Friday, February 12, 2016

Meggie Miyagi: Guide Dog Lessons Beyond Wax On, Wax Off

Female black lab, Megan, sits in harness looking at the camera
with a focused, serious expression on her face.
My Guide Dog, Megan, is a tiny pocket puppy filled with power.  In our five months together, it has become clear we are quite similar--she is me, on four paws. She is sassy, spunky, playful, and curious. She loves to explore, travel, and experience new things.  She's very smart, thinks things through, takes her work very seriously, and once in a while, she gets really anxious and scared.

As a new team, you are working to build a relationship. This beautiful, expertly trained, furry ball of energy enters your life, and you begin to get to know one another--not just who you were--the dog and the girl--but who you are, two together, the team.  Every day, each route, and every new experience you share together helps you become a team.  Unlike getting to know a new friend, you don't have words--you learn from one another and about one another through the leash, harness, touch, movement, and body language. You begin to recognize and sense how your guide is feeling--happy, excited, serious, focused, anxious, concerned, even afraid.  If you are lucky, you get to observe and experience your guide developing relationships with others as well:  other dogs (pets and guides), friends and family (including their puppy raisers), and their trainers and others who have cared for them. And if you really pay attention you realize that our dogs can teach us so much more than we think. Everyday I learn from them, but these are a few things they've tried to teach me...

1. Your success doesn't impede my success--don't hold one another back, help one another move forward. Help one another grow.

Megan and her best guide dog friend, Samurai, sitting in harness
on a break during a route together.  Both look lovingly up at the camera.
2. It's ok to be afraid sometimes. We are ALL afraid of something.

3. Good friends make all the difference. Let them in. Let them know you. Let them see your fears.

4. When life feels just a little too big and scary, a friend by your side is the best medicine.  Watch out for each other.

Megan, Picassa, and the Toddler watching with great anticipation
as the Tween gets home from school.
5. Play!  Have fun!  Romp around with your friends. Cuddle with the ones who love you. Give hugs.

Sammy (left) and Megan (right) laying on the floor out of harness after
romping around playing together for the first time.
6. Be a little naughty. (Just a little.)  An occasional jump up to hug your person when you're in harness. An occasional sniff of the pee-mail along the sidewalk as you're guiding your human. Inching toward your best friend when you're both working to say hello, I love you, I'm thinking of you. It's ok to be a little naughty. Life is better when it's lived out loud.

7. Be grateful. Tell them you appreciate them. Tell them you love them. Tell them how they make your life different, better. Tell them they make YOU better.

Megan (left) snuggling in blankets with her sister, retired guide dog, Picassa (right)
Our dogs, they may not communicate verbally, but if we pay attention, if we show up, we have so much to learn from one another.

Much love,
Rainbow image with white letters "Nicole"


  1. Nicole--Love your beautiful post. Very illuminating. As a crafty sighted chick, I look forward to following your blog. And congratulations on your team member and partner Megan. She is absolutely gorgeous and such a good and devoted girl. Wishing you many happy years of teamwork and cuddles.

    Kindest regards, Lynne, proud mama to my furry best friend Ripley CC GDB

    1. Thank you Lynne!! I'm so happy to have you following our adventures! I bet Ripley is GORGEOUS!

  2. I love it! My dogs name is latte and I have had her for two years this coming March. She is my first guide dog. I loved listening to your descriptions of your relationship with Megan. I loved the part about a little bit of noddy is good. Latte is a beauty queen and a tomboy body, and loves to give her mommy hugs. I allow her to be a normal dog outside of harness and she does a fabulous job in harness. I cannot wait to read the rest of your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It makes me want to continue to move forward and be just as successful as you. Thank you again

    1. Oh Carrie I love your description of Latte lol!! A beauty queen in a tomboy body LOL So sweet! And, it's so true though right, a little bit of naughty makes life fun!

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