Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Who Needs Disney World?

Orlando, Florida is a mecca for theme park goers. People flock from near and far to take in the sights

at Disney World or Sea World, Legoland or Universal Orlando. However, like true puppy raiser geeks, when we recently visited Orlando, we decided to spend the day downtown tagging along with war veteran Bob and his guide dog, Ranger. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Lake Eola Park, situated in the middle of Orlando, Florida. Bob and Ranger's apartment is one of the tall buildings in the upper left side of the photo, several blocks from the park.

Young Ranger at the Washington, DC Zoo in 2010.

Ranger was the guide puppy we raised in 2009 and 2010. Dubbed my Prim and Proper Puppy, by the time he was 7 months old he had a maturity level way beyond that of his young life. Also blessed with a calm, steady demeanor, he was a natural-born guide dog. Later, when he went back to Southeastern Guide Dogs, I received his trainer's comments:  "Aces, this dog's performance renders me speechless." In another report:  "Just a supreme dog, would exceed in anything, and is as well behaved as you can hope for." It would be nice to take some credit, but in all honesty, I think Ranger simply had it in his blood.

Now, in April of 2013, we are given a rare opportunity to glimpse his life as a guide dog and get to know the man who spends 24/7 with Ranger. I was afraid Bob would not want to be disturbed and was expecting a quick visit down in his apartment lobby. But I was pleasantly surprised. As Ranger guided him, he guided us! Ambling the busy streets of downtown Orlando, we took a tour along his favorite routes, including the Publix grocery store, a nursing home he visits with Ranger, and other haunts. The highlight was a stroll around Lake Eola and the surrounding park.
Bob and Ranger
We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe, saw swans, ducks, squirrels, and numerous dog walkers, all of which Ranger gave but a casual glance.

Dorian facing off with a pair of resident black swans.


In the 5 hours we spent with Bob, Ranger and Bob's friend Pat, we swapped many stories of Ranger. I constantly marveled at the way the two worked together so smoothly and comfortably, the devotion Ranger showed to Bob and vice-versa. Bob, who has quite a sense of humor, wanted to thank our son for "teaching Ranger how to find pretty girls"! I was happy to discover after 2 years, Ranger still remembered his puppy raiser. Near the end of the visit, Pat noted Ranger watching me closely, as if he knew our time was drawing to a close. Thank you, Bob, Pat and Ranger for an epic day. And Disney World, you'll have to see us another time!

Keep on truckin' fellas!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Carpe Diem Dorian

Dorian goes back In For Training very soon. This will conclude a season both in his life and mine. Nevermore will Dorian be in my care. His new life at Southeastern Guide Dogs, with its kennels, guide dogs and trainers, will be a radical, exciting change from his present life in a rural home setting, where he has grown up following our basic daily routine.

However, this post is not about how much I already miss him. This post is not about his future. No, I am resolving to be like Dorian, who does not even know he is leaving soon. Like most happy, healthy canines, Dorian is a carpe diem dog. He is "enjoying the day". "Diem" is Latin for day. The Latin verb "carpe" means to enjoy, to make use of. It can also mean to seize, pick or pluck, but somehow that meaning does not sit well with me. When I think of Dorian "seizing the day" it conjures up images of his not-so-distant puppy hood snatching a sock, shoe or anything else that wasn't practically nailed down, and thundering through the house while we uttered loud noises in his wake. No, "seizing or plucking the day" does not describe Dorian's habits anymore, thank goodness.

Now Dorian's carpe diem attitude, like that of most Labs, is to "enjoy the day". The normal dog does not whine and fret over the past, nor does he wring his massive paws over the future. She does not lie in her crate at night worrying about tomorrow. Instead she thoroughly enjoys a well-deserved snooze. Her gaze into the future goes no further than the next feeding. I like that. So as my days with Dorian draw to a close, like the dogs, I try to adopt a carpe diem outlook as well.

Dorian smells the scent of a patch of daffodils, sometimes called "buttercups".

Dorian and I will enjoy today, and tomorrow we'll make that day count, and so on. One day at a time. I can miss him when he's gone, but right now I will try to live in the present. What's on the agenda today? We're going outside to smell some roses. Actually, just kidding. The roses haven't bloomed yet, but there are some daffodils out there. Carpe diem, Mr. Dorian!
The words "Carpe diem" written momentarily in the sand, before the next wave takes them out.