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Sunday, July 8, 2012

But I can see...

"You will want to wear this," Bev says at check-in as she hands me a plastic credit-card sized room key on a blue lanyard. Student Room #23. The values of Leader Dogs for the Blind are printed on the back.
  • Respect and compassion for people and dogs
  • Passion for the work
  • Safety in all we do
  • Do what is right
  • Innovation in our field
  • Teamwork
The hallways of the Polk Residence Center at Leader Dogs for the Blind are gleaming white. Sparkling tiles beneath my feet, painted block walls with bumper-like handrails at my sides. A wide royal blue stripe above the handrails and narrow stripes on the floor in the same shade of blue guide me to the room that FLD Scout and I will share for the next three days. She is still in the kennel for now, until I get settled.

Each blue-rimmed doorway is identified with a room number at the side of the door and in a blue square above the handrail directly opposite. In Braille.

#23. That's my room.

Arms loaded with my duffle, Scout's supplies and bed, my camera backpack, and laptop bag, I stand on tippy-toe at the black-box sensor on the left side of the door. The key hanging at my belly changes the red light to green for entry.

The room is large, and starkly antiseptic. The same bright white walls and floors as the hallway is made even brighter by the florescent lights imbedded in the ceiling. The ceiling tiles are white too. There are no hotel-paintings screwed to the walls. I have the sense that everything was designed for the safety and efficiency of the blind or visually impaired client who usually occupies this room.

I can see the three shelves in the bathroom that have one-inch lips on them to keep things from falling off. I can see the red numbers on the digital alarm clock that speaks when touched. I can see the small screen of the TV atop the dresser at the end of the bed. I can see the special flip-up light on the end table, and another one at the desk next to the dresser. I can see the tie-down for the dog in the corner. I can see the second door opposite the entry, the door that exits to a covered "park" area.

I think of the person who travels to Leader Dogs alone, the person who can't see, who stays in this room for 26 days of learning and teambuilding. If all goes well, he or she will leave with new eyes--a Leader Dog.

The itinerary for our three-day puppy-counselor training is non-stop from breakfast at 7:30 a.m.  to an after-dinner lecture that ends at 8:00 p.m. I imagine trying to keep a schedule like this for 26 days, like the person who can't see, all while trying to bond with a young dog who is probably wondering why he is in this strange room and "who the heck are YOU?"

I imagine that those three and a half weeks could feel a little bit like boot camp. I hope that isn't so for FLD Scout and me!

FLD Scout on her bed in the corner by the tie-down.


  1. Would be nice to see one of the many available kuranda beds placed in each room for the dogs. They got used to them in the kennels during training, makes sense to give them a 'warm fuzzy feeling' of something familiar.

    1. They very well may put those beds in the rooms for the clients, I don't really know. We were just there for counselor training!

    2. They don't....what a waste.

  2. A student invited me over to Polk to visit her when I took my first puppy back. She explained the purpose behind the blue lines and many of the other features in the rooms. When she took me back to her room, she asked her dog to find the door. The room he took her to had a different name on it, so I thought he'd made a mistake. No way! The staff simply hadn't gotten around to changing the name plate from the last resident. Eyes can be deceiving. Sounds like you had a great experience!

    1. That's very cool, Suzanne! Yep, eyes can be deceiving. Everytime I learn more about what Leader Dogs for the Blind does for their clients I am more impressed. It was a neat experience to stay there. Thanks for all you do--I did see Jet's nameplate in the kennel!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, Erin, it was indeed! My brain hurt and we all learned alot more about everything...

  4. Oh, thinking about you all! No bootcamp feelings, only growing in family and friendship and beautiful!