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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Turning a Frown into a Smile

When I read how a Leader Dog has enriched a vision-impaired person's life (like Fernando, whose story you can read here on the Leader Dogs for the Blind website), I am reminded of how often these four-legged furry creatures seem able to read our minds, or at least, our body language.  Whether working dogs or pets, they often know exactly when we need a slopsy kiss, an attentive playmate, or just a quiet listener.

One "angel" dog I had the pleasure to own was a lab/beagle mix (we think) named Stoker.  (A stoker is the person riding on the second seat of a tandem, or two-seater, bicycle.)  Her best talent was making everyone she met feel like they were her best friends. 

Stoker also had an aptitude for nursing.  When one of our high-school employees suffered a closed-head injury in a car accident, Stoker stayed by her side for two weeks while she recovered.  Stoker frequently accompanied me to a nursing home to visit an MS patient who was in hospice care; Stoker would lay calmly at the foot of the hospital bed while I gave the patient a massage.

I know that my first Leader Dog puppy, Rosie, had worked hard during her time at the Leader Dog School and was capable and eager to enhance someone's life.  I was disappointed when a match could not be found for her and she was career-changed; however, when she went home with my sister, I knew Rosie finally realized her calling--taking care of three girls (and their mother).  I am pleased to report that after less than one month with her new family, Rosie is exhibiting competence for her new avocation.

Natalie, my eight-year-old niece, wasn't having a very good day.  Nothing soothed her; according to her mother, she had an "attitude."  Natalie paced the house from room to room.  At her heels, all day long, Rosie shadowed her, dog-nails clicking on the kitchen linoleum, pads silent on the carpeted hallway down to the bedroom, back up the hallway to the living room, around the foyer to the kitchen; nails tic-tic-ticking again, then pads quiet back down the hallway to the bathroom where Rosie sat and waited when the door closed against her nose.
Natalie emerged, at last, and pushed past Rosie; Rosie trailed Natalie to the shoebox by the front door.  Natalie sat down on the floor to put on her shoes so she could go outside where Rosie couldn't follow.

Rosie plunked down in front of her girl and placed her paws on Natalie's legs as if to say, "You're not going anywhere."

Natalie paused.  She diffidently raised a hand to scratch Rosie's head as if to reply, "Ok, here, I'll pet you, now leave me alone."

Rosie nuzzled Natalie's ear, sniffed, and licked her cheek.  Before long, two arms slipped around Rosie's neck and Natalie's frown turned into a smile.

Nice job, Rosie!

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