Lessons Tammy Taught Me - by DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega

Tammy was my first guide dog, a beautiful mixed breed with amber eyes. With her at my side, I had the thrill of gaining full independence. When we became a team, I was the first member of my family to go to college. I doubt I would have been successful had Tammy not been there to anchor me in the turbulent university scene of 1968.

As a small child, I vowed never to let the world see me cry. I knew if I showed fear or weakness, then things could escalate. When frightened I pictured myself as a turtle with a brightly colored shell. I hid my distress behind a smile. There was no fooling Tammy. She saw through to the true state of my hidden heart. She placed her body between me and anyone she thought a threat.

Because she was always there for me, I could admit the vulnerability I had spent years hiding. Her lovely head in my lap granted me permission to cry. Her presence gave me the courage to move on after the tears dried.

Against my better judgment, I let my classmate Annie talk me into attending a party. I didn’t like being surrounded by crowds of people I hardly knew. Henry cornered me and suggested I spend the night with him. I shook my head and gave a tug on Tammy’s leash to leave. I didn’t need to wait for Annie to get out of a situation I found uncomfortable. I was free to walk out the door because Tammy was there.

Although she was brave in my defense, Tammy was timid in her own. One day, I boarded a city bus. Tammy started down the aisle looking for an empty seat. Another passenger shrieked that she was afraid of dogs. I took the seat Tammy had located, and she hurled her fear inspiring ninety pounds into my lap. The driver shouted at the distraught passenger, "Shut up and sit down lady, you're scaring the guide dog."

Tammy greeted each day with joyful enthusiasm. She showed me that yesterday’s sorrows are past and we can only change what is happening now. Much of whom I am, I owe to the lessons she taught me.

With Tammy in my corner, I had the courage to be myself.  In the shelter of her love and total acceptance, I could cry, laugh, and discover who I was and what I wanted out of life.  I could set goals and achieve them.  A dog guide is a mobility aid yes, but she can also be a confessor, a guardian angel, a soul mate and a best friend. Seven successor dogs have left paw prints on my heart. It was Tammy though that taught me to trust in her and to trust in me.

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