My friend Marie joins FLD Mike and I for a bit-over-three-mile-walk through my neighborhood early, trying to beat the heat. Even so, we are grateful for the shaded passage offered by the mature trees along the way.
FLD Mike is rambunctious. I'm glad Marie doesn't mind that I backwards-walk several times each block of the first mile before he finally settles in. It seems to me that 10-month-old Mike is maturing later than cc'd Rosie; she was about seven months old when I felt like returning her early to Leader Dogs for the Blind! Ah, that lovely time of adolescence and rampant hormones.
We savor a long drink of cold water at the end of our walk, and then head to the Hometown Grill for a late breakfast. "Don't you have to ask permission?" Marie asks as I direct FLD Mike, Around to enter through the left-side-hinged door. No, they know Mike here.
"Sit anywhere," the waitress announces despite the "Please Wait to Be Seated" sign. "Hi, Mike!" She adds over her shoulder as she hustles out an armful of plates. We head for a booth.
"I guess they do," smiles Marie.
FLD Mike does not want to go to his place under our table (that teenage-thing again). Once he realizes he has no choice, he plunks down to cool off on the tile floor. By the time the waitress brings our menus, he is snoozing on his side, blowing drool-bubbles. He pays her no mind.
The cinnamon-roll french toast is awesome, I tell Marie, who decides to order it too. And the cook crisps the bacon just the way I like it! She skips the bacon, but I indulge.
An unfamiliar waitress brings me coffee; when she spots FLD Mike stretched out on the floor, she asks, "Is he a pure lab?" Yes. She proceeds to tell me all about her old lab that she had to put down last year at the ripe old age of 15. I extend my sympathies and put a plug in for Leader Dogs, You know, Leader Dogs really needs more puppy-raisers! She replies, as most do, "Oh no, I could never give him back!" I glance at Marie, who's heard this before, and launch into a short oration about what we puppy-raisers "give" rather than "give up."
I can't sell her on becoming a new raiser. She continues on with her coffee-duty and does not come back.
It's amazing, I say to Marie. I hear stories about everyone's dogs! (Someday I'll have to write about them.)
Our server brings the bill and says, "That other service dog I told you about is coming in." During prior visits (no, I don't eat here every day), she described a working Golden Retriever who frequents the place. "She brings me their bill to pay and takes back the change!"
FLD Mike's head whips up when a man and woman enter the restaurant with a jacketed "Paws with a Cause" dog and seat themselves in a booth next to the door. Mike stays calm, but his tail slaps the floor.
Mike. Stand. Heel. I avoid passing the Paws dog when I take FLD Mike up to the cashier's station; best to ease him closer so when we leave there isn't a ruckus. Both dogs crane their noses when we approach the door. I pause near their booth. Mike. Sit. He sits.
Hi, I'm patti, this is Mike. He is still sitting, but panting and getting worked up.
"I'm Laura, and my dog is Isis."
FLD Mike lets out a single "Woof!" and stands up. I am ready when he springs to reach Isis--he's back into his sit before he knows what happened. A few under-his-breath-whines and he settles down. This is great training for him, I say and continue a short conversation with Laura and her companion. Isis, meanwhile, has remained unruffled beneath the booth.
Isis is a youthful, yet gray-snouted 13-year-old Golden, "certified" by Paws with a Cause to work until she's 14. I learn that Laura lives on my two-mile-walking-route. She says, "I see you walking all the time!"
As we leave, Laura thanks me for raising Mike. "Paws dogs are awesome, but what those Leader Dogs do is amazing!"