Stepping out into the lobby at Vitreous, Retina, and Macula Consultants of NY, I was greeted by the familiar faces of Maria and the other ladies of the reception desk. They oohed and aah-ed over Elvis, as my Guiding Eyes trainer Kate and I hit the water fountain to give him some much needed water to calm his panting from our successful trip from CT via train, then learning how to navigate the subway system and streets of NYC. We had all worked really hard to get there. Finally, Lori and Gene, my two favorite employees at VRMNY came out to meet the new addition to my family. I took the harness off of Elvis and allowed them to give him lots of adoring pats and scratches as he wiggled and wagged his way into their hearts. Kate insisted that we make a big fuss over him when we reached our destination so that the next time I needed to come here, he would associate something extremely positive with this location, and therefore remember how to get here. Nurse Lori had sweetly prepared a doggie care package for our arrival, handing me a bag with toys and treats for Elvis. Our meeting was bittersweet, as they had watched my disease progress over the past 11 years, and it had now gotten to the point where I needed the help of a guide dog. I was so grateful to have them be among the first people to meet Elvis, as they were pivotal in helping me over the years adjust to my blindness. As I gave them each a teary-eyed hug, I put on his harness and prepared Elvis for our journey back to Connecticut.
On the way back to Grand Central, Kate and Bill, my BESB mobility instructor, kept a greater distance, watching Elvis and I work together from afar. I was immediately sweating, both from exertion and nerves as we bobbed and weaved our way down the sidewalk on our 17 block walk back to the terminal. About three blocks from Grand Central, Kate had us stop and regroup. She explained to me that Grand Central Station must be to Elvis THE most important place he’s ever been to before. In order to make it that important, I had to bring out the special toy we had brought along with us at the time we reach the door to Grand Central, and drop the harness, signaling to him that he could be “at ease” and play with him a lot, saying over and over again, “Good Boy- Grand Central! Good Boy- Grand Central” She wanted me to make a huge fuss over him, so that in the future he would associate Grand Central with a really great, happy place, and that he would always want to go there if I should ever get lost in NY.
With that, we sped our way to Grand Central, hurtling towards the imposing building at lightning speed, dodging strollers, bikers, manhole covers and businessmen on cell phones. As we approached the door, I got excited and began to smile and said repeatedly, “Hup to Grand Central. Atta boy, Hup to Grand Central.” As I opened the heavy wood door to the terminal, I dropped the harness and handle, got down on one knee, cupping his block head in my hands, and said, “Good Boy!” With all the enthusiasm I could muster. Elvis excitedly began to wag his tail, hopping onto my knees to give me a big wet lick on the nose, realizing that we had reached our final destination.
After our little celebration, I looked up from where we stood in the doorway. “Oh no!” I shouted to no one in particular. There I was, in the doorway to Grand Central Market’s Murray’s Cheese Shop, surrounded by piles of Reggiano Parmesan, and cured salamis and Soppressata. I had gone to the wrong door! “Crap!” I muttered to Elvis, who anxiously sat wagging at attention, awaiting his well-deserved treat. Resolving that we were ALMOST there, and that it was MY mistake and not his, I handed Elvis his new toy, as he joyously leapt back and forth, waving it victoriously in the air. “Yes boy, good job” I chuckled out loud as both Bill and Kate came up beside me. We did it. Almost….