“Stupid, stupid, stupid.” I smacked myself on the forehead. “I can’t believe I did that.” I pushed my seat back and stood up. I took one step after another until the floor went from hardwood to a soft, thick rug that my toes would get caught in. Three steps to the right, four steps forward. I reached out, feeling a silky leather. I turned and dramatically plopped down on the couch. I sighed, letting the air leave my mouth with frustration. A clicking noise followed behind me, and suddenly I felt warm fur lay against my leg. I reached down to pet the coarse hair of my Black Labrador, Shadow.
“Katie, relax. This isn’t going to change anything. If it does, then you don’t want to be friends with him anyways.” My mom’s voice tried to console me from the kitchen.
“But it does change everything, mom! No one wants to date the blind girl.”
“Well why not? Why would that stop anyone from pursuing you? You’re a great girl, Katie. You may have lost your sight, but you’ve gained so much more.” I felt the couch cushions deflate next to me as my mom sat down.
“He didn’t even know… Now he’s just going to think I’m a weirdo.” I put my head back against the couch, letting out an airy laugh. My mom and I had decided to get frozen yogurt today. Unfortunately, the employee helping us with samples was no other than Jake Hendrickson, a boy I had a huge crush on during my freshman year of high school. Since losing my vision was a recent tragedy, Jake had no idea I couldn’t see. He must not have seen Shadow laying at my feet behind the counter, because when I asked for a sample, he didn’t guide me to where the spoon was. Usually, I’ll have my mom grab it for me and hand it to me, but of course, she was distracted speaking with the cashier. Instead of explaining to Jake that I was blind, I tried to grab the yogurt sample myself. Let’s just say, I grabbed the yogurt instead of the spoon. I had never been more embarrassed.
“He probably is thinking a lot of things.” My mom chuckled. I couldn’t help but laugh along with her.
“The whole school’s going to know.”
“Well, didn’t you think the whole school would know about you going blind? Clearly, they don’t.” My mom gave my knee a light push, and then stood back up. “Feed your dog.”
“Guide dog.” I corrected.
“So if you got your vision back tomorrow, you wouldn’t want Shadow anymore?” She asked.
“Ok, you know that’s not what I’m saying. I love Shadow. I would just love to not have to take him everywhere I go.” I stood up and felt Shadow stand up with me. Even when he wasn’t working, he was still right by my side. “Come on, let’s go eat.” I told him. I could hear his paws click against the hardwood floor as he ran over to his food bowl.
In all honesty, I’m not sure what I would do if Shadow wasn’t constantly by my side. These past few years have been a rollercoaster for me, and it’s reassuring to know that I have my best friend with me no matter what. He’s been through it all with me. He’s experienced it all with me. He was the Robin to my Batman. We shared a bond that no one could understand. He wasn’t just a dog. He was my dog, my eyes, my supporter. He really did it all.
The next morning started off as any usual morning. Breakfast, eight hours of school, then homework on the kitchen table. I rushed through each day, desperate for the next. I wasn’t living, I was just trying to get through life. The realization of this came to me as I was sitting on a wooden chair in our kitchen. I grabbed the smooth top of my laptop and closed it shut.
“Shadow.” I called to my dog. His feet slid across the floor as he stood up from laying at my feet. “We’re going for a walk.” I stated.
Even without vision, I could almost see the look my mom was giving me. “A walk?” She asked.
“Yes. A walk.” I stood up and started walking towards the laundry room, where we kept Shadow’s harness and lead.
“Can we go after I finish dinner?” My mom questioned from the kitchen.
“No, because I’m going now. By myself.”
“Katie…” My mom hesitated. Shadow and I had rarely gone on walks alone. Someone always accompanied us. There were busy streets around my neighborhood, and my mom was always too nervous to let me venture out without another person by my side.
“Shadow knows what he’s doing, mom.” I reassured her. She sighed and I could hear her shoes walking towards the laundry room. “Here, let me put on his vest.”
With Shadow suited up, we made our way outside. The first few steps were terrifying, but I trusted my dog. He guided me up and down the neighborhood until both of us were exhausted.
“Let’s go home, Shadow.” I told him. I could feel him looking back at me in agreement. I directed him back towards the house, and away we went.
As I walked back home, I realized that my mother was right. I may have lost my sight, but I gained so much more. I couldn’t let the fear of not seeing keep me from living the life I wanted to live. I didn’t need to rush through each day. Instead, I needed to grow and learn; to become independent.
“How was your walk?” My mom greeted us as we stepped through the front door.
“It was really good.” I explained. I smiled down at Shadow. He could have easily stopped doing his job and led me astray, but he didn’t. He was the greatest friend I had ever had. He had my back no matter what. He was everywhere I went, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. He truly was my Shadow.