Graduate Spotlight: Meet Melissa & Aron
Meet May 2016 graduate Melissa Carney and her guide dog, yellow lab Aron. Melissa and her mother Kristine Carney presented Guiding Eyes with a $1,700 donation, raised by Kristine’s generous colleagues at Liberty Bank. Below is Melissa’s story of the deep bond she and Aron share. Thank you to Melissa, her family and Liberty Bank for the generous donation!
Our teamwork is one of the few things that make me smile reliably through difficult moments in life.
My name is Melissa Carney. I am a junior at Mount Holyoke College, pursuing a double major in English and psychology. I received a dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in May of 2016. Aron is a 67-pound yellow Labrador with a sweet disposition and drive to succeed both in and out of his harness. I would like to illustrate how impactful Aron’s endless loyalty has been on my life, as well as the beauty of teamwork, in this short story.
I registered for a class at Amherst College this semester. A few days before classes began, we memorized the route to and from the academic building. On the first day of class, we successfully completed the route. I did not need to give Aron a single command to locate the correct turns and staircases. He confidently steered me around every obstacle in our path. We jogged to class without missing a beat. Upon arriving at the academic building, Aron passed a row of perfectly identical doors, found the correct classroom, and an empty bench in the hallway for us to sit on. A few minutes before the class started, Aron and I went inside the room. We were both completely unfamiliar with the space, but in a matter of 10 seconds, Aron confidently led me to the middle of the room, I used echolocation to figure out the layout, and learned that the chairs were set up in a giant circle. We found an empty chair without as much as a hand signal for visible communication between us.
Somehow we are always able to communicate to each other what the other wants to do. I don’t know how it works exactly, but it is the type of feeling that makes me tear up each time.
I know that guide dogs are specifically trained to handle these tasks, but it amazes me how easily Aron conquers the challenges placed in front of him. He looks to me for guidance, or makes intelligent decisions on his own, but never exhibits stress when he is confronted with uncertainty. He never hesitates; he just wags his tail through it all and places every bit of his love and faith into our bond. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love and trust him in return. Our companionship has carried us through a giant convention center in Orlando, the streets of Boston, the enormous buildings of Capitol Hill in Washington DC, several airports, multiple college campuses, and numerous places around the country. Our teamwork is one of the few things that make me smile reliably through difficult moments in life.
Despite how many times I dwell on blindness and the cancer that caused it, I realize that I would never take my sight back if it meant losing Aron and the one-of-a-kind bond that only guide dog handlers can understand. I have confidence in my own abilities, and I wouldn’t even be here if I didn’t have proper mobility skills on my own, but there is something special and empowering about having a guide dog by your side, especially for a college student. Aron has been the one constant during all the decisions, mistakes, and sacrifices of young adulthood. His never-ending trust in me makes me trust myself a little more. Guiding Eyes for the Blind has given me my best friend. They have given me a pair of eyes to make up for the ones I lost in my fight with cancer. They have given me the gift of opportunity. I’m excited to see what adventures lie in wait for Aron and me.