My guide dog Maggie (yellow Lab) recently celebrated her twelth birthday. It seems only right to spend a few minutes describing the impact she's had on my life during the ten years she's been with me and to appreciate her for the wonderful helper and friend she is. To say that I love this dog and that my life has been so much better because of her seems like such an understatement. She's been beside me through so many life transitions, relationships, and milestones, and has lead me, made me laugh, snuggled with me, given me a reason to get out of the house, and broken plenty of ice for me in her day as the more outgoing of the two in this team. She's helped me to become the independent and dignified adult I've wanted to be.
Since we were matched in 1999, here is a list of some of the things Maggie has been beside me to experience. She has borne witness to so many important events and seen me laugh and cry and struggle and succeed and everything in between. If she could talk or had thumbs, she could spill all kinds of stories about me. I doubt that she would, though, even if she were able to. She's just my good friend like that.
Last semester of college/dorm life and college graduation
Trips to Pawley's Island during the year and however months I spent in and out of a relationship with a man who lived there. These trips included romps on the beach, and learning to use a dog door (That took months!) She loves the beach, though.
First apartment with college roommate Lindy and a cat named Yuffy
Graduate school and roaming all around USC, especially the horseshoe and Russell House area of campus.
The time I needed her most as a guide was probably throughout the several years I spent in graduate school and we got through that together.
Moving into our own apartment in 2003
My horrible year of unemployment and licensure exams
Everything that happened with Jason, including the several places he lived, his trial, and visits to Lee. Those two were crazy about each other!
The four years I've been counseling at Crossroads
Trips to and from NM to visit the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, including an afternoon of playing in the snow. (2008)
The publication and promotion of Carmella's Quest, including in the recording studio
She's been with me as my sister's kids have grown up and for so many family occasions
She's seen various friends and several boyfriend relationships through from start to finish
That's so much major stuff in my life, from college student to successful professional and grown up. She has been tremendously devoted and loyal to me all these years and I've never doubted for a second that I was her favorite person on earth.
Now, lest I sound overly sentimental or sappy,she is not perfect. She is a dog. She doesn't fly around with angel wings on and is not a human child or a robot or a traffic light reading "Hang on and I'll get you to Wal-Mart" genius creature. I chose to work with a dog and any number of dogs could have traveled this journey with me. I could have done it without a dog. But, for the last 10 years of my life, Maggie has been beside me on my journey. I'm so glad that, of all the dogs I could have worked with during this time, its been her. She has done that as herself, though, and deserves props for that. I wouldn't want her to be anything other than exactly who and what she is.
That means she gets distracted at times, plays up that ditsy blond thing, and can be just plain naughty occasionally. That's especially true if she sees another dog. Sometimes, she barks too much. Oh, and she sheds. There's a cloud of yellow hair that follows me everywhere I go. And anyone who knows her will attest to the fact that her breath is bad. Very bad. She's scared of cats and acts ridiculous when she sees a cat. She's also quite opinionated at both home and work if she's bored or tired or unhappy with what she's having to do. She has a lot of personality.
I thank God for her every day. Her health remains good. I just found out she doesn't need cataract surgery, and the supplement we added for joint stiffness a year ago has been a tremendous help. Other than some problems with allergies, a period of stomach issues, and a couple of ear infections, she's been very healthy. I'm pretty amazed at how well she's doing and people comment all the time about how she doesn't seem as old as she is. I'm so blessed to have her still with me and still working kind of in semi retired mode. I don't make her walk long distances in the heat or do stressful sorts of tasks very often, but she does still work and she still does her job well. She doesn't always move as fast as she used to, especially during the ridiculous summer heat we have here in SC, but she has always slowed down some during the summer.
Some people say they think their older dogs are still working out of obligation. I don't get that sense with Maggie. She continues to enjoy the work, from what I can tell, and likes to get out and about. She's such an extrovert. I'm perfectly content to stay in on the weekends and she gets so bored. This dog really loves going places, seeing and being seen, and interacting with people. That girl can work it when it comes to navigating some obstacles and seems to especially love doing that sort of work. She still does street crossings, obstacle work, and the various other tasks of being a guide dog with professionalism and accuracy. She did a great job in the airports last year during our travels back and forth to NM.
She enjoys attention and winning friends and influencing people. She would have made a great blond naked politician. What she does most these days is kind of similar to that, I suppose. She serves as a wonderful co therapist in my counseling work. She really brightens up the office for my colleagues and clients, and my colleagues' clients. Maggie considers herself the official Crossroads greeting committee and is fully convinced everyone who comes there is scheduling by the hour and paying money to get to spend time with her. Sometimes, I think she's exactly right about all that. She does have a devoted fan base and has Mr. Bettis wrapped around her little paw.
When I had to retire my first dog at a young age, I was very upset and didn't think I could love another dog the way I loved her. Maggie was the dog I needed, though. As I said in a previous post, Poppy's purpose ultimately was to be with Mom and Maggie was the dog to be beside me through all these transitions. I'm glad. I love her. She's something so special. I hope we have a ffew years left together.