April 28, 2018 Just after noon.
I stood under the hot water allowing the tears to fall.
“7 years. 7 years today and what have I truly accomplished?”
The anger, hurt, and grief welled up inside me and over-flowed as the tears ran down my face.
My body shook with sob after sob as I stood there in the shower, head down fists clinched at my sides.
I’d awaken in the early morning after what had been another pain filled restless night with memories of those long ago seemingly happier times rolling round in my head, and like so many days before I stood in the shower hiding from the world trying desperately to regain control.
Taking a deep breath, and blowing it out I said, “This is not doing any good. You know you can’t go back and fix anything you did wrong. Regardless of what anyone thinks you’re a good dog owner and handler and in the end that was the goal. You simply haven’t any choice but to let the rest go.”
I knew this was true but still it ate at me.
So many things in my life were wrong. It was so much more than the mess I’d made of mine and Drew’s friendship.
If he didn’t want to give me a chance to explain what had happened to change me all those years ago and answer my questions that was his choice.
My life was a train wreck. My daughter and grandchildren were gone from my life. Much of the rest of my family no longer spoke to me, I had no job and the struggle of poverty every-day was just about to over-take me completely.
Finally, as I began to wash my hair I once again began to regain control of my emotions.
After a while as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair and the shower jell from my body, turned off the water and grabbed a towel from the rack just outside the tub the tears began to slow.
Just when I thought I might be able to make it through the rest of the day Campbell’s bell rang softly from the other room as he stretched himself out on his bed under the ceiling fan in his room and sighed a contented sigh and just like that the tears began to fall.
I stood the towel wrapped tightly around me crying uncontrollably as the memory of that last morning at The Seeing Eye all those years came to me sharp and clear yet again.
***From Chapter 14 of Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life.
My Last Morning.
Early in the morning of April 28, 2011, I talked with Donnie on the phone. He told me that 20 people had been killed in my hometown and surrounding areas due to the storms they’d had the night before.
We also talked about things that would have to happen when I returned home with Campbell. I explained to him about how there couldn’t be a lot of people at the house the first night home, and how Campbell would have to be on a leash with me or on a tie–out for the first two weeks. After that, I would then begin allowing him small amounts of freedom at a time. He would sleep in his crate at night.
Donnie did not seem to understand this even after I explained it to him as clearly as I could. He argued with me, saying that it all sounded a little harsh. He even made the statement, “Well, it’s not like they’ll know what you do when you get home, so it’s not like you really have to do all that.”
I tried to get him to understand, but I finally gave up and simply told him, “Donnie, it’s not open for discussion.” We decided to agree to disagree. I thought maybe he might get a better understanding after spending some time with us when we got home.
Somehow, though, it was beginning to be less and less important to me whether he understood or not. Something in me had changed while I was there at The Seeing Eye. At first, I hadn’t really understood what those changes were all about, but I was beginning to. I had begun to be treated with a lot of respect by those who were successful, educated, and intelligent people. It had made me begin to think that maybe I could have just a bit more out of my life than I was getting at the time. I realized that I had been allowing others to control me, to make decisions for me, even as to where I went, how I went there, and when.
I knew now that with Campbell by my side, I no longer had to depend on others to help me get to bus stops, stores, or places to eat if I didn’t want to. I realized that I would be able to go many different places, now, quite successfully—and even with my friends, because I could walk along with them of my own free will and with little to no assistance from anyone. This went a long way toward making me feel better about myself, and I hoped that once I got home, I would have the courage to keep the new attitude I was adopting. I’d already learned that people who were serious about living a decent life weren’t impressed with my bad–ass redneck attitude, and that they saw me as a woman who had much potential and could really make something of herself if only she’d believe in herself and try. So, Donnie’s attitude of “It’s not like they’ll know” bothered me a lot. To me, that was just underhanded and disrespectful.
As I packed the last of my own and Campbell’s things, I felt nervous but excited. I knew that I was embarking on a new adventure, also that I had closed a chapter in my life and was beginning a new one. I truly felt reborn.
As I put things in the suitcase, Campbell followed me around the room, sniffing everything and wagging his tail furiously all the time. He wanted to help me pack—or, as it turned out, unpack. As soon as I put the things in, he wanted to take them out again. Finally, I had no choice but to put the big pest in his crate with his bone, in the hopes that he would chew himself to sleep for a while. But no way! He decided that if he couldn’t distract me by unpacking my suitcase, he would lie on his back in his crate, toss his bone up in the air, and let it make lots of noise banging around in his crate. When I told him to knock that off, he simply moaned a big moan and tossed it up in the air again.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Campbell, you really are just like your mother!” I knew in my heart that Campbell and I were going to make a successful team, and I was proud to pieces of what we’d already accomplished together. I just hoped that Drew and the rest of my team were proud of us, too.
Then I was done, and they were calling us to the common lounge for a small breakfast of fruit and pastries, along with coffee and juice. The four of us students who were left gathered in the lounge, talking and laughing with one another. We were all nervous and excited. I know that I, at least, had a little fear thrown in for good measure. Also, although I knew there wasn’t anything to do for it, I felt a tiny bit sad that Drew wouldn’t be driving me to the airport.
As we sat sharing our last meal together, we exchanged addresses, phone numbers, and email info. We wanted to stay in touch with one another if we could. I gave Devin my info and he gave me his.
I had even begun to make some plans for when I returned home. I’d had a hard time doing that earlier, because I had felt that Donnie and I were becoming disconnected somehow. Now I no longer worried about that. I had worked too hard and had come through too much to let that stop me. I wanted nothing but to be the very best guide dog handler I could be. I hoped that I would make Drew and the rest of The Seeing Eye proud; I hoped they’d know that their time, effort, and money hadn’t been wasted on me. I wanted everyone to know what a fantastic place The Seeing Eye was: what it had done for me and what it could do for others. I had hopes that someday I would be able to do something worthwhile to repay them for their kindness to me.
Many people were responsible for the fact that at my feet was a beautiful black Labrador named Campbell Lee, a dog who had already become my very best friend, and who had already gone a long way toward literally saving my life. I had no idea of the things that were in store for me when I returned home. I had no way of knowing what changes were about to take place in my life, and I was in no way prepared for them. But the one thing I knew above all was that I could face anything as long as Campbell walked happily by my side.
As the morning drew to a close and we began to get ready to leave and go our separate ways, I reached down and gave Campbell a good scratching behind his ears and said, “Campbell Bug, it’s time to begin our new life. Are you ready?” As if on command, he stood and positioned himself beside me. He snorted a happy snort, as if to say, “Sure, Mom! What took you so long to catch up?”
As I walked out of the common lounge into the hall, I had a serious attack of nerves. I suddenly couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do next, and on top of that, I knew I was getting ready to come to the top of the stairs. Once again, my fear and panic set in. I literally couldn’t breathe.
One of the instructors walked up to me and asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t talk; I couldn’t do anything but cry. I was so angry with myself for feeling this way, when just minutes before, I’d been thinking about all the changes I wanted to make in my life, changes I knew I could really make. What in the world was wrong with me?
Shannon walked me over to a chair at the side of the hall, sat me down, and knelt down to talk to me. As she took my hand in hers, she asked me again what was wrong. After a minute, I was able to tell her I had suddenly not remembered what to do next, and that once again, I had been overcome by that same old fear of the stairs. I felt so inadequate, suddenly, and as though maybe I really didn’t know what I was doing after all. I also felt very frightened about returning home with Campbell, because something inside me kept saying, “You’re going to end up alone; you’re making a mistake.” I couldn’t understand any of my fears. They just didn’t go along at all with what I had been thinking just before.
Suddenly Drew was at my other side. As he reached for my other hand, he asked me what was going on. Through my tears, I tried to explain to him, but he just kept telling me that I would be all right. When I told him, I didn’t want to go home alone, he gently smoothed my hair and said, “You’re not alone. You have Donnie there waiting on you.” I knew that was so, but that little nagging feeling inside me simply would not go away, and I didn’t have the right words to convey to Drew what I felt. I knew that it wouldn’t make any difference anyway; it wasn’t as though I could stay there.
Eventually I began to calm down, and then I remembered that when I was packing earlier, I couldn’t find Campbell’s Kong toy. I looked up at Drew with tears in my eyes once again and said, “I can’t find Campbell’s Kong. He’ll want it when we get home. I can’t leave without it!”
Gently squeezing my hand, Drew said, “Now that I can do something about!”
He coached me down the stairs, and after looking around for a minute or two, he found the Kong under the bed. We put it and Campbell’s bone in my backpack, and I sat down on my bed to catch my breath. Drew started out of the room, saying he’d be back in a minute. Just then, Sue walked in and told me she’d be taking me to the airport, and that it was almost time to go. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to crawl back in my bed and hide, but I knew I couldn’t do that.
Just then, Devin, his dog Gavin, and Drew came back in. Drew said, “Devin wanted to say goodbye again.” I stood up, and Devin and I hugged our goodbyes.
“Remember,” Devin said, “you can do this. Just remember to breathe and enjoy yourself.”
I hugged him tightly and asked, “Aren’t you scared at all?”
He laughed, “Hell, yeah! But we can’t go home and not try, not after all the hard work that we’ve all done to get here.” I knew he was right, so I gathered my courage once again. Devin kissed my cheek and went out.
For just a moment, it was just Drew, Campbell, and me.
Drew walked over. “How about a hug for your old instructor?”
I reached out, put my arms around him, and hugged him tightly to me. He hugged me back. I was going to miss him terribly. I’d never felt so safe with anyone. As was the norm for me when hugging someone I wanted to remember well, I buried my face against his shoulder and breathed deeply of his scent. It was the scent of learning, trust, and safety. He’d done a lot for me that I will probably never be able to talk about. We’d had a lot of fun together during training, and I’d gained a whole new perspective on life, thanks to him. I didn’t—and still don’t today—think that the man has any idea how much he helped me.
As we separated, he brushed a couple of strands of hair from my face, and said softly, “You’re going to do just fine. Don’t be so afraid and remember what I told you. Take a chance, because there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll be right.”
For what I thought would be the last time, he took a tissue from his pack and wiped the tears from my face. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to press a stop button. I suddenly had a whole list of questions I hadn’t thought of until then. In addition, I had fears I’d been keeping secret. There were things I thought I might be able to say if I had just one more day, but now the time was gone. There were also the old fears: Would he believe me if I told him my secrets? Would he care? Would he think that the things that were going on in my life that I wanted to tell him about were no big deal? Would he think that my fear of what might happen in the future was ridiculous, and that I was just exaggerating?
A jumble of thoughts and scenarios ran around and around in my head. How to begin? Was there any way to stop this from happening? Could I somehow avoid going back into things I knew now weren’t at all right?
We stood for a moment not saying anything. Then, knowing there was simply nothing to do but go forward, I pushed all that out of my mind and said to him, “Now you get down there and give that dog a hug goodbye! I know you love him too, and that’s okay.” He hesitated, and I said, my voice cracking with emotion, “Yankee! Act like you’ve got some sense and tell that dog goodbye! You’re not going to damage our bond by doing it, and you darn well know that!”
He laughed a little and knelt down to say goodbye to Campbell, saying, “Okay, take it easy!”
Campbell did exactly what I’d known he would do. He licked Drew’s face all over, sliming him up right good. I laughed through my tears, and said, “It’s slime time!” I knew he loved that dog.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know those instructors get attached to all the dogs they train, but I could feel the special love between those two, and it didn’t bother me one bit. I knew there were some grads who didn’t like that sort of thing; however, I believe that they simply didn’t understand it.
Drew stood and said, “Now, take care of yourself and stay out of jail. I’m not bailing your ass out if you end up in there. I’ll rescue Campbell if I need to.”
We both laughed, shared another brief but tight hug, and then he was gone. For just a few minutes, it was only Campbell and me there together, and I felt a bit sad. Then Sue was there, telling me it was time to go. So, I gathered my things, took Campbell’s harness in my hand, and said, “Forward, Campbell! Outside!” Then we were off, ready to begin our new lives together.
April 28, 2018.
I took a deep cleansing breath as the memory faded.
“OK you’ve cried it out now you have to try to get through this day, the next and next. You must keep putting one foot in front of the other take things one at a time and try to put your life back together yet again. There’s nothing else to do. Campbell loves and needs you and for now that’s just going to have to be enough.”
As if on cue Campbell came shoving his way into the bathroom and began to lick my toes, and just like that he’d chased the tears away.
Laughing I knelt in the floor, and gathering the big dog into my arms, his love surrounding me, I began to find my strength once again.
More on Campbell and me.
Bubba Tails Media Kit
Welcome to my Media Kit King Campbell and I are pleased to present some wondrous stories and art work to you all. Enjoy.
Bubba Tails from the Puppy Nursery at The Seeing Eye Written by Patty L. Fletcher Told by, King Campbell Lee – The Seeing Eye Dog AKA Bubba
In this magical and love filled tail, King Campbell AKA Bubba travels to the puppy nursery at The Seeing Eye to help ready a group of puppies who are just about to embark on the fabulous journey of learning to become Seeing Eye dogs. Just as he is about to finish his tail, a wee pup becomes very frightened of all that lies ahead, and one frightfully stormy night she runs away! Will King Campbell hear the urgent call from the puppy nursery in time? Will they find her and save her so she can fulfill her destiny?
The use of Tail instead of Tale for story and Magik instead of Magic is intended for these short stories. A great play on words from King Campbell
Patty Lyne Fletcher in her own words (October 2017
About me and my crew
I’m a single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom I am very proud. I have a great son-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren. Three girls, and two boys. I hope to be able to write more about them later on. I own and handle a Black Labrador from The Seeing Eye™ named Campbell Lee—a.k.a. Bubba Lee or King Campbell, to give just a couple of his nicknames.
About my blindness
I was born one and a half months premature. My blindness was caused by my being given too much oxygen in the incubator. I was partially sighted until 1991, at which time I lost my sight due to an infection after cataract surgery and high eye pressure. I used a cane for 31 years before making the change to a guide dog.
Where I live and work
Currently, I live and work in Kingsport, Tenn. I used to work for CONTACT-CONCERN of Northeast Tennessee, Inc. I left that position in order to spend time with family and pursue my writing full time.
Why I write.
I wrote Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life to tell the story of how going to The Seeing Eye™ and getting Campbell, learning to love, handle, and work him, then coming home and adding him to my life, gave me true freedom. I tell of how changing from being a 31-year cane user to being a guide dog handler taught me things about myself I had never known before. I tell of the wonderment I experienced when I finally took that chance.
A major goal of mine is to help others who find themselves in domestic violence situations. I also want to help others learn more about mental illnesses and how different situations and environments can drastically affect those with such challenges. I tell how training affected me physically as a result of the fibromyalgia I deal with, along with the side effects of the medications I take. I focus on bipolar disorder, on how it can go horribly wrong and cause a person to behave in ways they normally would not.
Another thing I have attempted to show is how, in certain institutional settings, attachments can develop—and how those attachments can become unhealthy for all concerned if they are not handled correctly. Most simply, I want others to know more about me.
In Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye, it is King Campbell Super Seeing Eye Dog A.K.A Bubba’s turn to tell his tale.
While helping to ready a group of pups to go and meet their puppy raiser families, so they too, might one-day become Seeing Eye dogs, he tells of what it was like for him, to grow up and become a Seeing Eye dog.
My hobbies include reading, writing, music, and standup comedy. I also like nature walks, light hiking, tent camping, and fishing. No, I am not afraid to bait a hook.
Music I enjoy
My favorite types of music are classic rock, rhythm and blues, and classic country, as well as some present-day country music. I also like meditation music.
My favorite books and authors
I enjoy fantasy, science fiction, and books about the supernatural. I love the books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and many more. My favorite books include
Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.
My spiritual faith
I am a spiritual walker. I claim no particular faith, either Christian or pagan. I simply know that there is God and Goddess, or Mother Father God, as some call her/him. I lean toward the natural approach, or Druidism (Druidry), as it promotes harmony and respect for all beings, including the environment. I am also very interested in herbs and their healing properties.
Corner the Comfort Zone.
Patty & Pals
Bob Cat And Friends
A most excellent interview
USE WHAT YOU WISH…IF YOU ARE SENT AN EBOOK PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW ON AMAZON …OR GOODREADS ETC AND SEND THE LINK TO:
My Anthology Links
December Awethology Light https://www.books2read.com/u/3yPZvB
A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales https://www.books2read.com/u/bzaAML
Legal Notes THE SEEING EYE® and SEEING EYE® are registered trademarks of The
Seeing Eye, Inc.See: http://www.SeeingEye.org