HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAINT, FROM EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER LOVED YOU

My husband and I were greeted in the early morning light today as we’re greeted every morning: As soon as my guide dog, Saint, realized that we were not asleep [notice that I don’t say awake, just not asleep], up he hopped onto the bed, wiggling so hard that he almost fell off. This morning however, was different. The wiggles, the kisses and the pure joy and excitement at [for me, a NOT morning person] just another 6 AM was as it always is.

Except …

It is Saint’s third birthday! *Wags, wiggles, and woohoos all around*

We showered him with pets and kisses and cuddles [not unlike every morning] but we bounced out of bed faster than normal to give him his birthday present, which we’d hidden in his toy box ever since he picked it out himself at the pet store a few days ago.

And the incessant squeaking of the new, stuffy whale, was a welcome and joy-filled sound that echoed throughout the house … all day …

And all throughout the day, I’ve been reflecting on the gift that Saint is to me. But as with all blessings so big, I don’t believe I’ll be able to fully appreciate it as much as I ought; the gift that he is in my life is simply too great. But I will always try.

But more than a simple “Saint is wonderful” post, I want to acknowledge and thank the people that made it possible for me to celebrate these milestones with my happy boy.


I received a touching email this evening from one of Saint’s puppy raisers, wishing him a happy third birthday, and it filled me with such a thankfulness, but also an unexpected bittersweetness that it’s hard to put into words. On the one hand, I’m incredibly grateful for these two women who, during their university years, dedicated months to raising a yellow lab puppy with boundless energy in the hopes that he’d one day be someone’s four-legged tool for independence, safety, and freedom. And I’m beyond thankful that that someone is me.

But on the other hand, I can’t imagine the mix of emotions puppy raisers must experience with each pup that enters their homes for a year, and then returns for training and eventually, to a forever home that is not the one who got them to that point. What kind of emotions swirl about in their hearts as they write an email to their baby boy’s new mom, knowing that it’s where he belongs and what he was meant for, all the while feeling the sadness of not having him close as they once did?

Guide dogs wouldn’t be possible without puppy raisers. My Saint wouldn’t be possible, wouldn’t be the wiggling, energetic, hard-working, blessing that he is, without his puppy raisers. He wouldn’t even be in my life without them, and so many more people that I can’t begin to list them here.

So, even though Saint jumps up on my bed, guides me to all the local coffee shops, keeps me safe in the world and gives me the unconditional love that only a dog can, he is not just mine. He is forever in the hearts of his puppy raisers. He is always in the memories of his trainers, the volunteers, and all those who have loved him, taken care of him, and prepared him for his life as a guide dog. He will always be a part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind family.

I may be his handler and forever mom, but I am the last in a long line to love him. And he wouldn’t be here without all those who came before me. So while Saint is the best boy ever [and I could write that post if you need], this is one moment that I want to say thank you to everyone who brought him here to me.

And there is no way I can say thank you enough.

If you’d like to donate or volunteer with GDB and make a difference in the lives of people with sight loss, as well as life-changing dogs like Saint, please check out GDB’s website to find out more.

2021 REFLECTIONS

I have never been, and never will be, a party girl. In high school and college, while tolerating the celebrations echoing across the city, I sat outside on the porch swing, basking in the cool, fresh breeze of the new year and the glimpses of silence caught between fire crackers.

It’s my favourite moment of the year. Not because I’m a keen celebrator of New Year’s—in fact, the holiday is one I don’t much appreciate and could quite happily do without—but because for a moment, I can be quiet and reflect on the blessings and trials of another year.

The Island Calls

On a walk around the pond last December, while temporarily moved into my parents’ house, I announced to my dad that I wanted to move to a new city in the new year. I budgeted, I wrote lists, and one month later, with my parents’ love, support and packing expertise, I moved into my first above-ground suite and basked in the winter sunlight streaming in through the living room windows.

I learned my routes to the beach, the coffee shop and thoroughly enjoyed the abundance of thrift shops at my fingertips. My dream had come true, and it felt amazing, particularly when I breathed in the scent of salty ocean air. I was home.

cricket’s Chapter

But a few months after settling into my new environs, I came face-to-face with a reality I hoped wouldn’t come for many more years. I wrote the story in a post for my friend, Anneliese’s blog, and please feel free to read it to get the whole story. But on April 23, 2021, I made the decision to retire my first guide dog, Cricket. He was only three years old and many a trainer and fellow guide dog handler said he wasn’t ready to retire. But after several weeks of Cricket refusing his guidework commands and thus, placing me in dangerous situations (i.e. in the middle of crosswalks), I had no choice.

I reverted back to using a white cane, though not very successfully. Two years of working with a guide dog left me longing for the harness and the confidence that Cricket had provided when out and about in the community. So I applied to three guide dog schools and waited to be matched with my second guide dog.

Cricket stayed with me as a retired guide until August when I was able to travel to Michigan to deliver him home to his puppy raiser turned mom. It was bittersweet, watching him recognize the house, his doggy sister, Willow, and bond with his raiser. I felt sad for myself, but happy for him, and so I left Cricket in his new home with a floppy ear drenched in my tears and came home to Canada. Now, with the friendship I’ve developed with his mom, I couldn’t be happier or more thankful for the way God arranged everything.

Meeting The Mr., Soon To Be The Mrs.

On June 16, I met a man. On June 17, I kissed that man. And four months later, when that man asked me to marry him, I said yes!

Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be three things: a writer, a wife, and a mom. And I don’t think anyone, me least of all, saw that second one coming this year, or this quickly.

But I couldn’t be more excited or more thankful. My fiancé is a man of God, loves to hug, is devoutly loyal to his family and loves me unconditionally. We’ve set a wedding date for spring 2022 and are over the moon to begin a married life together. It’s a blessing beyond what I could have hoped for.

And don’t you worry—you’ll get wedding updates!

The Saint and I

With Cricket retiring in May, I didn’t know how long it would be until I would snuggle my new guide dog. But I tried to reconcile the very real fact that it could be close to a year.

But the call came sooner than I expected and I was overwhelmed in the absolute best way. I was chatting with the ladies at the jewelry counter about my wedding ring at the tail end of October when I got the call. They had a dog for me and wanted me in Oregon at Guide Dogs for the Blind to train in THREE WEEKS!

And when Saint came wiggling into my world, I was immediately in love. He was everything I wanted—a boy, a yellow lab and a whirlwind of energy. We trained for two weeks and then came home to begin our new life together. And I couldn’t be more happy, and I don’t think Saint could wag his tail any harder!

The Sad Stuff

As a self-proclaimed pessimist (or realist, if you prefer), I can’t go on without addressing the challenges that the year has brought.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, and a very personal one I’ve experienced is the struggle of friends who disagree on the vaccine. In the summer, I ended a friendship with someone I was extremely close to because of our differing views; it was very clear that our priorities were pulling us in opposite directions.

And in the fall, another friendship that had been touch-and-go for almost two years, ended yet again. While I will not share details for her privacy and mine, I will say that neither of us are innocent, neither of us are to blame completely and both of us have more growing to do and I believe it’s healthier to do it separately. All I hope, in the silence that’s replaced our friendship, is that we can forgive each other and not hold onto the anger. That isn’t the person I want to be, and it isn’t the person I want her to remember, even though that may very well be the case.

Ending friendships hurts. That’s the hard and simple truth. And it’ll take a long time to be okay and look back on those relationships with fondness and not bitterness and anger. Because… I am angry. So angry. And I’ll only get there with the help of Jesus.

Blog Or Not, Here I Come!

But 2021 is also the year that I fulfilled one of my deepest dreams.

I became a blogger.

Not Your Blind Writer started out of a love of writing and a desire to use my voice to normalize disability by sharing my life as a blind woman and writer. Whether that has been accomplished is up to you, my readers, but all I know is that whether anyone continues to read my words or not, I will always continue to write. I feel the call to be a writer in my soul, and nothing will change that.


A fiancé, a guide dog and a blog… oh my!

It hasn’t been the easiest of years, and there will never be a year that is free of struggle. But in the midst of mine, I know I am incredibly blessed. My year began with a move to where my heart has wanted to be for a long time, and it’s ending with Saint guiding me, my fiancé holding my hand, my family and friends surrounding me, and my God clearing the path ahead. And that’s more than enough for me.

So if you’re celebrating with fire crackers, then HAPPY NEW YEAR and go crazy (but safely, please)! And if you’re like me and just like taking a quiet minute to think and reflect on the year that’s ending and the one that’s beginning, take one of those minutes to say thank you. Thank your people for being there for you and that you’ve lived to see another year of adventures.

Happy 2022!