Sir Thomas and Elsie are getting along better than I could’ve imagined. They read each other not only instinctively but with particular care. Play time happens only when they both want to race around the yard. One tests the other or, somehow, even before posing in the forelegged puppy bow, they communicate. Elsie seems to appreciate that he bounds over her and doesn’t barrel into her. Post-playtime, when she wants to lie in her bed (the one with her name on it, of course), she’ll appreciate it when he really learns to read.
Venturing Out Report #3: Shopping How We Did: Sir Thomas likes to shop. Sometimes, he gets ahead of me while we’re out on a walk.. Not so when shopping. Or, as I discovered, not so when there’s a shopping cart involved. Considering how many times I bashed the the plastic basket into his shoulder (by mistake!) or ran over a front paw with a wheel (by mistake, again!), he sticks by the side of the cart . We’ve been to the grocery store numerous times, the fabric shop and, among other places, the pharmacy (no surprise given the cocktail of meds one takes with PD). What I Learned: “Leave It” is a command we need to work on. He’s good, but I want better than that when we’re passing displays of coffee cake that happen to be exactly the same height as his head. And then there are the shelves stacked […]
Sir Thomas’s brother lives with a twelve-year-old girl and her family. He goes to school with her, both of them navigating the hallways of lockers, onlookers and, unfortunately, jokers. This girl’s story of life with her service dog winds its way around my heart not only because our dogs are related. In some ways, our stories are, too. When blood vessels burst inside my skull, I was twelve-years old. My left side stopped moving and I spent a third of the seventh grade undergoing brain surgery, relearning how to walk and sleeping in the den (my room was on the second floor and managing stairs didn’t happen for a while). Each night, I willed back at least some of my long hair. A shaved head might have been cool to my classmates. The U-shaped scar left over from the surgery, however, looked like a trap door to my gray matter. It was […]
When I applied for a service dog, I prepared myself for much that I figured I’d face with my furry, four-legged cane. I never factored in the need for aliases. Not for me. For him. Names are special. Remember in kindergarten, when you stared down at the chunky crayon letters you wrote and it spelled your very own name? And how important it felt to see your name on labels throughout the classroom: on your cubby, lunchbox, folders? Names are personal. Ask any parent, there’s likely a story behind the children’s names. And on the flip side, names carry adverse personality traits. We’ve all known a [fill in the blank] who rubbed us the wrong way and makes us shudder whenever we hear it. Tommy’s name is special in its own way. He learned it early on. Part of training the pups involves coming for a treat when the individual’s […]
My New Year’s resolve is to Live Large. I’m talking BIG. Super Size. Double or nothing. I’m not referring to Hollywood-bling-private-jet enormity. What I mean involves basic bulk. In other words, wherever I go, there is substantially more of me. Twice as much and then some. And I’m not apologizing for it. In fact, I’m learning to delight in it. The truth is, living with SIr Thomas has introduced me to new experiences. Many I could plan for. The one nuance I couldn’t have predicted – no matter how many books I read on Great Danes or neurologists I talked to about my PD symptoms – relates to size. Of course Tommy tips the scales at more poundage than I; heft is part of his service qualifications. Because he takes up substantial space alongside me, I can lean on him – quite literally. I knew it was big, this introduction of […]
In honor of Pauline Phillips, the advice columnist Dear Abby, whom we’ve all turned to at some point when we seek to understand those around us and in turn better understand ourselves. Dear Tommy, I’ve been a Service Dog for many years. My human and I go everywhere together and he feeds me well, scratches in that really good spot behind my ears and even wipes the sleep gunk from my eyes in the morning. My question is this: Why do strangers frown at my Do Not Pet tag? Do they really think that means my human can’t pet me? Like I never get any affection? How can I get them to see my shiny coat and sparkly eyes before they Tsk Tsk and reach out a hand? -Happy Dog Dear Happy Dog, Sometimes it seems that there are people who see the world as a glass half full of […]
Sometimes when I’m out and about in public, I’m managing so well that strangers regularly ask if I’m training him. At times, it’s easier to smile and nod and walk on (as I secretly apologize to Megan. the trainer, for taking the credit). Other times I say, “No, he’s training me.” Both seem to be true, especially as we figure out new situations together. Like the other day: I’d just finished teaching a class (Tommy’s favorite nap time). Everyone had left and I’d forgotten to take my meds. I literally became frozen in place. This has happened at home in the past and he’s right there to help me from room to room. This was a first, though: Between us and home was an expanse of way more than a room or two. He and I and my three bags of teaching stuff were the only ones in the building, […]
Regardless of the not-so-positive service dog stories I’ve heard about projectile vomiting at a restaurant or refusing to step onto the elevator on the ninth floor, I was not prepared for the number of times the topic of death arises. Some of those times, I hear the stories of Tommy’s older relatives who pass on, leaving a hole in their partners’ hearts as well as in their ability to move through daily activities. Coming to depend on this furry, four-legged cane carries the cost of heartbreak, for we tend to outlive these gentle giants. Our time here is longer, and because these special companions provide so many positives in that span, we go through it all again, and sometimes again. A person may have several dogs in his or her life. I’m young (well, sort of). I may well experience several service dogs in my life. While that is a […]