HER NAME IS
I meant to post this yesterday but I forgot. A little story of the moments before I met my first guide dog.
August 20, 1975. Wednesday
I sit waiting, not patiently, eagerly, anxiously, but definitely not patiently. My classmates surround me, and I wonder briefly if any of them are as eager and anxious as I. They must be, but have any of them been waiting ten years for this very day? I don’t think of my classmates long; my concentration is on what will happen to me in the next minutes and hours.
We sit in a room the staff calls the loading lounge. It’s directly across from the instructors’ room, and I can hear their hushed voices.
Come on, come on! The thought spins and twirls in my brain. It’s time, surely it’s time. Come on!
I hear the instructors come out of their room. They join us and find seats, papers shuffling. I focus on the sound of those papers. Is that it? Is that the list? They give me my answer. It’s not the list yet. It’s a lecture. They tell us how the afternoon will progress, what the procedure will be.
Yes, yes. After this meeting, we return to our rooms. We wait. (I know that waiting will mean pacing the floor for me.) When they call us, we bring our leashes to the instructors’ room, and there we will meet our partner. We will spend the afternoon getting acquainted, then feed, then let the dogs out on the run. And then? Oh goody, more lectures.
I’m listening to their words, but in another part of my mind, a frantic desperate refrain plays over and over again. Will the dog like me? What if the dog doesn’t like me? How long will this take? I want my dog. But what if the dog doesn’t like me? Of course the dog will like me. This is my dream, my goal, the first important goal I have accomplished in my life, a whole seventeen years now. I’ve waited and worked for this so long, and I just know the dog will like me. But—but, what if it doesn’t? What if I can’t keep up? What if I do something wrong? Oh, will the dog like me?
I’m quiet. I don’t speak up much in groups. I listen. I fidget. Cross my legs, uncross them. My hands are constantly moving. I can never keep them still when I’m nervous. Now, my fingers twine and untwine. I fiddle with my fingernails. I twist my fingers together. I rub one hand over the other. I force myself to fold my hands and try to keep them still. It doesn’t work. In seconds, the fidgeting starts again.
Oh, when will this lecture be over? Will the dog like me?
At last, it’s over. Is it time? Are they going to read the list? Damn! People start asking questions, and I just want to scream for them all to shut up!
Please, please, please. Can’t they ask their questions later? The questions have gone on for at least fifteen minutes. Oh, please, I just want to hear the name! Does anything else matter at this moment? No!
Finally! Finally people become quiet; the questions stop, and now we are waiting. Everyone knows what comes next. The instructor shuffles papers again and clears his throat.
Now my brain goes on a new track. Will they read the list in alphabetical order? By last name? Or maybe first name? Maybe by dog name? Perhaps by room number? Birthday? Application date? Oh no, what if I don’t like the name? Could that be possible? No way, I’ll love the name. But what if I don’t? What if it’s a dumb name? Oh, never mind, I’ll love it. But, but, what if the dog doesn’t like me? And the frantic moving of my hands begins again.
Suddenly, the instructor begins to read. I freeze; even my restless fingers are still. I catch my breath. I feel my smile grow with each name he reads. Soon, soon, it will be my turn. I’ll hear the words I’ve been waiting so long to hear. Well, just one word, that name, that all-important name!
I listen as he reads one person’s info, and then the next. And the next. When will it be my turn!
And then, at last, he says:
“Miss Gomes, you are receiving a female black labrador retriever named Quincy. Q u I n c y, Quincy.”
Quincy! Cute. It’s cute. I beam. I think if my smile muscles stretched anymore they might just break right out of my face! I’m so happy, so happy.
They tell us to go to our rooms and wait to be called. We will meet our dogs one at a time. Did I think waiting for the name was too much? It was nothing like waiting to be called to meet my dog. Pace, pace, sit at the desk, write in my journal, pace more. Don’t want to write too much because the braille writer is noisy and what if I miss them calling me? Flip up the face of my watch to feel the hands. How long, how long? Pace, pace. I hear others go down the hall; hear them come back, the sound of doggy toenails clicking on the floor, tags and leash jingling.
Are they ever going to call me? Did they forget me? Did something happen to my dog? What if the dog doesn’t like me?
“Miss Gomes, it’s your turn. Grab your leash and come down to the instructors’ room.”
I answer calmly. I don’t scream out the things hiding behind my lips. “Finally! Far-out!” And all the rest of the joyful exuberant words pushing to be screeched at the top of my voice. But I don’t act like that. So, I feel that smile break out. I take the leash and not calmly at all, I go down to the instructors’ room, ready, oh so ready, to meet my destiny.