Adult Group - Fine Work (Japan)
Something I Treasure
Junko Ato, Gunma (38, acupuncture and moxbustion therapist, female)
"Alice, let's go." The moment I said that, she jumped into the car. Alice was the seeing-eye dog who lived together with me for about eight years. The day she retired was August 31, 2008. She loved humans very much; she was pure at heart, never doubting anybody. On the day of her retirement, she never doubted what I said and got in the car without hesitation because she totally believed I would get in the car after she did. Alice got on the car, and the door slammed shut without me getting in the car. My mother, standing beside me, just said, "It seems she doesn't understand what's happening." Probably Alice could not understand the situation, just wondering, "Why isn't anybody getting in the car?" At first Alice just looked amazed, but gradually felt uneasy but was just staring at us. The car finally started moving. Never having sat on the seat, Alice leaned backward watching through the rear window at us with an interrogating look asking, "Why don't you come with me?"
Before I could say "Thank you" to Alice, the moment of farewell passed away, making me feel like I turned my back on her.
Alice began living with me as my seeing-eye dog about five years after I lost my vision. I became blind at the age of 22 when I graduated from college. With the loss of my vision, all my dreams and targets were also lost. I felt no meaning or value in my being alive and spent every day thinking about dying. But I was either not courageous enough to kill myself. My friends were leading their life to the full at their new company or with their new job. Watching those friends, I was totally filled with solitude. All those days went by, making me only feel sadness and regret, "If I didn't lose vision, I could have had a job I wanted and enjoyed my life." But fortunately enough, I gradually came to think like "I must stand on my own. I must not fall behind my friends any more" with the passage of time. Once that positive thinking was settled in my, I started living every day bending backward to be on my own. I learned braille, practiced walking with a white cane, entered the school for the blind, and studied acupuncture, moxbustion, anma, massage, and shiatsu. I spent five years after my loss of vision frantically and desperately trying to be on my own. But when my graduation drew near, I felt I gradually got accustomed to my life in darkness. I realized I had some more room to breathe, mentally speaking. Then, I noticed there was some of me unable to fully accept the fact I was blind. It then just happened that I was given a chance to think about living with a seeing-eye dog. Being very curious by nature, I decided to live with one. But as it turned out, living with a seeing-eye dog was not easy at all. I had so many things to do everyday. Even so, the fact that there were things I can do really made me feel better. After the start of my life with a seeing-eye dog, it was a matter of course the dog was always beside me. Nobody denies that dogs don't talk as we do. And it's apparent I am blind. But dogs convey their feelings, their happiness and joy, to me by wagging their tails and using their entire body. Even when they are asleep, they make me realize they are really there as they move their body in a big way, dreaming a dream I don't know, and talking in sleep. When I am feeling down, they bring me their toys trying to cheer me up. Dogs don't have language, and I can't see their expressions. But they send me messages in the way they can.
In my life with seeing-eye dogs, they teach me I don't need to compare myself with anybody else and should just enjoy living as it is. I still feel my life is far from what I can feel satisfied with. But sometimes I find myself pleasantly smiling at trifling things happening in my daily life. When I walk, my seeing-eye dogs help me by serving as my sight I lost. Furthermore, they really help me recover the feelings of happiness and joy that I lost.
Alice is now living with one of my acquaintances, not me. And I have a new seeing-eye dog beside me. I go and see Alice from time to time. Whenever I see her, I say "Sorry, I turned my back on you." But she always shows deep affections for me and wants me to love and fondle her as if saying "Bygone. Let's enjoy now." The feeling of remorse I had at that time is always healed by her kind attitude.