My first Leader Dog Chronicle was a tale of tears and longing. This is not. This is a tale of synchronicity, which means fortuitous timing, in case that’s a new $100 word for you!
Tired of being dogless back in March of this year, I was just considering maybe I didn’t have to train my own this time and could go get a new, fully trained dog, but I wasn’t “there” yet. I woke up early one morning and mulled over it in bed. Perhaps it was time to get a dog. Maybe not.
My friend Seana came to visit me. She has a hearing/mobility service dog whom she trained. We were in the grocery store when an older couple talked to us. They asked about her dog. At first they assumed it was a guide dog, which most people do unless they’ve seen a variety of service dogs.
I shared that I used to have a guide dog named Molly. The man, Terry, said, “We’re with the Lions Club. We’ve been wanting to help place a Leader Dog with a blind person in this area for years.”
The switch in my brain flipped into the YES position, accompanied with a long and satisfying display of sparkle, confetti and fireworks.
I could go anywhere for my dog. I didn’t HAVE to choose Leader Dogs, but it fits my lifestyle well. I had decided upon Leader Dogs years ago, before I trained my first dog Thunder. At that time I was living in Colorado. This was way back in 1993. I chose them because of their strong reputation. Interestingly, I was also considering rejoining the Lions Club, of which I had been a member some years back but stopped because I could not attend any of the meetings or fundraisers due to my schedule at the time.
Now, super-charged by the great timing of meeting Terry and Patsy from the Lions Club, I knew it was time for a long think, and time to gather more info and request an application from Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Weighing the Benefits and Drawbacks.
There are benefits and drawbacks for any major decision in life whether that’s where to live, where to work, or whether to bring a new fur child home.
First, I made a T list with benefits and drawbacks of a dog. This is often called a “Ben Franklin Close,” when used in sales. Minuses included walking the dog in the heat and inclement weather and biggest of all, they die. Plusses included help finding things like the end of a line, managing crowds better, and the special bond of having an animal.
Next, I used an emotional scale of -5 to 5. Negative 5 represented something that bothered me a whole lot, like the dog aging and dying. Positive 5 meant my very favorite things about having a dog.
I added up my drawbacks and benefits. Then I decided to add 20 per cent to the minus side, in case I was underestimating the emotional impact of the aspects of dog ownership that are difficult.
Even with the padded negative, I still came up PRO dog.
Leader Dog Application Process
When I went to LeaderDog.org I soon discovered that the application process had ddefinitely made it to the 21st Century. Here’s what an applicant needs to do:
The application process, which typically takes 30 to 60 days, consists of a written application, including character references and medical information. A short video demonstrating the applicant’s independent travel skills within his or her home area is also required. Once approved for a program, assignment to a class usually takes an additional 30 to 90 days.
Here’s what I would have to provide:
- Application for Training
- Medical History Form
- Vision Evaluation Form
- Consent to Release Information Form
- Video demonstrating independent travel skills Source
Right after I sent for the print application, I was ready for to arrive. After dashing to the mailbox for several days from when I suspected it would arrive, I had to call and ask, “I haven’t seen my application. When did it go out? Evidently, it hadn’t been sent, so yet another week of waiting would ensue.
It arrived the day before my first Lions Club of Kimberling City meeting, so I was able to share the journey right from the start.
These dogs are a huge investment of time and money, so I get why the process is intensive. But it’s a long ap. I half expected to see a swab DNA test, a pee vial and an envelope for a shank of hair to go along with everything else they wanted.
I would have to explain why I wanted a dog and what my typical travel situations were several times. Once on paper. Once in the video, then later over the phone.
Leader Dogs requires applicants to provide 6 character references, none of whom should be family. They wanted all contact details, including mailing address, email and phone.
I had fun asking friends to vouch for me. The first 2 people I asked were my dear long-term friends Steph and Seana. They’ve known me since before I trained Thunder.
Chief Robert Talltree said, “Sure, I can vouch that you’re a character!” Gary teased, “Do I have to lie and say good things about you?” Some friend! (kidding – he’s a terrific friend). We had a good laugh about that one.
I’ll say more about the form my friends received in fferent Chronicle.
My letter explaining my permanent condition would not do. I had to get a current evaluation with visual field test (one of my least favorites ever, as it is a painful test for me.) Since my condition is what it is, I hadn’t seen an eye doc in a long time. Time to get a new one. That turned out to be a $45 copay on my insurance which I hd never used or anything..
And a medical doctor? I don’t have a medical condition that requires care, and even if so, nothing relevant to eyesight. As a healthy person who doesn’t do doctors, I was not thrilled. But no getting out of it, much as I would have liked to do so. That meant establishing a new doctor. I tried like crazy to dodge that one.
Dreading the Nay-Sayer
There will always be at least one nay-sayer among those who are closest to you whenever you’re considering a big change. Mine also happens to be the person who most often drives me.
Yes I’m an adult and yes it’s my decision, but I knew beyond any doubt that this one family ember was going to kibosh me. More on that in another post.
The Ronda Del Boccio Independent Cane Travel Movie
The video wasn’t something I could do myself. Well, I could manage some of it without assistance, like showing me traveling around the property where my mom and her husband and I live. But showing handling crowds and crossings, Neither of my local family members are that great with digital cameras. Connecting with friends can be a challenge since I bus and meet them somewhere.
I recorded the parts I could manage alone, including why I want a dog and a demonstration of me going up and down stairs, crossing the road and walking a couple places near home.
Fortunately, my aunt and cousin were about to visit, so I knew I could ask for help. Valerie was glad to play videographer. So when we shopping in Branson at Tanger Outlet Mall and Grand Village, she showed me crossing the parking lot, walking through a strangely shaped commons area, passing constructions, and managing crowds.
The video is just over 12 minutes all together. Here is a snippet. Watch the video.
It took me most of the month of April to get all this together. By May 1, I knew they would have everything they needed from me, and it would be a long wait to hear about r or not I would .
Turns out I was both right and wrong at the same time. And that’s a topic for another chronicle!
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Ronda Del Boccio
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Just When I Decided It Was Time for a New Guide Dog: Leader Dog Chronicles