Graduation Day

Greetings one and all.

As those of you who have been with this blog from the beginning may recall, my visual deteriorations began in October of 1998, resulting in me leaving my university studies in April of 1999.

This was a major blow for me, as it left me not only concerned about my future but also left me feeling like my visual impairment had gotten better of me…

Graduation Day

Over the ensuing years I made a few attempts to return to higher education, but due to further deterioration at extremely inopportune times, these attempts all came to nothing. As each deterioration in my sight took its toll I felt like I was moving farther and farther away from the person I wanted to be. But once my sight had failed completely I thought that I could at least attempt to make plans and try to rebuild.

Key to any such attempt is the ability to be able to get around independently. To this end I began training with the long cane, hated it immediately and unconditionally but gritted my teeth and persevered with it never the less. Then came the Guide Dogs demonstration, the realisation that there may indeed be a far better option for me than the cane, then came a few months of research into Guide Dogs, and then on the 18th of July 2011 came the decision to apply for a guide dog, quite possibly the best decision I have ever made, and the decision which has ultimately lead me to where I am now…

With Commando by my side I have taken on my own home. I returned to full time higher education in an utterly unfamiliar college campus, and in September of last year I returned to the University of Sunderland, with hopes of finally obtaining a degree, finally dealing with what I felt was unfinished business from all those years ago.

I am delighted, dear readers, to be able to tell you all, that this is exactly what I have been able to do, and now it gives me great pleasure to tell you all the story of the day Commando and I graduated from University…

The ceremony took place at 3pm, so Commando and I had some time in the morning before we had to be at the Sunderland Stadium of Light. So, as we often do in such situations, we went out for a nice morning stroll. Then I sorted myself out for the graduation, and of course retrieved Commando’s trusty bow tie, which is only brought out for the most special of occasions.

We arrived at the venue and were ushered through to where we needed to be. At this point I had to adorn the academic regalia for such an occasion, and Commando’s bow tie arrangement was put on for him.

Commando then proceeded to do one of the things he does best, start charming people and making new friends. A number of the universities academic support staff, who play a major part in ensuring that the graduations run smoothly, were quite enamoured with my boy, who of course was just lapping up all the new fuss and attention.

Then the time came for us to take our seats. I had an end seat, so that Commando could have a little more room. We were all talked through the protocol for the event, and then things got under way, starting with the academic parade, featuring the lecturers involved with the faculty of Business and law, who paraded past and took their places on the stage. I’m told that Commando found this absolutely fascinating. Since all of the academics also had to where academic robes and such, I can only imagine his thought to have been something along the lines of “what on earth are those humans wearing?”

Once that was done the ceremony began in earnest. Course by course students were called onto the stage to receive their certificates, along with congratulations from the vice chancellor of the university and the special guests, one of whom was ITN’s Allister Stuart, a very nice man and master of public speaking. Students had been arranged row by row to ensure that everyone was where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there. So row by row the academic support staffs were sending students towards the stage.

When it was the turn of our row, Commando and I were guided down the steps to line up ready to go onto the stage. I had considered attempting to let Commando undertake the guiding for this journey, but after consideration of the circumstances of the event, Commando’s lack of familiarity with the location, plus the fact that if I had let him deal with this there was every chance that we would simply go zooming along the stage, with Commando avoiding everyone who was waiting to congratulate us, seeing them as obstacles to be avoided. So after consultation with my Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor (GDMI) it was decided that having someone guide us would likely be a far better option for all concerned.

We moved gradually down the line as student after student proceeded across the stage to applause from the audience of fellow students, friends and family. Then it was our turn. Just prior to the event I was asked if I’d like Commando’s name mentioned along with my own, when we were called. I was so very pleased to have been asked this, as I am quite sure that were it not for Commando, ever at my side, that I would not have been standing there at that moment. So I gratefully accepted that very kind offer.

Then the moment came. Our names were spoken, and me and my boy were guided onto the stage, to a massive round of applause, warm greetings and congratulations from the special guests and the vice chancellor as we moved across the stage, and then proceeded back to our seats.

The ceremony continued, and closed with the vice chancellor formally conferring our degrees upon us, at which point we were allowed to put on our mortarboard hats. Then there was another academic parade. To make it easier for us to get clear of the crowds at that point Commando and I had been guided to the bottom of the steps by that point, and I was hoping to myself that Commando wouldn’t suddenly make a dash at the passing academics to say hello to someone he recognized. Fortunately though, as ever, my boy stayed exactly where he was supposed to.

So, dear readers, I write this post, a graduate. Having achieved what at times felt like an impossible dream. Even as each attempt to return to University proved unsuccessful I never truly lost hope that perhaps, some day, somehow, I would be able to return to finish what I had started all those years ago. But I’m not sure I ever thought that the key to doing so, the key to re-claiming my life, would be a beautiful dog with a wet nose, wagging tale, and the softest fur… At least, I didn’t think that until I met the dog of this blog, the star of the show, the one and only Commando. My wonderful guide dog ever at my side, ever ready to guide, and ever able to leave me utterly bursting with pride in him, and with nothing but gratitude to Guide Dogs, who ultimately made our partnership possible. Making it possible for me to graduate, and finally end the story of my University career with a much happier ending than first time around. Allowing me to go from feeling like a first class failure, to feeling elation at being the holder of a first class honours degree.

Comments

Craig, 3:49pm Tue 8 Sep 2015:


Hello. thank you so much for the kind comments. Be assured that this is not the end of the blog. For as long as we have adventures to share, and Guide dogs are willing to provide this platform, we shall continue shareing.

Ted, 10:49pm Sun 30 Aug 2015:


Congratulations to you both. I hope this is not the end of the blog.I look forward to your next achievement, but enjoy a rest first. Thank you for sharing your life`s journey.

Sarah, 9:09am Mon 24 Aug 2015:


Craig, You and Commando are ambassdors for working in partnership and offer inspriation to others thinking about joining Univsersity whatever the challenge. A warm Congratulations to you both on your achievements.

A puppy sponsorer, 7:40pm Wed 19 Aug 2015:


Amazing, absolutely brilliant. Many congratulations Craig and Commando. You truely deserve this.

Margaret , 2:52pm Wed 19 Aug 2015:


What an amazing blog.Congratulations to you both. As my husband and and I are puppy walking Valerie at the present time. Your journey reminds us of the reason why we love being involved with guide dogs. Well Done!

Alec, 10:27am Wed 19 Aug 2015:


Great story. Thrilled for you. Dogs are so amazing, guide dogs even more so. Congratulations and keep on onwards and upwards

Audrey, 9:48am Wed 19 Aug 2015:


Well done to you both I am a guide dog financial supporter and your story makes it all worth while. Congratulations and may you enjoy your next stage in your life.

Julie, 9:20pm Tue 18 Aug 2015:


This is a wonderful result for both of you and a fantastic example for everyone experiencing sight loss. Congratulations!

Sam, 7:30pm Tue 18 Aug 2015:


Your momentous achievement brought tears of happiness to me. I hold you both in high respect and commend your determination. Truly heartwarming.

Jayne, 7:11pm Tue 18 Aug 2015:


Fantastic, you should be very proud. I'm also a very proud mum. My son is visual impaired, has been from 2008, like you had the cane training, but didn't pursue it. He has just graduated with a law degree . You are inspirational.

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Craig And Commando

Craig is in his early thirties and he is completely blind. His blog details the day-to-day adventures he experiences with his first guide dog, Commando.

Read Craig and Commando's most recent adventures.