We drove up to Newark on Sunday for a very special Seeing Eye Night at the Prudential Center, where the Flyers took on the Devils. Except for the Flyers' loss, we all had a fine time and Sparkle clearly enjoyed watching the action both on and off the ice.
The Seeing Eye hosted an information booth on the main concourse, under a colorful banner, and its trainers were on hand to greet fans and answer questions. There were also several dozen Seeing Eye pups on hand, getting some great exposure to new experiences.
Sparkle behaved superbly. She wasn't flustered by the crowds and rode the elevator calmly up to our seats. We had some very steep steps to navigate to get to our seats, which were in the second row in the upper balcony. Sparkle paused at the top to get her bearings, then calmly took the steps one at a time till we reached our row. The seating was very tight, but she tucked herself under my seat and popped her head over the seatback in front of us. Luckily, the seat directly in front of me was empty, and the three youngsters in front of us were delighted to have a pup as company.
Sparkle noticed the loud horn-blaring when goals were scored, and the crowd's chants and cheering, but she was not flustered. On the way back up the stairs after the game, I had one brief scare when she did a 180-degree turn halfway up and was facing the wrong way, back down at the ice. I passed off the backpack to my wife, Cathy, and with one hand gripping the railing, I was able to spin Sparkle back around and get her started again. Once I got her momentum going, she was actually pulling me along, just as a trained guide dog would.
On the drive home, while Sparkle slept in the back of the minivan, I realized that even though we will dearly miss her, she has matured to the point that she is ready for Seeing Eye training and that her time with us is reaching its logical conclusion. Onward and upward, Sparkle!