My Third Life
by John Delach
Tessie (As imagined by John Delach)
Once Ria hooked me up to my harness and took hold of it, she took control, and I was all business. My sole purpose was to guide and protect her. My love for Ria and my training propelled me to perfection and observers soon knew me to be a serious guide dog.
Off harness, Ria knew I’d steal an occasional mouth lick or a treat. But on harness, I had her complete trust.
Our time moved on. Strange things began to happen in the spring of 2018. What always came naturally to me now become a chore. I did my best to serve Ria, protect her and guide her but it was becoming harder to do. I knew I was in trouble, but I didn’t know why. Ria noticed too. We continued our activities, but it seemed Ria was correcting me more and more.
My gait had changed upsetting our routine. Ria suffered as a result. I couldn’t perform my part in our dance seamlessly causing her to compensate. Ria suffered new pains and strains to her arm and shoulder. I accompanied her to the doctor several times where she sought relief.
By June, the truth became obvious to both of us; at nine years old, I was wearing out. How sad – my life mission was to serve and protect Ria. Like it or not, I could no longer tolerate the intensity of my job. Age had diminished my skills.
Ria began to confide in friends and even called the trainers at The Seeing Eye. Tom came from New Jersey to Port Washington, discussed everything with Ria and put me through my paces.
“Ria, my sense is the same as yours. Tessie is wearing out and it is time for you to consider retiring her and begin to think about a new guide dog.”
Not the best day of my life or Ria’s. Ria cried and in my own way, so did I.
Sadly, we all knew the truth but still, Ria was perplexed. You see up until the beginning of the year, Thomisina, Ria and I all lived together in a big house, but we had moved into a two-bedroom apartment that was more manageable. Previously, when Ria retired her other guide dogs, they continued to live with her in retirement. The big house accommodated all of them, but Ria feared the apartment was too small.
Ria decided to ask her friends, Mary Ann and John to adopt me. John had become Ria’s regular driver and Mary Ann took us shopping and walked me. I had already accepted them as my friends.
From the smell of their cars and clothing, I knew they lived with a dog, most probably a boy Golden Retriever by his odor. I would learn his name was Max, two years younger than me.
They jumped at the offer and agreed to let me meet Max in a park to see if we were compatible. The meeting went well. Max and I took to each other, did our share of sniffing each other then returned to our own activities, sniffing everything in sight and licking the dew off the grass.
A few sleep-overs at Max’s house followed. He had a great collection of toys that he was willing to share. For my part, Ria sent me over with my own food and Max saw that my menu was superior to his.
We soon realized that we could play together. It began when we both grabbed a toy at the same time. This led to a tug of war that escalated into a play fight full of barred teeth and fake snarls. What great fun. He liked it as much as I did, and we’d go at it whenever one of us was in the mood.
Nobody is ever hurt in these wrestling matches. Odd items like an unlucky cup, plate or other object have been knocked over during our shenanigans as we wrestle and roll on the floor with our monster tails wagging to beat the band.
Ria, Thomisina and I celebrated my tenth birthday together. Afterwards, we spent a few tearful, nights together before I left for what would become my third life.
Ria wanted me to experience a life of play in my senior years and so far, so good. John and Mary Ann are both retired, so they are around most of the time. We also travel to New Hampshire and last summer I learned how to swim and retrieve tennis balls. What a hoot!
At home, we live close to Ria’s apartment letting me see Ria and Thomisina on a regular basis. It makes me happy to visit them and I am happy to return home to Max too.
Every morning I wake up happy, hungry and glad to be alive. I watch for a sign, any sign that one of my humans is awake. When I catch a sign, I pounce onto their bed so we can begin the next best day of my life.
Sometime Max follows me. Sometimes he’s ahead of me. Either way, those days are special as we try to out-fox each other to get closest to our people and wake them up. Often this leads to a tussel right there on the bed.
Life is good. Every day is a new day and another opportunity to love and be loved. I take joy in everything I do and everyone I meet. C’mon over some time so I can cry out loud, love you and lick you on your lips.