Helping Others Through My Story

When I was little, I used to be afraid of dogs. My first dog was a dog named Lassie, and I was scared to death of her. My mom and step dad gave her to my step dad’s sister who changed her name to Lady. When I was about 7 years old, my mom was given a Chihuahua by one of my aunt’s from my dad’s side. I never will forget it. My mom said to me, “Ashley, put your hand through the cage.” I did it with her hand guiding mine with a slight hesitation. When my hand was through, he came and licked my hand. My mom asked me, “Do you want him?” Me, “Yes I do!” We took him home with us. His name was Tazz. I can still remember how his fur felt. He was so adorable. He had course fur and I loved him! But oh boy did he love to bark. Anytime some one would knock on the door, all you heard was a very high shrill bark. I loved taking him for walks up and down our street in our neighborhood. When he would get tired, I’d pick him up and carry him in my arms. I loved holding him in my arms. Sometimes when I would take my sleeping bag and sleep on the living room floor, he either curled up on the pillow next to me, or curled himself up by my feet and slept. Tazz was my first exposure to getting over my fear. Dogs from that point forward would become to be my favorite animal in the entire world.
When I was 13 years old, I lost my mom to nonalcoholic cirrhosis. She did not drink. This is hereditary in our family. So we all have to get checked and make sure that things are functioning like they should be. Losing her hurt to my core. I didn’t know I could feel pain so strongly. My father was not really a part of my life and signed over his parental rights to my aunt when I was 13. At that time Tazz was given to one of my uncle’s sisters because my aunt that I moved in with was not an animal person, and to be honest at that time, I did not know how to feed a dog. My mom always did that. Even if I did, he still would have been given away. That was a hard time for me. So imagine 7 years later when I received Fuller, I thought, this is the one that I’m going to get to keep. After he is done working and he is retired, I’m going to get to keep him and get my next dog to work with. I was 20 years old then and thought I had my life figured out. What a fool I was.
In 2014 I was matched with a yellow lab Fuller. When I first got him, every time I would try to pet him, he would get up and walk away. He whined a bit for his trainer. Soon after though, he no longer whined for Alyssa his trainer, and we started to form a bond. When it’s playtime he always has to run laps first, then he will bring you the toy and let you play with him. That always cracks me up. As our bond got stronger when he wanted me to play with him, he brought the toy and shoved it in my face. Hahahahaha. You will play with me mom. He always knew how to make me laugh on bad days. Fuller was there when I went through a really dark depression period. I was stuck and did not know what exactly I wanted to do with my life. Interpreting was not something that I was ready for and I still am not. But I’m finding other things that interest me while using my languages.
His four paws have been all over the world with me. We went to France, Spain, Portugal, Washington D.C., New York, and many other places. He was always ready and eager to work on the adventure. We had great times together. One day when we first got home, he came over and laid in my lap. From that day, it was all history. Everyday or well maybe not everyday, but most days, I always carved out some time to have that time with him to have him in my lap and enjoy quiet moments. It was a great way to spend evenings before bed. He could lay there for a long time if I let him. Some days I would and others not as long. I showed him his boundaries. In the mornings, he always wakes up so happy running around and wagging his tail. Good morning Mommy, feed me and then let’s go to work!! When I would grab the harness, he would get so excited. I would put it on and he immediately wagged his tail as to say, “OK, I’m ready!!” What adventures are we going on today? Oh there’s an obstacle there, I got this. He would take me around the obstacle. Of course we had our moments of distraction and where we would rework things. I had moments where I would get frustrated with him. That’s normal. After all, they are dogs first, guide dogs second and they are not perfect and neither are us humans. Sometimes when I would tell him to the chair, he would take me up to a person, and we would redo it until he took me to an empty chair. Building a bond and working partnership takes a lot of time and patience. There are a lot of frustrating days, but there are just as equally great days! It is so worth it! If a friend were upset, he would always go over to them and nudge them. Pet me! I’ll make you feel all better. There’s something about hugging a dog or loving on one that is therapeutic. I do not know if I ever want to have kids, but I am perfectly content taking care of dogs all of my life. I love working with a guide dog. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe.
Five years flew by. You are never ready for the day of retirement. You always know in the back of your mind that it’s going to eventually happen, but it’s not something you can really prepare yourself for. In July of this year shortly after his birthday, he showed me signs of wanting to no longer work. Actually the signs started to show back in May, but I was hoping that it wasn’t true and that he would want to work for at least two more years. By then I was sure to have had everything figured out, settled, and maybe have enough funds to take care of me and two dogs. Those plans were cut short. Truth be told I will not have everything figured out in that time frame. In July I knew I had to retire him. He did not want to cross streets any longer. He was always trying to find ways to be done such as taking me into a store that we never went in to and he sniffed more than he had ever sniffed in his earlier days. It was coming rather I wanted it to or not.
I had called my school to have them come down and confirm my thoughts. Sure enough on July 29th, my thoughts were confirmed. My first thought, oh this is not real. This is not happening to me right now! Why God? Why right now? Deep down I knew it had nothing to do with God. It was all emotions talking at that point. I knew that I was not going to be able to keep him. Reality set in and I wrestled with my thoughts. What am I going to do? I don’t want to give him away God. But I’m not settled yet with life and who knows what could happen next year. One thing was for sure, I was going to get it worked out. I did not want to have to tell my school that I was unable to find someone and I sadly cannot keep him, then they adopt him out to a family. I refused for that to happen. I’m sure that family would have been loving, but there was no way I was going to send him with someone that I did not know and never get to see or hear about him again. Luckily his raiser reached out. I was going to reach out to her, but I’m glad that she beat me to it. I knew that if my local option did not work out, that that is where my Fuller would go. There was no doubt in my mind about that. My local option did not work out. So it was on to giving him back to his puppy raiser. Letting go was so hard. I had a friend sit with me while I composed the message because I could not do it on my own. We had tea and she was there while I cried and wrote the message. All I could keep thinking is why God? God, why is this happening to me? This is not fair. Why am I having to sacrifice? My conscious knew the reason. You are having to do this Ashley because you are 25, just starting out in the working world, and you do not have funds to take care of two dogs. Plus, you live in an apartment. That’s not going to work. Even though I knew these things, I still could not help but feel anger and sadness! Grief washed over me like an ocean wave! I did not know that 12 years later after losing my mom, I would feel that pain again to my core so strong.
Fuller left on a Saturday. Two days later I tried to block out the pain I was feeling. I wanted to be completely happy. After all, he is where I wanted him and he’s happy. But that was the wrong thing to do so soon. Here’s some advice, do not push yourself to that stage. It’s not going to happen in two days. That Tuesday after coming back from a meetup, I came into my apartment and broke down. That night I screamed into my pillow through tears, God, I was supposed to keep him!!! I shouted at the top of my lungs. Don’t you understand this? Don’t you hear me? Of course those were emotions. I knew why I did what I had to do. For that first week I woke up everyday in tears, and that Tuesday thank goodness was the only night, I cried myself to sleep. That’s what I got for trying to push myself too fast. I had to let myself go through the motions and feel the feelings that I was feeling. Friends reminded me that it’s okay to break. Reading my Bible, spending time with God, and Christian music really comforted me as well. Even the strong cry too. Everyday I awoke and asked God, How on Earth am I going to love another one? How am I going to keep on working a dog and giving them up when they retire? God this is too much pain for me! I can’t do this each time! But there’s that small voice again, Yes you can! Stop worrying about the future. You have no idea where you will be once your successor retires. Take things one step at a time. Who knows, you may be able to keep him or her and go for your fourth one. But I also know now that I may not be able to keep him or her. It will depend on where I’m at then and what things will look like. So when someone asks me, what are you going to do when so and so retires? My reply will be, I hope to keep so and so, but we will have to see.
It’s been a month now and it seems like it has been an eternity already. I am so much better though. My smile has returned and I feel happy again. This is truly because of my good friends and of course God. I couldn’t have gotten through this with out him and my support system. Every time when I go through something, I always wonder how will I ever feel joy again? God always pulls me through. My Fuller is where he is meant to be. He is always on my mind every second and everyday. I wake up and think of him. My pain has turned into strength and happiness. Now I awake and I know that my heart can love another dog. I will love things about them too. They will never take the place of Fuller, but there will be something unique that I’m going to love about all of them. To those who may be going through a similar experience, you will get through this. You made the best decision for your dog. Keep in touch with the one who has him or her. The dog is always going to be a part of you. I don’t know what the future holds, and I don’t know what will happen when my next one retires, but I am not worrying about that now. God knows and it does me no good to stress over it. For now I will be patient and wait for my next one and when I receive him or her enjoy every second and see where we end up going. My journey with having four pawss and fur by my side continues! In the meantime I’m grateful for my friends that let me love on their dogs.

Receptionists: We play a more vital role than one might think

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There is always this thought that comes to mind when it comes to receptionists and that is, some might think that we do not play an important role, but it is the contrary. When people come into a building before going back, they have to check in with us first. We are the ones who knows who does what in the building. When you call somewhere, we get you into the right hands to get the info that you need. We also do data entries, schedule appointments, and plenty of other little odds and ends. So the next time you see a receptionist, know that he or she plays a great role and does a lot to keep the place running. Our job is small, but it has a great impact. 😊

Life In Spain!

It is now coming to the end of my second week here in Spain. Within these two weeks I have learned so much. I now know how to get to the supermarket, to the garden where I take my dog to do his needs, and I am now starting to learn how to get to the ISA office. Then after this route is accomplished, I will be learning how to get to my building where my classes are going to be starting in September. My classes will take place in a building on Calle Toro which stands for Bull street. Kind of a cool name no? It has not been alll work though, I have been able to have some fun as well. I have gone swimming a couple of times, and soon I am going to visit a museum here in Salamanca. today I am going to meet locals and practice my Spanish. I already do that at the house because my host mother does not speak any English, and even if she did, I would not speak it. It will be a good way to make some local friends hopefully. 🙂 I have met some of my host mother’s family and friends, and friends of her daughters. It’s been definitely memorable here so far and a good time. I have learned so many things about disabilities. I have also learned that when it comes to certain things, I just need to go with the flow and do things differently even if it’s something that I was not taught or I do not like. For instance counting steps. I absolutely cannot stand that, but here it’s what they want me to do at times. I have learned that I have to choose my battles. Sometimes it’s just better to keep your mouth shut and to go with it even if you don’ think it’s right or it drives you insane. I don’t like counting my steps for many reasons. One, it’s horrible, you can always miss count and turn in the wrong direction. This Tuesday I start sitting in on a class so that way I can seee what it is like. The class is going to last four hours… I am not looking forward to that at all. If my History of Spain class lasts that long, gosh so ever help me. It better not last that long. I don’t want to hear about History for four hours. I hate History. Welcome to Europe though, this is called adapting to a new education system and how things work. I really do enjoy going to school over here I promise, but I just hate how long the classes are. That’s the only complaint. The weather has been tolerable and today it is getting up to ninety five degrees F. The food is so good over here. I have eaten things that I thought I would never touch such as yesterday, I had a garbanza bean salad. It was good. However when I come back to America, I do not want to see lettuce for a long time. Lol. In my freetime, I have been reading, looking up internships, and of course playing with my dog. I am enjoying it here and I hope to make life long friends in the future. Sorry for some grammar errors, but I cannot find the hyphen on my bluetooth keyboard.

Welcome to Salamanca!!

I arrived to Salamanca last Friday! It’s hard to believe that I have been here for almost a week now. Right now, I am on vacation. My classes start in September, but in August, I am going to sit in on a class to see what it will be like and so that way I can tell my professors what I will need from them. I am pretty excited, but I know it is not going to be easy. I am glad to have a break before commencing my classes. Salamanca is fairly a small town. I am very close to the Plaza Mayor. When you go out at night, you see many people drinking coffee with their friends, eating, socializing, etc. I am slowly learning how to get to places independently. Fuller is doing exceptionally well. He is such a hard worker. I don’t know what I would do without him. He is my rock. When I feel lonely, or when I am missing America, I just hold him and think, ” He is on this journey with me too.” There will also be other students in the house with me and that makes me happy. I am not a person that likes to be alone, lol. That’s all there really is to report for now.

More things are getting crossed off the to-do list!!

Today I got more things taken care of such as opening up a new bank account! The more I do though, the more things come up lol. I am still in shock that I will actually be gone from America for six months! But, it’s a good shock, a happy one! This will be the longest that I have ever been out of the country. Someone told me today that I should be a Spanish teacher. Hmmm… I’ll keep that as a back-up plan incase the interpreting thing somehow did not workout. But it will because I’m not giving up until it does. As crazy as this is going to sound, I am planning out my next summer as well. I never plan in life, but when you’ve only got three semesters left of college, it’s time to start thinking and doing. So what may I possibly be doing next summer? I am hopefully going to do volunteer work or turn it into an internship. But one thing at a time. First, I am going to go to France and Spain, and enjoy every second of it!! I am not going to think about next summer or the crazy semester that I am going to face when I get back. I am ready to go on this journey and I am ready to have my guide dog by my side the whole way!!! Also, thank goodness for Skype, and iMessage, and so on. Lol. Tomorrow Fuller goes to the vet to get a few shots that he will need for Europe, and to see how the paperwork is going for the EU. I cannot believe that I leave not this Sunday, nor the next Sunday, but the one after that!! Finally what I have wanted for so long is finally happening and coming true!!!

The Official Countdown!!!

It’s now down to three and a half weeks before I leave to do my studies in Europe! Finally on Tuesday evening, I got everything for the Gilman taken care of. Now all there is left to do is pack, get Fuller’s puppy passport as I like to call it, take care of some other small things, and then we will be ready to go. It’s getting so close! time is flying!

Fuller’s Perspective

Today mom and I went to one of her friends sons graduation! As she pulled out my harness to get me ready to go, I was eager to put it on!  I am always ready to work! I love my job. I always wagg my tail whenever I do myjob! We got to the place where the ceremony took place. It was a huge crowd, and it was crazy. However, I did my job and guided her around people and made sure I did my clearances well. I am a show-off. I enjoy working around obstacles, and I always want to be in the lead. Whenever I can’t, mom always has to tell me to steady, and even though I don’t want to, I just want to go around the people and be the one leading, I obey and do my job like I am supposed to.  I even laid on the floor and for once, she did not have to correct me for sniffing. I laid there just like I am supposed to until the ceremony was finished, then we headed for the party afterwords. The bond between us grows stronger each day.  Then after the party, we came home. we played and then had some cuddle time. Mom always makes it a habbit to cuddle with me at least once aday, if not twice. I love laying on her lap, and I love the massages!  I am grateful for life, friends, family, and my dog. Life is good. Please do know, that I know that when my dog is having to walk in a group of people, and he tries to take me around them, and I tell him to steady, I know he is not really wanting to be in the lead, I know in his mind he probably is thinking it’s and obstacle, I just like to give him a personality. 🙂