?

Log in

No account? Create an account
The Seasons change, and, still, I sing. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
solstice_singer

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

LJIdol, week 8 [May. 5th, 2014|08:57 pm]
solstice_singer
[Tags|]

It was another crazy day on the streets of New York City. I needed to get to a certain theater where I was scheduled to perform. All around me, masses of people moved in what seemed like every possible direction. Horns honked and street vendors shouted to be heard above the noise of traffic and pedestrians. I was terrified.

You might wonder why I was so afraid, or, you might think you know the answer. You're probably thinking I was afraid because I was a blind woman alone in such chaos. That wasn't it at all. To be honest, I'm afraid whenever I go out because I suffer from agoraphobia with panic disorder.

I would not have been able to travel the streets of New York at all if it hadn't been for the black dog at my side. Caroline, a black lab/golden retriever cross, knew her job very well. Not only did she have to guide me safely through the obstacles the city put in my path, but she was also responsible for keeping me out of areas that were likely to cause me to panic. Most guide dogs are trained to walk straight down the middle of the sidewalk, moving their people around obstacles, and returning to the center. Caroline didn't work like that. Instead, she hugged the building line as closely as she could without letting me run into it. When the buildings ran out, she picked up her pace, minimizing the time I spent in open space.

Of course, New York was a little easier than some places would be. Since there are always people walking around, there's not a lot of open space. Plus, there was the added benefit of knowing I was far from alone. If I reached out, I could have grabbed hold of someone passing by. Granted, they probably wouldn't have liked it, but the thought that I could do it was very comforting.

So, on the afternoon in question, I had gotten off the train, and been hauled through the hell known as Penn Station. There was no way to avoid open space in there, which meant my dog was literally dragging me through the building. When I panic, I freeze. Once that happens, we're finished. I become convinced that something very bad will happen if I take another step, so I remain rooted to the spot, waiting for someone to rescue me. Luckily, Caroline knew better than to let that happen. She weighed close to seventy pounds, and had quite a lot of strength. The fact that I'm very slightly built made it easy for her to keep me moving. This is very counterintuitive for most guide dogs. They do not drag their people. If the person stops, so does the dog. However, Caroline was taught that this was not an option. Stopping in an open area meant nothing but bad things.

Finally, we were out of the station and on the street. Despite the people around me, I could feel the panic building within me. I'd done this for the past five months, and it was taking its tole on me. I felt like I was reaching my breaking point as we wove our way through the people on the sidewalk.

Sounds began to recede. I felt like I was hearing everything from a great distance. As I walked, the ground seemed to move beneath my feet, creating a sort of floating effect. I became very lightheaded, and awareness of my surroundings was quickly deserting me. I just knew I was not going to make it to the theater, and, if by some chance I did, I wouldn't be able to perform. All I wanted to do was crawl into some very tiny hole and stay there for as long as I could.

Dogs are very attuned to the emotions of the people they love. Caroline had been taught to be aware of my anxiety level. I don't know exactly what went through her mind. All I know is that her stride became more purposeful. I might not know where I was, but she knew, and she knew the location of the theater as well. As long as I hung onto the harness handle, she'd get me there.

I have no idea how long it took to reach the theater. I have no memory of stepping inside. All I remember is the blessed peace of backstage. Sure, people were tuning their instruments. There was a certain amount of commotion caused by people in charge of lighting, but I was no longer outside. I was pressed up against a solid wall, and I could breathe again.

Sadly, Caroline is no longer with me. She retired in the summer of 2012, and died of unknown causes the following winter. Acelet is my current guide. He doesn't work exactly like Caroline did, but he too has learned to guide me as well as to keep me safe from my inner demons.

None of my guide dogs have guided in conventional ways. Instead, their trainers were forced to improvise, to think outside the box. I will always be grateful for their willingness to do so. I don't have as much independence as some people, but, with a dog by my side, I have more than I otherwise would.


This has been my entry for week 8 of
therealljidol
Thank you so much for reading.

LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: similiesslip
2014-05-06 03:12 am (UTC)
I enjoyed learning all these details on what a dog aims for in guiding. I had not considered how some dogs need to do the opposite of the regular training due to the needs of their owners.

I'm glad you have/have had such great dogs :)
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:02 pm (UTC)
I'm really lucky I get my dogs from a school that's willing to train in unconventional ways.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: bleodswean
2014-05-06 01:40 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear you have to grapple with that sort of fear. I loved reading about Caroline!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:04 pm (UTC)
I hate the fear, and am looking for ways to deal with it. Therapy is a long and difficult road.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: lilmizmombassa
2014-05-06 01:45 pm (UTC)
This was well written, as always, and also so fascinating. I know about your agoraphobia from things you've written and mentioned, but I had never known how it felt to use a guide and the tasks they did to help this. I felt like I was standing beside you, feeling this terrible anxiety. Excellent work, and thank you so much for always sharing so much with us. My heart is filled with thankfulness for the great work that Caroline did to give you freedom; good girl, Retrievador.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:06 pm (UTC)
The retrievador was so awesome. I miss her all the time.

Agorahobia sucks. I'm grateful the dogs make it easier.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: millysdaughter
2014-05-06 02:12 pm (UTC)
Caroline was a true blessing.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:08 pm (UTC)
Indeed she was. All three of my dogs have been, but in very different ways.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: eternal_ot
2014-05-07 05:27 am (UTC)
It was an interesting read...quite insightful. Loved your take on the prompt..Wonderfully done!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: adoptedwriter
2014-05-07 01:53 pm (UTC)
Caroline sounds like she was an awesome dog in many ways. AW
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:10 pm (UTC)
caroline was made of all that is awesome. I miss her horribly.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: halfshellvenus
2014-05-07 07:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, you were lucky to have such a smart dog! To know what you needed, even when it went against so much of her training, was just amazing. You must still miss her so very much.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:14 pm (UTC)
The school that trains my dogs to help with the anxiety. Much of it is counter to regular guide dog training so they have to be really careful when matching me with a dog.

Caroline was incredible. I miss her immensely.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kagomeshuko
2014-05-09 12:54 am (UTC)
That does sound like a crazy day!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:15 pm (UTC)
Most days are like that for me. It's part of the disorder.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: rayaso
2014-05-10 02:34 am (UTC)
What a wonderful dog! I'm sorry you no longer have Caroline with you, but I loved reading about her. I hope that Acelet guides you just as well.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:17 pm (UTC)
Acelet is a very unique little boy. There were times when I didn't think we'd make a good team, but we seem to have finally hit our stride.

Caroline was incredibly special. I don't know that I'll ever have another quite like her.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: roina_arwen
2014-05-10 06:13 am (UTC)
Caroline sounded like a wonderful guide dog. I'm glad you two had such a beneficial relationship and that she was able to help you through the tough spots!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:19 pm (UTC)
There were so many things I just wouldn't have been able to do if it hadn't been for Caroline. She was super special.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: faerie_spark
2014-05-10 06:17 pm (UTC)
Caroline was a truly awesome dog. I've no doubt Ace is to. Very gripping description of what panic is like for you, and of the way your dogs work and behave around that.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:22 pm (UTC)
All three have been awesome i different ways. Caroline was just special.

It's hard to describe panic to someone who has never experienced it, especially the way it can debilitate.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: coachpeg
2014-05-11 06:38 pm (UTC)
Love your ability to describe your internal world with such detail. Well done.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:23 pm (UTC)
It's a difficult world to describe. I'm glad it worked well. Sometimes, I feel there just aren't words for the way I feel.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: cheshire23
2014-05-12 01:48 am (UTC)
Good dog, Caroline! And I'm glad Acelet is working well with you, too.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:25 pm (UTC)
Acelet has his quirks, but he's a very good boy.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kehlen
2014-05-12 03:27 pm (UTC)
Caroline sounds amazing.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:26 pm (UTC)
Caroline was an incredible dog.

Thank you for reading.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kajel
2014-05-12 05:12 pm (UTC)
Lovely. It is great you have had dogs that are able to adapt to your unique circumstances.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: solstice_singer
2014-05-12 06:28 pm (UTC)
I honestly don't know where I'd be if I hadn't had dogs.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)