Retiring My Service Dog

By request, I am transferring a copy of this to “Hearing Elmo”.

Almost "11-year-old" ChloeAlmost “11-year-old” Chloe

Dear Chloe,

I started asking questions of other veteran teams about a year ago. I started to notice some things about your energy level throughout the day. You were always great about taking naps when the time was available to do so. It helped keep your tail wagging and enabled you to always be on your toes when I needed you. Lower energy levels coupled with some obvious pain when your packmate, Tyco, hit your back clued us in that something else was up. I noticed that if someone reached down to pet you with heavy hand you’d shy away or even yelp. Your beloved vet verified you had developed arthritis in your spine. We tried a variety of helps and eventually found something that didn’t make you walk around like a zombie but kept your pain at bay. I tried to ignore what my heart was telling me. I’d deliberately think of other things; things like those early years.

Alerting to my cell phone jingleAlerting to my cell phone jingle

Do you remember?

… when you first learned to alert to my cell phone ringing? We had practiced all day. That evening, you calmly lay by the tub while I indulged in a bubble bath. Evidently my phone rang, because the next thing I knew both you and the phone were in the tub with me. I guess all those bubbles did look like a solid surface.

Do you remember?

… when I learned awfully darn quickly to carefully search through the laundry basket before lifting it up if you were doing a PERFECT POINT towards the hidden cat in the warm, dry clothes?

Do you remember?

… when you came running in the office and popped me in the chest – something not at all allowed? I corrected you and made you lay down and you hopped right back up and popped me in the chest again. So I followed you – down the stairs and into the laundry room where a fire had started. Right as I entered the laundry room, the smoke alarm went off. You were more reliable than the smoke alarm.

Do you remember?

… flying all over the country speaking at various conventions and conferences for the Hearing Loss Association of America? You were always such a great ambassador for service dogs and for Fidos For Freedom, Inc. You accompanied me to speak at a Cochlear America’s convention. It didn’t matter if we were speaking on Capitol Hill, or a local chapter of people with hearing loss, you were a friendly, hard-working service dog wherever we went.

Do you remember?

… being on television because we were kicked out of the Francis Scott Key Mall in Frederick, in spite of your good looks? We couldn’t convince security that you were a service dog and that it was a violation of the ADA to not allow the service dog that helped me be independent into the mall with me. Mall management apologized, we did a training, and your mug was in newspapers and video feeds everywhere. What a great ambassador you are!

Do you remember?

… when my balance disorder become much worse and I cried myself to sleep almost every night? You’d lick my face and snuggle close and were simply “there” for me.

Do you remember?

… when I noticed a student struggling and asked to meet with them after class? We all sat down and I asked “Is everything, OK?” You stood up and walked over and put your chin on their knee. The floodgates opened and we discovered the tragic circumstances this young man was trying to deal with on his own and were able to get him the help he needed. You were always so good at reaching out to students in need.

Always so happy in stores...Always so happy in stores…

Do you remember?

… how every store employee in all the stores we frequent, eventually learned your name and had to say hello to you? You’d bow and then wag your tail. Oh my goodness, all the items you’ve picked up for me over the years! I have grown so accustomed to not having to ask people for help.

Do you remember?

… running home to bark at the door for dad after I slipped and rolled down the hill and hit a tree? We thought I had also broken my ankle, but it was only sprained. You went all that way back to the house by yourself and got help. You didn’t complain that I had to use a walker for 5 weeks.

Do you remember?

… all the trainings at Fidos For Freedom? All the DEMOS, information booths, and community awareness activities? Girl? You shine.

Finally brave enough to do stairs...Finally brave enough to do stairs…

Do you remember?

… when I was finally brave enough to try stairs? If a national park like Harper’s Ferry did not have elevators, walking paths were impossible for me. You allowed me to hike again. Thank you.

all the re-certification tests we've done together! Wow!all the re-certification tests we’ve done together! Wow!

Do you remember?

… all the re-certification tests we’ve done? You sailed through your requirements each year while I sweat out the written part of the test. Oh for your calm, hound dog!

Do you remember?

… being the topic of NUMEROUS posts on Hearing Elmo, my now fourteen-year-old blog for people with acquired disabilities?

Do you know how many lives you have touched? What a difference you’ve made in my life, and in the life of others!

Do you know how much I love you? I love you enough to let you retire even though I miss you desperately when I go to work on the days you are now staying home. I love you enough to let you rest, and play, and be a beloved pet. I love you enough to support you in your second career and let you be the therapy dog you’ve always wanted to be. I love you enough to phase you out of donning your vest each morning. I love you enough that I miss having you by my side 24/7, but love you enough to know you are sleeping and resting at home – waiting for me to come home so that you can cover me with Chloe kisses.

Thank you for being my partner, Chloe. You have given me independence and confidence to help me realize my dreams and to be involved in the disability community. Thank you, for loving me unconditionally and teaching me to do the same. Enjoy retirement, my red-headed sweetheart. You deserve it!

Your partner,

Denise

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