I got on the bus last week and took out my cell to pass the time. I opened Face Book and fingered through my status and read that it has been 9 years since I met Verona. I shared the milestone like a good little FB user but the nostalgia stayed with me all day. I wasn’t able to reach out and pet her to say thanks for a wonderful first guide dog experience. It was like not saying “I love you,” to my human family upon leaving for a day’s work.
There are so many reasons for writing this post, from appreciating the people involved in bringing Verona and I together to those who helped me make the decision to retire her and supporting our family so we could keep her and let her live out her retirement with regal dignity.
It’s a little overkill, perhaps, to keep writing about this dog, but, hey, I write about relationships and the most meaningful ones have been with dogs, so, you know, write what you know, right?
Verona continues to provide unconditional love dressed in ebony, a constantly wagging tail, and a gentle nature. She is the only dog in our lives that has generated a fan club and a long list of possible retirement homes when folks heard she was hanging up the harness. All the paratransit bus drivers talked about her, how intelligent she looked, that she “has smart eyes,”. We are featured in the para transit taxi program brochure; when she retired, the local newspaper wrote an article about how much the veterans would miss her. She saw her trainer the other day and actually jumped up to lick her face, prancing around like she was two years old. It is in these moments for which I feel grateful. I am appreciative of the dedication and expert attention to her training and breeding. Our family has benefitted from such a phenomenal dog, she is a true Labrador retriever and the kind of guide dog who became an ambassador because of her character. This is why I write about her so much, have written a book, two poems and dozens of articles about her. She is exceptional. It is this piece of canine personality which grabs our attention and stays with us. It is this type, this definition that sticks to our hearts like Velcro and owns a part of our hearts making us grieve when the animal passes.
People talk about soul mates, and a great guide dog match is similar. Some folks refer to it as a spirit dog, or a heart dog. I felt her unique energy the first time we met and don’t ever want to forget it. The energy still keeps me grounded, gives me confidence.
Here’s to you, Verona, sweet girl, whose ability to trust me and to have been able to take us places and lead us into adventures is the most powerful partnerships I’ve known. Happy ninth anniversary. I love you.