Good afternoon campbellsworld visitors.
Campbell and I thought we’d just pop in, say hello, and let you know what we’ve been up to.
As you may remember, we’re vacating at home this week, and I must say it has been nice to not feel the pressure of things needing done pushing me this way and that.
It also happens that I’m having some sort of technical issue with my blog and for me and my screen reading program suddenly some of the buttons no longer are visible to me. This has put a crimp in some of the plans I had for my time off but as is my way I’m working on learning a work around.
With that thought in mind, today as I work on the second edition of my first book, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, I’ve decided to practice posting under the current condition of my blog settings, or whatever on earth the Google Gremlins have done while living in campbellsworld and share an excerpt from that first book.
This happens to be the chapter I’m getting ready to rewrite, and I thought you might enjoy seeing it in its original form.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of my first book or any of my other work, please keep reading once the chapter ends to learn all about me and where to buy.
I hope you enjoy the following excerpt of Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life. If you do, please give a like, comment and share.
If you have read, or do read any of my work, please do review…
CHAPTER 10: NEW YORK
Over the weekend, I tried to prepare for my trip to New York. We were to go at the beginning of the coming week, and I was quite nervous about it. I didn’t really know why; I guess it was because I didn’t know what to expect. Finally the day arrived for Drew and Campbell to—as Jeff put it—“take the country girl to the Big City.” I tried to eat breakfast, but Drew kept coming by the table and picking on me. It was all in fun, but a tiny part of me thought about losing him in the crowd and running off to work in Central Park with the artists and the fortune tellers. (That may sound weird, but it’s always been a fantasy of mine!)
Eventually breakfast was over, and I was out in the front waiting for Drew. I sat on a bench smoking and petting Campbell, who was sitting patiently at my feet with his head lying in my lap. I scratched him behind the ears and told him what a beautiful love bug he was.
He looked up at me and licked my chin, as if to say, “Come on, Mom, you’re gonna have to get some new material; everyone knows I’m a beautiful love bug.”
Drew came outside, and we were on our way. When we got in the van, he handed me a pack of snack cakes. “What’s this for?” I asked.
He laughed and said, “Its chocolate. Stress food, darlin’.”
I laughed, began to take the wrapping off, and bit into the chocolate–covered cake.
Just as we were about to pull out, Jeff came up to the van. “So country girl’s going to the Big City?”
I turned in his direction but didn’t say anything.
“Drew, you’d best look out for her,” Jeff said. “She’s liable to run off with the first city slicker that talks to her.”
I smiled, but didn’t join in their conversation.
I guess Drew picked up on that, because once we were on the road, he asked, “So what’s going on with you? You’re awfully quiet.”
I sat eating my cake for a minute and thought about what to say. I suddenly felt as though I might cry with frustration. Even after all that time, I didn’t think Drew truly understood me, how I work.
I started off by saying, “Well, honestly, I’m a little afraid to go to New York.”
“Why? I’m going to be right there with you. I promise not to leave you for a second, and I won’t let anything happen to you. Understand?”
I told him I did understand, that it was simply an irrational fear, and the only thing for me to do was to face it.
He said quietly, “I really hope that you’ll be glad you did.”
There was just a tiny hint of reservation in his voice. I think he was slightly worried about my reaction to all the different kinds of stimulation. If there was one thing we’d all learned about me during training, it was that the more stimulation I was experiencing at one time, the harder it was for me to focus and remain connected to Campbell.
We arrived at the Port Authority, and Drew found a place to park. Once out of the car, we stood together for a minute, and Drew described the view from up top. We headed for the stairs and began to make our way down to the subway platform. Once we’d made it onto the platform, Drew began to describe our surroundings. He also described what would happen when the train pulled in. He described what it would feel like under my feet and what it would sound like. He even went so far as to describe the rush of air that we would feel from the train as it came up in front of us.
I suddenly felt overwhelmed by all that and stepped hesitantly back.
Drew took my arm and steadied me. “We’ll just stand here through a couple of trains,” he said, “and let you watch them, so you’ll know what to expect. It’s okay. You’re in no danger, and I’m right here beside you.”
He kept his voice low and calm, and that went a long way toward soothing my nerves. I stood on the platform with Campbell by my side and waited to see what would happen. As the first train approached and the platform began to vibrate, I felt a little frightened. I reached out and touched Drew’s arm, just to reassure myself that he was still there.
When the train had unloaded, reloaded, and moved on, he asked me what I thought about that.
I sighed a huge sigh. “I’m not sure.”
“Okay, we’ll let another one come and go. Then we’ll see how you feel.”
Another train came rumbling in and stopped at the platform. Again, the same loud noise, the same sharp jolt, and the same swoosh of air. Then, as quickly as it had come, it was gone.
Finally, after the third train, Drew said, “Okay, I think I’m just going to take you sighted guide. I don’t think you’re going to be encountering these often. I’m going to do this so we don’t stress you so badly that you can’t enjoy your trip.”
As we boarded the train, I saw how easy it actually was. I was grateful to Drew for handling it that way; it went a long way toward lessening my fears. When it came time for us to leave the train, I didn’t bother to hold his arm. I simply worked Campbell out of the car and onto the platform. Hell, he had known what to do all along. Once again, the problem was with me, not him.
More and more, that seemed to me to be the case. I found that if I heeded the advice of Drew and others—which was “Follow your dog!”—instead of going about it my way, I did much better. It was becoming increasingly evident to me that I’d been quite the control freak in a lot of things, and King Campbell, as I’d taken to calling him by this time, was seeing to correcting that tendency quite well.
As we stepped out into the city, I immediately started listening to the sounds around me. We started walking, and Drew began to describe what was around us. As we approached our first street crossing, he asked me to listen to the traffic and tell him what I heard. I stood quietly for a minute or two and then said, “The traffic sounds different.”
There was a smile in his voice when he answered. “That’s very good; there’s more traffic in the city. That makes it move more slowly, which makes it quieter. Don’t be deceived by that. When you begin to cross, your object is still the same: Get across the street as quickly and safely as you possibly can.”
We walked down several streets. I remember crossing Fifth Avenue, and I also remember being amazed at how many people were standing at each crosswalk. Drew saw that I was paying attention to the people around me and quickly cautioned me not to do that.
“Don’t pay attention to the people in order to see when it’s time to cross. They might not be paying attention. You need to use your own skill, here. You need to depend on what you’ve learned to get you across the street, no matter who you’re crossing with.”
Eventually, we began to discuss where to eat lunch. Drew asked me what I liked to eat, and I mentioned that I liked Mexican food. So he took me to a great little Mexican place. The name of the place, of all things, was Chevys.
I had to laugh. “A Mexican restaurant called Chevys?”
Drew laughed, too. “You wait! It’s really good. You’ll like it.”
When we got there, I was more than ready for a break. We settled down at our table and began to look at the menu. Finally we were ready to order, and then sat talking while we waited for our food.
As we enjoyed our lunch together, we talked about all sorts of things. Of course I had more guide dog–related questions, but soon our conversation turned to other topics, and we began to talk about things we liked to do and things we’d done. I even shared a bit more about my life with him. I told him how Donnie and I had gotten our start.
I asked a lot of questions that day, but one of the things I asked Drew was how he had been so sure that Campbell and I would be a good match. He was hesitant to answer that question at first, and he gave me a lot of instructor mumbo jumbo. I wasn’t satisfied with that, so I pushed him a little harder. He ended up telling me a funny story.
“Well, the Sunday before we handed out dogs, I walked past your room, and you had your door open. You’d fallen asleep on your bed while reading a book. You were lying flat on your back with one foot propped on the footboard and one leg stretched off to the side. Your arms were spread open over your head, and it occurred to me that at that moment, you looked an awful lot like Campbell when he takes a nap.”
I laughed. “Surely that wasn’t what led you to your decision, was it?”
He was laughing, too. “Well, no, but that was part of it for sure.”
He never really gave me any more answers about that subject, so I just let it drop.
Before we completely changed the subject, though, Drew asked, “You’re not having any doubts, are you?”
I looked up quickly from my plate. “NO! Not at all! He’s mine forever!” Almost unconsciously, I reached down, took Campbell’s leash from under my leg, and held it tightly in my hand.
Drew softened his voice and said, “That’s right; he’s yours forever.” Then he reached across the table and laid his hand over the hand holding the leash. “Sweetheart, no one’s going to take him from you. You’re literally days from finishing your training and going home. That’s your dog; you’ve earned him.”
I thought for just a minute that I’d start crying right there, sitting at the table. But just at that moment, the server came back and asked if we needed anything. I was able to catch my breath as Drew settled the bill. I sat petting Campbell; he nuzzled my hand and gave me a kiss. This made me feel way better, so by the time we were ready to take off again, I was back to my reasonably calm self.
When we got outside, Drew told me we were going to walk all the way back to the Port Authority and not ride the subway at all. I was okay with that. I loved working Campbell any time I could, and it was very interesting to me to pass the different shops and things along the way.
Once again, Drew was describing things to me, and I began to get really caught up in the atmosphere of the city itself. It seemed to me that it was alive. It wasn’t just because of all the people; it was the whole place. It just seemed to have a sort of thrum about it; you could literally feel the energy and vibration of the place in the air. It was all positive for me—or almost. Yes, I could feel a bit of underlying negativity from some of the people passing us on the sidewalk, but for the most part, I could only feel the excitement in the air around me.
As we walked, I felt a hand touching me to my right. All of a sudden, Drew was walking somewhat behind me, between me and the person to my right. He said, “No! Don’t touch them!”
The woman next to me didn’t seem to speak much English, if any, and again she reached out to touch us. I never did understand what she wanted, unless it was to get Campbell and me away from her. But as she reached for us again, Drew again stepped slightly in between us, and said in a firmer voice than before, “No! Don’t touch them!” He had to say it a third time before she stopped.
Somehow or other, I got tickled by this. When we got to the next street crossing, and we were standing there waiting for it to be our turn to cross, I was laughing. Drew asked me what was so funny, and I just couldn’t help myself. I said, “I couldn’t help feeling like one of the Bible characters with leprosy, and I could hear you in my head saying, “Unclean, unclean! NO! Don’t touch them! Unclean!”
A few of the people around us began to laugh, too, and Drew simply said in his best instructor’s voice, “It’s your light. Walk!” I laughed all the way across that street and quite a way down toward the end of the next block.
Sometimes while we were walking, I would become extremely focused on Campbell and myself, on the feeling that there were just the two of us. That is, for a few minutes at a time, it would seem to me that there was no one else there, only he and I. It would also seem to me that I no longer felt Drew’s presence behind me.
Once, I started to turn around and say something to him about this, but Campbell and I were having such fun working together that I forgot it as quickly as I thought it.
When we reached the next intersection, I said to Drew, “For just a few minutes, there, it didn’t even feel like you were behind me.”
He answered, “If I ain’t saying nothing, it means you’re doing a good job.”
I thought nothing more about it, and we began to make our way back up to where we’d left the van.
Later, I would learn from Drew that when I’d had that feeling of his not being behind me, it was because he’d gotten slightly distracted and had fallen just a bit behind me in the crowd, and for just a moment or two, he had lost sight of us. On the one hand, I was very glad he had decided not to tell me that while we were there in New York. On the other hand, I was darned proud of the fact that I’d felt so comfortable with Campbell during those moments that I’d ended up simply pushing away the thought that it didn’t feel like Drew was there and had continued on down the street with my dog. I didn’t like to think about what my reaction might have been had I turned around and realized Drew was not right there. It probably would have caused me to have a panic attack. But once again, Drew had known the correct way to handle the situation, exactly the right thing to say to me, and so the experience I had that day was fantastic.
Once back up on the top of the parking area, Drew and I stopped for a moment. He turned to me, and as we faced each other, he asked, “So, what did you think about your first trip to New York, young lady?”
I stood for a moment, thinking about the day’s events and listening to the sounds of the city around me.
He gently touched my arm. “Hello? Earth to young lady!”
I laughed, a bit embarrassed. “I liked it very much, and I can’t think of a better person to have gone with for my first time.” We stood for a moment or two. Again, I was lost in my own private, happy thoughts. How long we stayed like that, I’m not really sure. It had been a good day for me, and I hoped for Drew as well.
On the way back to the school, we talked about a lot of neat stuff. We talked about music, and Drew played me a couple of songs from a CD he had with him that he really liked. He left me listening to it while he stopped to run an errand. He seemed to listen to mainly country music, and for the most part, that’s just not my thing. But some of the music he listened to was pretty good, so I never had any trouble enjoying anything he played. I even remember asking him about borrowing a couple of the CDs he had so I could burn them to my computer, but we never got around to that.
After he got back in the car from his stop, as we continued the trip back to the school, somehow our conversation turned once again to my other disabilities, mainly my bipolar disorder. I think that topic came up because I asked him to remind me to take my afternoon dose of medications when we got back. He asked me a little more about what those medications did for me, and I tried again to explain to him about bipolar and what it can cause a person to do.
While I do believe that he was paying attention and listening, I don’t think he ever truly understood. That’s a problem for a lot of people, and I never hold it against them. It’s very hard for someone to comprehend this type of thing if they have never experienced it themselves or if they have never lived around someone with the disorder. If you meet someone who suffers from bipolar but is very stable at the time, then if that person becomes sick later on, it can be extremely hard for some to deal with.
I have lost many people over the years to this disorder. For some, it was simply more than they were willing or able to deal with. It’s not their fault; it’s just what it is. It can be very hurtful to observers when someone is in the grip of an episode and has little to no control over what’s happening to them. But again, I don’t hold a lack of understanding against people. I believe that if I want people to be tolerant of me and my disabilities, I need to be tolerant of them and their problems or weaknesses as well.
When we returned to the school, I stopped just before going inside.
He turned and faced me.
I stood for a moment, not at all sure how to say what I felt. Then I found the words.
“Thanks for being you and the kind of instructor you are.”
Before he could answer, I turned, said “Inside!” to Campbell, went through the door, and was gone. I’ve always felt that he would have said something if I had given him the chance, but to this day, I don’t know what it would have been. It probably would have been nothing more than a simple thank you, but since I didn’t stay to find out, I’ll never know.
It’s that kind of thing right there that can, if allowed, be the beginning of a problem. I remind you again, fellow grads: Don’t ever mistake someone’s kindness and professionalism for anything more. It’s not fair to you, and for sure, it’s not fair to them.
To you, the staff, I say: If you think someone’s confused about what they feel, don’t ignore them. That’s not always the best way, and under certain circumstances, it can in fact make the problem worse.
For all concerned, it’s always best to simply speak up and say what you think and feel. If you’re going to have to hurt someone, it’s better to do it quickly rather than to allow a situation to continue until it becomes highly inappropriate and out of control.
Looking back at the circumstances I found myself in, both during my training and after I went home, I see now just how easy it was for me to get all mixed up about a lot of things. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this book. I’m hopeful that my writing about these experiences will enable those who shared them with me and who are reading about them now to understand things a bit better than before. I also hope that my book can help others who find themselves in similar circumstances.
I don’t regret that trip to New York or anything else that happened during my time at The Seeing Eye. It was an experience that will live forever for me. Do I expect Drew and the others on my team to remember half of what I write about in these pages? No, I don’t. Do I hope that if and when he and others read this, they might remember at least some of these things and enjoy them, maybe have a laugh or two over them? Yes, I do, very much. I also hope that it helps to clear things up a bit more for all concerned.
ABOUT ME AND MY WORK…
Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer and Social Media Promotional Assistant.
She is the owner and creator of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing, and is the published author of two books, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, and Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye.
She can also be found in two anthologies which are, December Awethology Light
And A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales
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