by: volunteer puppy raiser Frank Chenette
Graduation Day, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, February 2013
My mind overflows with a kaleidoscope of images past and present. My emotions scatter like dry kibble tossed on ice.
Lawrence E. Brown III, a young man passionate about making music, beams a 100-watt smile when he and Halo the Wonder Dog are introduced as a team. Today is graduation day at Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
The formal part of the poignant ceremony closes. Family members, guide dog raisers, brood and stud fosters, friends, and other well-wishers race to greet and hug the graduate teams.
Moving to congratulate Lawrence and Halo are Lawrence’s relatives, Susannah and Rafael, my wife, Michelle, and myself. In a nice touch, the congratulatory group includes Lisa and her daughter Sophia, fosters to brood Wren, Halo the Wonder Dog’s mother.
After photos are taken of Lawrence and Halo with Sophia and her Girl Scout friends, we huddle to decide where to head next. We decide upon the dining room. Thereupon, Lawrence and Halo the Wonder Dog take the lead, jumping out in front of Susannah and Rafael, and my wife Michelle and me, without Lawrence saying anything except: “I’ll meet you in the dining room.” Lawrence and Halo then confidently and without hesitation surge ahead of us, leading us quickly and accurately, straight down a crowded corridor, then making a sharp turn to the right, up a challenging flight of stairs, and next moving completely across the room to empty tables and chairs.
At first, I take no special notice of what just happened; it seems so commonplace, so normal, and so routine. Only upon reflection does it strike me: the ordinariness of it all creates a magical moment. All those days of loose leash walking; all those days re-directing our pups behavior away from sniffing or picking up ground clutter; all those days practicing stairs; all those days gently encouraging our pups to respond quickly and precisely to our cues; all those lessons learned at puppy classes; all those outings and exposures; all those happy hikes, and cuddles, and puppy kisses; all those days using positive reinforcement; all those days helping our pups develop into smart, confident, caring, happy, energetic dogs; all those questions posed to and answered by our Regional Managers; all those days when Guiding Eyes’ trainers taught our pups advanced techniques; and all the practice by the graduates learning to be a team.
Here, in an instant, all those images cascade and coalesce. The metamorphosis is complete. A walk down a crowded hallway, a jaunt up challenging stairs, and the traversing of a room towards empty tables and chairs had just been accomplished unerringly by Lawrence and Halo without fuss or muss, and with them leading the way. How magical. How wondrous.
In days ahead, the bond between Lawrence and Halo the Wonder Dog will deepen further. The two adventurers are sure to share their gifts. Whether we find ourselves touched by Lawrence’s music, or wowed by Halo’s guide skills and devotion, we will be witnesses to something truly grand.