Six years ago began my journey as a guide dog user. I remember dog day with the clarity only a poignant memory can convey. Verona came into my room, I felt her head, stroked her ears, and my life changed forever. One snapshot, one touch, and now I am once again writing about another first, dog two.
This time was a bit different. The 2015 matching process had advanced and we were pre-matched, which provided an entire day to just get to know our dogs before hitting the pavement.
So, on a cold and windy Monday afternoon, once completing the Juno walk, the instructor swapped out the empty harness with a dog. I reached out for the leash and was rewarded with a lick on the hand and a wiggly body against my leg.
“He is a yellow lab and likes to lick,” said the instructor after our damp introduction. I smiled. I did like the way he was leaning against me, not too aloof. I liked that in a dog. I don’t like licking but it certainly wasn’t a deal breaker, as they say. Was this going to be my new partner? I didn’t have time to ponder it, because I lined up and said Forward, and off we went. We took off down the street and I realized that I liked what I felt. His pace was good, I liked what I felt in the handle, too. My first dog had almost no pull just prior to her retirement and I had to work hard at reading her body language. We got back to the training lounge and when the instructor asked if I liked the dog, I said yes, that he seemed like a sweet dog and he was a good pace for me. In two dozen words and a few blocks later, I knew I would be matched with this dog.
By the time you read this, Bailey and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary and he will have hopefully have gained a more mature doggie perspective on the world. Right now, though, he is still a spirited adolescent, requiring equal amounts of discipline and tolerance as he matures.
He is distracted by the pigeons a bit more than I’d like but at least now I pick up on it. I know he is a labra-goat, and I am better prepared for his propensity to investigate all manner of things with his mouth. He makes me laugh with these puppy-like antics, too. Well, not the snarking, but the other silly, innocent things like the way he rubs against a leg for petting and how he plants a full tongue Monty on your face if you lean down within reach. When it takes someone off-guard, I think it is a riot. I think, you entered the danger zone, friend, he’s going to get you.
Finally, so far, the transition from dog one to dog two has been a less harrowing experience than anticipated; I am glad this dog is so different, it helped me make the swap a bit more exciting and less negative. My family has also been part of this dog swap thing and both my husband and daughter understand it because they have witnessed all the stages in the process from Verona’s retirement to bringing home Bailey. As hard as it was for me, my family also had to adjust, get through the emotions of watching me leave for work without Verona and be left witnessing her distress after I left for the day. My husband would say, “Honey, she’s moping,” or my daughter would say, “Mom, the look on her face when you walk out without her breaks my heart,” It was deeply troubling but I kept calling for updates and after a month, Verona began to depend upon my husband more and me less.
Fast forward and here we are, Verona will soon be nine, Bailey has settled in, and even my pet dog, Nikka, has accepted it all albeit with a grumpy, senior dog acceptance.
I am looking forward to finding another special dog themed ornament for my Christmas tree and celebrating another doggie birthday next April. Most of all, I am hoping some of Bailey’s distractions and snarking improves as he grows from a spirited adolescent into a noble and loyal dog with a splash of the Irish cream for coloring and Irish spirit in his boisterous heart.