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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?

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Making sure the chores are done

Hi Friends –

We realize the blog has been really heavy lately; with that in mind, I thought I’d share a story that Dad told Mom after she got home from St. Louis earlier this week.

You’ll need a little backstory to appreciate it, so let’s start there. I have an adopted sister, her name is Wednesday and she’s a Staffordshire terrier mix. [Dad hoped she’d be an anxiety Service Dog, but she quickly washed out after her limited sight and anxiety were discovered – not really part of the story, just sharing…]

Wednesday sleeps in the eldest human puppy’s room every night, they like to cuddle together in her bed and they help each other’s anxiety. This also helps make sure Wednesday doesn’t get involved in the cat’s shenanigans that tend to happen every night after bedtime. She’s learned what “bedtime” means and after the last potty-break of the evening she waits for Mom to walk her to the bedroom.

Apparently, the next step in the process is that both puppies get in bed and Mom tucks them in under their own separate blankets and gives kisses. Wednesday waggles the tail and waits for them both to sing her a song. After that, Mom says “Bye Felica!” [Yes, from the ‘Friday’ Ice Cube movie(s).] Lily answers back with “Bye!” and they go to sleep. Who knows how long this has been happening, but it’s quite a while! If it doesn’t happen Wednesday is a bit sad, or so I’m told.

Fast Forward to This past Sunday. Mom drove the youngest puppy up to boarding school in St. Louis and was coming back Tuesday evening. This, of course, left Dad and me to take care of the others. Mom told Dad that she missed Wednesday, and he had to take over the ritual. Of course, Dad said “No! I don’t. I’m not doing that!!” Mom got him to agree to give her kisses after she goes out and before they trek to the bedroom.

I knew something was missing after we went out the first night, so I followed Lily and Wednesday into the bedroom to make sure they were okay. Dad thought I was being silly and just wanted to play, so he called me out to sleep in his room as I do every night.

Monday comes and after breakfast, we both hang out with him in the office while he works. In the evening we relax in the family room before bedtime, when Dad says it’s time for bed, we both go out, while Lily gets ready for bed. Then, Wednesday goes to her room and I followed to tuck her in and waited for Lily to say “okay, goodnight” Once they were settled I came back out to dad to make sure his coffee is set for the morning and walk him to the bed where we settle in (separately). I figured if Dad wasn’t going to tuck them in I had to.

The next evening Mom was home, so she tucked them in and Dad and I resumed the normal routine of waiting for Dad and greeting the cats in their room. Mom wanted to be sure we shared this. She thought it was hilarious, I just thought I was helping to get the chores done.