Yesterday was a bit of a bust for the birthday celebration because I felt like crap. I’m still dealing with the migraine, though my teeth and jaw aren’t aching nearly as much. But even though she was all manner of hyper and excited, Uschi didn’t seem to mind that I stayed holed up in the cave of my bedroom for most of the day. In fact, if anything she wanted another pupcake to enjoy!

Profile headshot of Uschi in harness on a brown backgroundSo, fun activities are on hold, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate via other outlets. Today, for instance, Uschi is the featured grown-up puppy on! She’s one of the few guide dogs to ever be featured and joins the illustrious ranks with Yara, who was featured last year and the Guiding Eyes puppies and guide dogs.

I love the selection of photos they chose out of the submission I gave; I think they really show both sides of her widely dynamic personality. Doesn’t hurt either that some of them are personal favorites of mine.

On an unrelated note, I’ve extended the deadline for submissions to the fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. I had a few people contact me that they wouldn’t make the original deadline and others who voiced some displeasure at the submission they did make. Plus, since yesterday I was finding reading to be nauseous I knew I wasn’t going to get the Carnival up any time soon anyway. So, if you wanted to participate you now have until October 31, 2011.

Three Years

Time is a strange thing. There are moments when it seems like three years has gone by in a blink of an eye and yet others when I feel it was more like 300. And to complicate matters more it always seems like it’s nonexistent when you need it most, which certainly is a contributing factor to this anniversary post going up more than two weeks late. Not that it’s the first time; I was a day late for our first year.

Portrait of me and Yara on a white background; Yara is standing beside me with my arms wrapped under her bellyThis last year has been a mixture of good and bad for us as a working team. Yara’s had several relapses with her EPI, another bought of SIBO, and developed severe allergies, but also had the most lengthy times of stability in her health, too. And it was this ongoing struggle that ultimately led to the decision to retire her.

It remains one of the single most difficult things I’ve ever done, which is saying a lot because if there’s one thing I’m not known for it’s being decisive. Having no assurance whatsoever of exactly when a new guide dog match will be made, I’ve spent the last six months trying not dwell on the less pleasant aspects of this. Instead, I’ve done my best to celebrate the time we have left. We had a round of professional photos taken at Washington Park. Three times, in fact. Some of which were chosen when Yara was featured at! I even broke down and got a cake to celebrate her birthday in rare form! I’ve also tried to get in some time with all of Yara’s pals one last time, which of course has included photos.

We’ve done a lot of fun things that haven’t had any involvement in my neurotic and roundabout preparations for Yara’s retirement: we went to the Empire State Book Festival, the Tulip Festival, and the Victorian Stroll (which I still intend to finish a post on). All of these were firsts for Yara — and aside from the Tulip Festival, for me as well! We also took a trip to visit Raechel and James, which included attending this year’s Walk for Fidelco and a trip to Mystic Aquarium for my birthday! Speaking of the Fidelco walkathon, we had Jean take some fabulous photos that became our thank you cards for donors.

Headshot of Yara lying in the grassOh, and we also moved! Which actually did fulfill my hope from last year that this year’s anniversary would be at a much less drama-filled abode. Yara now has an entire house to clomp around in.

More recently, we’ve been preparing for the holidays. Yesterday we even went caroling! Of course there is the usual card, which will be sent out tomorrow barring that my fingers can get through the last 30 or so! The house is all decked out and Yara’s matured enough that I’m not constantly finding ornaments strewn about. In fact, so far the only ornament that’s been knocked off the tree has been by me and that was while decorating it. Unlike last year, we actually managed to get to stores to do some shopping without any unfortunate incidents, though, that hasn’t seemed to help me actually get gifts.

Yara and me lying in the grass togetherYara’s been an amazing addition to my life: a phenomenal guide dog and an exceptional companion. Even though the time wasn’t perfect by any means, I wouldn’t trade the experience. Rather, looking back over the last year — and the two before that, I find myself feeling cheated that our time as a team will be so short. There is so much I had planned to do with her by my side, so many things that I am sure she would have enjoyed and even more that I’m intensely curious as to how she would have reacted. I think, for me, the hardest part of letting go is that I didn’t expect it to be so hard. I’ve done the retiring thing before and thought I knew what it entailed and for more reasons than I am able to articulate, this is so very different than before and so much more difficult.

Short as our time has been, I’ll certainly not soon forget how powerful I have found it to be.

Obligatory Yara Photos

Because Kathy asked to “see Yara” — I give you some photos:

Yara lying on the rug near my desk, gnawing on a bone

Playing a game of fetch Yara has turned her head to the left, avoiding the camera

During a game of fetch Yara sits on her bed as sort of 'safe zone'

Getting candids of this dog is nigh impossible. Every time I try she stops doing whatever she was doing to stare at me!

Also, because you can never have enough cute in one day, check out this adorable chocolate lab puppy. Seriously, if those green eyes don’t melt you into a puddle, you might possibly be dead.