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.