By: Barbara Siple Milles
Domino, with her long sable coat, floppy ear, and “James Bond feministique” name was teamed with me in April of 2007 at GDB’s San Rafael campus. Among the last of the German Shepherd breed to be issued by GDB, she was perfectly matched for me. Domino’s 12th birthday is April 23, 2017, which brings me to this time for reflection of my beautiful, devoted Domino.
Domino thrived on guide work. Regardless of whether we were in the midst of a hustling, bustling urban environment or a remote back roads hiking trail, she was driven to guide me safely. Since travel and hiking are among my favorite activities, she adapted to a lifestyle that was not at all routine. When she was not resting beneath my desk in my counseling office on a university campus, we were off to tackle a new adventure. For example, Domino has hiked segments of the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail, along with multiple trails in U.S. national parks, including: Zion, Grand Canyon, and Acadia. She did not tire of our travels, whether by car, train, or airplane. Properly prepared, she weathered long flights to Dublin, Ireland and Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Always a trooper for whatever was coming next, she easily became a water dog, enjoying a swim in an accessible lake or sea.
Domino is quite the navigator. One of her strengths is that she always, and I do mean always, follows the same route back from where she began. On a hiking trail where there were multiple options for routes, Domino returned 100 percent of the time to the right choice to get me back to our beginning point – her accuracy is uncanny.
Guide work, as it turns out, is not her only passion. After retiring, she became certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Paws for Love, Reno, as a pet therapy dog. She is responsible for putting smiles on many faces at the Reno VA Hospital with her tail wags and lovable disposition. Veterans in acute care, physicians, nurses and staff alike always enjoy seeing Domino cheerfully step through the doorway each week. Moreover, she patiently lies down at the local library while young children read to her through a “Paws 2 Read” program. Domino, as well as the children, delight in the interaction as they relax while practicing reading.
Truly remarkable and still healthy at almost age 12, Domino has certainly touched the lives of many. Most importantly, she has been my loyal, trusted companion and guide. Moreover, if I must unexpectedly travel or plan a long term trip, many close friends offer to have Domino as their companionable house guest because she is so easy and accommodating to whatever is going on. She is well loved, appreciated, and we hope to have her as a member of our family for years to come. Thank you to GDB for providing me with such an extraordinary dog – I am eternally grateful.
Barbara Siple Milles is a retired clinical psychologist who lives with her husband of 26 years in Incline Village, Nevada, along with Domino and her third guide dog. Blind since 2000, Barbara has gradually lost her vision due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP).