Yesterday, June 21, was our dogiversary. Seven years ago, my sidekick came wagging into my life. Okay, she wasn’t wagging. She doesn’t have a tail, which is a shame, so I wagged enough for both of us.
Since we met seven years ago, my sidekick and I have been all over the world, having all the adventures. Four years of college at Kenyon, where I learned all about literature and Italy and how to sing in tune with my sidekick’s clarinet and also why chocolate chip cookies are bad for me and bounding through the snow is the best. Then a year in Italy, where we conquered the sidewalks cars and motorcycles liked to race on, mastered the art of jumping into trees without dropping any gelato, and taught a small Italian town a thing or two about what a Seeing Eye dog and her sidekick can do given a chance. When we returned victorious from Italy, we spent a year at home. I got to explore where my sidekick grew up and meet her high school friends while we learned about disability rights and applied to law school. And last year, we started law school together at Harvard, which mostly involved my person learning the basics of world-saving (she could have just talked to me) and me reminding her when she’d been studying long enough and it was time to play. We got out and about and explored Cambridge and Boston some too.
Towards the end of the spring and at the beginning of the summer, we started going out a lot more into the city, which was fun, but I realized I can’t guide my sidekick as well as I used to. I was nervous in crowds, and even when my sidekick and I had the whole road to ourselves, I got startled when another person or a dog came too close to us. I felt like I had to tell the other dogs to stay away from me because I was so nervous, so I started barking at them and lunging at them. My sidekick tried to remind me that this was not proper Seeing Eye dog behavior. She even tried to bribe me with treats to get me to stop—as if I, a well-groomed Labrador, would stoop to the level of doing things for food. Nothing helped, not even the treats. I just didn’t feel like I was able to guide my person the way I used to, and I wanted her to understand that, because I didn’t want her to be relying on me for her safety. So my sidekick had a talk with the trainers at the Seeing Eye, and then my sidekick and I had a talk. We decided that it’s time for me to retire.
Don’t worry, I am not giving up my place on this blog. I have way too much fun writing these posts, I’m looking forward to telling you all about retired life and giving my sidekick’s new superdog partner some friendly advice. I’ll be going to live with my sidekick’s parents and their dog Rocket. Rocket isn’t a superdog because he’s never guided anybody anywhere, but he’s a black lab too, and he’s nice enough, for a crazy puppy. We’ll be good friends, and I like my sidekick’s parents lots too.
My sidekick will be going back to Seeing Eye at the end of July to meet her new superdog. I can te’l that she doesn’t know how to feel about it. She’s excited, because she hates using her cane (that long white stick that for as long as I’ve been with her, she only uses to fish one of my toys out from under the bed). But I can also tell that she feels bad for being excited, like she feels like she’s replacing me or something. I want to tell her that’s stupid, and I think she wants to tell herself that’s stupid too. Sometimes feelings don’t listen though. But I don’t want to work anymore, and I want my sidekick to have a superdog partner who will keep her safe, so I’m glad she’s going back. Also I’m sure the new superdog and I will be great friends.
And my sidekick and I aren’t done having adventures. We have sunbathing and cuddling to do, ropes and bones to wrestle for, walks and walks and walks to take. And who knows? Now that I’m learning to be a retired superdog, maybe I’ll try that swimming thing again. No promises though. My butt sinks.