The Matchmaker - by Judy Burch

In the summer of 1974, at the age of nineteen, I attended my first blindness convention in Chicago, my first real trip alone away from my home of Macon, Georgia. Accompanying me was my beautiful Golden Retriever dog guide, Buffy. We had been a working team for two years, and she and I had already been places and done things which I would never have dreamed of doing before she and I met one another.

On this particular day, a friend and I decided to walk to a restaurant a block or so from the hotel for dinner. On the way there, Buffy and I took a little detour into an alley so she could take care of those personal things which dogs must take care of in order to be more comfortable. We walked a number of paces into the alley so that she could have some privacy.

As I removed her harness, Buffy began to wag her tail and pull on her leash a little, indicating that she saw something or someone in which she was interested. At the same time, I heard the jingle of collar and tags as another dog shook its body in greeting.

"Hello," I said. "I am Judy Herndon from Macon, Georgia, and I have my Golden Retriever Leader Dog, Buffy. Who are you and what kind of dog do you have?"

"Hello," said a very pleasant male voice. "I am Rick Burch from St. Louis, and I have my Seeing Eye dog. She's a German Shepherd and her name is Ruthi."

We exchanged a few pleasantries, and all the time I just couldn't get over the wonderful sound of that voice! We then went our separate ways, he with his friends and I with my friend.

After dinner, I decided to take a ride on an L-train. I had never been on a subway, or, for that matter, any type of train, so this would be a new experience for both Buffy and me.

Buffy guided me expertly through the turnstile, and as the train stopped in front of us and the doors open, she walked onto the train as if she had been doing this for years. We enjoyed a very nice ride to the north end of the line, then rode back to where we had started our trip. Buffy and I disembarked and proceeded to walk to the front door of the hotel.

There was a crowd of people standing outside the door. As we were negotiating the crowd, Buffy began to wag her tail.

"Hello," I said.

"Hello," came that wonderful voice which I had heard not very long before.

"I think I'm going to take a walk around the block," I said.

"I'll come with you, if you don't mind," replied the voice.

As it happened, Rick had enjoyed an unusually long dinner with friends. Of thousands of people who could have been at the hotel's front door, who would have thought that we would have returned to the same door at the same time? It simply was meant to be, and I thank my wonderful little matchmaker for introducing me to my future husband-to-be!

Buffy and Ruthi were with us on our wedding day on November 6, 1976. And almost thirty-three years later, we are still sharing our lives with and being guided by wonderful dogs, now a pair of German Shepherds Indy and Melvin

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