Unis came into my life when I was 16 years old. Looking back I know I did not thoroughly embrace her, I also acknowledge the constant bullying and questioning of my needs had a huge part to do with the way I felt.
Having been born severely deaf and coping well with hearing aids and my daily support, having a service dog of any kind had never entered my mind, why would it?
However, at 12 I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome meaning I was going from deaf to deafblind and along with that diagnosis came a whole multitude of change.
Unis was a huge part of that change.
I loved her the moment I met her but it took me along time to get my head around having her.
The fact that deafblindness is a hidden condition meant I had been able to hide my condition if I chose to and back then I chose to more often than not, after all I just wanted to appear to be like everybody else!
As beautiful as Unis was and is she made me stick out when it was the very last thing I really wanted.
Behind closed doors she was my everything, she understood me more than anybody, she was always there for me, she never doubted me accept on the occasions I refused to take her out with me - stupidly, back then I would rather fall over and hurt myself than be seen safe and sound with my guidedog.
I look back now and can see my being able to accept myself had been made harder by the thoughtless people around me in school. They made my life miserable by offering no encouragement or reassurances that I was ok, that I was doing the right thing in having and using Unis as my sight diminished, in actual fact they went out of their way to suggest I did not need Unis and that I should return her. Without a doubt these were the attitudes that made my life all the more challenging.
That was a time in my life I look back on rarely accept to say this disgraceful treatment of vulnerable children should never ever take place and if in my work I can make that never happen again my suffering was not for nothing.
Unis saw me through those hideous times, she knew how distressing I was finding life, she would sit at my side leaning on me so I knew she was close. In my time of denial and feelings of depression and isolation she has been with me.
On days when I feel anxious she has been there to calm me down. Snuggling up to her and stroking her beautiful silky fur has been assuring and also enabling.
Caring for Unis was initially overwhelming but doing so strengthened our bond.
I am never alone with Unis, she understands me better than anybody. Unis knows when I am at my most anxious, she has been calming and encouraging and has made me go that extra mile on many occasions.
Unis has been more than my eyes over the 6 years I have had her, she has been my best friend, even my therapy, she has kept me sane through the most difficult times.
Sadly Unis has found working with me difficult over the last year and we have together reached the heartbreaking decision that she should retire and enjoy her retirement rather than struggle on looking after me now she has developed anxieties of her own.
Naturally I am devastated and hope my family can keep her as a pet when my new match is found.
Unis will always be special to me, we have been through so much together including some of the most unpleasant experiences in my life and for that I cannot thank her enough.
Even though she cannot deal with the pressures life as a guide dog brings she is still always here for me, she helps keep me calm and focussed on the days I don't feel I want to leave the house. She knows I care more for her than anything and that I need to give her the same consideration and that means having to go out when I really don’t want to and strange as it might sound once I get out I always feel so much better.
Without Unis on those bad days I might have no need to leave the house and my mental health would absolutely suffer.
Before https://therapypet.org I would not call myself a ‘dog person’ in actual fact as a little girl I was quite afraid of dogs. My parents bought a dog to try and help me over my fear, I accepted the dog but had little to do with her, however, when she died I was devastated and when the next family pet dog was brought home, the most gorgeous and fun boxer dog called Dexter I grew to love him, he grew to be big and bouncy but also incredibly affectionate and protective of us all. Without Dexter I would never have opted for a guide dog and in effect missed out on all the positives they bring, not just in guiding me but in everything she has given me over the years.