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I write in Home and School Mosaics posted recently about a story that shows how God pays attention to every little detail in our lives. One of my favorite verses came to life for me as God blessed us with Nala, so I had to share the story with all of my Home and School Mosaics readers, my blog readers, and Facebook friends and family. We have an awesomely loving God who cares for us so deeply that He loves to be in the midst of everything we do. All we have to do is ask. When we allow God to be a the focus of our lives, He provides not only blessings, but rich lessons that teach us more about Him and draw us closer. I have seen this again so brilliantly clear as I asked God to choose the best partner for me to guide me and love me. Please let me share it with you now.
My monthly post is live today on Homeschool Mosaics. After losing my father just a week and a half before, Nala, my new guide dog, appeared at my door to brighten my world with her sweet personality. Find out about her home training experience which was new to me, but worked out perfectly. God always knows what is in store for us and has the perfect plan! Don’t you just love that about Him? He loves us so much.
Perfect timing! My article about applying for a new guide dog has gone live on Home and School Mosaics! Why perfect timing? Well, the next stage in the process begins this Monday, February the 16th. The waiting is over! We and our fur babies get our own Valentine, Nala! Nala, from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc., is a 1 and 1/2 year old Goldador, Golden Retriever and Labrador mix. This means another article in the series will be lived beginning Monday. I am excited! Little Joe senses that something is up, but he isn’t going anywhere. He will remain with me and continued to be loved just as much as always. Due to the goodness of business owners we know, Little Joe will also get “work” whenever he wants to because they have graciously told us that Little Joe is loved by them, too, and always welcome in their workplaces. I love that, and thank them from the bottom of my heart. Little Joe does, too, because he says he still wants to work. His heart is in it even if his body is slowing. Well, I hope you will read and enjoy this story series. There are a lot of emotions in this for us. As I am excited to bring in a new member of the family, I am heartbroken that it is time for my Joey to retire. Come along as I share, I don’t think you will be disappointed. http://homeschoolmosaics.com/second-match-made-in-heaven/
Today on Home and School Mosaics, I share a story about a great servant with a heart of gold who happens to be Man’s best friend, a dog. He is a hero for all, but to me he will always be my little fur baby, Darge. I share his story to honor Darge and celebrate his retirement of service. Through his story, you can learn a lot about great organizations such as Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc., State Farm’s Bomb and Arson program, Maine Specialty Dogs, and Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall and what they do that is so important. Through Darge’s story, you can also learn lessons that you can apply to your life, too, I think, if you will only look through eyes of love.
By Renée K. Walker
Spring is here, and it has come in roaring for the South where I live. We have experienced the deadliest day of tornadoes since the depression. F3 and F4 tornadoes touched down within just a few miles of my home. Other tornadoes just as strong or stronger touched down in my state and surrounding states killing hundreds. I am so thankful that my family and I are safe. I also pray for my neighbors and others in the South whose families weren’t so fortunate. My topic of choice before the storm and even more so after has been of safety. I have experienced some incidents recently and in the past that have frightened me or at least unnerved this former law enforcement and prison teacher which at one time was very hard to do. Being DeafBlind is enough, of course, to shake the steel nerves of most anyone, but there should be some feeling of safety in one’s surroundings.
As a teacher in juvenile and adult facilities, I have been in very dangerous situations before and even had my life threatened on more than one occasion. The training I received helped me to stay calm and do my job following certain protocols to maintain safety for staff and clients of the facilities. If you fell apart, you did it well after the fact, but you learn to deal with the adrenaline and often become a little addicted to it. Even staring down the barrel of gun didn’t have me shivering in fear when I had a student with me several years ago. The fact that I didn’t react with such uncontrollable fear actually became a negative during the man’s trial because defense attorneys could twist that to reduce the man’s charges and eventually his sentence terms. But becoming Deaf and Blind, my steel-hardened nerves melted quickly, and I suffered panic attacks for the first several years. Even when I was relatively calm, my personality was changed to a more withdrawn and fearful demeanor. Though deaf for many years, the vision change was subtle and slow until the very end when I first realized the loss by a drastic and sudden loss leaving me in a dark and silent world. My fear and personality changes were understandable. The changes were further heightened by the reactions of those I would meet in my new world. People I knew and loved often withdrew or left completely unable to handle the changes in our relationship. Strangers either avoided me or drew close to see the novelty, and a few times sought to deceive or even harm.
I have had cashiers steal my money. People on the street come up to me and wave their hands up close in my face, or if they notice that I sign or can’t understand that someone is speaking to me, come up near me and scream or make a loud noise. People can be very weird. These can be annoying if I even notice them, but I am not particularly frightened of these strange people. The ones that frightened me are like the group of young children who spotted us or actually my guide dog in this case and began to run circles around me screaming. I was later told they were screaming about the “bad dog” and “Get the mean dog out of here.” They ran around us and would swoop in kicking my dog or me. I was punched in the back. My dog was kicked and punched on his back and in his side. These were just children ranging in age from about 4 to 8, but children can be quite strong. Adults around us did nothing and that included store personnel. I kept screaming for someone to grab their kids. No one moved. No one came to my rescue. My husband was with me, but we were raising another guide dog puppy at the time, and he had Anchor. Anchor had been showing signs of really needing to get outside, so my husband was trying to do that thinking I was very close behind him. When my husband realized I wasn’t there, he put Anchor in his kennel in the van and ran back to me where I was doing my best to calm my frightened guide and move out of the store. My husband spoke firmly to the children who ran off towards an adult about 10 feet away who seemed to be glaring at him. My husband didn’t give the adult time to say or do anything and led me quickly out of the store. My guide was traumatized and for several months I couldn’t work him because if children came near he panicked. Southeastern Guide Dogs, where I had gotten the dog, worked tirelessly trying to help me get my beloved dog back to working state. Little Joe is now fine, but it took a lot of work from both of us.
In the years since, I have had other incidents happen, too. Once, on vacation in Florida, my life was verbally threatened at a hotel by several people who took offense to my dog. It isn’t all about my dog, either. A few years ago, someone rang my doorbell. I was expecting a friend at that time, so I opened the door. I normally block the door with my body because I had four dogs at the time and one of them tends to bite when people arrive for some reason. I felt a shove of the door into my shoulder as I instinctively resisted realizing my friend wouldn’t do that. My dogs reacted loudly and physically and within seconds the shoving stopped, and I slammed the door shut. Was that someone trying to harm me or just get my attention in the wrong way? I really didn’t know. I couldn’t call the sheriff because I was totally deaf at the time. It happened very quickly, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get very scared. I was able to convince myself afterwards that it was no big deal. After that, we invested in an emergency call system with 24/7 monitoring for other health reasons. I used it just a few months ago when the doorbell rang, and I wasn’t expecting anyone. Since the first incident, I had learned to not open the door at all if I wasn’t expecting someone. I also ask all my visitors to email or text me as they arrive or develop another signal with them to let me know the person is who I am expecting. When this person or persons didn’t leave quickly and I noticed the dogs acting like people were in the back of the house, I used my system. Sheriff was called and arrived. It turned out to be a friend, but a friend I hadn’t seen in several years and was unaware of my health changes. The sheriff’s deputy actually stated that I should be in an institution or not allowed to ever be alone at the very least. That was humiliating. Getting an emergency call system had been tough for me, since I felt elderly and incompetent, but it was useful, so you learn to deal with it. Now I was being told that I shouldn’t be taking care of myself at all and possibly locked away.
Just a few weeks ago, a trip to a local college to walk with my guide dog and another family pet took a bit of a frightening turn. We were walking across a large field section of the campus. Due to construction, we were away from the usual path, but it was an easy field to walk. My husband was in front with our pet. I was behind with Little Joe. Suddenly Little Joe came to a dead stop. I stopped, but I couldn’t find any immediate obstacles. Little Joe didn’t try to move me in another direction. He just stood perfectly still. All of a sudden, I felt Little Joe move into me hard and then jump to the side and back of me. I also felt his body shiver with fear. This scared me considerably, since I had no way of knowing what was happening or about to happen. My husband reached for me and pulled me further to the side as I explained that something must have hit and scared Little Joe. My husband explained that a woman had approached us walking quickly in a power walk method carrying a large, broken tree branch like a walking stick. Instead of going around us, she plowed forward straight into us and begin swinging the large branch side to side very fast and loudly and forcefully saying, “Out of my way; Out of my way.” In the process, she had hit little Joe on the backside with the stick. I was frightened and angry, but I had no recourse as she just walked away ignoring our calls.
These incidents and others over the years have made me wary when I am out, but I have continued to try to explore further into my dark and silent world. I don’t want to be so frightened that I sit in my safe chair in my little room at home. I want to live my life and live it well. My husband and some friends worry about me and want to know how to handle these situations, but how? You don’t expect people to act this way, and you certainly don’t want to assume that everyone is out to get you and bully people who venture near me. Not only would that be wrong, but it would probably result in lawsuits or arrests. Now we remain on guard when out, but we have no idea what we really should do to handle these situations. We just will handle them as best we can as the situations arise being ever watchful. Life is stressful and even frightening in this dark and silent world just fearing the unknown objects, drop offs, and barriers. I should be able to find safe and helpful hands in the dark, don’t you think?
Yes, for every person that has tried to drive me into seclusion, there are dozens of others who shower Little Joe and me with blessings every day. Those are the people that keep me moving forward in strength through the dark silence.
If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Dr, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com. You can also check me out at www.facebook.com/reneekwalker.
Published in the Spring 2011 edition of Good Cheer, an international magazine for the DeafBlind by the DeafBlind.