Have you ever been separated from someone you love for a long period of time?
For a dog, a few minutes can seem like a lifetime to be gone from your master. Recently, my handler, Christy had COVID and tried to get better at home, but after a week of struggling, she left for the emergency room.
I was left at home because she was too sick to have me by her side. A few hours later, her husband Kevin joined her in the ER. Christy made arrangements for me to be taken care of by friends.
I wasn’t sure what to think.
I felt like I was on vacation because at our friend’s house, I was allowed to be just a dog, whereas at home, I’m a working dog. At this house I had no one to alert on.
Later, when our good friend and trainer, Sarah, was able to take care of me, it was like being at a doggy spa.
Yep, she gave me a bath (I hate baths). But at Sarah’s I had my girlfriend Woflie, my good friend, Kermit, and two other dogs to play with, not to mention two diabetic people for whom I could do my job as a service dog and alert them to low blood sugars.
But what happened to my mom, Christy? Where is she? Would I see her again?
Dogs can’t tell time.
We only know that we miss our people. I really missed my mom. It felt like forever since she kissed my nose and said goodbye. It turns out both Kevin and Christy had to stay in the hospital to get better. In people time, it was four days later when I was reunited with my mom.
I was so happy to see her, I think my tail almost wagged off.
In dog time, a few minutes can feel like forever. Dog people know what I’m talking about. We dogs just want to be with our people and miss you no matter how short a time you’re gone.
Yes, that’s me, dressed as Elvis. Before Mom wrote The Rubber Band Stretches: Rocky’s Story (Rocky impersonates Elvis in this book), she dressed me as Elvis for Dogs for Diabetics annual fundraiser, which had a Las Vegas theme. Her costume was the iconic Las Vegas welcome sign. Everyone wanted picture with the sign, so she shared it as a prop.
Guess what? We won first prize in the costume contest.
The sign was made with lots of glitter. If you know anything about glitter, it gets everywhere and there was no doubt where we had been that day.
Every once in a while, Christy will dress me up in something. I’ve been a pumpkin for Halloween. Together, we once were Batman and Robin (I was Batman). It’s not my favorite thing, wearing a crazy costume.
My favorite thing to wear is my service dog vest. At home, it may seem like I’m off duty because I’m not in my vest. I am always on duty, sniffing out blood sugars, alerting Mom when she’s low, saving her life.
Nothing can stop me from doing my job. I even do it while impersonating Elvis, so Viva Dog Vegas!
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.
A year ago, we flew to Orange County to visit my auntie Cindy. The flight is a little over an hour I love flying because if I’m lucky, I get to meet the captain. This time was no exception as Christy made sure of it.
As soon as the plane came to a stop at the gate, people stood to gather their things and wait in the aisle to leave. In a few minutes, we’d be in the terminal, getting our luggage and I would give my auntie a hello slurp.
No one is moving forward to leave. The air inside the plane is getting warmer and Christy has sweat beading on her forehead. The captain announces there is a problem with the hydraulics and the front door is not opening but technicians are working their hardest to get us off the plane. Christy sits down, people groan and a man across from us is talking on the phone in an angry voice. He gets louder and angrier and now everyone on the plan can hear his conversation.
Christy talks with the nice lady sitting behind the angry man saying, “I’d rather be inconvenienced a few minutes than be in a plane wreck. At least the door didn’t blow off while we were in the air.”
Angry man, with his back to us says for the whole cabin to hear, “Gee Beaver, I‘ve got, (bad word) Pollyanna behind me.”
I know Christy loves being positive and this angry man is not going to squelch her demeanor. Thirty minutes later, the door is still not open, and arrangements are made for all to deplane from the back. Angry man kept his back to us, never looking Christy in the eye, as he pushed past others to leave, cursing all the way.
We waited until everyone had left because Christy wanted to meet the captain and encourage him for his valiant care of the passengers. I showed him my gratitude with sloppy slurps. Sorry, angry man. You missed out.
Thank you, Captain Chris Hansen of Horizon Air, for a pawsitive experience.