by Jim Price
Megan Dean was only 10 when she was told she was losing her sight. Almost immediately, she began planning for a Guide Dog. Two of her cousins have them, so she knew all about it. Eight years later she finally got her wish but it wasn't what she had expected.
"Oh my goodness," she gushed, during a break from training at Guide Dogs for the Blind's Oregon campus in 2008. "It was so nerve-wracking. I was sick to my stomach, I was so nervous and excited. The morning of "Dog Day," the instructors gave us the name and breed of our dogs, but it wasn't until after lunch that they called us down. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm finally meeting my dog!'"
Her dog, Tatiana, is a yellow Lab, Golden Retriever cross, one of the lines Guide Dogs for the Blind has carefully bred for guidework. "She's small, only 49 pounds," commented Dean. "When I got her I said something to the trainers about her being dainty. They just laughed and told me not to let her size fool me. She is a much better worker than she appears."
As it turns out, Tatiana wasn't anything like she had anticipated. "She's pretty cautious," Megan explained, "so we didn't bond right away. In fact, it took about four days, but since then it has been amazing." She said that Tatiana was the best present anyone could have given her. "They did a great job of matching us," she said, as she gently patted Tatiana on the head. "She's not a patient dog. She just wants to get into her harness and get to work. In some ways, she's a lot like me, just more of a diva. She's fearless, and very bubbly, very alert. She doesn't want to miss anything. Her attitude is, 'If I'm there, the party's there.' She'll cuddle, but only if there's no one else around."
Megan said going from a cane to a guide dog was an easy transition for her. "Because I relied on my cane so much I figured it was going to be more difficult. As soon as I was able to give up control and let Tatiana guide me it was wonderful. I go ten times faster with her than I did with a cane. It's amazing. I know she'll take care of me. I know I'm not going to bump into things or stab myself with my cane. I know she'll get me where we need to go safely and quickly. She keeps me from being late for classes."
Megan recently moved from Ohio to attend the University of Wyoming. She's majoring in education and hopes to teach fourth grade. And Tatiana? "We just found out that Tatiana absolutely loves the snow," she said. "We have been snowed in and she is having a blast playing in it!"