Happy Labor Day Working Dogs!

Hello readers, it’s Gilbert here. Mom just realized that while she has talked a lot about me in her entries this summer, she forgot to give me the chance to speak for myself. “What better day is there than Labor Day to let the working dog speak for himself!” she told me. I agree! But don’t worry. I’m not going to go on strike because I’ve got a good life and except for a couple days when she took me for walks and didn’t realize how hot it was, she hasn’t made me work too hard. I am a little perturbed that one of these times was August 4, my three-year anniversary with her. We were in Cincinnati for her grandma’s 80th birthday and after my grandma and her grandma had been doing sight-seeing from the car for awhile and Mom was getting bored and cranky, Grandma tried to console her with a walk on a park trail. I was quite content sleeping in the air conditioned car, but since we dogs cannot talk, humans always get their way in these disputes and I found myself being harnessed up and forced to walk in the heat and humidity. It wasn’t long before I was panting for mercy. But fortunately, my mom started sweating not long after so it wasn’t a very long walk and when we got back to the car Mom and I both drank lots of water and Mom finally came around and appreciated the simple contentment of sitting in an air conditioned car.

     But the overwhelming majority of the summer, I didn’t have to go out in the many days of heat and humidity because Mom didn’t like to be out in it either since she has a medical condition that makes her miserable the rest of the day if out in the heat too long. If it wasn’t hot, Grandpa, Mom and I would go for walks, but there were many days when it was so hot that once I had guided her down the steps of her internship building and found the car, my work day was done.

     Occasionally, I had to work weekends, but Mom tried to keep these to a minimum because she prefers to be home on weekends too. On May 14 and 15, we took a trip to visit the church that Mom raved about back in March, the church that she heard was the site of an apparition of the blessed mother and where she has heard miracles have occurred. I am relieved to report that she did not experience a miracle at this church because if she had gotten her sight back, she might have been ethically obligated to give me back to the program that trained me which would have been a sad occasion for both of us. I didn’t get to partake in the full tour of an outdoor area of this chapel because some dog in the neighborhood came over and was following me around trying to talk to me. I wanted to socialize with him so badly that Grandpa had to put me in the car. (It was a cool rainy day so I didn’t get overheated and we were about ready to leave anyway). About a month and a half later was the trip to Wisconsin Dells that Mom told you all about in the “There’s No Place Like Home” post. Then on August 13, Mom attempted the state fair with me again. As she mentioned, that didn’t go so well as I’m getting too old to handle all those big scary cows up close. And when we got home, Grandma and Grandpa said I was filthy and needed a bath before I could set foot in the house, but it was after dark and kind of chilly outside. I know I was trained to be good during grooming, but given these circumstances I couldn’t help crying when I was sprayed with the hose. The whole family felt bad about this and gave me extra love the next day. But two weeks later, I had to go through the same thing after a day at the Bristol Renaissance Fair, a silly event out in a country area with unique things like jousting, silly sword fights and whip cracking shows. The fair itself was much more enjoyable for me since it wasn’t crowded and I didn’t see any animals. But when we got home, I had to have another bath. (If this cruel treatment keeps up, maybe I will go on strike). But my mom told me that since we may be living on our own next summer, life will be crazy enough between keeping up an apartment, getting herself to work, buying her own groceries and cooking her own meals that she won’t feel like going to the fair. If she does, she promised she would insist that Grandma and Grandpa only take her for a couple hours rather than making it an all-day event so that I can stay home.

     Speaking of the possibility of living at home, Grandma, Mom and I took a tour of an apartment building last Wednesday that is specially designed for visually impaired people. I will let Mom speak for herself about her opinion of the place, but I’m not sure I liked it. Part of it was that I could sense my mom’s excitement about the place which made me nervous and excited. Some loud construction we had to pass to get to the building only added to my nervousness so that when we got in to the building, I was walking too fast, sniffing everything and not listening to commands, which Mom feared was giving our tour guide and potential landlord a very bad impression of us when I don’t usually behave like that. When we passed a stuffed dog, I even barked at it, resulting in an uncharacteristically fierce leash correction from Mom. This settled me down a little bit, but I still wasn’t quite the mellow dog I usually am. The landlord was very understanding and even told Mom to let me sniff the stuffed dog so I could see that it wasn’t real. But once we were back in the car, Mom told me if she did decide to live there, I would need to take a huge chill pill. But let’s not worry about that right now. Mom says she doesn’t think she could handle living on her own until after graduation which is still a full eight months away.

     Then the next day, September 1, was our last first day of school. I can already tell it’s going to be a wonderful year. For one thing, although I think the campus community always thought we were the coolest kids on campus, this unofficial designation has special meaning this year since we are seniors. And, the fact that we are seniors also meant that Mom got first pick of classes at registration last year, a privilege which she used to our advantage so that our first class isn’t until noon each day! Needless to say, we haven’t had any difficulty getting used to sleeping in and taking our time getting ready in the morning. And come November and December when it starts getting cold, we won’t suffer as much because the sun is higher in the sky at noon than it is at 8:00 in the morning when we used to have classes.

     Anyway, it was so wonderful to see all of our friends and favorite teachers again and we both got complements for loosing weight over the summer. I was delighted to learn we have the same English teacher as last semester because while all the professors love me, this professor REALLY loves me, and always gives me pets before she starts class. I was a little sad that one girl who loved me so much she gave Mom a bag of home-made peanut butter dog treats for me wasn’t in this English class, but maybe we will see her around campus.

     I got corrected in Interpersonal Communication for trying to sneak off and sit with one of Mom’s friends instead of staying by her feet, but other than that, she said I did a great job, especially when walking the route from Main Hall back to the campus center, a route which I hadn’t done all summer. (I took her to the crosswalk on this route when she prefers to use the beeping light, but that was her fault, and she admitted as much, because she was rusty on her directions and didn’t tell me where she wanted to go).

     Then at 4:00, we went to a barbecue exclusively for seniors where there was information about special activities for seniors and of course lots of food. As usual, Mom wouldn’t give me any of her burger, but as usual, I found plenty of food on the floor. Thursday was also a hot humid day and Mom noticed I was panting even just lying down in the grass under the picnic table. But it was worth it because I got lots of pets from old friends from choir and Statistics. I wish Mom would shave off my coat for these brutal summers, but Mom says I might regret not having my coat if it didn’t grow back in time for winter and I guess she is right. Winter is so much longer than summer where we live too.

     The school year will really get underway tomorrow but before life got crazy again, a relative on Grandpa’s side of the family wanted to have an end-of-summer family reunion/party at her house near Chicago. At first, Mom wasn’t sure if she could go because she had a lot of reading to do. It was so funny to watch her read in the car because she could barely keep her eyes open. She told me it was pages and pages of philosophical rambling about an essayist named Montaigne and his views on “the self” and “the other” and how man’s idea of nature and customs is different based on the society they were raised in. I don’t get why humans have to study stuff like that and make life more complicated than it needs to be. When will we dogs ever convince you humans that life is about living in the moment, melting the hearts of anyone who gives attention and/or treats and sleeping the hours away in blissful ignorance about the problems in the world? (Actually, I think Mom secretly agrees with me, but as usual, she is in that phase where she is refreshed from summer and determined that this will be the year she actually completely reads everything she is supposed to read. But it won’t be long before my influence rubs off on her and she’ll be back to quickly skimming these ramblings right before class).

     But anyway, yesterday she decided it was too beautiful a day to stay home alone and she wanted me to have the chance to meet and possibly play with this relative’s big dog named Otis. I’m so glad she came to her senses because we both had a wonderful time. Well, Otis wasn’t happy about another male dog invading his turf and getting all the attention. While he sniffed me a little bit, he mostly barked his displeasure from the house, especially when Mom let his owner give me one of his Purina Frosty Paws, a cup of ice cream specially made for dogs! It was so good I was in denial for several minutes after the relative took the empty cup away that it was really gone! Mom says she had never heard of them, but if I’m good, she’ll look for them in our stores and let me have one every now and then. They would be perfect for next summer if it is anything like this summer was! But I digress. Usually I go crazy with excitement about the prospect of playing with another dog, but since Otis wasn’t happy about my presence, I was respectful, getting in my submissive pose and letting him have his space. But since this house has a fenced in yard, I did get to run off-leash a bit, the perfect way to celebrate the end of the dog days of summer and the start of our senior year.

     Well, I better get going because Grandpa is cooking barbecue ribs and he might need my help. In honor of Labor Day, I hope working dogs everywhere are helping their cooks out too!

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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