is after 1 dies or retires, or in the case of Cisco, is reassigned, I renew my vow to never be dogless again if I can help it.

When I walk into a room full of strangers, I feel awkward and self conscious when I have only my white cane to identify me as someone who is blind. While I might get more help that way, I much prefer being regarded as an independent and self confident person with a beautiful and self confident dog to match. Striding into a room feels much better than tapping my way in. My apologies to any cane devotees, but you are surely much more proficient at cane travel than I.

Then there was this past Saturday, when the sun came out after weeks of cold dreary days, and the temperature rose to 52. what a perfect day for an outdoor activity, like taking a good long walk. But where was I? Inside, reading a book. Sure, I could have unfolded the white cane and made my way down the street, but again, that would be far from invigorating and stressful besides.

Today, as I walked across the lobby of my mothers assisted living home, holding the elbow of an aid, I noted that Id have to make arrangements for her to come back for me at the end of my visit. Yes, I could practice walking through the lobby, but what if a person in a wheelchair, or person using a walker, or worse yet, a wobbly person with no equipment at all, would cut in front of me, across my practiced path? It might be dangerous for us both. A guide dog would take me around such obstacles, and I wouldnt even know they were there.

Yes, Im counting the days when I can return to the Seeing Eye to train again with a new, energetic, bright, and beautiful guide. We all miss Cisco, for various reasons, but well all just have to fall in love again with a new love of my life.

Goodbye to Cisco

Saying goodbye to Pippen as she went off to retirement in May was heart-wrenching enough. Did I really have to go through that again with Cisco in December?

2013 has been a roller coaster of emotions and joyfulness, unhappiness, frustrations, and blessings. You might have wondered where Ive been for the last month or so, but by the time you read this, youll understand why I havent posted anything on my blog since Nov. 28. This is not going to be one of those dreadful Christmas letters, but Ive been reflecting on my year, particularly the last month, and I see a theme. Last year at this time, I wrote about my anticipation for a better year than 2012. Well, here I am again, raising my glass to the same toast.

On the plus side, an old friend reentered my life after 15 years of absence. All year, he has made my life so much easier that I cant begin to count the ways, but they include fixing things around the house, taking me to run errands, treating me to many lunches and dinners, and helping me with training my new Seeing eye ® dog. Any blind person reading this post will understand what a blessing Dan has been. I am also deeply grateful to a loving daughter, Kara, who has been a sounding board for me as I deal with the anguish and frustrations I face with my elderly mother, and for devoting many days away from her family to help me with my back surgery, teaching my new dog the routes we would be using around town, and giving me some relief with my care-giving for my mom. My friend, Lynda, gave me a weeks respite at her Florida condo in April, and I had recovered enough from my back surgery in January to hike with my Hen Hike friends in October in NH.

On the minus side, it has been a year of replacement of things broken. Starting with my microwave and my bread machine, which both suddenly died, my garbage disposal and my vacuume cleaner, both of which had to be replaced after sudden death, and ending with both my computers crashing last week, there is 1 event that casts the deepest shadow of all. After 6 months of hard work and dedication to the success of my relationship with my new guide dog, Cisco, I finally had to admit that it just wasnt going to happen. I worked harder with this dog than I did with my first 3, all put together, and he tried hard too. But after several serious mistakes, a lack of motivation on his part, and the honest observation of an instructor, who came out to troubleshoot, it was beginning to look like this was indeed a mismatch. Considering that I would have 810 years of frustration, and Cisco would too, we all agreed that it was time to stop, be realistic, and start all over again with a new dog in February of next year. Meanwhile, Cisco has returned to The Seeing Eye and will most likely be matched with someone with a slower walking pace and a simpler life style. Legally, I had the right to keep him as a pet, but I knew that wasnt the right thing to do. He was bred to be a guide dog and trained to be a guide, so he deserves a chance to fulfill that destiny. Believe me, this was one of the hardest decisions Ive ever made, Because Cisco is so sweet, so gentle, and so beautiful. I know Im in for disbelief and disapproval from casual acquaintances, but my close friends know how hard Ive struggled. The end of a relationship is devastating to everybody, but like the close of a difficult year, it means the opportunity for starting a new and better future.