Before she retired, Valerie went back to Seeing Eye for a month of evaluation. She did fine there, but she didn't have the constant work like she had with me. After 2.5 weeks of my evaluation, I told them that that was enough and I wanted to retire her. They wanted to send her out as a guide for a third handler! I absolutely refused, citing my ownership, her expenses which many blind people can't afford, and her stress and exhaustion. After talking it over some more, they completed the paperwork in October of my sophomore year, 15 months after I picked up her harness handle for the first time.
I was not known for crying; Beckie and I had been best friends at that point for four years, and having the access issue aththe B&B was the first time she had seen me cry. When I was first considering retirment for Val, I cried more than I had ever cried in my life. I cried with frustration when she was slow and signaling with everything she had that she was too stressed and tired to guide, with anger because it wasn't supposed to be this way since many guides work for 6 years or more, and with loneliness since she was my constant companion. I cried when I realized I could make much better time with my cane. I cried when she always wagged her tail and gave me doggy kisses when I returned from class. Finally, I cried every time I made contact with someone asking if they could take Val, only to be told I should let the school do it or they didn't want her for her expenses, too many dogs already, ETC. After three months of searching, I found a family for her. When the day came to say goodbye, I didn't cry; I had made peace with her retirement, and it was what was best for her.
I was emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially depleted. All of my friends, except one roommate, were graduating that semester. I began missing deadlines, lying to too many people, lost concentration with textbooks, and didn't have interest for my usual activities. Losing my Valerie to retirement was the most overwhelming, personal loss I consciously dealt with. I grew up emotionally reserved, often to the point of detachment, because if I had differing opinions or feelings, I was shouted down by my mother or other authority figures. I think all of these factors built up to trigger my crash into depression.
Many people retire dogs or lose pets; that shouldn't have been so traumatic for me. However, since I had not grieved my losses from adoption and had been subconsciously repressing my feelings about it for years, it sent me over the edge. Just because my mother had happy feelings since she had infertility issues and got a baby does not mean I always shared those feelings. The newborn baby in me grieves my first mother who abandoned me at the hospital because she had six other children to feed and could not feed herself, since we both were malnourished. I grieve the loss of what could have been, the family traditions, the culture and language of Paraguay, of growing up with people who sounded, acted, and looked like me. I grieve the loss of medical history, a birth certificate, and other documents that make it easier to track the past. I grieved never knowing other adopted children or adult role models who could help me deal with these feelings. It's a primal, still opened wound, that I did not, and in many ways, still don't know how to handle. I grieve having a parent who would have let me express these feelings, even if it went against what she felt I should believe about the adoption process.