First Away Trip From Home For Campbell and Me On Our Own:
Here is another tale Campbell and I would like to share with you. This was a very important time in our lives, and is something that the both of us are quite proud of. Many of you reading may know Mike Tate, mentioned here, and me, and so I hope you will give us a shout out and say hi, and let us know what you think of this.
Finally after much planning and packing, and making everything fit in to place, King Campbell and I were ready to go. We would be flying to Orlando, Florida to meet our Dear Friend, Mike Tate. A fellow Seeing Eye grad and of mine.
Let me start by telling you a bit about what I already know about Mike before ever having met him. First off he has been an awesome friend. He excepts me just as I am, faults and all. He tries as best he can to understand me and my many different ways and moods, and he is always kind to me when I need direction or guidance, where staying on an even path is concerned, and doesn’t ever judge me or turn me away. He has over these last three and a half years been a constant source of support, from the time just before my training at the Seeing Eye, up to present day.
If you’ve read my book, Campbell’s Rambles: How A Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, then you know that he is very special to me, and on more than one occasion has literally given to me the very strength to keep breathing when no one else seemed to care.
The other thing about Mike, he is a fighter. The reason for King Campbell and I to travel there to see Mike was because he was celebrating the third anniversary of his kidney transplant. Wow! What a party that turned out to be.
08/28/2014 Tri-Cities Airport
After we’d finally dropped Rocky off at boarding, gotten Campbell’s Rabies shots, and made a mad dash to the store for last minute supplies we were off. Once at the airport Campbell’s work was fantastic. He followed my friend Greg beautifully and then once he left us with the airport staff the fun really did begin.
First off we were early and so we had a bit of time to kill. While waiting we chatted with some really nice people and made a couple of friends. Then when they called up and let us know they were ready for us, Campbell and I really did take off quite literally. I decided right then that I was going to not only have the absolute time of my life, I was going to learn absolutely everything I could from someone who had been handling dogs for what turns out to be a quarter of a century.
Campbell worked through security and on to the plane absolutely without flaw. Just getting airborne was a fantastic thing.
Once we got on the plane there was someone sitting with us. I’m not sure what the problem ended up being but the airline attendant asked me if I’d mind moving. I told her no I would not and she took us to a row of unoccupied seats and it made Campbell more comfortable and me too.
The flight was fantastic and I was able from time to time to chat with a few people, as well as get some much needed writing done.
Finally we were landing and I began to get nervous, but as it turns out I had no need. As usual my Seeing Eye instructor’s advice was correct. Taking a chance only served to give me another great fifty percent of being right!
When we landed in Florida at the Sanford Airport, the most fantastic thing happened. Campbell nearly flew through the airport. I instructed my assistant of the best way to assist us, and off we went. I’d never before worked Campbell as I did that day. His pull was totally different than anything ever before I’d ever done. He was totally tapped in tuned in and turned on! He was in a word “Rocken” He loved it and was totally alive.
I don’t think Campbell and I have ever worked like that. I literally had to jog to keep up with him, but keep up with him I did and it was the coolest thing ever!
Rather than following the assistant which many times due to my lack of confidence I sometimes am guilty of doing, I let Campbell take the lead and the assistant coached us from behind. It made for a completely different experience. It was the most awesome thing I ever felt! It felt like flying. We moved so quickly throughout all the crowds. We never ran in to one person or thing. Campbell did everything I asked him, and even when we went past a tiny yipping dog Campbell never so much as flinched nor did he bother to so much as turn his head. He simply kept right on going, and when we arrived at the baggage claim Mike and his friend Bill were there, Campbell was even more fired up than ever!
It was as if he could barely stand still while we made our introductions and readied ourselves to leave the airport.
When we were ready to leave the airport, I let Mike and Pluto take the lead, and was going to follow Bill out, but instead, Bill who has been working with Mike and his working dogs for many years, encouraged me to follow Mike, and Pluto and let Campbell get used to working with them. He was right to have done it this way and the experience of working Campbell out of there and to the van was totally Awesome! It totally Rocked! I was totally turned on by it and again felt freedom as I’d never felt before. I was immediately seeing a huge difference in Mine and Campbell’s work, with us being totally out of our element and comfort zone, and it was also becoming increasingly obvious that I was right in my belief that I had done a good job keeping mine and Campbell’s team together during the recent hardships we’d faced, where the break up between my ex-fiancé and I was concerned.
The next most awesome thing to happen for Campbell himself came just twenty-four hours or a bit less than that, after our arrival. Campbell was so secure, and knew so very well what was and was not okay. At Mike’s, he was able to be off his tie out, and really begin to show what he was made of, and to get to know Mike and Pluto even better, as well as prove to me he really was capable of being super well behaved the majority of the time, even in a brand new setting.
Friends and Neighbors is fantastic! As some know sometimes it takes a while to get a dog settled enough to do this, as well as the fact that not all are as serious about making their homes as safe for our furry friends as are others. I am very picky about when and where my dog is removed from a leash. At Mike’s however this just was not an issue. The only precaution we took in the beginning was to remove the large bag of Pluto’s kibble from Campbell’s reach, but in the end we found we were able to leave it where it belonged rather than hiding it because Campbell simply never tried to bother it. It was like he understood completely that Mike was a confident and well trained Seeing Eye Dog handler who actually does with his dog as he is supposed to, too, and he knew, like Mom, Mike wouldn’t put up with any foolishness.
He had seen Pluto’s harness, and had seen Mike work him, and so we were pretty sure Campbell connected enough dots to realize Mike too was blind, and works a dog. Great neat stuff, huh? I thought so, thus the reason for my sharing.
As the weekend progressed, we found that Pluto and Campbell worked very well together, and absolutely made all we did fantastic and better than it would’ve been without them. We’d first planned to go and visit a band concert at the House of Blues, but decided in the end our dogs didn’t need to be exposed to it. We ended up going elsewhere that particular night, and honestly the night turned out so awesome, we’d have not had nearly as much fun going to the concert as we did going out together.
Let me tell you about meeting
Mike, and his Side Kick Pluto. Pluto is a fine wonderful dog. He is a beautiful German Shepherd, and is absolutely a fantastic match for Mike. It still amazes me to know them and especially knowing their story and all they had to endure and go through to accomplish the working team and forever friendship and love filled bond they share.
The kind of person I’d always believed Mike to be, honestly didn’t really even begin to truly show itself until I arrived there. Soon after my coming in, I managed to lose a large portion of the traveling money I had. I was disappointed and devastated to say the least. Mike however, took it all in stride, he did not get angry, if he was frustrated at all he did not show it and he didn’t yell at me, or make me feel dumb or small as so many others do, each and every day any time I make a mistake. Instead of belittling me and putting me down when I make mistakes, like what lead to my losing this money. Mike as he always does when I screw up in one way or another, simply tried to help me learn from my mistake. To try and find ways to keep it from repeating itself. He says, all the time, and I totally agree, “If you always do what you did, you’ll always have what you had.”
I was for sure relieved and glad to see that what I’d suspected all along concerning Mike was that, he is the most caring and real person I have met in quite some time.
He didn’t even get upset with me that I was unable to have his special shirt with me, but it’s coming!
Working a dog with him was a privilege to say the least. Since my coming home from the Seeing Eye, I’ve not had the greatest working handlers to partner with.
Some people just, don’t take their guide dog work as seriously as I do, at least not for my taste any way, so it was truly a blessing to work with someone who not only knew how to handle their dog in the way it was meant to be handled, but a pleasure learning new things I didn’t know before.
Going out with him on that first night of our visit was totally awesome. Mike wanted to take me to the place where he would be having his celebration, so Campbell and I could familiarize ourselves with the layout and get to know a few of the regulars there.
Once we arrived Mike took me in and introduced me to everyone he knew. Once we’d been there a bit he had Campbell and I follow him through the bar. It was totally amazing to see Campbell and Pluto work together as they did. Pluto worked very well with Campbell and Vice Versa. Pluto kept a good eye on Campbell and me, and if we strayed too far behind he would let Mike know. His work was fantastic and it made for a much better time all the way around.
I’d never before experienced anything like this. I’d been to places with another friend of mine who also works a Seeing Eye Dog, but I’d never experienced it quite like this. When I went with the other handler they did not help me to get my bearings, so Campbell and I basically had to figure it out as we went. Mike however chose a different way and when I asked him about it he said, “Well I’m not sure why it was like that for you before. We’re trained in school how to handle these situations, I’m only doing for you what should always be done by any handler having another visit.” Before we even left his house to go out he explained things to me about where we were going. He explained that on this night it wouldn’t be nearly as crowded nor as noisy. He explained I would want to get a good idea of everything around me because on the night of his party there would be more people more noise and confusion and I would need to truly depend on my own skill as well as the skill of my dog. When I became anxious about going he took time to encourage me and help me relax.
His wonderful handling of me and the entire situation, put me at ease right from the start. He was absolutely fantastic and gave to me an experience that has once again caused me to have a life changing revelation.
I have seen the team Campbell and I are becoming and I want more of it, and also for myself. I found Mike’s friends to be totally awesome and I want friends like that. I want people I know I can depend on and who know they can depend on me. I want true to life people. People who aren’t just with me for what I can lend them or give them or do for them. I want people who want to be with me like Mike’s friends want to be with him.
As the weekend progressed, Mike and I went out on Friday, the second night of our visit as well. We met one of his most awesome friends named Jacky and she bought us pizza and a drink. It was a wonderful visit, and once again Pluto and Campbell worked fantastically together. I was continuously amazed!
08/30/2014 Saint Matthew’s Tavern
Finally the big day arrived, and it was time to begin getting ready for the big event. Mike’s third anniversary of his kidney transplant. That was literally the first day of the rest of his life. On the day of his transplant, Mike was given a new lease on life, and it was more than obvious when he stood and gave his talk that he is well aware of it. The biggest lesson I learned that night was that life is simply too short to keep all the trash in our lives. It is too short to hold a grudge and it is too short to be angry with people over past events or wrong doings. I beg of all of you to please take a good long look at your lives and make right the wrongs within them. If you have strife with someone rid yourself of it, even if you cannot go back to being friends or close family with the person, make it right to some degree. Let it go and set it free. It will literally change your life.
Throughout the evening people kept coming up to me and talking to me. People I’d never even met were interested in learning all they could about Campbell and me. They took an interest in my new book, and my work. It was so awesome to be seen as a real person and not just some poor blind girl or mentally ill girl to be feared and avoided. Even those who knew me and knew what I was capable of or what I had done in my recent past were wonderfully accepting. All in all, the party was a huge success and on many more levels than I ever expected.
The time we spent with Mike’s friends afterward was fantastic too, and as the night wound down and the last two left Mike’s apartment early the next morning, I felt truly blessed for having been privileged to be a part of it.
Now I’m back home and facing new challenges and realizing many changes must take place within my life to make these newly added goals come to be. Once more, I reach out to take Campbell’s harness in my hand and go forward together with him to continue our journey where ever it may lead.
I am going back to work tomorrow and cannot wait to see the difference in Campbell’s work, and my ability. The trip Campbell and I took together only served to make us a stronger team, and to make me aware of things which need to happen, if we wish to continue to grow as a team successfully, as well as what I want and need for my life.
I long to grow spiritually, physically, financially, and emotionally. I want to be a bit more well than I currently am. I want to truly show those I have asked for a second chance that I am deserving.
Thank you Mike, and all who help make mine and Campbell’s first away from home on our own trip possible.
Blessings to you all!