I think the best way to celebrate international guide dog day 2016 is to celebrate my own life changing guides.
Bailey came into my life just over 10 years ago. Before Bails, I was heavily dependent on others for guiding and getting me from A to B. I was afraid to ask for help and found getting around a stress I would rather have lived without. Granted, I travelled to the US and lived there for a year but even there I was dependent on others eyes to help me. It’s not something I am proud of looking back but it does demonstrate how much my boys have helped to shape my life into a better place. Bailey gave me the confidence, through the responsibility I had for him, to get out and about, even when I had little or nothing to do. He made going into a shop a possibility and not a complete avoidance. He taught me, asking for help was OK, and made me a confident individual. I volunteered with him at my side, and through our strong partnership and the confidence he gave me, I was able to learn to ride horses and pull myself out of a dark place. Bailey and the horses I rode, who gave me my confidence and freedom in equal measures, saved my life. Call it dramatic if you will, but it was how these incredible animals influenced my life. When Bailey retired, I was convinced no dog could ever hold the same level of change he’d already implemented into my life. I was almost a full time volunteer then, and was even comfortable using the cane during the five months I was without a four legged guide. But there was a Bailey shaped hole that I honestly believed could never be filled. And enter Bertie… A dog with so much personality, he puts me to shame. He definitely not replaced my big bear, but he’s delivered a new level of change I never anticipated. Through the foundations that Bailey set, Bertie built on those, and even after a few short months of working together, we travelled to a conference and he attended my first job interview with me. Within six months of us establishing our partnership, Bertie and I started my first ever paid job. The past two years have been such a delightful change for us. I’m working full time, looking for a house, have amazing friends I can just go and meet, happy to shop by ourselves sometimes, and go for walks. My little life changers have done so much than guide me down a street, they’ve lead me down a happy path full of work, love and laughter. So on this celebratory day of international guide dogs, thank you to Bailey and Bertie for giving me my confidence, independence, and freedom.