A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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Big next steps of the four-paw variety
08 Aug
By 2020Visionquest
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Five golden and black lab puppies with green collars are posed in an adorable fashion with a green sign that says "GUIDE DOG PUPPY".
Photo courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“Achieve a Vision Beyond Your Sight” – 2020 Vision Quest

As these are the “dog days” of August, it’s fair to share the next step of my guide dog journey. Autumn’s impending retirement has led to me submitting my application for a new pup to Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is one of the charities we support as part of the 2020 Vision Quest mission.

Man with sunglasses, curly hair, and a mauve shirt hugging a happy black and tan lab dog with her tongue out, panting happily.
Autumn may be retiring, but she and Dad Randy are still best buds for life.

Now that my application is complete, I wait for them to review the videos of my work with a cane, the medical forms from my doctor, and the questions from my interview with Will Henry, a man inspired to his career by his meeting with Bill Irwin, famous for completing the Appalachian trail with his guide dog several decades ago!

Fortunately, I don’t have to live up to that legacy. I just have to demonstrate the basic competency in mobility and orientation as well as life stability to ensure they can pass me to the training program to begin the matching process. Which pup is right for me?

The iconic picture of the Mighty Quinn, a golden lab, resting on the summit of Mount Flume in the summertime, with a mountain range and blue sky in the background.

Here is the iconic photo of the Mighty Quinn on Mt. Flume. He loved to hike with Randy and relished every opportunity.

Guide Dogs for the Blind will consider my relatively quick pace, the normally busy presentation schedule, and my active overall lifestyle. Other highly important factors are my strong emotional connection with my past guides, Ostend, Quinn, and Autumn, as well as the fact that sweet Autumn girl will still be residing with us in retirement. I’ll trust the trainers to find a dog with the proper skills for my environment, my temperament and my needs as we all try to find the means to bring this together during these turbulent times of Covid-19. In looking ahead to the next steps, I cannot see the future but I can certainly plan for it.

Ostend (a golden retriever) decked out in Patriots gear with Randy at a football game.

Ostend, Randy’s first guide dog in the early 2000s, decked out in Patriots gear with Randy at a football game.

I listened to the chapters from my book involving my very first travel to Guide Dogs for the Blind to receive my first Guide Dog, Ostend, 20 years ago this month! In “Losing Sight of the World” I describe being at their training facilities as the last vestiges of my sight darkened. There were certainly some difficult parts but the overwhelming result of this time was liberation and freedom as I hadn’t experienced in years. This was simply due to the incredible rewards a guide dog brings to our life.

For once, I won’t be asking a new guide to also provide the essential companionship and love which I find so valuable in my dog partners. Oh, I fully expect to revel in that gift as a likely benefit of our bond, but I’m not desperately lacking in it as Autumn is still with me giving that in awesome amounts. This time, the match will be open to all those benefits as we advance through learning each other and developing the skills to give me back the confidence and independence which has slowly eased away due to Autumn’s need to reduce her work at this juncture of her life.

Autumn in the grass, head on her paws, looking coy.
Who could resist those eyes??

As my book demonstrates for me and those who read it, my life is often measured in chapters defined by the dogs who journeyed with me at that time. Ostend’s chapter was full of summer years and as is often the case with the feel of the summer, it is all too short. Autumn’s chapter is not complete and I relish in the stories we’ll share beyond her career. I have vision of a future with another pup joining our family to write a chapter of their own.

There is much I won’t know for now about them and certainly it is all more uncertain for the challenge in our world. I have taken the steps I need and now I will proceed with my normal routines and the hope of the paws I believe will be beside me to guide me in my future adventures.  

Be well,
Randy Pierce

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