By Erika Johnson
This past Saturday our family headed up to New York to watch a miracle happen. Six months ago we dropped off our first precious guide dog puppy at Guiding Eyes for the Blind headquarters to begin his training as a seeing eye dog. Nothing could have prepared us for his graduation day – the day that he and his new handler would begin their life as a team.
For the past 3 weeks Baldwin had been training with a man that we only knew as Tom, and they were creating the bond that would seal them together as partners. We watched eagerly with our three kids in tow as the graduates entered the room two by two. When we saw Baldwin our hearts burst with pride at his confidence and natural ability to lead his new master.
Tom Babinski spoke during the graduation about how Baldwin would be his first guide dog, and about how he already could see what a difference Baldwin was making in his life. He talked about how Baldwin would make him a better husband and father to his two little girls. We sobbed tears of joy as we let it sink in just how much this dog would mean to this man. Instantly the whole journey was worth it. Every puppy accident, every training class, and all of the love and tears that we put into that dog were worth the sacrifice to see him doing what he had been meant to do all along.
We met Tom after graduation, and I don’t think we could have wished for a better match for our boy. He told us about all of the traveling he has to do for his job and how Baldwin would help him navigate airports and many unfamiliar places that he would need to go. He also talked about how he had not been able to run, but with Baldwin he could again and he trusted him completely. Even my 11 year old son was touched by this experience and through tears told me that he wanted to do this forever because of how his heart felt that day. I think Baldwin taught us much more than we ever taught him. He taught us how to give unselfishly and how amazing it feels to do something for someone else that they could not do alone. What a gift to us this experience has been. We can’t wait to hear all about how Baldwin helps Tom through the coming years.