Yesterday I had to work late at the Urgent Care. As a result, I was unable to accompany my wife and our guide-dog-puppy-in-training to the meeting of the puppy club. The regional head trainer for the organization was there to evaluate the dog. An hour of various handling exercises went by with good results. Then the trainer tried to do a “turnover”, which is kind of like a wrestling takedown.
The idea is to turn the dog over onto its back and examine it with your hands, as a blind person would have to do in checking for wounds or insect bites. The dog is expected to accept the handling passively. We did it with her hundreds of times successfully. This time, she growled and bit at the trainer. Guide dog candidates don’t get second chances. Lila got shipped off to Oregon for re-training toward other kinds of service work, or adoption as a family pet. I didn’t get to say goodbye.
Everyone has unexpected losses they must deal with. I’m no different. I haven’t much skill in articulating my feelings about it except to note another event in my past that made me feel this way.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived with a woman for four years. We broke up, and I couldn’t afford to keep the apartment by myself. The places I could afford to move to would not allow pets, and I had been left with two cats, beautiful, black sisters. I found a shelter that guaranteed not to have them killed, for a fee. I slept with them both, one last night. They were unusually affectionate. The older sister kept touching my cheek gently with her paw.
I didn’t own a car at the time, so the next day I took them in a taxi to the shelter. After dropping them off and paying the fee, I had no money left to get back home. I walked back, about eight miles. When I got back home, I called my ex-wife, who I had not spoken to for years. I told her I thought God didn’t want me to ever have anything that would last, not even a pet.
Some months later I was told that both cats were adopted together. That was more than twenty years ago. I have had a good marriage for going on 17 years, and we have had pets that spent their entire lives in our care. I’m grateful for these things, and I know the dog will do well, because she loves people, even if she objected to the way one person handled her.
We’ll try again with another dog beginning in January. Until then we will continue to work with other dogs and other trainers in the club. I know that feelings aren’t facts, and that our mentor-trainers don’t blame us for what happened. But tonight I feel that I failed, and that my child was taken away forever as a penalty.