The 2020 Chapters: Part I
In the beginning of 2020, Leland and I started our first semester of college together. It went off without a hitch, it was going splendidly. We were taking the term "Teachers Pet" to a whole new level.
We even got to take some time for ourselves. In February, Leland and I got to take a solo trip to Florida, and speak on behalf of the program that gave me Leland, Southeastern Guide Dogs. I was nervous, naturally, about delivering my speech for SEGD's fundraising breakfast. I was just one woman, who happened to serve her country for a short period of time. What difference could I make?
I discovered, with the help of their very dedicated staff, that my voice could help change the world. Their staff worked with us for the last few months of 2019, and well into the beginning of 2020, helping me prepare my speech, listening to my thoughts and ideas, and helped hone in my public speaking skills.
Then the big day finally came.
We boarded the plane in Nashville, just the two of us, breezing through the whole security process. Leland was a complete rock star about it! He glided through security, never once faltering, never once breaking his professionalism. Wheels left the ground, and we were on our way.
Once we landed in Florida, I spent the rest of the time practicing my speech, with Leland as my audience. Our trainer, Katie, picked us up, and the minutes ticked sluggishly by as I re-read my speech, over and over again. We found our seats for the breakfast, with an amazing plate of food, my stomach churned for what felt like the billionth time. A few members of the SEGD staff came and checked on me, offering encouragement and kind words.
"I can do this, I can do this," I repeated to myself, my own personal mantra for the morning.
My time had come, and as we climbed the stage steps, I shook the hand of Titus, the SEGD CEO. "I can do this, I can do this." I looked down at Lelands' face, gave him the command to sit, and we took off, just like the plane leaving Nashville, we were gliding. The speech went off without a hitch, and we were getting our message across with no issue!
We did it!
In that moment, as we left the stage and found our seat, I knew I was always meant to find SEGD, and Leland. I knew that he was the dog for me, without a doubt. Even as I am typing this, and Leland is sleeping, with all paws in the air, slightly snoring, I know that he's the dog for me. The best part is, SEGD knew it before even I did. The day we were paired together, and he came barreling through the door over to me for the first time, the trainers had put us together for a reason.
With our speech finished and accomplished, it was time to relax and unwind!
Our trainer, Katie, took us to see manatees, and we watched them lounge in the water, I was so envious of them on that hot day. From there, we went to a dog-friendly beach, and as I slipped Leland's vest off of him, his whole body started wriggling. He knew what time it was.
It was time to play-and man, did he play! He leaped, he bounded through the sand, he galloped as far as his leash would let him. Leland was a happy dog. Our work was done. It was time to go home.
But, more on that another day!
- Stefanie + Leland