My little Jingles – joy unbounded, dripping with charm and personality and as superb a guide dog as one can be – now holds the prestigious title (I’m proud to say!) of American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards’ Guide Dog Hero 2013! Wow… just wow!
I nominated Jingles for the Guide Dog category because she is half of the extraordinary tandem team who are my personal heroes… the Dynamic Duo of Service Dogdom are my Jingles and Maizie (Diabetic Alert Dog). In my heart of hearts I felt ours to be a story worth sharing. Never did I imagine some six months later we’d be flown to Hollywood, treated like royalty, meet up with 7 other wonderful people and their equally as inspiring hero dogs and have the awesome opportunity to have our story told to a national audience! This is the stuff of dreams in my very mundane life.
Most of the Hollywood experience is a blur to me… yes, pun intended. I have been legally blind since birth, but lost the majority of my functional vision to Diabetic Retinopathy in my late teens. That old adage “blind in one eye, can’t see out of the other”? That’s me. Through Jingles’ eyes my independence and travel mobility has been greatly enhanced, but she was far too busy being a star at the Beverly Hilton to act as an interpreter for me and describe all the sights around us. So I did as I have done my whole life… I took pictures, and more pictures. Oh, and I took lots of pictures.
Through the magic of my digital camera combined with amazing computer technology I was able to record all the wondrous goings on around me and later relive those moments in brilliant up-close color on my laptop screen. And believe me, every time I look at any of the in excess of 600 photos from the event I’m brought back to that moment and re-experience the whole gamut of emotions. And yes, I pinch myself yet again because I still can’t believe it really happened.
I’ve come away from this experience with a myriad of memories that will last a lifetime, but a few stand out in my mind. I had the honor of meeting two of my all-time favorite celebrities, Betty White and Ryan O’Neal. My usually exuberant little fruit loop Jingles was an absolute little lady with Betty. She sensed she was in the presence of a Hollywood icon and sat quietly, wagging her tail and staring adoringly at her. The sweetest thing?… Jingles placed her paw gently on Betty’s lap (I’m sure she was showing off her gold sparkly peticure!) and when Betty exclaimed, “Oh my darling sweetheart, you look glamorous!”, Jingles thanked her with a gentle yet purposeful Labradorable lick on the face. That’s my girl! When I met Ryan, I explained that I cannot see him… he took my hands and placed them on either side of his face and said, “Can you see me now?” I replied, “Oh Ryan, I’ve waited years to Braille you!” He laughed, patted his pockets and said, “Hey! Where’s my wallet?!” Love that man!
Meeting the other finalists (dogs and their people) was like a homecoming. Over the course of the contest we’d all been supporting and cheering each other on. By the time we met in Hollywood I felt like I’ve known them forever. Coming together, sharing laughter and our common bond with our awesome dogs will live on in my mind much like a holiday gathering…. too brief, too much time gone between visits and lots of fond memories gained!
I extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the AHA staff and all who were part of this once in a lifetime experience. From the moment I was contacted in early August of Jingles’ winning her category to the teary farewell at the hotel the morning after the gala, Jingles, Maizie, I and my guests were treated like royalty and then some. You provided an amazing forum to share my and my one-of-a-kind team’s extraordinary and unique story, and to show the amazing abilities and everlasting bond between working dogs and their handlers. Thank you surely doesn’t seem adequate… but thank you!
Good people, fine dogs, fond memories. What more could a gal hope for?