GUIDE DOG: the story of ike

PREFACE:

If you have ever gone through the process of choosing a dog, you’re probably aware of the expression, “Let the dog choose you.” Like most expressions, cliché as they may appear, the reason they become cliché is that they’re true—this one in particular. Believe what you may, but you don’t choose your dog—we choose you. Long before you’ve ever had the thought of bringing a dog into your life, the wheels of the universe have been put in motion.

Following the belief that people come into your life when you most need them, the same is true of us. We’re more than just a cute ball of fur with sweet smelling puppy-breath—we’re teachers. As best we can, we help to influence the direction of your life for the better.

CHAPTER ONE: MY NAME IS IKE

“Here we go, again, third time ‘round having to earn my food and a place to live!”

Okay, not a great first thought coming into the world. However, as my mom tirelessly dragged her warm and scratchy tongue over my wet, slimy body I won’t lie; I couldn’t figure my bad luck. I was hoping for a farm this time. You know, with ducks to chase and horse crap to roll in. I would’ve given anything for that—even my good looks. No kidding, I could’ve lived with being a mutt—if it meant a home without work.

It’s not like I hate my job or that I’m lazy—not at all. In fact, I think I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty on many occasions during my previous assignments.

My first owner was an older man who lost his sight as a result of diabetes. He was a big guy. We didn’t do much, mind you. But, I was good for him. I laid around a fair bit; nonetheless, I still kept him company. And, when we did go out, I made sure to keep him safe. It lasted about six years. He eventually was hospitalized and died shortly after.

I spent the rest of my life with a young family. They had three energetic boys. Man—that was no retirement. But, I managed.

Then there was my next owner, a younger man who lost his sight in a gruesome accident at work. He was angry—at everyone. Including me. I was patient with him despite his temper and the occasional smacks across my backside with his cane. Again, I did what was expected of me—I kept him company and safe. But, it wasn’t much of a life.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not ungrateful. I know being a golden retriever is pretty high on the list of what most dogs wish for. And, yes, I get it—as guide dogs, we do important work. But, the work is sometimes, well … boring. And, the owners that I’ve had so far have been kind-of unhappy. Understandably, I realize that. Losing your sight is no walk in the park. But, I figured I deserved a bit of a break this time.

I wanted to run and play, kick back and live every day like it was my last. I didn’t care what I looked like. I didn’t care how cute I was. I didn’t care! I just wanted to have some fun for a change.

This life began on April 27th, 1993. I came sliding into this world with seven other pups just like me. It was pretty uneventful as dog births go—I suppose that’s a good thing. Not that I wasn’t appreciative for having another shot at this crazy game called life. I mean, I was happy to be alive, healthy and have the parents that I did. That was all fine. It’s just that I knew what was in store for me—and I wanted something different.

In about two years, I would be placed with someone who needed the support of a guide dog like me. I would move in with them, get to know them and their family if they had one, and provide company at first until they felt safe enough to trust me. Then we’d venture out into their new life without the use of their eyes. I knew this script all too well.

You know, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure why I was getting this next gig, anyway? I don’t think I’m necessarily great at what I do. I mean, I understood my role as a guide dog—at every moment when I’m on it was all about my owner. Every thought, every action, everything was about them.

Well, the way I saw it, I’d been there. I’d done it. Now, I was looking for a life that was more about me.

I know that sounds kinda selfish. But, that’s how I saw it. I’d done my time. I’d given back to society. You know, the whole nine yards. Now, I wanted something … better. Admitting that doesn’t make me a bad dog. I mean, who wouldn’t?

At least this time I was starting off with rockstar parents. My mom had been identified as an exceptional breeding dog. She was gentle and patient. In fact, her earlier pups were so good as guide dogs, this was her third litter in five years. My dad, a handsome and strong golden himself, was smart and obedient. He, too, had produced some standout guide dogs.

Their meeting had been brief and purposeful. The result was the eight golden retriever puppies now sucking our mother’s milk.

This early stage was my favourite part of being alive. We were loved and cared for. Fed at all hours of the day. The place was spotless—our poos and pees got cleaned up almost immediately by our human mom. We had a big yard in which to play. For eight weeks life couldn’t get much better.

After that brief stint of paradise, however, I would leave my family and move in with a total stranger while I grew and developed the social skills needed to help take care of my next forever owner. As of today, that stranger was looking like some guy named Jason.

All I knew about him was that he was young, active, loved the outdoors and was attending a local art school—which meant absolutely nothing to me. It was the active and outdoors thing that I was honed in on.

We’d heard our mom’s forever owners talking about the humans who had signed up for the chance to take a fluffy new golden home and care for it. As we lay nursing, we could hear them describing our future prospects. Recent empty-nester moms were at the top of the list. They simply wanted something, anything, to care for and saw us as the perfect answer.

There were a few retirees in the group—probably just bored. As well as some families with children who had promised to help out. Jason was different and, therefore, had caught my attention. I was thinking quite seriously about choosing him for my temporary home.

My name is Ike. I’m one of the eight pups. My siblings and I have been discussing who was going home with whom for the last few weeks. There are Ivan, Ivor, Indie, Ian, Ishtar and our sisters, Iona and Ivy. Our names all start with “I” for a reason. It’s how they track pups like us who are bred to do what we do. As far as golden retriever puppies go, we’re pretty cute—I’m sure that goes without saying. There’s a reason you see us in movies and commercials—we’re adorable.

My current home was in Coquitlam, British Columbia. It’s a small city just outside of Vancouver situated on the west coast of Canada. My mom’s owner was Roberta. She was awesome. Always taking time to cuddle and play with us. So far, this life was off to a great start.

My siblings and I got along fine. There were the occasional flare-ups. But, nothing a few sharp puppy-teeth couldn’t sort out.

Our days consisted of playing time, eating time and sleeping time. That was it—pretty simple. It was a life that I could’ve gotten used to.

Six weeks into it, we were scheduled to meet our next owners. Puppy Walkers was their official name. They were people who volunteered to welcome us into their homes for roughly ten months to a year.

Their job was simple. Feed us. Keep us safe. Give us some exercise. Train us according to the guide dog rulebook and socialize us with as many life experiences as possible.

Okay, maybe simple isn’t necessarily fair. The checklist was simple, but what it looked like and the amount of work that was required was something altogether different. Imagine bringing an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy into your home for a year. Yes, the feeding and exercise part is straightforward. However, the rulebook could be a challenge.

While on leash, we always had to walk on our owners left-hand-side. We couldn’t pull on the leash, either. We were supposed to walk just ahead of our owners while ignoring anything and everything that we came upon.

At street corners, we had to stand and wait quietly until we were told to walk. Chasing sticks and tennis balls were supposed to be limited. No tug-o-war. And, worst of all, no chasing squirrels or cats—impossible! I mean, half of my name was ‘retriever’—are you kidding me? Who makes this stuff up? It was like telling a fish they couldn’t swim.

And, the worst part about some of the walks—I had to wear my guide dog jacket. Yup, some poorly designed flap of material that looped around my neck and my chest; it itched like crazy. I hated that thing. Every time I was out in the public—going out to restaurants or shopping in malls or riding the bus, I had it on. It was brutal. Okay, I realize that people had to know who I was and why I was walking into their store—but there had to be a better way.

Furthermore, we couldn’t sleep on furniture or beds. We had to travel in the passenger foot-well of cars—no hanging out the window with our ears and tongues flapping in the wind. We could play, but we had to be reserved. Never getting too excited and always at the ready to be called back under control. It wasn’t too bad, but those rules could sure get tiresome.

For me, the part that was really challenging was knowing that in less than a year, we’d be leaving our temporary families. It’s interesting; I’d often hear people express what they saw as the biggest obstacle in volunteering as a Puppy Walker—“Oh, I could never do that.” they’d say. “I’d get too attached to the dog!”

If I had a tennis ball for every time I heard that I’d be set—no pun intended. Well, how about us? How about the puppies? You think it’s easy coming into a home with fun-loving children and parents who dote over us every waking moment and then leave a year later? It’s not. You think we don’t get attached? Come on—we’ve just left our mom and our siblings at the age of eight weeks. Eight weeks! And, then we’re the center of attention for about a year and boom—we get taken off to boot camp. Who wrote that script? That’s not okay. That’s not even close to okay!

However, I’d learned my lesson. Now, after my previous two tours-of-duty, I had a plan. I was going to keep this all business. Sure, I’d enjoy the fun stuff that I imagined I was going to do with Jason. But, I wasn’t going to let myself get attached to him. No way. Not this time. I’d eat my meals, learn to pee and poo on command outside, you know—do all of the training stuff, everything I was supposed to. Then, my plan was to sleep away the day … by myself. Nope—no cuddling. No face licking. No nothing. I was going to resist the temptation to get emotionally invested with Jason. This year would be about having as much fun as possible before I got shipped off for special-ops training. I finally had this gig figured out.

CHAPTER TWO: MEETING JASON

Eventually, the time came to meet and choose our temporary families. It was a Saturday. The day had started like every other; milkies from mom, wrestling with my brothers and sisters, along with a few naps thrown in for good measure. Heaven.

“I’ve been thinking, I’m going to pick that young guy; Jason.” I shared with Ivor as we both dozed waiting for the choosing ritual to begin. “It could be fun!”

“What? Why would you want to go with him? He’s a student!” said Indie as he yawned and stretched. Indie was the biggest of the litter. He liked to play alpha, and we pretty much just let him. We were only here for a few weeks—most of us couldn’t be bothered challenging him on stupid things like who got the best sleeping spots or first dibs on mom’s milk.

“Yah, Ike, you’re looking at a year of sub-par living if you go with that guy,” added Ivan.

Now the whole gang was waking up and beginning to chime in. This was a big day for all of us. Who we chose as our Puppy Walker’s had huge implications as to the year we were in for. Usually, by now, we had all agreed upon who would choose whom. But, in this case, no one wanted Jason.

“What are you talking about? So what, the guy’s still in school. It doesn’t’ make him a criminal.” I countered.

“Why not go with a family? Then, you get a nice house. Fancy car. Fun vacations. We’ve only got a year, you know, you might as well raise the odds in your favour—choose someone who’s got some money!” said a now more insistent Indie.

“Money? Who cares. The guy loves the outdoors. He runs and hikes. Swims. Goes camping. No way; I’m choosing his lifestyle—I don’t care about his house.”

“I think that’s a great choice, Ike.” Iona, one of our sisters, had heard enough. Although not the biggest of the litter, she was strong-willed and stood her ground when she had to. “If it’s what you want, don’t listen to them. It’s not supposed to be about his house, anyway.” Iona had strong opinions and wasn’t afraid to share them. I smiled at her acknowledging that she had come to my rescue.

“Whatever—I think you’re both crazy!” said Indie, dismissing us while pushing our brother Ivor with his outstretched paw in an attempt to instigate another wrestling match.

“Let him choose who he wants, Indie,” said Ian. “Besides, if Ike takes the student—then none of us have to!” he added with a snicker.

“Yah—thanks, Ian. Appreciate the support, big guy!”

One by one, the families came to Roberta’s house and into her pantry off the kitchen where we spent our time indoors. Jason was the third person to arrive. Indie and Ivy had already claimed their future interim homes.

“He’s taller than I thought!” I said aloud as he walked through the door.

Jason stood there watching us as we continued to wrestle and play. Our mom had been sent outside and given a break while the visitors looked us over. She, too, was preparing herself for what would come in two weeks time—our departure. Some alone-time was prescribed to ease the stress that was building as she prepared to say goodbye to her offspring. I’m sure she wouldn’t miss eight sets of sharp puppy-teeth gnawing at her teats all day, but no doubt our leaving was going to be hard for her as well.

“They’re pretty cute,” said Jason.

“Yes, there’s nothing quite as adorable as a golden retriever puppy—not to mention eight of them!” answered Roberta.

“How does anyone choose?” he quietly asked while curiously looking us over. No one moved. We stood there and returned his inquisitive gaze.

“Well, they say you should let them choose you. I don’t know if that’s entirely true. But, it’s what everyone who comes here seems to believe.”

“What, so just get inside behind the gate and see who comes up to me?” asked a still unsure Jason.

“I think that would be a good start. Here, let me unclasp this for you and you can get in there with them.”

As soon as Jason stepped one foot inside our pen, the entire gang was upon him. He knelt down and experienced the likes of a golden retriever puppy mosh pit.

“Wow—these guys are full of beans!” said Jason as he managed all eight of us reaching for his face and a quick lick. “Can I take all of them?”

“Ah, that was kinda cute!” said Iona. “I think he’ll be perfect for you, Ike.”

“Yah, me too—that was kinda nice,” I said while I finished sizing this guy up. “Okay everyone, time to look disinterested. This guys mine. Ivor, Ishtar… hit the road.”

As the others moved their wrestling match back to the center of the room. I remained standing alone in front of my young student.

“Hmm. This guy seems interested? I think your advice worked, Roberta.”

“Apparently it did. His name is Ike. If you’re settled on that one, I can claim him as spoken for.”

Jason paused for a moment as he stared into my eyes. “Ike, eh? Like the general, I suppose? Sure. Let’s go with him.” he answered scratching me under my chin. “Can I pick him up?”

“Of course. Just make sure you support his hind-legs. Their ligaments haven’t set at this age.”

“Man—he’s something else. And, he’s big, too—he’s heavier than I thought.” As his nose passed mine, he shared something I had never heard from any of my previous owners. “I love the smell of their breath!” said Jason as he inhaled another whiff of my distinctive puppy breath.

“Really? Not everyone feels that way.” answered a surprised Roberta.

“I love it. If I could bottle this stuff, I bet I’d make a fortune.”

Roberta let out a loud laugh as she grabbed her clipboard to indicate a note to herself that Ike had been claimed.

“What’s with the paint on his fur?” he asked.

“Oh, that just nail polish. We use it to tell them apart.”

“Well, I won’t need that marking—this guy’s the most handsome one in here by far.”

“Ha—take that, Indie. This guy knows a real looker when he sees one!”

“If you say so, Ike—oh, and enjoy sleeping on that cold floor when you get to his home.”

“That’s it—would you stop it, Indie. Enough about the house—he seems like the perfect match for Ike. Why can’t you be happy for your brother?” said a very annoyed Iona.

Indie slowly deflated like a balloon.

After one more whiff, Jason put me down and stepped out behind the gate to join Roberta. I returned to my siblings and the wrestling match that was now losing steam. As I bit into the ears of my brothers in the hopes of reigniting another round of body slams and lip bites, the others slowly lost interest and began to nod off to sleep.

“Come on. You’ve got to be kidding—you’re all tired? We just started!” I said in a last-ditch attempt to inspire some more carnage.

“No way, Ike. I’m beat.” said a drowsy Ishtar.

“Yah, we’re all beat. Time for another nap,” confirmed Ivor.

“That’s brutal,” I said in disgust standing amidst a pile of sleeping golden fur.

“Look at him standing there—he still wants to wrestle! Oh-oh, I think I just picked the scrappiest one of the bunch. He’s sure got some spunk.” confirmed Jason as he and Roberta closed the door behind them leaving me alone with my napping siblings.

CHAPTER THREE: THE HOUSE

For the next two weeks, our routine remained pretty much the same. Eating, playing and sleeping—lots of sleeping. We were growing quickly and our bodies demanded the rest. Much to our disapproval, however, milkies were now being replaced by puppy food from a bag that Roberta referred to as brekky or din-dins. Sure it was tasty, but we all missed cuddling up with each other and suckling our moms’ warm milk throughout the day.

It was all part of the strategy to ease the transition for us, as well as for our mom. If eight pups left a lactating dog all at once, she’d be sore. Engorged milk glands were painful without hungry pups nearby to relieve the pressure. Therefore, anytime during the day we bothered our mom for a feed, Roberta would chase us off.

Finally, our departure day arrived. The morning had been unusually quiet. No wrestling, no body slams, no biting, no nothing, just quiet. Our mom was out for a long walk with Roberta’s husband. Again, it was about easing the transition. We had all said our goodbyes beforehand. Sure we were her third litter, but I could tell she was sad. I was going to miss her—she had been so nurturing.

It had to be a tough gig; 24-hour-a-day care for 8 weeks and then, boom, we were gone. Just like that—never to see us again. Man, who signed-up for that?

Roberta, also. I would miss her, too. She’d been the best human mom I’d had so far. We knew she was a volunteer and had provided many a guide dog pup with a great start in life—but, I couldn’t imagine this day got any easier for her, either. It’s hard to say goodbye to puppies when you’ve helped bring them into the world. We could tell this was more than a job for Roberta. She genuinely cared deeply for all of us.

There was only four of us left when Jason showed up just before lunchtime. Indie, Ivor, Ian and Ivy’s new owners had already been by earlier in the day.

“I can’t get over how much he’s grown in two weeks!” said Jason.

“Goodbye, Ike. See you in a few weeks!”

“You bet—bye Iona. I’ll miss you!”

“Me, too!” she answered, as I got scooped up by Roberta.

“Now, do you have everything?” asked Roberta carrying me as they both walked towards Jason’s car. “I gave you his jacket, collar, and leash, as well as a bag of puppy food. I’ll be around regularly to check in and see how you’re doing. If you need more food, I’ll always have some with me. Remember, if you need anything—doesn’t matter what time of day—just call me. Okay? You’ll do just fine, Jason. Have fun with Ike—he’s a special little guy.”

“You be good, now, Ike. I’ll see you again soon. And, take good care of Jason!” she said with a laugh. “I know you will.” She gave me a final kiss on my forehead before Jason took hold of me and plunked me into his car.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” said Jason. “I won’t let you down, Roberta. He’ll be the best guide dog pup you’ve ever seen.” They shook hands one last time before he climbed into his car. “Thanks, again!” Jason yelled as we drove away.

Sitting in the passenger foot-well, as prescribed, I looked up at my new temporary owner sitting in the driver’s seat. This car wasn’t so bad. I don’t know what all the fuss was about from the others. All I cared was it had five wheels—four of which touched the ground and the fifth was in his hands. That worked just fine for me.

A few moments into the ride to my new home, I figured I’d test this guy out—just to see how strict Jason was going to be with the rules. As I began to stir, and then attempt climbing onto the passenger seat, Jason wasted little time in responding.

“Nope—sorry, little guy—Roberta made the rules pretty clear to me. You stay put.” as he pushed me off the seat. I wasn’t giving up that easily. I made one more attempt but was met with stern resistance as I tumbled back to the floor mat. Hmm, this guy might be tougher to crack than my last two. I conceded for now and curled up for a nap. I’d have other chances. With the constant vibration from the engine and the gentle rocking as the car navigated our way to my new how it wasn’t long before I was asleep.

“Come on, Ike—time to meet your new roommates.”

I awoke to Jason lifting me out of the car. He lived with two other university students. One named Trev. The other, Pat. They were both waiting out front when we pulled up.

“Hello Ike!” said Trev, as he reached out to meet my sleepy looking face. “Looks as though you just woke up? Poor little fella!” I sized him up as he stroked my soft ears. “He’s pretty cute, Jase.”

“Well, look at this little handsome boy—how’s it goin’, Ike? Welcome!” said Pat, as he scratched the underside of my chin.

No sooner had those introductions finished, when the neighbourhood kids came running over to meet me. No doubt they had heard about my pending arrival and had been anxiously awaiting this day.

Jason put me down and stepped back. Like excited bees with fresh pollen, the buzzing children clamoured for my undivided attention; grabbing for their turn to hold me.

“Look how cute he is, mom! He’s just like Bear—except Bear doesn’t go outside to pee or poop, does he?” I was used to it from my previous families. Nothing stirred the interest of a child quite like the sight of a puppy.

Having had enough, I broke loose and ran. It felt so good to move and discover the speed my short legs could muster. Randomly changing direction for no other reason than it felt good, I darted in and out of these young kids as they tried to catch me. Their excitement fueled mine and we engaged in a mad dash around the front yard.

Their parents, along with my new roommates laughed and cheered, encouraging the impromptu game of chase. Then, as quickly as it began, it ended. At eight weeks of age, my energy, intense as it could be, was short-lived. I collapsed into a chubby ball of panting fur. The kids soon followed—rolling on the grass completely exhausted with their legs and arms flailing in the air.

It was time for some water. As if having read my mind, Jason appeared with an old and dented stainless steel mixing bowl filled with what I wanted. Placing the bowl on the ground, the ice-cubes clinked as I began lapping up as much cold water as I could as fast as I could. With my front legs stretched out on either side of the bowl and my hind legs outstretched in the opposite direction, the cool grass felt good against my belly. However, it didn’t take long for that belly to look as though I’d swallowed a fish bowl. Unable to drink another drop, I raised my left paw and dropped it into the remaining water tipping the bowl and splashing myself in the face.

Ah, life was good—this was going to be okay.

CHAPTER FOUR: OUR FIRST NIGHT

Just before bed, Jason carried me out the kitchen door, onto the deck and down the outside stairs that led to the backyard and what would become my bathroom for the next year or so. Roberta’s instructions were clear; if during the first 48 hours he only took me outside to go busy, as she called it, I’d be house-trained in no time. And, just as she’d suggested, I got plopped down onto the grass while Jason stood there watching and repeating, “Go busy, Ike. Go busy!”

As much as I had learned a few things about life in my previous tours, as a new pup I’d have to start again and relearn the everyday basics. Being on a leash, coming when called, sitting and staying put, waiting for the okay command to begin my meals; it was all part of the deal. We had to be close to perfect by the time next spring rolled around.

Trev and Pat, each with a can of beer, soon joined Jason out back as he continued to encourage me to do my thing.

“He’s quite a good lookin’ pup, Jase,” said Trev, as he and Pat took a seat on the picnic table.

“Come on, Ike. Go busy! What are you waiting for?” said Jason, still anxiously hovering over me while I took my time discovering my new digs.

After an audible swig, Pat asked, “I think it’s great what you’re doing, Jason. And, I totally support Ike being here. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the next few months with a dog in the house—really. But, how on earth are you going to give him back come springtime? I can’t see how you’re not going to get attached to that cute little face.”

There, told you—another tennis ball for me! It’s always about the human, never the dog.

Without looking up, Jason answered, “Easy—I’ve got a plan.”

“Really? A plan?” replied Trev. Jason’s roommates looked at each other curiously. “We’re all ears!”

“Well, I’m not saying I don’t want to enjoy my time with Ike—I mean, I want to have some fun with him, too. And, I’m looking forward to having a dog in the house, as well. But, the way I see it, Ike’s a different dog. He’s a working dog. And, he’s going to be someone’s eyes someday. I see that as a big deal. So, I want to prepare the best guide dog pup they’ve ever seen. I gave Roberta my word!”

“Okay—so, what’s your plan?” asked Trev.

“I’m going to keep this relationship like a job. All business.”

I stopped sniffing and looked up at my new owner.

“What are you looking at? Take a pee, for God’s sake. Come on, go busy, Ike! Quit stalling. This is taking way too long.”

Pat and Trev looked at each other, again.

After a moment, Pat offered the obvious. “Jason, he’s a dog. Not a widget. And, I don’t imagine Roberta sees this as the contest that you clearly do. It’s not like you’ll win a prize when you’re done with him.” Trev elbowed Pat. They were all quiet for a few moments. “Look, I’m not going to tell you how to take care of him. But, I also don’t think keeping this all business is going to work out quite the way you think it will. At some point, you’re going to become emotionally attached to that little guy.”

“Maybe.” Acknowledged Jason.

There was some more awkward silence.

“What if Pat and I teach Ike all of the wrong things? You know, chase the neighbours’ cat. Lay on the couch. Crap on the sidewalk. Hump everyone’s leg when company comes to visit. Stuff like that?”

Pat choked on his beer.

Jason looked at Trev as Pat stood up trying to not lose any more beer through his nose. “How are you going to teach him to hump people when they come over to visit?”

“Yah, Trev—why don’t you give us demonstration right now?” replied Pat.

Trev looked at Pat, curled his lip as he growled, barked and then panted like a dog. They all laughed. “What? I’m just trying to help. I heard that if these guide dog pups fail, the temporary owners get to keep them. So, wouldn’t that be great! Jason could keep Ike.”

“No, not happening. I can’t keep Ike—not a chance. The only reason this one-year deal can work is because of that little guide dog jacket that came with him. It’s my ticket for taking him to school. Without that jacket, Ike wouldn’t be allowed in the building. Which means he’d stay home all day—I wouldn’t do that to him. Besides, until I get out of school, there’s no way I can afford the vet bills and the extra food. With this arrangement, all that stuff is covered. Appreciate the sentiment, Trev, but it’s better if Ike moves on from here in May. Believe me.”

I was finally done sniffing around. Time to do what we had come out here for.

“Good boy, Ike. Good busy!” Jason said with relief. “Okay, we’re done. I’m going to take him back upstairs. I’ll see you guys inside.” Jason picked me up and made his way to the stairs.

“Come on, Trev—where do you think of this stuff?” asked Pat as we walked by.

“Just trying to help out my roomie!” he said as he winked and smiled at Jason.

“And, I suppose you were going to teach Ike how to crap on the sidewalk, as well?”

“You know me, Pat, team player,” Trev replied before taking a final sip of his beer as we left the two of them to enjoy an early summers evening in Vancouver.

My new home was decent. True, my brothers were right—it was no palatial palace, that was for certain. But, it would do. Jason’s room looked as though it was actually a dining room. Not much for privacy, but I came here expecting as much. Jason had set up my crate beside his bed which appeared to be a futon. He was a student, alright!

There were no curtains, and, not surprisingly, none of his furniture matched, either. I wasn’t too fussed. He and his roommates seemed like good guys. They joked around constantly and appeared to get along just fine.

“This is where you sleep, Ike,” said Jason pointing to the crate. “Roberta loaned it to me, and said it was important that you get used to sleeping in it starting with the first night.”

Of course she did.

“I’ve found some foam and some old blankets. You should be okay in there. Oh, and I bought this old-fashioned alarm clock, too. Roberta said it mimics the sound of your mom’s heart beating. It’s supposed to help you sleep. I guess we’ll find out.”

I sat down on the cool hard wooden floor and looked up at Jason who was now sitting on his bed looking back at me. He looked worried. Perhaps, wondering about his strategy that Pat had clearly questioned a moment ago. Could he truly keep our relationship all business? Maybe he was questioning his original intentions.

Not me; I had been through this before. There was no way I was going to let my guard down.

However, despite my own self-serving intention, it was impossible not to appreciate how hard he was trying. The alarm clock thing had never worked for me, but it was still a nice gesture. It wasn’t just the sound of our mom that I’d miss. It was her smell, her warmth, her caring spirit; we could feel that stuff. That’s what I was going to miss. Knowing that the dog that had brought me into this world was just inches away. My protector.

I thought about my mom and my siblings. I imagined that every one of them was managing the same as I was; missing each other. However, I was tired and ready for sleep. It had been a long first day.

Before conceding to that crate, I figured I’d give Jason one more test. While he went to brush his teeth, I tried to climb onto his bed. Sure it was a futon, but chances were it was more comfortable than old foam. Besides, I hated crates! I spent more than half of both my lives waiting to do something from the inside of a stupid crate.

If I could manage to change one thing in this first year, it would be to work my way onto that bed. Yet, no matter how desperately I tried, I wasn’t big enough at eight weeks. With one last effort, Jason came back into the room. “Hey—no, no, no. That’s not happening, buddy. In here, little guy.”

Jason grabbed my little collar and lead me into my crate. Thankfully, he was starting off with only the bottom half of it until I got used to the idea of sleeping in a glorified plastic box. Again, Jason was following to a “T” on the advice of Roberta. “Look, you can see me from there. I’ll be right beside you. It’s no big deal, Ike. Just lay down and go to sleep. Okay?”

No big deal? Yah, then you get down here, bucko! See how you like sleeping by yourself on some old smelly blankets. Begrudgingly, I moved to the back of the crate, laid down, buried my nose in my tail and closed my eyes. Besides, after that last comment, I didn’t want to sleep on his bed anymore.

Photo Credit: Collin Savage

Jason Dorland
Jason Dorland
Jason Dorland has dedicated his life to the pursuit of excellence for himself and those he supports.