With trainers hovering over us like mother hens, sixteen of us pottied our dogs. I could see, with my limited eyesight, that my two hallway neighbors got black labs. I was excited to meet everyone else’s dogs and learn their quirks, though I would never lay a hand on them or say their names.
Fran, my next-door neighbor, asked, “How will I find it when my dog goes?”
Follow the leash. It’s not that hard. I couldn’t believe this question. One. Follow the leash to your dog. Two, follow your dog to its tail. Three, put your bagged hand under said tail until you find the pile. Four scoop pile into hand, and five, tie bag and deposit the mess into the trash can. No eyesight required. Blind people have been picking up after their guide dogs for nearly a century.
Diva started walking in circles. I mean, a lot of them. Amber came up and told me, “Diva always has to make Epic Circles before she can relieve. Nobody knows why.”
I laughed. She moved on to help someone.
“How do I know if it’s going to be number one or number two?” Ann asked.
She actually said number one and number two.
Hearing no trainer around to help her, I decided to be helpful. “Once you’ve followed the leash to your dog, notice whether his back is flat or arched. Flat is for liquid and rounded is for solid.”
“Okay. But I’m still not sure how to find it.”
I think my mom down in Missouri could have felt my eyes roll. “You’ll figure it out. The hole is just below the base of the tail, so start there.” I tried reminding myself that she had never been out of her hometown, EVER, before coming to Leader Dogs, but that only led me on a mental tirade of why they gave me hassles about living where there are no traffic lights and let her breeze right in with zero travel experience outside her little town where she taught at the same blind school she had attended.
After about nine circles, I sang a chant I had learned, “We are a circle within a circle, with no beginning, and everlasting.”
Johnny from two doors down said, “They sing that sometimes at church.”
“My dog likes to circle. She finally finished casting the pee spell.”
Johnny laughed. Fran gasped.
Karen, one of the trainers cracked up. “Good one, Ronda. Fran, step up to your dog and follow his back. He’s leaving you a load.”
“Ronda, what breed?”
“Humanoid from another world.”
“No, silly. I meant your dog.”
“Golden glamazon girl.”
“Glamazon? That isn’t her name, is it?”
“I got a low maintenance lab.”
Breathing fast, Fran squatted three feet from her dog’s rear with one of the giant pick-up bags.
I felt for her and her dog. Clearly, she was out of her depth, and her poor dog would be the one to suffer for it. He watched her swipe at the ground.
“Fran, please try to calm down. Take a breath. You’ll either find the poop with your hand or your shoe.”
My girl sniffed around. While listening to the endless barking from the nearby kennel and the chatter of students and trainers, I beamed reassurance to her and Fran’s dog.
All our dogs had been through a lot this year, and now they were brought into a strange room and handed off to a stranger who felt excited and nervous.
My empathy let me feel it all first-hand. While I heard Fran’s anxious breathing near me, I also felt her emotions of fear and uncertainty plus her shakiness. Mostly I picked up excitement tinged with nervousness. The dogs overall gave off a different vibe.
Animal communication is one of the wacky ways I’m wired, meaning I can speak mind-to-mind with them. They don’t generally speak in words, but rather give an emotional gestalt of their experience.
The overall sense from the dogs was a big dose of curiosity with pockets of uncertainty and large dollops of “I like this person.”
The most anxious dog of them all sniffed at my feet.
I tried to scratch her between the ears. She jumped away, so I stopped.
They made a golden retriever not want to be touched. What have they done to you?
“Diva, I promise you’ll have a great life now. I am your forever home, beautiful girl. You won’t be shuffled around anymore.”
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