Living with Parkinson’s requires flexibility. Yes, yes, a yoga instructor would of course make such a statement. Even as — or especially as — rigidity tries its finest to win the physical battle against my Warrior poses. But armed with an upward-facing dog, I stand my ground. Really. A real dog. That’s where the flexibility comes in. Dogs are pets, right? Guide dogs are for the visually impaired, yes? Service dogs are for, well, service, like opening doors and such, isn’t that true? Right. Yes. And true. But some dogs are also trained specifically for the ever-stiffening, balance-challenged among us. These four-legged companions can extend the physical capabilities that we need to draw on in the various roles of our lives so we can stay active in those roles, from work to parenting to the arts to teaching yoga classes. In being flexible and open, I find I’m fighting for […]
Sir Thomas still lives on the farm with his fabulous trainer. While he passed the Good Citizen test with lots of drool to spare, he’s still learning. And while he is, we’re both taking time to learn all about each other. Like The King and I:. Getting to know you… I stop by the farm. I brush his short black coat, he leans on me for more. Getting to like you…. I work with the trainer. We place his collar and vest on him and practice walking, turning, navigating. I lean on him. Getting to hope you like me… Between visits, I smile and hum to myself: All the beautiful and new things I’m learning about you, day by day.
I feel as though I’m cheating on my old girl, Elsie, when I leave her to go spend time with a younger dog: Sir Thomas. A thirteen-year-old border collie mix, Elsie is the first dog I’ve raised from puppyhood. She was full-grown the day she wagged to greet me as I returned home with my Parkinson’s diagnosis. Well into old age now, she still blinks open an eye (or two) each of the ridiculous number of times I wake during the night. On those nights, I give her extra neck scratches. On some of those nights, when the occasional meltdown renders me teary-eyed, Elsie is there, the lone guest at my pity parties. We’re both getting creaky. She a bit more so than I. Her time is limited. And while the yogi in me knows that all of us are here for a limited time, I’m acutely aware of her […]
Missed a visit with Sir Thomas because I spent the morning at the vet’s with Elsie. She’d been lethargic – not typically a word found in a border collie vocabulary – and, worse, her pupils took up nearly her whole eye and stayed so even in the light. Happily, she’s back to her feisty if still creaky self. The vet increased her meds slightly (sounds familiar…). So it’s a brush and a long wall for her today before heading out to visit the young ‘un. I missed not seeing him for a day No Sir Thomas stories to share, no fur clinging to the slobber he drooled on my pants leg, no loving eyes gazing up into mine. Though we both still have some training to undergo, some more getting-to-know-you get-togethers, we’re close. Soon, I won’t have to leave him. Yes, Sir Thomas, you will be coming home.
My previous canine family members have included working breeds – Shepard, Border Collie – but none of them actually had to work. I required that each sit for a cookie. That maneuver was more about earning a treat – a kind of doggie ‘please’ – than about drawing on their skills. I did teach one dog to lie down and roll over when I pointed a trigger finger at him, a game many guests enjoyed. I’m learning that a working dog – such as a service dog – doesn’t do tricks. A working dog does a job. And when that working dog is Sir Thomas, he look to me as his boss. When I think back on past jobs, my best bosses were the ones who made clear what was expected of me, let me know how well I performed, and offered guidance for new tasks.The least effective bosses played games, […]
While we’ve a ways before officially graduating, Sir T and I have progressed to the next level: A ride. Literally, he bounded into the back of my car eager for an outing. There’s something disconcerting having such a large being in the back. Please may there be no road-rage, drunken, texting, drivers out there while I am, I thought. I eased forward the way I did when we first placed our son in his car seat: slowly; aware of every oncoming, turning or backing up vehicle; frequently glancing in the rear view mirror while talking, cooing, reassuring. We ventured up the street a half mile and back again. Figuratively, Sir T circled and settled in as soon as we left the driveway. He popped up to a sit, though, during my spectacularly slow 180. His head filled the entire rear view mirror. “Lie down,” I said to his reflection in my […]
Who can forget a first kiss? My very first: fifteen, at the beach. First with my husband: second date. First of a college roommate’s: she threw up on his shoes. Each memorable. Each pivotal as well, marking a turning point in the relationship. When Sir Thomas leaned in for a surprisingly delicate and unslobbery show of affection, I knew I wanted more time with him. He’ll soon be coming home with me. But not as insta-service dog, all programmed to my every need. No, like with any strong partnership, we’ll need time to begin the dance of making room for one other, disrupting routines that reveal our charming as well as annoying quirks. And just as best friends and lasting marriages, we’ll gracefully step around toes and occasionally trip over feet. I’m sure we’ll face things we’ll need to work out. I can’t predict what they’ll all be. I’m pretty certain […]