Randy leads me along the shoreline, stealing glances at the poodle in the surf. “I’d rather be swimming with Coco,” he says in that voice only I can hear.
And I say to him, “I know you do, my big black Lab with webbed feet. To swim is to be Randy.”
We stroll the gravel path, me telling him how I can’t let him swim in the lake because I can’t see him and couldn’t help him if he got into trouble. And Randy replies that he understands all the special responsibilities he has as a Seeing eye dog.
That’s when George and his English bulldog, Louie, pass us on the path. George and I exchange a quick dog story while Louie and Randy exchange a quick sniff. George says he’s taking Louie to the duck pond, where Louie loves to romp leashless and swim in the pond.
Not five steps farther down the path, I start kicking myself for not asking George if Randy and I could come along to the duck pond. It’s not that I get tongue-tied or can’t think on my feet. It’s that, when given the opportunity to connect, to engage with another person, my default is, “No, thanks anyway.” By doing this, I turn blindness into an even more isolating experience. I tell Randy how miserable and guilty I feel.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, says Randy. “You know, blindness isn’t the toughest part of this life. Sometimes, it’s harder to know what you need and to ask for a hand.”
We stop and gaze out over the water. “Say, Randy,” I begin, “How’d you get so wise?”
“I learn something new every day,” he replies. “A few years back, I didn’t know much. There’s hope for you yet. So, what’s our next move here?”
“How about we turn around and catch up with George and Louie?” I say.
“Attaboy,” says Randy, and off we go.