I’ve never defined this blog as being about any particular thing since it gives me the freedom to write about whatever crosses my mind, but it’s no secret that a great deal of the time I’m nattering on about one or more of my guide dogs. That’s not surprising since they are a huge part of my life and when I started blogging I’d already been working with Dolly for about two years.
So, sometimes I take it for granted that people know these dogs as well as I do, when in fact outside of my family there is only one other person who has so far¹ met all three of my guide dogs. Clearly, this is an elite club, so I think we should rectify this gross oversight.
Everyone, meet Dolly.
As you can see, predictably for a Labrador retriever, she was a bit goofy. But while she certainly had her silly moments, in all honesty her personality was more a mix of serious and happy. Or seriously happy.
No, really, Dolly was a very happy dog. She wagged her tail almost constantly, from a slight bobbing swish in time to her walk to a hard drumming thump. Our favorites were the 360° helicopter whirl she had when she was very excited and the full-body wiggle that couldn’t be anything but pure ecstasy. She even carried her tail like it was a smile, held up high and curled around. One of the trainers at Guiding Eyes remarked that it was almost like a pig’s tail.
She was an enthusiastic companion, especially if water or snow were involved. During the first summer of our partnership we built her a ramp so she could get in and out of our above ground pool. That winter she saw her first snowfall and while her initial reaction was a bit of skeptical fear, she quickly learned the fluffy white stuff was tons of fun to jump through and dig around in! One of her favorite things was to sit by the driveway while we shoveled so she could get buried deep underneath a blanket of snow and tunnel her way back out.
Her favorite playtime activity was definitely Frisbee. She took the activity like she was a professional player, catching the disc while doing a backflip in the air or other assorted acrobatics. Hilariously, I never had to teach her any of those fancy skills, just encourage her when she performed them. Instead, I had to show her how to catch toys in her mouth because she instinctively would try to jump up and grab them with her front paws! She was a quick study in any task, though, learning several different “fun” skills like begging and speaking. She even knew all of her toys by name and would search the house for that specific one if asked. “Search” here meaning she would race up the stairs to my bedroom in a mad dash to find the toy as quickly as possible. And when that one wasn’t readily available, she’d bring down her Frisbee . . . or one of my socks.
While she was certainly exuberant, she was actually incredibly quiet. She almost never let out even a peep and my parents were convinced she didn’t even know how to bark until I taught her to speak on command. In fact, she didn’t even whine when she was in pain, which caused us no amount of grief at times. She did, however, snore like a lawn mower. One memory I have of college as a freshman was in a class of over 200 students in a huge lecture hall. Dolly had fallen asleep and started up her colossal snoring and around me students were giggling and snickering. Eventually she got so loud, I prodded her with my foot to try and wake her up, which she did by jumping with a great snort! Down below the professor let out an audible laugh and noted that he was honestly getting quiet annoyed with the student that was “so rude as to fall asleep in his class.”
Her defining Labrador trait was that she loved to eat and she did so with gusto. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t eat and that included a few towels and at least one pillow, but her favorite things were bananas, ice cream and bread. The bananas were a discovery her puppy raiser made and throughout the whole of Dolly’s life if someone ate a banana around her they would inevitably have to tithe a piece. For her third birthday, the first one she had as my partner, I brought her to a local ice cream shop that had a “doggy sundae” on the menu. It became a birthday tradition and there were a few during my college years that required quite a lot of finessing to accomplish. We kept it to that one time a year, though, because while Dolly loved the ice cream it didn’t love her back nearly as much. The bread discovery was made some time after we were partnered. My dad bought a bread machine and in testing it out the first few loaves came out with the tops broken, which he gave to Dolly and forevermore she was hooked on it. She’d take a piece of bread over the choicest cut of steak!
She was a creature of comfort and I partially blame GEB for this. During our month of training she developed warts on her feet, which at first was thought to be a solitary issue easily taken care of. Before we discovered how severe the warts were, though, we spent several weeks doing all we could to keep Dolly off her feet. One of the trainers graciously donated one of my bed pillows to Dolly and from then on it seemed that any pillow was the dog’s. Stuffed animals also were fair game.
Her arch enemy were tags. She ripped them off of everything: her toys, our throw pillows, a few of my stuffed animals. She even ripped the one off my mattress that very prominently stated it shouldn’t be removed by penalty of law! After the Evil Tag was removed from one of her toys, she would then methodically rip out their eyes. I once remarked about how that was kind of creepy and my father deadpanned, “Job security.”
He probably wasn’t wrong because Dolly was definitely, well, serious about her work. Or what she felt was her work. Mostly, I think, she thought her job was to parade around showing everyone what a pretty girl she was. She schmoozed any one she could into giving her some attention and praise. Which isn’t to say she didn’t take her job of guiding seriously, but she always wanted things her way and if she didn’t get them she would make it known. Often she would sit beside me giving the world her grumpy face, which is really saying something for a black dog with black eyes but she really did have the most expressive face. If she really felt exasperated with me, she’d very purposefully plow me face first into something. It started during training actually. I don’t even remember what happened, probably I’d stopped her from scarfing down something on the ground . . . and suddenly one of the trainers came running up behind me mere seconds before I was walked into a telephone pole.
Essentially she was a dog that truly approached life with joie de vivre. Everything was on her terms whether working, playing, eating, or even sleeping. And I can’t really fault her because she was genuinely a very happy girl.
1. “So far” because there’s one person who has not yet met Uschi and she was acquainted with both Dolly and Yara.