It’s Poetry Month. To start the celebration, I’m posting the first poem I wrote after graduating from guide dog school with Hedy on December 13, 2008. I had not written any poetry in a year, having sunk into depression after the strain of ten years of caregiving my mother, my father, and my husband. My sight had dropped to 4% and I’d lost my ability to discern the subtle nuances of color.
In 2008, I was struggling to find a new way of dealing with my life, then preparing for the dog, then earning the dog, then graduating—but the wonderful soulmate partnership had not come about. Even when we were home and Hedy had no distractions of dogs, people, and the trainer she loved, we were not becoming a team. This is not an ego issue; it’s a matter of safety. How can I trust Hedy to guide me if she doesn’t care enough about me to try to keep me safe? If I am not the focus of her attention—if a wafting scent, a dog bounding towards us off leash, a friendly admirer entices her to lunge or swerve—how can I walk confidently with her as my guide?
Everything at Guide Dogs for the Blind is designed to keep the handler safe. They emphasize the need for bonding and provide special training in doggy massage. No one else—not student, not dog, not instructor—interacts with your dog. It’s just you and your guide. They’ve been training guide dogs and the blind for more than sixty years. It’s down to a science. They kept assuring me it would work. “Just keep at it,” they’d say.
Then, on February 28, 2009, as spring was beginning to soften the bleak winter landscape with green, Hedy changed towards me—just a little. I was surprised. And then a poem pushed through my own cold, wordless heart. A flurry of poems followed, but this was the first, triggered by a gesture from Hedy that brought me the beginning of something I hoped would be beautiful.
••• Spring Happening with Hedy •••
(on the last day of the fifteenth week with Hedy)
She watches me now.
And sometimes lies close.
On her own.
They said this would happen.
I thought it would not.
She’s too stubborn.
I’m too strained.
But I don’t get to be
the only one
not lovable enough—
exception to the tried and true
You do the work.
You take your place—steady at the helm.
You be the Source.
like little buds pushing
dark bare sticks
from cold dumb globes
spearing through spring soft soil
because I want to
want her to
And she does