As a service dog, I go everywhere. I’m having a blast exploring Tennessee. Recently we were invited to go to an amusement park called Dollywood.
It was a cold November night, but worth an adventure. I could hear happy-sounding music as we walked around. Dolly has a sweet voice and I’m certain she loves dogs, especially the official service kind.
Christmas decorations and beautiful lights were everywhere.
We rode on a real coal-driven train around the park at night to see some amazing light displays. I didn’t like the loud train whistle, but Mom made sure I was comfortable by giving me lots of treats.
We walked around a lot and Mom had just gotten a new insulin pump that day so her numbers were all over as she adjusted to new settings. I’m always on the job and alerted five times in less than five hours!
It’s a good thing she had lots of treats for me, but she ran out of sugar supplies for herself. Thankfully, Dad bought her some of Dollywood’s famous cinnamon bread with an extra tub of frosting.
We spent the evening enjoying the park with friends from our new church. Thanks, Kathy and Carter Trigg, for treating us to a special evening.
Many of my readers have wondered how I’m doing in Tennessee. Well, I’ll tell all y’all with a few pictures.
First of all, Mom takes me everywhere, so I get to explore places with millions of new smells. So, you know, my nose is busy. Yet I still keep track of the most important scent of all, Mom’s blood sugar.
We went to Cumberland Gap and did a little hiking, so Mom’s blood sugar dropped. I think she was taking a picture of the cannon behind us when I caught her attention with my alert.
For Mom’s birthday, we explored downtown Knoxville, where I found this extra-large dog stuck in play-mode.
He smelled like metal, but that’s because he’s made of chains! Poor boy! He can’t ever reach his ball.
According to Mom, the main street was filled with history, including the Tennessee theatre behind me, where she said a lot of musicians got their start.
One day I got to meet a guy called Elvis. I guess he’s someone famous. He sang to Mom and called her “darlin,’” and kissed her hand. Oh! Mom! Really! If I wasn’t covered in fur, you’d see me blush!
No matter where we go, I always try to squeeze in a nap. It’s not always a place where I can spread out, but I’m used to fitting in small spaces from my early training days. I know I’ll get a chance to stretch later.
Exploring is fun and filled with new smells. My nose goes on overload, but no matter how many different scents I smell, I keep focused on the main scent to keep my Mom’s blood sugars from dropping dangerously low.
I joined Christy on a ladies weekend trip to the Atlantic Ocean, a place called Myrtle Beach, where I met a pirate.
Running on the beach was a lot of fun.
Mom’s friend Tammy took us to a beautiful place called Brookgreen Gardens. I was on sensory smell overload for the greenery and fountains we encountered. The garden is known for its statues and artwork.
Many of them were of dogs. Christy pet one like it was real since it reminded her of Faith, a Great Dane mix she had when I first came to live with her. I gave her a big slurp to lick away her tears.
My favorite statue was the mama and baby bear.
Nearby was a sitting bench that Christy insisted I sit on. I’m not sure why, but she said she couldn’t resist making me look cute. Does this bench make me look cute?
I’m told we were staying in touristy town. I’m not sure what that means, but Christy took lots of pictures of me, including this one that reminded her I’m a lifesaver, no matter where we might find ourselves.
Even if we were swallowed by a shark – but that won’t happen because I do not like water!
I am finding that in Tennessee, the people celebrate everything. A dog could walk around a different festival every weekend and fill his nose with all kinds of good scents.
Recently Mom took me to a street fair in our new hometown of Morristown. While minding my own business and doing my job, my nose led me to a very large furry creature.
At first, Mom thought he might be a famous Star Wars character, but upon closer investigation, we found out Bigfoot was advertising another festival celebrating the big furry creature himself. And I thought he was supposed to be elusive.
On yet another day trip, Dad took Mom and me to a huge store called Bass Pro where I got close to some huge fish. In a giant aquarium.
The place was so big that I got a lot of exercise and took a rest on this crazy fish bench.
I could tell you I caught this huge fish using only my jaws and paws, but that would be what humans call a ‘fish story.’
Besides, if you know me by now, I’d never hurt a living creature. Also, I only eat dog food.
Mom has been busy unpacking and decorating our new house for so long that I was confused when she pulled out the large suitcase and said, “We’re going on a trip.”
Turns out we were flying back to Southern California to visit my Auntie Cindy. I don’t mind airplane rides and this time was special because when we finally landed, an announcement said the captain was retiring and this had been his last flight. I was honored to meet Captain Stuart Kenney with a congratulatory slurp.
Arriving at Auntie Cindy’s house, I met my new fur-cousin, Ella. She took a few sniffs at me and then panicked, running laps so fast around the room, no one could catch her. She hadn’t seen such a big dog before.
But she soon warmed up to me and then wouldn’t leave me alone! Ah, puppies! I’m going to need a vacation from this vacation.
My second adventure was attending an Anaheim Ducks hockey game. Mom loves professional hockey and I got to be an honorary usher.
During the break when they resurface the ice, I also met Wildwing, the Duck’s mascot. He stopped just for me so we could take a picture. He’s so cool.
A day later I had a déjà vu moment as we drove the same road we had taken to get us to Tennessee a few weeks earlier.
This time, we stopped in Laughlin, Nevada, where Christy’s Uncle Clare and Auntie Barb were vacationing. I rode on a riverboat. The water was so clear you could see the rocks on the bottom!
I couldn’t resist photo-bombing Mom’s selfie with Auntie Cindy.
Auntie Cindy took us to the dog beach where I got to pretend to be a lifeguard. Wait a minute, I am a lifeguard. I guard my Mom’s life every day and keep her safe by alerting to low blood sugars.
So why did we fly back to California so soon after leaving? You’ll have to read Mom’s future blog post to find out.
Mom lifts my nose up to meet hers and plants a wet sloppy kiss on it. Humans kiss in a funny way. I prefer slurping.
Mom says we are about to begin a new chapter in our life. Dad says a prayer for God to keep us safe, starts the Jeep and off we go on a road trip.
I like road trips because they usually bring me to my Aunt Cindy’s house where I play with my fur-cousins. But this one seems longer than usual. We had to make a few fun stops like the Jelly Belly Factory for a bag of Belly Flops.
The hostess asked the wrong question about me so Mom told her there is only one question that can be asked legally, “What service does your dog perform?”
Teaching moments like this happen all the time and Mom takes advantage of them to educate the public. Our next stop was one my other human, GraceAnne, loved to go to when she visited her elementary school friend, Sarah, in Bakersfield, CA – a place called Dewar’s Candy Shop.
Mom had me pose for another iconic photo. I wonder how many more photos she will take on this trip?
Ever since we got home from Minnesota in mid-September, Mom has been extremely busy substitute teaching in all kinds of capacities. You see, just because she is an author doesn’t mean she makes loads of money. She has to work to pay for the things she needs until one day she is successful enough to make a living as an author.
Here are some of the adventures I’ve had going with her:
Mom stepped out of her comfort zone and taught high school P.E. Ping pong is such a weird sport.
We returned to Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts, the Junior High where GraceAnne and Jacob (Mom’s two youngest kids) went to school. She taught History and fifth grade.
The school has the coolest mascot: a narwhal!
At Maria Carillo High School we got to teach drama.
Mom loved every minute of this four-day adventure because she met some former students from Kenwood that are now cheerleaders.
We also got to attend our first Homecoming rally.
At Montgomery High School we helped out in dance. Mom knows her boundaries and just watched the fun. I enjoyed tap dancing to “Singing in the Rain” and we met a future jazz-loving superstar named Tucker.
Mom also taught Elementary music but all the teacher left her to do was coloring papers. That didn’t sit well with Mom so she pulled out some tambourines and we sang “BINGO was his name O” with the younger children and she taught the older kids how to make it rain indoors – a very loud and fun technique.
The last spot for the month of October was Junior High art – another one of Mom’s favorite things.
Although sometimes being a substitute teacher is hard, she always sees each job as an adventure, and I get to go along!
A couple years ago, I went to diabetes camp with all my furry friends and their handlers. I donned a life vest as Mom took me in a canoe, paddling us out to the middle of a very deep, dark lake. I perched nervously in the bow of the canoe, watching my mom enjoy the sunny day. When we finally made it back to shore, I hopped out onto dry land, relieved she didn’t make me go for a swim.
I’m not your typical Labrador.
After our canoe trip we stopped for some refreshment because the summer sun was working overtime. A short stroll took us to where people were catapulted off a thing called “The Blob” into the depths of a pond. Most of my furry friends were enjoying chasing a tennis ball into the water.
Mom put my life vest on me again and coaxed me into the water as our friend, Sarah, took the handle on top of the vest and took me further out. Instantly my paws were doggy paddling fast and hard. With Sarah swimming to the middle of the pond, and me at her side, I felt a little confident. We were swimming together.
Then she let go.
All I could see was Mom at the edge of the water, cheering me on. My legs paddled so fast it was over in a few seconds, but it felt like forever.
Once on land and free of the vest, I shook myself off in the middle of a group of my friend’s dog handlers, causing groans and jeers. “It’s just a little water.” I thought.
I hate water.
At home my mom bribes me to get in the bathtub. I enjoy the special treats, but I hate the water.
She tells me I’m not going melt as she hoses me down and suds me up. Didn’t I say in my previous post that dogs don’t know what time is? Well, I do understand time when I’m in the tub or in water. It can’t go fast enough.
When it’s all done and Mom is fluffing me with a towel, I get zoomy.
As Mom opens the bathroom door, I do happy laps around the house. I’m energized and clean thanks to water.
I guess I can endure it for a few minutes, whatever minutes are.
I’m popular wherever I go. But wherever I go, I’m not alone. My handler, Christy, always has her hand on my leash, making sure I don’t wander away from her side. I would never wander. I’m so attached to Christy that while at home, if I’m sleeping in the same room with her and she gets up to leave, it isn’t long after that I go looking for her.
I go everywhere with Christy. One thing always happens when we go into public places. People talk to me as if Christy weren’t even there! It’s like she’s invisible.
I’m a service dog and we are not to be bothered by anyone while we are working. Working means I am wearing my jacket and I’m attached to a leash from my handler’s hand.
No one should acknowledge me while I’m on duty. But they do. People call out to me things like, “Hello puppy,” “good doggy,” and my favorite, “Hello beautiful,” to which Christy responds, “Thank you.”
Christy’s response usually gets the person’s attention, and she can tell them I’m working and should not be bothered, or to always ask before you reach out to pet a service dog. But for some reason, people continue to ignore the fact I’m not walking my person, my person is walking me.
Or maybe Christy has invisibility as her superpower and hasn’t told me yet?
In any case, please acknowledge the handler before the service dog. They are not invisible.
People always tell me how handsome I am. They comment on my brindle coat and think I’m a crossbreed. I am one hundred percent black lab with a little bling! Strangers see me before they notice I’m attached to my handler.
I hear them say, “Hello, beautiful,” to which Christy responds, “Thank you.”
I may be good looking, but my nose is my greatest asset. I wish I could explain to you how it works, but being a dog, I can’t speak human. Christy thought you might like this Ted Talk on how a dog’s nose works.
I smell a lot of things, millions to be exact. But, the most important scent I detect is when Christy’s blood sugar drops. She can’t feel it happening. When it does, I spring into action by grabbing the bar that hangs from my collar.
When she sees me holding it in my mouth, she knows to immediately test her blood sugar. I get a JACKPOT reward for doing my job. Jackpot rewards include high value treats saved for that purpose only. So far, duck jerky is my favorite.
I promise to tell you one day how I learned this super power. But until then, just call me by my superhero name.