Happy National Puppy Day. I wanted to thank you again for the puppy you helped raise.
On July 26, 2011, Makiko was born. A short few months later, you took her into your home and heart and raised a beautiful black Labrador who has literally saved my life, kept me emotionally strong, allowed me to work full time in a job that I absolutely love, and make an even greater impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities and my community as a whole.
You taught her:
- How to sit, stand, and stay
- How to have an amazing bladder
- How to poop and pee on command and be comfortable with us approaching her while she does her business so we can clean up accordingly
- How to be perfect at heeling
- How to cross over door thresholds confidently
- How to soak up all the massages when we brush her
- How to tolerate the ear cleaning
- How to try and get as much toothpaste off the toothbrush before it actually reaches the teeth but eventually let us brush them
- How to let peopleexamine her as necessary with no problem
- How to be the social and super polite dog she is
- How to start snoring when “times up… They have officially bored us!”
- And so much more…
She loves to greet people off harness but has so much self control and when I’m seeing clients, they literally never know she is there until she moves around or starts snoring. You gave her the skills to succeed and were the BEST PUPPY RAISER for her… For us!
I still wonder how you gave her up and think of you daily when Makiko does both the little things and the big things to make my life better.
Depression is not something I have talked about very often but I did have a lot of struggles with depression. January 2013 is when my father, my best friend, passed away. March 2013 is when I got Makiko. I was very much just starting the grieving process. Having Makiko by my side helped me be able to grieve the loss of my father, but also of my vision.
In order to get a guide dog, one has to have significant vision loss. While I was most of the time pretty chill about it, it was still hard to deal with at times. Over our three year partnership, I have lost most of what remaining vision I did have. That is so hard yet Makiko was literally and figuratively my guiding light through it all. She helps reduce my anxiety more than I can describe which has improved my overall general health and well-being an incredible amount.
Another requirement to get a guide dog is that you have good cane/Orientation and Mobility skills. I had the best Orientation and Mobility trainer around, Micha Moore, but I still hated the cane. She taught me the skills though so I could get a guide dog, which is way more efficient and relaxing! The cane makes a lot of people nervous to approach blind people in my experience. A guide dog is obviously so much more socially welcoming. I also worried a lot more when I had a cane… What were we going to find.. How were we going to get around it… What hole will my cane get stuck in today and then go jabbing into my stomach. These are just some of the negatives of having a cane but of course there are many pros to cane use too… Just not in my book and not for me. I can relax, enjoy traveling, and enjoy using that little vision I have to see the world around me and not be worried.
Currently, between 70% and 80% of working age blind adults are unemployed. This is absolutely tragic. Not only does Makiko give me the orientation and mobility to do my job, but she also gives me the confidence to do by being a confident traveler, which is absolutely critical. As a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Texas, my job is going to over 12 high schools and working with the students with disabilities to transition out of high school and obtain and maintain gainful employment. High schools are HUGE these days and the students are definitely not concerned about watching out for that blind chick walking down the hallway. But that’s okay.. Makiko is! She knows where we office in all of the high schools and can confidently get me there. This is a huge confidence booster because little do most of them know that I don’t know where we are going.. SHE does!
We travel a lot independently (around the United States and within Texas) and it was pretty scary for a while with my degenerated vision. However now, traveling is no big deal, as long as I have Makiko by my side. That confidence, independence, and freedom is invaluable.
She is an ice breaker, as most guides are. But there’s just something about her beautiful and cute self that allows people to feel more comfortable when approaching me, which helps me both personally and professionally.
Because you raised such an amazing dog who grew up to be a guide, I have/had the confidence to become even more vocal and a bigger advocate by doing more public speaking and organizing events to raise awareness and funds for different disabilities and disability related causes. Additionally, I have a new family.. The Guide Dogs for The Blind family… And I have the opportunity to volunteer with and socialize with some of the best people on the planet.. Puppy raisers, other guide dog handlers, and Guide Dogs for The Blind.
Friends and family have this running joke now that I just WALKED… SO…. SLOW before getting Makiko and now daily people are telling me how I walk TOO DANG FAST for someone with short legs and who is visually impaired. People literally move to different sides of the hall.. Not to avoid me because of my loss of vision.. But to get out of our way because we’re coming and we’re coming fast. My favorite memory of this was when I first landed in Dallas after guide dog training. My mom was pushing the luggage cart with my great aunt and we had nearly cleared several hallways.. And they were still way back there. She built up my muscle and has allowed me to do more than I ever could do physically pre-Makiko.
You have such a caring gentle spirit about you and have raised my beautiful guide dog to be just like that. After a long day, she comes home gives me all the cuddles in the world. She loves immensely. She also has a goofy side, which I have picked up on that you also have. She can just be the goofiest with her need to have her back end scratched in the air or do her little prance. Her first mama wasn’t a dancer or anything was she? 😉
Thank you for giving selflessly so that I can have the best baby in the world. Thank you for your patience, love, dedication, money, and time so that I can be an independent, hard working, contributing citizen and live the life that I want to live.. And not let my visual impairment get in the way. Thank you for giving me my everything
Jessica Naert and Makiko