It’s a Wonderful Dog’s Life

Hey readers! It’s Gilbert here again! Today, I have officially been a proud guide dog and loving companion to my mom for two years, so I am sure she will write the traditional sappy entry about that sometime this week. But today, she wants me to write another entry about the unusually eventful week I have just had, and a fun event planned for this week too. Last week began with the usual peaceful and uneventful routine of going to work with Mom, coming home to chill around the house and taking relaxing late night walks, on our country road with Mom and Grandma, the perfect end to each perfect day. But after work on Wednesday, my mom didn’t eat lunch and prepare to relax the rest of the day the way she usually does. Instead, she quickly changed clothes, checked her e-mails, put my harness back on and told me to find the car. I could sense something big and exciting was about to happen. Sure enough, the car drove to the airport where we picked up Mom’s sister who is married and lives far away now.

I love my aunt because she has a dog and cat of her own. Well, I don’t know this for a fact because I have never been out to her house, but I know the scent of dogs and cats when I smell them on people with my nose that is far superior to the human nose! And since she loves all dogs and cats, she always loves to see me and talk sweetly to me, as well as rave to Grandma and Grandpa about my wonderful calm demeanor and excellent guiding skills when she comes to visit, which is why I was so happy when I saw her that I jumped on to the seat she was about to occupy and wagged my tail furiously! I got a reprimand and was ordered to get down for this, a command which I obeyed quickly, but my tail didn’t stop wagging for a while. Another thing I love about my aunt is that although I do get brushed, there are often loose hairs left on my back that get kind of itchy and annoying, hairs which my aunt loves to pluck off of me if we are sitting in the car with nothing to do. Although I love my mom who has given me a joyous life with plenty of time to be lazy, lots of belly rubs and the chance to lick her fingers after some meals, this is one thing she doesn’t think of, but I enjoy this spa treatment when my aunt comes.

I can tell that she gets on Mom’s nerves sometimes because Mom will occasionally speak to her with that irritated voice she typically only uses when I am being really naughty and trying to say hello to other dogs when I am supposed to be working or something like that. She especially loves to give Mom a hard time about the way she eats holding the fork at the base of the handle instead of the end, putting her head close to the plate so as not to spill food on her shirt on the way to her mouth, and using her fingers to guide things like pasta noodles on to her fork since it is hard to enjoy food and get a decent size bite when only using the fork that often only has one or two noodles left on it by the time it reaches her mouth. My aunt argues that with practice, using a fork would get easier, and that she needs to practice eating properly all the time so she won’t be embarrassed in professional situations. Mom argues that she knows how to use a fork properly and tries harder to use a fork properly when out at fancy restaurants or when she is with friends, but at home with the family, she just wants to be left alone to enjoy her food! I have to say I cannot agree more with Mom’s argument, and if only I could talk, I would point out to my aunt that Mom’s method of enjoying her food is nowhere near as radical as mine. I skip the middle man of the fork altogether preferring instead to bury my face in the food bowl and inhale my food in thirty seconds or less, licking the bowl for good measure, and coming up sometimes with a satisfied burp! Now that’s the way to really enjoy eating and I don’t even care if I am with friends because all my dog friends eat the same way, and my human friends think it is adorable. But anyway, since I couldn’t talk, I would just sigh and go back to sleep glad it wasn’t me she was giving a hard time. But I heard Mom laughing with her sister a lot too, so I know they enjoy each other’s company most of the time. The only disadvantage to my aunt visiting from my perspective is that usually, Mom hates shopping and avoids going through stores at all costs. But when my aunt is here, she likes to go to stores and restaurants she doesn’t have at home, and since my mom doesn’t want to be antisocial, she usually tags along which means I have to work more and get by on less sleep, but that’s alright because she is only staying until this Saturday, so I will be back to my normal lazy routine pretty soon.

Then on Friday while my aunt went to the gym to work out, Mom and Grandma took me to the vet for my annual checkup. Whenever my vet appointment is approaching, Mom and Grandma love to laugh and recall how Indy, the dog Mom grew up with but who died before I was born, absolutely hated going to the vet. She would be wagging her tail all happy walking through the parking lot, but when she realized she was approaching the door of the vet clinic, she would screech to a halt and plant her feet, so Grandma and Grandpa would have to literally drag her in to the vet. But I bet Indy was a big baby because I love going to the vet! I mean how could a dog not love all the sweet voices of the ladies who examine me, and all of the wonderful smells left by dogs who were in this room before me that I can walk around the room and sniff while waiting for the doctor? Anyway, I got a clean bill of health, actually an even cleaner bill of health than last year when my mom fed me too much and wasn’t as diligent about walking me which meant I was approaching the overweight category for my size and breed. But this year, I lost a lot of weight, so I am now a perfect healthy size dog. The vet attributed it to kids not sneaking me so much food in the dorm, but since we don’t live in the dorm anymore, I am proud to be able to attribute this good health to a mom who loves me and who has realized with maturity that although I love to be spoiled, love also sometimes involves doing what is in my best interest to keep me fit and healthy so I can live a long happy life, even if I lick the food bowl longingly and complain about having to walk sometimes. I had to have one of my vaccines updated, but I didn’t even notice when it was injected, or when blood was drawn for testing, although Grandma commented last year that the vet did not offer baby food to distract me for the shot like they did for my predecessor Mojo. Even though I am a brave boy and don’t need to be distracted for shots, I still think that is so unfair because I could smell that other dogs had been eating something, and it smelled wonderful! Maybe I need to stop being such a good professionally behaved guide dog, at least in front of the vet next year so I can get all of the rights and rewards I am entitled to! (smile)

The only problem the vet noticed was some yeast growing in my ears. Grandma had bought some ear cleaner stuff at Petsmart because she and Mom noticed I had been itching at my ears, and although humans love my adorable velvety soft floppy ears, the disadvantage to this handsome feature is that moisture gets trapped by them, especially during the hot, humid summer season. Both Mom and Grandma are very cautious and were afraid to clean too deeply in to my ears because they didn’t want to hurt me. But the vet assured them that my ear canal is a lot longer than the human ear canal so they wouldn’t hurt me by cleaning deep. Then the vet sent Mom and Grandma home with a special ear cleaner to use every other day on my right ear since my left ear looked clean, as well as some soothing eardrops to massage in to that ear twice a day. At first, Grandma would put Mom in charge of holding me down since I didn’t like people messing with my ears and would try to run away, but now that I have gotten used to it, I don’t mind it at all and hold still like the good boy I am. I go back to the vet for a follow-up appointment on Monday to make sure the yeast is cleared up, but after that, I should be good to go for another year! Last year, the vet also recommended scheduling an eye exam for me since I am a guide dog, which means it would probably be a good idea to make sure I hadn’t developed any eye problems that could result in the blind leading the blind, and since I am special, the exam was free. Mom and Grandma took me for this exam last year, and no eye problems were found. But the vet did not recommend an eye exam this year, and since Grandma told Mom that other dogs in the waiting room at this eye clinic last year had some nasty looking eye infections that she didn’t want me exposed to, and since the dog trainer mentioned that my breeding line really isn’t predisposed to eye conditions and my eyes had been checked thoroughly before I was allowed to be a guide dog, Mom and Grandma decided to forego the eye exam this year.

Then on Sunday Grandma, Grandpa, my aunt, uncle, mom and I piled in to the car for a short vacation to Wisconsin Dells, which brought back fond memories as it was the sight of my very first vacation as a guide dog last summer. Unfortunately, this trip wasn’t quite as carefree as it was last summer since there were five people to please this year instead of just Mom, Grandma and Grandpa. But all in all, we still had a great time. When they were younger, my aunt and uncle loved going to Noah’s Ark, the most famous tourist attraction of Wisconsin Dells which also claims to be America’s largest waterpark. But between college and job responsibilities, they hadn’t been there in years and desperately wanted to go back, especially since the park added some scary new thrill rides since they had been there last. Last year, we didn’t go to Noah’s Ark because Mom gets scared on waterslides, but for this trip, Mom wanted to go to Noah’s Ark for just a few hours just for the wave pool, and was raving about how much fun she had as a child, jumping in to the air the moment right before each wave hit so that the wave would come under her feet and she would be off the ground a fraction of a second longer than when she jumps on land which was kind of a thrill, but a relaxing pleasant thrill not a scary heart pounding thrill like the waterslides. Unfortunately, although I am special and am technically allowed to go to any public place, Mom, Grandma and Grandpa decided that this exception probably didn’t apply to wave pools and water slides, so I stayed with Grandpa who took a driving tour of the city, fed me, took me for a walk and checked in to our motel room, leaving me in the car and not mentioning me until the room key was in his hand of course, so the staff would not be able to discriminate because of me and force us in to a smoking room or anything like that. It turned out that we had no reason to worry about discrimination because the lady working at the desk loves dogs and told Grandpa about someone in her family who is blind, but it never hurts to be cautious. Anyway, at about 2:00, Grandpa and I met the rest of the family at a picnic area just outside the park where the humans had some sandwiches and chips and raved about how much fun they were having so far.

After lunch, since Mom had spent four hours in the wave pool and there was nothing else she wanted to do at the park, Grandma and Grandpa took us back to our motel room where we could have some quiet time to ourselves while Grandpa took Mom’s place and went on a few waterslides until the park closed. In the days leading up to this trip, Mom told me she was excited about this trip because it would be the first time she would get to be in a motel room all by herself, so I was expecting her to have a big wild party to celebrate this independence. But instead, she just turned on a news program, laid on top of one of the beds and fell asleep, waking up only to yell at me a couple times when I heard people banging around outside and barked. Sorry Mom! What am I supposed to do when I am in an unfamiliar place with scary unfamiliar noises? But I really didn’t mind that Mom was not the fun company I thought she would be because I quickly fell asleep myself and those who know me well know that I never get tired of sleeping.

Then, when the rest of the family got back to the motel, we planned to go out to dinner, something my mom and I thought would be a relaxing carefree affair. Grandma had been wanting to try this new north woods themed saloon type place since she thought it would be a fun relaxing atmosphere after a day at the waterpark. Little did we know that this place would be the first place in our two years together where Mom had suspicions that we were being discriminated against because of me. When we got to the restaurant, the lady who was supposed to seat us said something like “Because of the dog, we are going to put you on the patio.” Mom was too furious and stunned to speak, so Grandma calmly explained that I was a guide dog and therefore had legal access to indoor restaurants. However, we were still seated on the patio, but decided not to complain because it was a gorgeous summer night, so maybe eating on the patio would be nice. My uncle also pointed out that there was a long wait time for indoor seating, whereas if we just took outdoor seating, we could be seated right away, and we were all really hungry. He also pointed out that even though I have legal access to restaurants, this doesn’t mean restaurants have to seat us ahead of anyone else, which Mom had to admit was true even though her brother was starting to get on her nerves. But our suspicions of discrimination were further confirmed when we were seated at a table in a secluded dark corner when there were nicer tables available, and Mom really wanted to complain. But although I had my harness on, Mom forgot to bring a copy of the access laws or the card that the school gave her certifying I was a guide dog because she had never really needed it until now. But even if she had the proof that I was a certified guide dog, the rest of the family has an “It’s not worth the fight” attitude, and a fear that if they complained and got a nicer table, they might not want to eat at that restaurant anyway because they have all heard stories of food being spit in and stuff like that when people complain. But no sooner did we sit down than my mom was being feasted on by mosquitoes and slapping herself frantically. There was no way we were going to be able to have an enjoyable meal in such an unwelcoming atmosphere, so since the waitress hadn’t come to take orders yet, we left. Grandma and Mom have thought about doing something like writing a letter complaining to someone about how unwelcome we felt, but then they also kind of feel like there are so many places that accept, and in fact love me that we just won’t give our business to the few bad apples who discriminate against us. But if any of you readers have suggestions about whether Mom should complain about this incident or how to handle future incidents like this, feel free to comment and I will pass your suggestions along to Mom. Anyway after leaving this place and driving around trying to get five people to agree on a place to eat that was unique to Wisconsin Dells, we finally ended up going to Pedros, the same place Mom, Grandma and Grandpa and I walked down to last year. Though I think all people food smells scrumptious, the humans said the food isn’t as good there, but tempers were flaring to the point that they really didn’t care what they ate, and I was welcomed with open arms at this place last year. I was welcome again this year, and the rest of the evening was wonderful.

After dinner, we walked around the strip mall a little bit where the humans bought some fudge at a candy shop, and bought a T-shirt at another shop where there were a bunch of Russian saleswomen who adored me. One of them even started to cry as she pet me because she missed her dog back home. I love when I get the chance to wag my tail, be cute and accept pets, especially when it brings comfort to someone whose dog passed away recently or just like at Mom’s college, someone who is far away from home and misses their dog. Then we went back to the motel for a refreshing night of sleep, and the next morning checked out of our motel, had an uneventful breakfast, and then drove home. The last two days have been uneventful, and although my aunt is still here, Mom and I went back to work yesterday.

But tomorrow after work, the fun times will continue as we are all going to the state fair! Mom was debating having me stay home from the fair this year since it was a little stressful for me last year since I am not accustomed to working with such large crowds. But Mom has decided that she will take me to the fair after all because it is good for me to practice dealing with crowds every now and then, and if I am really having trouble, or bumping in to people, Grandma or Grandpa can always intervene and have Mom do sighted guide. I am so glad Mom made this decision because I loved the fair last year! Smelling so much wonderful human food all at once, especially the pork and brats on the grill, is torture for me, but when my mom isn’t paying attention, I always manage to sneak a few morsels that other fairgoers have dropped. Mom and I both find the flower, art and cake exhibits pretty boring, but for me, the pig races make this boredom more than worth putting up with. Mom Grandma and Grandpa loved the silly fun of pig racing since before I was born, but had no idea how much I would love it too! Last year when we were all situated in the bleachers waiting for the race to start, I was awake and alert with my head perked up, but still laid down like a good boy at Mom’s feet. So although I love when I can sneak crumbs of bacon off the floor, she didn’t think I was as excited about the animal that bacon comes from until a bell rang marking the start of the race, and I simultaneously jumped to my feet wagging my tail! Mom held tightly to my leash just in case I thought about going after those pigs, but she didn’t correct me and order me to lay down since pig racing is not something I would see on a regular basis at college, so she felt she could indulge me and let my naughtiness slide just this once. Besides, she was laughing so hysterically she couldn’t have disciplined me sincerely anyway. My mom promised that although my aunt may not be wild about it, she will make sure I get to go to a pig race again this year since it is obviously my favorite part of the fair, and even though I am not human, I deserve to have fun at the fair too. And of course, let’s not forget that just like at any public setting, I will get lots of adoration and some pets from other fairgoers and you all know how much I love that! Wow, no wonder I am falling asleep and drooling at this computer again. Unlike my mom, dogs like me aren’t used to staying awake this long to write. Writing this entry and sharing my thoughts with you has been a blast of course, but I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have to be awake or do any serious writing for college classes like mom does or I would probably flunk out. But I just want to close by saying that although this week has been especially fun and eventful, I want my mom to know on our two year anniversary that every week with her and her family has been wonderful, and I am wagging my tail in excited anticipation of many more years and memories together.

Published by Allison Nastoff

As I write this in 2020, I am 30 years old. I am blind, and Gilbert was my first guide dog. He passed away on December 2, 2020, but I decided to keep the title for my blog as a tribute to him because he will always hold a special place in my heart. In 2012, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a journalism emphasis, and went back to school for a Paralegal certificate in 2014. I worked for five years at a Social Security disability firm. When the pandemic hit, I did some reflecting and decided to resign from this job and take seminary courses. My dream is a career as a teacher or writer where I can be a blessing to others.

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