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?

18 thoughts on “The only answer I have

  1. Judy Carroll May 11, 2019 at 11:06 pm Reply

    Dan, I hope you don’t think that SDP is being too intrusive when they ask for updates. It’s only that those of us who have watched the dog’s birth thru the cameras and have donated to their care and training feel as if we are their family too! If they hurt or you hurt, we feel that too and are invested with you in this endeavor. That’s why we are eager to hear how both of you are doing.

  2. Sheila March 5, 2019 at 6:49 pm Reply

    This post touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes too. You answered the form, as far as I am concerned, for SDP perfectly! I feel like I have come to know you, your family and of course, Casper. I pray that he can stay with you and your family through his retirement, because he needs to be. The tears that came to my eyes is when I read the crossing the rainbow bridge, I don’t want to think about that as I am sure you don’t either. I have truly loved reading all your posts and I have come to love Casper!

  3. Tammy Dougherty March 4, 2019 at 5:13 pm Reply

    No This post has truly touched my heart. I too have a GD service partner as I prefer to refer to him. But that is my definition. My boy is going on 9 yo at this point. His face is almost all white at this point and I truly fear that he will not be with me much longer. I can’t even think of the day that he will not be by my side. He has been my best friend and at at least one point my hero. I was in an abusive relationship and at one point was attacked by this person. When I was thrown to the ground my boy did not know what to do but he knew he had to act fast. Great Danes are not agressive but can be protective. He did the only thing her could think of as he watched “daddy” get ready to beat ” mommy”. Well he saved my for he actually took his 220 lb body and laid on top of me and took my beating… I have no idea what I will ever do without him. I can only say I fear the day he crosses over the rainbow bridge. Well thanks for the love you give Casper every day and please pray for me that I will be able to find another baby when the time comes. Thanks again Tammy 😊❤️

    • Casper March 4, 2019 at 5:54 pm Reply

      Tammy – Thanks for sharing, I truly appreciate it. I’m glad you had your boy and you’re in a better place. Yes, I agree they are protective. I remember falling in a crowd one time. Casper’s reaction was to stand over me and block, while I took the moments it takes to asses yourself, figure out you’re alive and what to do next. This is not a task he was taught but just had a sense of what to do before we got to the point where I was ready to brace and get back to vertical. ❤

  4. lufree54 March 4, 2019 at 5:12 pm Reply

    Oh that was beautifully done. Have missed you and was glad to hear from y’all! Love and hugs to Casper, you and all the family.

  5. Lu Freeman March 4, 2019 at 5:10 pm Reply

    Oh Dan – that was PERFECT! I read that with a huge lump in my throat and tears of joy and love for you all. Hugs to all, but especially wonderful Casper whom we’ve loved for so long. Glad the family are all well too – LOL!

  6. Nancy K March 3, 2019 at 10:07 pm Reply

    Answered. Beautifully.

  7. Pauletta Fisher March 3, 2019 at 9:34 pm Reply

    Great update!

  8. elmer blu March 3, 2019 at 9:33 pm Reply

    well thanks for taking the time and I am SO GLAD to HEAR FROM you and DEAR SWEET WONDERFUL CASPER. and YES, you answered It just PERFECTLY. HOPING TO HEAR FROM you guys more often if possible. ENJOY a HAPPY SPRING!!

  9. Kim March 3, 2019 at 6:58 pm Reply


  10. sbose2017 March 3, 2019 at 5:28 pm Reply

    What a beautiful post! I’m almost positive that when a service dog retires, SDP lets him remain in your home. But Carlene or Meghan could tell you for sure.

  11. Dumpsterkitty March 3, 2019 at 5:21 pm Reply

    Aww man! Made me cry too! I just love hearing and seeing this bond. It truly is like no other. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  12. Judi A. March 3, 2019 at 4:23 pm Reply

    The only answer anyone needs. Dog Bless.

  13. wendy March 3, 2019 at 4:19 pm Reply


  14. Diane Stern March 3, 2019 at 4:18 pm Reply


  15. Hilda Cusson March 3, 2019 at 4:12 pm Reply

    ❤ ❤ ❤

  16. B1ackjack March 3, 2019 at 3:58 pm Reply

    May I borrow a tissue? 🙂

  17. Susan March 3, 2019 at 3:56 pm Reply

    One of the most reflective posts I have read from a partner. Thank you from a 5 year CP & volunteer.

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