Hello readers! This story was originally published in an online magazine called, Really Good Quotes in: 2015. We hope you enjoy!
CAMPBELL’S CALAMITIES #18
Top Dog, with Seeing Eye Dog Campbell Lee
by Patty L. Fletcher
Hello again, friends and neighbors of Campbell’s Calamities! Campbell and I are back, to share another calamity with you.
He and I have just come back from a most awesome guide dog users’ convention, put on by a fine organization called Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc., and held in the beautiful and very historical city of Charleston, South Carolina. You can find their website here: http://www.dixielandguidedogs.org/
Campbell and I were attendees—along with over 100 handlers, trainers, puppy raisers, and dog lovers of all kinds. There were at least 80 dogs present at any given time. This was a lot of fun, and except for a few snags here and there, we really didn’t experience too many calamities during the event itself—that is, unless you consider being locked out of my room three times in a row, getting stuck in an elevator, and nearly being dragged into an indoor heated swimming pool by a water-loving Labrador calamities! Are you wondering if I’ve finally lost my mind because I say those weren’t real calamities? Just continue reading, please! You’ll soon understand.
During the convention, Campbell and I participated in many activities. One of them was an animal blessing, during which guide dogs that had retired or passed on to the Rainbow Bridge were remembered, and all the handlers and guides present were given a blessing by a minister. It was truly a most beautiful event. I cried tears for my friend Phyllis Stevens’ fourth guide, Emmy Dog, who has now gone on to the Rainbow Bridge and was an inspiration to me.
I also used that time to start on my journey of putting the loss of dear friends and some loved ones in my life firmly behind me. Even though some of these people are still living, I am no longer allowed to be a part of their lives. Therefore, their loss has been like death to me, and I am grieving them in much the same way as I do when someone dear to me leaves this world.
Another event at the convention involved an obstacle course. Campbell thoroughly enjoyed showing off and eating a Frosty Paws treat afterwards. He did a great job taking me around all the obstacles that had been set up for us, and it was fun letting him show his stuff. As usual, he wigged and wagged through the whole thing, happy as a clam to do as I asked—even though, when it was over, even with getting a treat, he did not really see the point.
We met a lot of really neat dog handlers from many different guide dog schools, and we made some new friends. We hope that our friendships will be everlasting.
The night before we were to leave, I made the arrangements for our transportation back to the airport. Or did I?
Thinking all was well, I visited with one of my nieces; she lives near the convention site. Once she and her boyfriend had left, some friends of mine and I got together to share a bottle of wine. My niece and her boyfriend had been gracious enough to drive me to get that.
The problem was that once my friends and I got settled, we found that the bottle needed a corkscrew. It turned out no one, including the hotel personnel, had such a thing. After much maneuvering and trickery, one of my very industrious wine-drinking friends popped that sucker out and… PARTY!
This would have been fine had all gone as planned the next day.
When I woke on Sunday morning, February 1, the day of our departure, I had a horrible headache. I’m certain it would have gone away had I had time for a cup of coffee before my flight. However, that was not to be. Somehow the cab driver had not gotten the message that we needed him to pick us up, so the cab did not come. By the time it finally arrived, it was more than obvious that Phyllis and I were not going to make our flight.
Once at the airport, we learned it was too late to board, and that we’d have to change our flight arrangements. Had this been the only trouble, we still would have been fine, but then Phyllis (who is also a reader of this magazine, and who was my inspiration for going to New Jersey and getting my most awesome guide dog, Campbell Lee) learned that she’d somehow either misplaced or lost her ID.
We thought this would be a horrible problem. But soon, just like the new flight arrangements, the problem was solved. That was when an agent from airport security stepped in and helped us continue on our way, merely by performing a few extra security checks.
Soon we were flying out and thinking that all was well. We were going to have a layover in a different city and state than originally planned, and we were going to be late arriving home, but neither of us really thought this would be a major issue. Plus, we liked our new flight accommodations better than what we’d had to begin with. I was able to get a free cup of wonderful, hot, strong coffee, and was soon involved in a lovely conversation with my seatmates. I even managed to sell a book. Campbell was snoozing and snoring at my feet—dreaming of home, I’m sure.
All too soon, we were landing in Atlanta and leaving our new friends behind. Campbell was once again showing his stuff in a very busy airport. He didn’t get upset even when we rode the train through the airport and it slung us around a little more roughly than usual.
Phyllis, her dog Ethan, King Campbell, and I hung out by the boarding gate, and soon they were calling our flight. But just when they began to assist Phyllis and Ethan aboard, the power went out on the plane. They announced that they’d have it back shortly, and we’d be on our way. Although Phyllis and I assured everyone that the loss of light wouldn’t bother us, we were quickly reminded that the loss of oxygen probably would. J
However, getting the plane fixed and flying was not meant to be, either. We soon learned that we’d have to wait for another hour while they found us a new plane. We waited and waited, then waited some more, but still no plane. Finally, nearly an hour and a half later, we were being moved to yet another gate and were finally going to board.
By this time, Campbell was frustrated and a bit frazzled, and I’m pretty sure that Ethan was, too. Phyllis and I were simply done with the entire traveling routine, but after a bit, we managed to get ourselves on board and settled.
Just when I thought things would finally settle down, and it was time to get off the plane, Campbell had an attack of fear. It was much like the first time the two of us flew, when we were returning home together from our training in New Jersey, nearly four years ago. Just as we started to exit the plane, Campbell once again saw what he was expected to cross, and once again, he backed himself up and sat down in the doorway of the plane. Once again, he said as plainly as he could, “Mom, ain’t nothin’ good gonna come from this. Let’s just live on the plane, OK? Please?” Even though it was a ramp this time, and not stairs, it was still grated and see-through, and once again, I had to coax my boy down. But as usual, frightened or no, he trusted me, and soon he and I were once more on the ground and working happily together again.
If you’ve read my first book (the URL of my website is to be found on the Author’s Ad page of this magazine), you know how frightening an experience this is for both of us each time it happens. Thanks to our having gotten past that previous issue (see Chapter 15 of my book), and thanks to the fact that our bond is much stronger now than it was then, we were able to overcome this most recent difficulty pretty quickly.
Needless to say, by the time I got to the airport and through the long walk to the baggage claim area, I was thrilled to see my dad. He had stepped in for my nephew and had come to pick me up.
All in all, the trip was fantastic. Campbell and I made many new friends, sold some books, and handed out almost 300 business cards. King Campbell came home with three new toys, a new blanket, and a bandanna. Can anyone say “spoiled”?
To me, the trip was a huge success, and Campbell and I are now safely back on the ground in Northeastern Tennessee. We are tired out, but it is an awesome kind of tired, and we’re already making plans to attend another convention for the blind in the summer. So stay tuned.
Until next time, this is Campbell Lee the Seeing Eye dog and Patty saying, “May Harmony Find You, and Blessid Be.”