During the ninety minute drive to Springfield-Branson Airport, I wondered for the thousandth time who I would get. Male or female? Black lab, yellow lab, golden retriever, or a golden-lab cross? I was hoping for a hybrid dog just because I wanted to say, “My dog is a GOLDador.”
“I hope you get a blonde girl,” Mom told me for the millionth time.
“Yes, I know you do.” I’d trained my first two guides, Thunder and Molly, both girls. Now instead of selecting my own dog, they would give me one. “I want a dog with a cool name, not something like Andy or Bob.” I had seen boring human names like that amongst the graduates.
Leader Dogs provides travel, room and board, dog, leash, harness, and grooming tools free of charge for every student, all without any government funding. My only expenses for this entire adventure were incidentals and bag-check fees.
As I navigated through security to my gate, I thought about how much easier and harder plane travel with a dog is. Easier because of help getting through the crowds and obstacles of the airport. Harder because of tight spaces on airplanes. There’s barely enough foot room for a human, and that’s where the dog sits. Yet after a couple dogless years and an ocean of tears, I was ready to have the added challenge of getting a large dog into a small foot space again.
At the end of a long layover in Atlanta, I met one of my fellow students, David. He lived in Atlanta, so he didn’t have to endure the almost four hour layover I did. We talked about how excited we were to get our dogs.
“Did you ask for a specific breed?” I asked.
“I told them anything but a German shepherd
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