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  • Writer's pictureKristin Fleschner

Back to the Seeing Eye

Zoe has given me so much over the ten years of our partnership, but her recent act of love goes above what I could’ve ever imagined. 

PD: A picture of Kristin and Zoe standing on the beach, looking towards the ocean, as the sunsets in a beautiful sky. Costa Rica 2018.
PD: A picture of Kristin and Zoe standing on the beach, looking towards the ocean, as the sunsets in a beautiful sky. Costa Rica 2018.

For many years, I have dreaded her retirement and aging more than almost anything else in my life. A couple years ago, I learned that Zoe’s mom had Laryngeal Paralysis and it was a breathing emergency that took her way too soon. When I learned about Zoe’s mom, I suspected Zoe had it and began some self-management that we continued for several years.

I started seeing subtle changes in Zoe’s Lar Par symptoms a few months ago. I scheduled surgical consultations, limited her activity, guide work, and time outside if it was warm. About a month ago and a week before her surgery, I noticed Zoe started hanging out with the other dogs rather than being my Velcro dog. Previously, if Zoe wasn’t with me inside the house she could be found in my room. She suddenly stopped coming up to my room whether I was there or not. She made several other changes in her routine when out of the harness and we were all trying to figure out what she was thinking. I felt reassured when my family and a friend noticed the changes and confirmed that she was trying to tell me something. 

Around the same time (about 3 weeks ago) I got a call from Seeing Eye asking if I was ready to be matched with a new dog. The timing of this call felt peculiar.  I had submitted my reapplication for a dog in March 2020 when Seeing Eye contacted graduates and encouraged us to reapply early,     because they suspected the pandemic could lengthen the wait time for a match.  The instructor on the other end of the line was Joan, the same instructor that trained Zoe and me and knew the in’s and outs of my day and needs in a successful match for me. 

Joan cut straight to it, and asked if I was ready for a new guide. I learned that there was a dog that stood out as having many of the traits I needed in a dog. Nothing was certain, but she felt that there was potential for a good match in the upcoming class. I don’t share any dog preferences with the The Seeing Eye, because they make such an incredible effort to learn about each person——our habits, our workday, our travel schedule, our walking speed, our living environment—that I trust them with my match, whether it is a small yellow lab or a large German Shepard. It is very cool to witness a match, because after matches are made in class its clear there is no “top dog”, but that each person receives the top dog for them.  It’s the art of the matchmaker. I felt some excitement knowing that Joan, who had proven her matchmaking skills by picking Zoe, thought there might be a match for me. And another instructor from my first class, Kristin, agreed that there was great potential for a good match! It still was not an immediate yes for me. I needed to make it through Zoe’s surgery, before I could take time to decide what was best for Zoe and me. I needed to figure out if my doctor’s supported my travel, this would be my first flight since the pandemic. I needed to complete a few projects at work and get the ball rolling on a few new projects before taking time off to train. 

Zoe continued to change her routines. For the first time she, wanted to sleep with the other dogs rather than be in my room. The next day she waited to go on a car ride (one of her joys) without me. She started sitting in her favorite spot to look out the window throughout the day, rather than next to me wherever I was working. She remained ready to guide, but sometimes I had to search for her, because she was laying on the floor in her favorite sunbeam or playing with my nephews in the next room. 

Zoe’s surgery was a success and having more oxygen than she has had in years has brought newfound levels of goofiness and joy. Witnessing this relieved so much stress.

Zoe has been by my side everyday coming on her tenth year and she knows better than anyone, what a great loss her impeccable guide work, happiness, and presence will be for me. I have no doubt that Zoe sensed me struggling the past few months and sensed the need for change. She began role modeling that change, literally by changing her routine, to show me that we would both be ok. She did what she does best, by guiding me with positive energy to someplace I need, but am hesitant, to go. 

This once hard decision is clear, and I feel confident heading back to The Seeing Eye and letting Zoe write her next chapter (as long as I am still one of her main characters!) And, as quickly as Zoe created a new routine to role model for me, she fell back into her old routine, laying on my feet while I work and resting by my side as the day comes to a close. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than this. Her seeds of peace, confidence, and love will help me open my heart to another guide. 

Bittersweet doesn’t come close to describing how I feel tonight. But the possibility of meeting another creature capable of building a partnership similar to mine and Zoe’s gives me hope.  And after spending over two years almost completely isolated due to being a 2 time organ recipient, I am giddy to see some amazing humans and meet new and old friends at The Seeing Eye.

#ZoesPack #SeeingZoe #TheSeeingEye #DogDay

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