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Two years and counting

Summer is the season for conventions, conferences, reunions and get-togethers. You spend the weeks leading up to the event planning, wondering and hoping. Will she like me? Will he and I get along? Who will I meet? What will we do? All of these questions tumbled through my head like clothing in a dryer two years ago as I prepared to meet Julio. Two years ago, I was in Boring, Oregon (yeah, that’s the real name of the town), waiting to find out which dog I’d get. I had all sorts of ideas about what kind of dog I wanted and how we would work together. I wanted a female yellow lab, with a little spunk but not too much. The dog needed to like to cuddle, play and be affectionate.

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.


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Jul. 28th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)
Great post! I remember when I got Yogi only four years ago. We're still learning about each other to this day:) And we've just started really connecting in the post few months...
Jul. 28th, 2006 09:59 pm (UTC)
Isn't it amazing how we can bond with these wonderful dogs even more than we thought possible? BTW, I think it's geat that you also took on the challenge of having a sevice dog in high school. I know that a lot of people wee concerned about me doing that. Obviously, it worked out, but people wee concerned. Good for you for being responsible enough to do that.
Jul. 29th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, it is amazing! He's improved my life in words that I can't even describe. He does incredible things for me and is capable of doing even more!
Jul. 29th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
"I wonder who it will be?"

Nickie, just for a moment - put yourself in Julio's paws. At the guide-dog school maybe he was thinking, too. "Please send me a human that needs me. Bring her to me right away, so I can start to work. This is MY moment in all of dogdom! I hope my human is what I've wanted, what I've trained for. Just lead me to her - so I can lead her."
Jul. 30th, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)
It's a big transition for the dogs. The instructors try to work the dogs as if they can't see, but it's different some how. I know that Julio really shines when he knows he can actually help. He's such a good boy. There's a lot of communication and love going both ways up and down the harness handle.
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