March 29, 2013

Take Care

I interrupt the regularly scheduled Travels with Tommy trip update with a view from the morning: Out on the still chilly deck, I watch the predawn sky transform from gray to opalescent pink. Red-winged blackbirds begin to trill and robins sing out their early greetings. The sound that drew me out here, however, was not that of spring but of the unmistakable heaving of a dog about to vomit. The sight interrupting this pastel scene is of a neon yellow streak of bile across the deck. It’s the color of a highlighter, the shape of a slash underlining something important. Among the bits I’m learning about life with a Dane is that this gentle giant has a giant stomach. If it goes too long without food – as long as from dinner to breakfast, sometimes – it gets upset. I suspect it is akin to the churning that can happen […]
March 24, 2013

Travels with Tommy

Act I: Leaving on a Jet Plane Entering the airport felt like stepping onto a movie set. Heads turned to catch a glimpse of the celebrity. Cameras flashed. Oohs and aahs escaped the lips of other travelers who slowed their hurried pace as they passed by us. In addition to this ‘puparazzi,’ all that is crazy-busy about airports drove Tommy’s sensory gage toward the red zone. I used my soothing voice to reassure him as neon lights blinked from all directions, suitcase wheels rumbled from behind, beeps rung out from unidentifiable sources. And the smells. Multitudes of smells. Still, my star companion listened to my cues as I directed him through the scene. He stayed in his service role despite a nervous start and in the end, gave a stellar performance. The Team Tommy Travel Awards Excellence in Boarding: Tommy Practice paid off. I’d been backing and tucking Tommy between […]
March 19, 2013

One Life to Live

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 […]
February 11, 2013

Dance with Me

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, […]