My Three Lives

by John Delach

Tessie (As imagined by John Delach)

Oh boy, oh boy, I just arrived. My name is Tessie. I’m a Yellow Labrador girl dog. If we ever meet, I will greet you with more than a simple hello and I really, really want to meet you. My heart will be racing, my tail wagging furiously and I will lick your face if you give me the chance. You see I was born with the absolute personification of living in the moment. Each moment I am alive is the best moment of my life.

My life began at The Seeing Eye’s kennel located in Morristown, New Jersey. Supposedly, my brothers and sisters all had names beginning with the letter “T” and I became Tessie.

My first life began with the separation from my Mom. Off I went to a puppy raising family whose role was to love me, stop me from peeing inside and do their best to steer me toward becoming a guide dog.

After about a year and a half, I left my first family to return to Seeing Eye for advanced training. There I met my trainer, Denise, who introduced me to my harness. I spent the next four months with Denise undergoing serious training. There was much to learn as she put me through my paces. It made me happy when I did well because it pleased her. I received her praise and treats which were the best part. I was good at this training as I understood what was expected of me.

One day my trainer presented me to a beautiful woman who simply gushed as I licked her on the mouth. It was love at our first meeting and I took to her almost as much as I’d take to my next meal.

We were paired and trained together with Denise’s help. After a couple of weeks of breaking in each other, we departed the school and returned to her house in Port Washington, New York.

And so, I began my second life. My new partner’s name was Maria, but I knew her as Ria. We learned from each other. I paid attention to her commands and corrections because I knew when I performed as expected, it made her happy and that made me happy. Treats for good work didn’t hurt either.

I really should not tell you this as it is boasting, but I was so good at my job that outsiders would fawn over me. One person, who I think was a doctor, would get down on the floor, pet me and allow me to lick him then give me treats.

Ria also had another doctor who had a reputation for being cold and impersonal. Not so much after I arrived. I melted his heart and that too was the best day of my life.

Life is uneven and we had bad times too. My worst experience happened when we were taking our evening walk along Main Street. Suddenly, Ria stopped and dropped my harness. Off harness, I did as trained; I stopped moving. Little did I know that she had just struck a leafy branch that kids had pulled down. She began to back up to dislodge leaves that had become stuck in her hair when she tripped over a misaligned ankle-high concrete barrier. 

OMG! I had failed her. I covered her body to protect her until the EMS arrived. Thankfully, the senior responder raised guide dogs, so she insisted I accompany Ria to the hospital. That was not a good day for me. I was afraid and ashamed.

I lived with Annie, Ria’s sister until she returned home. That day was the happiest day of my life. Ria was so happy to see me and our cat, Thomasina, and we celebrated the reuniting of our wonderful little family.

The second worst day of my life was when I became as sick as a dog could be and lived to talk about it. It began when I threw up in a doctor’s waiting room. Afterward, I became woozy and disoriented. Ria took me to Doctor Berkowitz who, after taking my temperature, told Ria to get me to the Emergency Room at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. The staff put me on an animal size gurney and rushed me to ICU. For three days I ran a bad fever, but I don’t remember much except they took good care of me and I rewarded them with love when I began to feel better. I was a happy and a hungry dog when my fever finally broke.

Ria had a rich life and part of my job was to get her to where she had to go. Different destinations demanded different skills. I was good, and I got it, but I had to catalog each one of them so I could recall where I was and where I had to guide her the next time.

This wasn’t easy as Ria had to use different people and ways to get to and from her destination. Many times, we had to go by taxi with indifferent drivers. I had to adjust my navigation skills to correct their differences and obliviousness. Other people were always a problem. Many times, they didn’t make room and blocked my path. The worst were the so-called do-gooders who only blocked our way especially those who wanted to pet me. They also distracted Ria by trying to tell her about their dogs. They just made our partnering that much harder.

Thank the Lord Ria understood when I was in trouble and forceful enough to command the humans to stand down. My confidence grew as I knew my partner had my back. We were a great pair!

To be continued.