I actually remember waking up at four in the morning and feeling like it was Christmas. I wanted to run to the instructors’ room and beg her to give me my dog NOW! Obviously, I didn’t do that.
Before we could get our dogs, we had to learn about the basic bodily functions our dogs perform, you know, eating, relieving, and the yucky stuff like vomiting. It’s funny to think back on that now and realize that I had no idea that it would become natural to feed and relieve Julio. It’s funny, too, to realize just how much I didn’t care, as long as they gave me my dog. I think I honestly felt that they were trying to drive me nuts (Just give me the dog already!).
When they announced my dog’s name, I almost cried. Nothing against the men who read this, but I really wanted a girl. I didn’t know that Julio would display all of the things I needed in a dog, even some “maternal” instincts. I called a few friends while I waited to meet Julio, and that’s when Julio and I got our song. I do my best to imitate Paul Simon as I sing “Me and Julio down by the school yard”. Ah, but I’m getting sidetracked.
Julio didn’t exactly display gentlemanly characteristics when we met. Normally, any guy who’d dare to stick his nose into my crotch would get slapped. Julio is the only one who’s tried it, and, because I really needed this dog to like me, I just moved his nose out of there.
Julio has taught me so much about communication. Sometimes, I have to be really specific about what I want from him. His internal monologue would sound something like this: “Okay, you don’t want me to pull you to see that puppy? I’ll just roll on the ground and snort so you’ll think I’m cute.” He’s shown me the value of firm but loving discipline, and I’ve learned how important our communication is. I tell him what I need, and that I love him, and he tells me when to back up to avoid becoming road kill.
This last year has been a trying one. The transition to college would probably have been challenging enough without the RSD flaring up, but since it did, it was difficult. Julio put up with me while I was in my Neurontin induced depression/sate of forgetfulness/freak-out mode. He’s tolerated my need to walk slowly and, for the last two months, he’s handled being sidelined with grace. Julio has sometimes been the best medicine. His joy to see me after surgery sure made me feel good. His care on bad pain days les me know that I’m not alone. His silliness provides laughter, which brings those much-needed endorphins. Most importantly, knowing that he needs me helps me deal with my health in a positive way.
It would be wonderful if this coming year were less challenging. I’d really like to be done with high pain levels, though I don’t know if that will ever happen, and I’d enjoy having fewer limitations. But Julio is still with me. He’s still excited to see me, and still takes that care with me. On nights when I’m having trouble sleeping, he lays with me until I relax. His soft warmth helps answer the questions of faith that like to creep in at late hours. As I once told a classmate at Guide Dogs, I trust Julio, but he reminds me to trust in dog spelled backwards.
I really love Julio. I can’t wait to have that harness in my hand again. I really hope he and I will have many more years together.