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Short Stories

I need to share some (short?) stories. I’ll start with the fun one and I’ll separate out the not so fun. I’m posting as me because I’m not hearing Casper’s fun voice, I apologize in advance.

 

Story #1:

 

Every school night we go to bed around the same time. We also feed ourselves and the dogs, mostly the dogs, at the same time every day. Congratulations, we’re 100 yrs. old! – Anyway, I just wanted to point to the routines we and our dogs get into. Every night, when couch time is over, Lauri says “OK, Puppy bed-time!” This way the kids know to come out and take care of their last kitchen needs, and the puppies wake up, and I bring them outside, Wednesday first, then Casper. The dogs know this, and Casper waits on the loveseat for Wednesday to come in, and get led into the room she sleeps in before he even moves a muscle. Except for a couple nights ago, we broke that routine and Wednesday went to bed early, about an hour or so goes by and we’re ready to turn-in. Lauri turns off the television, I get up, and call Casper to the back door. He doesn’t move. I’m less than 5 feet from him. I call him to the door again, more stern this time. He picks up his head and looks at me, but doesn’t move. The 3rd time, I think before I act – I look at him and take a breath. I think to myself, he’s really smart, and he actually outweighs you, so the brute force will not work the way it did when he was a 90-pound puppy; talk to him. I had a funny thought, and grinned, kind of a ‘hold my beer, watch this’ to see what happens. I said, “Hey Casper, Wednesday already went out, and she’s been in bed over an hour, let’s go out and go to bed!”

Sure enough, he hops down off the couch and comes over so we can go outside. We laughed, and he looked at us as like we’re crazy. If you ever think that your animals don’t know what you’re saying to them, I can tell you with certainty, you’re wrong! Here’s how it works, communicate with words and full sentences with tour cats and dogs, they know. Your dogs will respond, and it may surprise you. Your cats, they will still understand, they will not respond, and this will not surprise you.

 

Story #2:

 

Last Monday, I was coming off of my on-call cycle for work and I decided I needed a day to run some errands and to have a lunch date with Lauri. We both work from home, mostly of opposite each other, unless I get paged for work. It may be weird, but even though we see each other virtually 24×7, it’s not always fun, or relaxing. It’s hard to explain, but getting out to lunch together, is a stress relief, at least for me. So I take care of some calls and emails first thing, and Lauri picks a lunch place we haven’t tried yet. It turns out the food was good, the waiter was funny, in that he was super interested in Casper’s work, and enthusiastically showed us pictures and shared stories of his new puppy. The pup was adorable, and as it turns out may be predisposed to service himself. He goes on to tell us how he thinks, maybe, the dog might be alerting to his low blood sugar and shares a story of why he felt this way. We assured him that it is quite possible, and asked that he watch the dog around the times he does his routine injections, and what happens when he’s a bit off his routines. We may just have another service team in the area, Go PUPPY!

Story #3

This one overlaps, as it started on the same day as story #2. We needed to go to a store called Menards, it’s another “big-box” with everything. This particular location is new, and as we enter we see a sticker on the window that states: “Service teams are welcome, please leave your pets at home.” We think, YAY! – As places like Lowe’s are stress inducing now with the number of pets we encounter. I’m a happy guy. I’ll go a few miles out of my way to not have a negative experience. We look around, get the item we went there to get and leave happy. As it turns out, I needed to go get a new kitchen faucet. Lauri picked one she liked online, and I asked if Menards carried it, rather than Lowe’s. She confirmed they both showed the same item, so I went a few more miles up the road. Sadly, not only did they not have the item, we ran into several barking pets in carriages. I exited, as quickly as I could, and looked up the closest Lowes. We get there, and that location also had pets barking at us, and no faucet (I wanted a specific model). We also ran into an official team, with a vest and four paws on the floor. Both dogs passed each other quietly, showing interest of course, but no drama. It was as if they said, ‘how about these pets? Geesh, go to college if you’re going to come in here!’ We left there and had to go to a third store. Finally, no negative interactions, and the faucet I wanted!

I’m really tired of having to share stories of pets in establishments where they don’t belong. It’s stressful before I even leave the house, and potentially dangerous for both of us. In recent years there has been a noticeable uptick in this behavior. It needs to stop, and I fear that it won’t because every time I confront a pet parent in a service environment I’m met with vitriol. Please, if you do this, stop. If you know someone who does this, talk to them and explain why this is unacceptable.

Yes, Menards will be receiving communication from me. I’m not angry anymore, I’m disappointed.

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The only answer I have

Hi Friends –

I received an email last night from Service Dog Project (SDP) requesting an update. Since Casper is donated to me and I do not “own” him they have every right to ask. I quote the word own because that just seems weird to me to own a living being, but it’s appropriate since most organizations require the payment or fundraising that SDP does not. That got me to thinking that I have not shared much of my our life recently; fear not it is not entirely intentional, it is just a function of how long it takes me actually write posts and what I think is, or isn’t interesting to you. My day to day is quite honestly not interesting and rather reclusive.

So, down to the brass tacks. The questions asked were simple. Do we plan on being back in New England? And, how is Casper? (They did also wish the family and I are in good health, and we are, so that was a nice open.) I’m honestly struggling to provide a long-form answer. I’d love to just say: He’s good. He’s happy, healthy and still likes to work. Is that enough of an answer for someone that gifted you the use of a magnificent beast such as Casper? I don’t know.

What else do they care about? Do they want me to speak as Casper and be silly? Do they want to hear how awesome he is? Do they want to hear how hard it is to shoulder the responsibility of a Service Dog and the roller coaster that comes with it? They surely know all of this. I remember having discussions with the trainers on these topics. I just don’t know how to answer in long form, because it is a mix of pure joy and a huge pain in the tail that causes me to wonder if I made a good decision to become a handler in the first place. SDP told me in no uncertain terms that being a handler is a big decision and it wouldn’t be all roses. I totally agree.

Now, I absolutely love Casper, he’s family. He is as much etched in my heart as my wife. Yes, I went there, here’s why. He chose me when he didn’t have to. He was not arranged, and we had to learn how to be in love and we constantly learn how to be better together. A child doesn’t get to choose their parent, so in that sense, he’s not like offspring or even a stepchild (or a pet) who don’t get much input into their relationship and is in some sense, along for the ride.

We have highs and lows, but overall we have each other’s backs. It’s weird if there is an occurrence where we’re not together. [My wife and I both work from home, we’re also together all the time and we love it.] An example of Casper and I not being together would be: One day Casper was cuddled with Lauri in bed (being an ESA of sorts) when she was not feeling well, and I was working at my desk (boring). My daughter called from school and needed me to pick her up and sign her out sick. They were both so sound asleep and cute I grabbed a cane and headed out to run to the school. Neither even knew I left and came back, but it was so weird, and I hated not having him there. Casper is asleep next to me now as I write in the office even though he has much more comfortable options in other rooms; we choose to be together. There are other times, like when I’ve mowed the lawn and I leave him inside. I get reports when I come back that he stands at the door watching me, and greets me like a puppy when I come back. When I get ready to leave the house I ask Casper if he wants to work, I do not force him. If I get shoes on, he’s up. If I open the drawer with his gear, he’s up. I hold his harness open and he walks into it by choice with a full on “happy puppy” tail wag accompaniment. Those are choices people! This is why, to me, it’s a choice, just like deciding to stay married. My wife had options, my dog – had options. They both choose me repeatedly. That’s a pretty amazing thing.

This morning, as I poured my coffee in an open top mug (as opposed to a travel tumbler I use at my desk to avoid spills on company property) I called for Casper. He immediately came over. I asked him to “come around” which means, come stand at my left side facing (my) forward. He did, and waited for me to grasp the mug and ask him to “walk on, easy”. He did this while we both watched the coffee gently swish as we moved slowly to the couch. This is a specific task that always calls SDP and Carlene to mind for me. I remember her saying that you should be able to walk together and carry a full cup without spilling. I said okay, but I thought this was fully unattainable and she was insane. Now, we do it all the time! I still think Carlene is crazy, but for various other reasons 😉 …

When I see the gray in his muzzle and think to a time when he doesn’t want to work, or worse when he’s ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge, I get choked up. (…and he just came to check on me as I wiped a tear – Because I can’t even write it!) I haven’t read my contact with SDP in forever, but I hope he’s not requested back to the farm for retirement. Those of you who aren’t handlers and read this may know the bond, but you don’t fully KNOW, just trust me.

Does this answer the question? I don’t know, I hope it does?