Whenever someone asks me about becoming a puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I always tell them that they can't be shy. Puppy-raisers bring their Future Leader Dogs with them wherever they go, and strangers always want to talk about that fuzzy ball of fur.
I run into Glen's Market in Rose City to pick up a few things for Sunday's lunch. My sister Cathy and her husband Charlie were stopping by with their daughter Cori and her boyfriend Eric. They spent the weekend in Oscoda, which isn't THAT far away, and were heading downstate after visiting us.
Anyway, on my way out of the grocery store, with FLD Gus heeling in his blue-working jacket, I stop to chat with two Rose City Lion's Club members selling raffle tickets. Wilbur, who is the second-longest-standing-member of the club, and Kathy, club-treasurer are excited to meet FLD Gus. So much so that I interrupt Kathy's petting of Gus with a polite, It's best if you don't pet him while he's working. Luckily, FLD Gus is disinterested in her advances. She politely obliges.
"Are you coming to our parade?" Kathy asks. This Lion's Club sponsors Rose City's annual 4th of July extravaganza--a parade at 4:00 pm, followed by kids games at the park, and fireworks at dusk.
Yes, I answer. It will be great training for Gus.
"You're bringing him along? Would you want to march with the Lion's Club? You'll be right behind the banner at the front of the parade! I know the club would love to have you join us!"
Of course we would. FLD Gus has two parades under his jacket--the Rochester Christmas Parade and the Lilac Festival Parade. What's one more? I give Kathy my phone number, I'd also be happy to talk to your group anytime about Leader Dogs for the Blind.
We have a nice visit with family in the afternoon--a tasty lunch and a short hike through our woods, and soon they are on their way. Later, couch-time. The sky stays light late this far north during these long summer days, but our bodies know when it is time to relax.
At 9:45 pm, the phone rings. It's Kathy from the Lion's Club, with an invitation.
"I hope it's not tool late to call, I figured it was alright because there is still light in the sky. We are having a dinner meeting tomorrow night and the club would love to have you and your husband attend. Of course, bring the dog, if you think it's okay. It will be a busy meeting because the District Governor is coming to swear-in the new club officers, and we also have a new member. But we'd be happy to have you come. It's at the City Park in the pavilion, weather permitting, of course. And we'd love it if you'd consider joining the club!"
Whew! I have the idea that life in the north country is lived at a slower pace. Guess it just depends on the person. This Kathy-person is a real go-getter!
Well, I edge in, Andy will be downstate, but Gus and I can come.
"Great! We start gathering at 6:30. Dinner's at 7:00, and the meeting starts about 7:30. As I said, it will be a busy meeting; we usually finish up about 8:00, but we'll probably go until 8:30 tomorrow. We are so excited to have you come. If you get here around 6:30, you'll have time to chat with our members. Maybe your husband could come to our next meeting. We meet the 2nd and 4th Tuesday every month. Usually we meet at our little Log Cabin at the park, but we're having this catered dinner in the pavilion tomorrow instead. Okay, see you tomorrow!"
The rain starts about 3:00 in the afternoon. By six it settles into a steady drizzle. Fall-like temperatures are in the low 60's. I am glad to put on my Leader Dogs fleece jacket as FLD Gus and I head out to Rose City.
The rain does not deter the hearty members of the Rose City Lions Club gathered under the protection of the pavilion. When FLD Gus and I arrive, Kathy is busy setting up picnic tables for dinner. Lion David, who is in charge of membership, steps up and introduces himself. Like I mentioned, having a jacketed puppy at your side makes it difficult to go unnoticed. He bends over to give FLD Gus a pet; Gus stretches out with his nose and licks his hand.
This is Gus and he's in training I think it's best if he isn't petted tonight.
David straightens. "Okay! I'll let everyone know. Are you and your husband thinking of joining the club?" He hands me a couple of applications. Before I can answer, David takes me under his wing and brings me to each and every one of the 15-some club members, including their spouses and a few grown children (and grandkids).
"This is Patti. Don't pet her dog-in-training," he says. "She's here to check us out. She and her husband are thinking of joining the club." The Rose City Lions Club currently has about 29 members. They are eager for two more.
FLD Gus is a big hit, and per David's instructions, no one tries to pet him. All Gus is interested in is whatever scraps are on the floor. I keep a tight leash to keep his tongue off the cement and tire myself saying, Gus, leave it. Finger pokes and name recognition help.
As a guest, I am first in line for dinner. Everyone is curious how FLD Gus will manage the tables of food, but he heels nicely and doesn't nose the goods. And I don't overload my plate! I sit at the nearest picnic table and place Gus on a DOWN behind me.
A Lion's member shuffles by with a dinner plate loaded with lasagna and roast beef, a salad bowl, and a desert plate piled high with strawberry pie and whipped cream all balanced in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. I see it coming. SPLAT! Strawberry-upside-down-pie. Good thing I am sitting on Gus's leash. He doesn't bolt for it, but strains to lick a taste.
The poor fellow's wife runs to help and says, "Tom, what are you doing?"
I answer, Trying to test my dog!
After dinner the District Governor does his thing and the meeting gets underway. With FLD Gus standing calmly at my side (and eyeing the floor), I get a chance to talk to the Lions about Leader Dogs for the Blind and answer many thoughtful questions. I only have to redirect Gus's attention a few times.
Before we leave the amicable group, almost everyone makes sure to invite Andy and me to their next meeting. We'll see, but for sure FLD Gus and I will be marching in their 4th of July Parade next Monday!