Doggone it!

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been really sad, and I feel like I need to ask permission to be, in this case. See, I’m not sad for me, or even my family. I’m sad because some of the first handlers that took time with me are facing or have recently faced the retirement of their pups. I remember sitting with them and talking about life and how life changes forever when you bond with your dog. I thought I knew what that was like because I’ve had pets my entire life. Pets are wonderful, and I bond with animals in unique ways, but they were right; it’s different, a Service Dog/Handler bond is unique squared.

As I’m examining how I feel, now it’s not sad, or that is to say, it is not just sad. It’s more complicated than that. There is a whole host of emotions that really don’t need to be listed in order to convey them. We all know that the only thing that is constant is change itself, so whatever change means to you, I guess it’s that.

I’m happy too. Many handlers have made the decision to be handlers for life and that means that they will experience the roller coaster of emotions that comes with working with multiple partners. Some will be fabulous failures, while others will be exemplary and earn their graduation patches. How fantastic!

I’m not sure I’ve ever posted this, but I’ve made a different decision. I know that I don’t feel that I can continue to be handler once Casper decides he’s put on his vest for the final time. I love my dog more than most can imagine, more than I ever imagined. I know what kind of commitment it is, what kind of commitment it needs to be in order to train a successor. I just don’t have it in me. I don’t see that as a weakness, and I honestly don’t give a rip if someone else does. It’s about the relationship and commitment between a good handler and an honest to goodness service dog. I’m of the opinion that if you can’t give all of yourself to the process it’s not fair to expect that effort from your partner. I suppose that view goes well beyond dog and handler for me, it extends to every aspect of my life.

So I’m sad about the closing of chapters because I’ve read that book. I’m excited for them because I know there are other books in series, and only time will tell how the new stories will unfold. I’m also conflicted because I feel like there is a piece of me that wants to honor what Casper has given me by allowing him to help me train his legacy before he retires, and it feels selfish of me to make the decision I’ve made. But, I feel like I’d dishonor him more if I failed in some way to put the appropriate energy into what would be my next partner; and I know that I love him too much to dishonor him and myself in that way.

Now, before you ask, Yes Casper is happy, healthy and shows no sign of slowing down in any way. He loves to work and wags the entire way. But, we both have greys in our muzzles now. We both know how the chapter ends; I find myself now being ever watchful. I keep flipping ahead making sure we have at least a few more chapters before the hero has to make exit.

11 thoughts on “Doggone it!

  1. Liz Ptak June 25, 2018 at 4:57 pm Reply

    That’s very sad to think about in advance – but I do have to realize that we feel that way about our pets, partners, special co-workers, favorite jobs, etc. so that may change (or not ) over time. Either way, when the time comes you will know what’s right for you. Peace.

  2. Sheila June 18, 2018 at 6:41 pm Reply

    I am teary eyed here. I have tried to follow Casper from the day he was born and was so glad to be able to still do that when he was placed with Dan. I can’t imagine when the time comes for Casper to retire and how that will be without him, I didn’t realize that service dogs couldn’t live their full lives with the families they were placed with. Dan, you and Casper are such a great team and Casper is so loved which he will be forever, by you, your family and the ones that have followed Casper. We all love Casper!

    • Casper June 18, 2018 at 6:49 pm Reply

      Casper will Definitely be with me for life! 🙂

  3. Martha Moody June 18, 2018 at 2:58 pm Reply

    Yep. Very teary in New Mexico.

    • Casper June 18, 2018 at 3:17 pm Reply


  4. LauriJo June 16, 2018 at 8:57 pm Reply

    I didn’t know that Dan was going to write this and as I read I cried. I know that Casper’s retirement is something that will be extremely hard for both of them. I also know that time slips by so fast and it will be here far too soon. I have watched Dan cry at the idea. We can’t even consider the eventuality of his passing. He is such a blessing and it means so much to us both that so many people see how miraculous he is too.

    • Casper June 16, 2018 at 9:01 pm Reply

      As I read this comment Casper is sitting next to me on the couch asking for MD to hold his paw. I love this boy!

  5. shaggyle June 16, 2018 at 6:25 pm Reply

    You made me cry. From the time Casper was born he has been “My Little Ghost”. The first time I saw you together in the arena I said, “no, you can’t have him, he is special”. However, as I watched you work together and after your pairing seeing the pictures and reading of your adventures, I realized how special you are and you do belong together. I think Casper will be by your side until he draws his last breath as you are bonded as one. I know you do not even want to think that far ahead, but none of us know the future, and that is probably a good thing. You may very well change your mind down the road…..or not, your choice. But for now keep taking care of each other and treasure your time, enjoy life to the fullest and continue making wonderful memories together.
    hugs to all,

    • Casper June 16, 2018 at 7:49 pm Reply

      He IS very special! I can’t imagine him with anyone else. Thank you for loving him, and us as a team. He will most definitely live out his retirement with us, when that time comes.

  6. Tina Shonk June 16, 2018 at 5:24 pm Reply

    Timing is interesting, I was thinking of this topic earlier this week. I was wondering what each of the handlers would decide to do when retirement age of their dog comes around. I completely respect the decision that each human will need to make – it’s hard enough when a pet loses their pep – can’t imagine that with a service dog. You know that Casper only wants the best for you, forever, not just during his time with you… I also understand that people always have the option of changing their minds… either way, you and your family will always be part of the SDP family! Happy Father’s Day, Dan!

    • Casper June 16, 2018 at 7:46 pm Reply

      Thank you!

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