Meet Golden Guide Dog Goldie and her partner, Camille Petrecca

Camille recently (August 2007) contacted us after discovering our huge Land of PureGold. She wanted to share a special message and also let folks know about her book, available in both Braille and large print. Entitled "Golden Moments: Reflections of a Retriever," this heartwarming book tells the true story of how a confirmed white cane user overcame her fear of dogs and now has her dog guide to prove it. The story is suitable for children and adults, and is written from the dog guide's viewpoint.

How Goldy Taught Me about the Invaluable Love of Dogs

By Camille Petrecca

Wethersfield, Connecticut
     “If it doesn’t work out,” I reasoned, “I don’t have to keep it.”  It was unsettling—this pre-guide dog state. Could I move from cane to canine? Dogs! Their growling and jumping intimidated me; their slobbering licks disgusted me. My parents never owned one, and did not think it was a good idea. “Dogs are great for other people, but I would rather use my cane,” I frequently said.
     From 1965 through 1981, I was happy with the white cane. Then, an event plummeted me toward an unexpected and scary option—getting a guide dog.
     In Massachusetts, on my way home from work on a bleak November afternoon, I encountered a careless driver in a camper van. Through the pitter-patter of rain, I heard the alarming rev of a motor to my right. I banged on the vehicle with the cane to alert him of my presence. Apparently, he had no visibility of me, for he blindly began to back out onto the sidewalk. His blaring radio covered up my frantic screams. It could have been the end of my 34-year existence, but thanks to the goodness of G-d, a person quickly ran to my aid. Weeks later, with the help of a mobility instructor, (professionals with expertise in training blind people to travel, I warily resumed walking with the dreaded cane.
     “The accident was not your fault,” everyone assured me. “You are an excellent cane traveler.” Little by little, though, I began to consider the possibility of a Seeing Eye® dog.
     In January of 1983, I was presented with Goldy, a 44-pound enigma.
     “How do you play with a dog?” I asked my roommate, Charlotte Gotz.
     “Well, you rub her tummy, or pet her ears,” she suggested.
     I grimaced as the Golden kissed me, slathering me from head to toe.
     Soon, however, my fear and revulsion faded, and I began to respect, love, and enjoy my new companion.
     When my mother glimpsed my dog for the first time, she was amazed and relieved. She commented, “I didn’t know you would get such a small dog.”
     Goldy erased my life-long phobia of canines, and began to pour her unconditional devotion and intuitive spirit into my mind and heart.
     For five years, I immersed myself in the liberating, graceful motion of travel with her. Then, on a terrible Sunday in March, 1988, she experienced a heart attack, which quickly ended her life. There had been a valve defect which had not shown up until I had taken her home from school. The vet had explained that there were no activity limitations or medications needed, but that she would probably not live past eight.
     Earlier on that day, all seemed ordinary. About forty of us were on a flat hike arranged by the members of the Yankee Council Division of the American Youth Hostel. A strange pattern emerged. Hannah, the golden belonging to my friend Barbara Blejewski, kept bringing Barbara near again and again. When the distance varied, Goldy and I would notice them adjacent to us over and over.
     Goldy’s death happened at a little past five o’clock. I phoned Barb to tell her the awful news.
     “And Hannah wouldn’t eat her supper tonight,” she told me. Did Hannah know of the impending death?
     My sister and brother-in-law, Geri and Richard, brought me to their Glastonbury home. I could not eat or sleep. On Monday, I returned to my Wethersfield condominium, but could not go to my job as rehabilitation counselor. Not one to engage in idle fantasy, I was surprised to received a comforting thought-picture 24-hours after Goldy’s transition.
     There was a huge, grassy meadow. Countless happy dogs were running, playing, wagging their tails, and gleefully telling of the fun they had with their owners when they were on earth. After this peaceful idea descended to my consciousness, I was able to resume a semblance of normalcy. Eating and sleeping well, I returned to work the next day; I was even able to pet other guide dogs.
     My second dog, Hennie, a copper-colored retriever, was my cherished partner until 1998. We had many adventures together as well.
     I needed to describe the intelligence, sensitivity, and multi-faceted personality of Goldy, so I wrote a book, Golden Moments: Reflections of a Retriever. It is available in Braille and large print. The publisher is the Campanian Society, Inc., in Rhinecliff, New York.
     During the spring of 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer. My present black Lab, Faith, was a ray of light to the patients receiving chemotherapy with me.
     I am pleased to report that my health is good; I have been in remission for more than three years.
     I have conquered my fear of dogs and have survived Stage III cancer. Two Goldens and one Black Labrador have enriched my life and brought me and others joy, solace, and love. Those of us willing to abandon fear and receive the gifts of G-d’s friendly caring fur-packaged creatures will most assuredly discover new, surprising dimensions! Learning of the Land of PureGold website, I decided to summarize the inestimable impact my first Golden made and may still be making from her land in the grassy meadow.