Saying Goodbye to a Legend

December 4, 1996 - September 10, 2007

We were as one- not just soulmates, but as a blended unit. We flowed with a grace and agility that it was impossible to detect where the one ended and the other began.
There was a beauty and innocence that drew me to you. Over our decade together, as my world dimmed your beauty gave rise to a newfound security as I saw life through your amber eyes. Being led in your pawprints, veering and whipping around obstacles was at times like traversing an agility course while others like dancing.

It was an incredible journey! From a six month old puppy afraid of your shadow, creating new steps to the break-dance at every driveway or intersection, to the alertness of a hearing dog replacing my deafness with your acute hearing. You kept me from danger- using your instinctive footsteps to guide me up and down curb cuts and around obstacles even backtracking our path when I got lost or disoriented. Now when I think about how your distractibility affected our guide training, I see that the only limits one has are those they create themselves. As you matured you proved even my own skepticism in error. You were reaching for the stars, my sweet man weren't you? As our partnership progressed together, your intelligent disobedience got us out of many a fix from those who thought stopping behind crosswalks or before turning right were for the other guy. I recall like it was yesterday, the morning when our sidewalk became an extension of the road for a young man running from the police. Your quick thinking really saved my bacon!

Each time I experienced one of your alerts, it was like doing so for the first time. No one could watch you and miss your love for your job. It radiated throughout your entire being from your perked ears- each at their own special angle to the fanning of your tail waving uncontrollably, not to mention your vocal expressiveness. You were not done proving your value to me yet though were you? You took things a step further becoming my own bona-fide medical alert dog. I never taught you to do this, but the benefits to me were enormous nonetheless. From alerting to low blood sugar, allergic reactions, avoidance of MCS triggers and flashing lights- you were my guardian angel.

Life was not always easy for you, for us. From a poor start in life to a vaccination accident and poor genetic history, the end result left you with a condition that baffled me from the start, but which I was determined to find answers for. At not even 2 years of age, the thought of losing you as my service dog seemed unbearable but also highly likely. It was a long struggle sometimes uphill while others down. Drug Therapy, supplements, gold bead implants, homeopathy, and especially avoidance of known triggers all played a role in our long productive partnership. I admit there were times I wondered if I was fooling myself, if we would ever really find the great control I dreamed of having. When it happened it truly was magical. I laugh now at the comment from a vet who treated you, *expecting more than 4-6 months seizure free was expecting the impossible*. I wonder what she would say if she heard you were nearly 4 years seizure free when your body wore out.

In your senior years, I knew our partnership was on borrowed time. So each outing we took, each morning we got up and each night as we hit the sack, I made certain to make the best of each day we had as though it were the very last. We built a lifetime of amazing memories together in such a short time.  I find myself daydreaming over the years we were a team- taking our special morning walks, thinking about all of our *firsts*- your first cape and harness, your first hearing alert to the phone ringing when I was oblivious to it, your first curb cut you helped me with- OK so planting all four feet and refusing to budge is not how a dog guides their handler, but you did not know what to do. All you knew was that momma was in trouble and you had to prevent catastrophe! Then there was your first public access outing taking me to class where you even learned to let me know when my name was called.  Your first trip to the mall was in celebration of how well you were doing in your training. We got pictures taken there where a man with a bigger camera than ours took lots of great shots of both of us. Then there was the grocery store where you remembered not to sniff even though it must have been so tempting.  I even love to think about our first bus ride. It may have been short, but it began teaching us how to best work together using the lift. It's not just *firsts* that make me don a smile. Remembering you helping with the laundry in the Wonder Washer does just that. You'd carry each item to me in the bathroom, plunking them into the wash bucket- sometimes before I was really ready for them... patience my man, patience I would say to you. I even miss your idiosyncracies- you know how you felt you had to tell me when the television was turned off- as if I might not be aware of the fact that I turned it off! But one vivid memory came just 2 months before you left me, through the help of your holistic vet you literally came alive again- as though you had been woke from a long slumber. I just wanted to cry as light entered your eyes and your whole body was filled with an enthusiasm not present in a long time due to mishandling of your hypothyroidism. You were playing with me again with a gusto that I had not seen for nearly a year- like someone shot you out of a cannon! Though it was short lived, it gave me special moments to hold onto- Thankyou for that baby boy! A good friend told me, to see a dog play and be happy again is worth its weight in gold.

No one thought Met and I would still be partnered together nearly a decade after our public access began. Here we were though, thanks in part to my sedentary lifestyle and the bond we each had to stand by our partner through thick and thin. During Met's life the lyrics from *Stand By Me* by Ben E. King were never far from my mind. When the night has come/ And the land is dark/ And the moon is the only light we'll see/ No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid/ Just as long as you stand, stand by me... Just one and a half months before my wonderful sidekick said his adieu to life here on earth, I wrote this: *Reality is that sometime I will be forced to take on another partner, to break the working bond I have with Met and move towards the future. It won't be easy for me or for the successor dog, but when the time comes we will know, it will be the right thing.* Moving on can never diminish the dog Met was. I know this in my head, but sometimes my heart needs a reminder. Met taught me so much about what I can achieve, about canine health and the errors of blindly following everything the veterinary field says, but most of all he taught me how to love life- living each day to its fullest. 

Sadly through this he has also taught me about great loss. There is no greater loss than that of a service dog who has been your all for over a decade. It is like losing a spouse, but even more as with this loss often comes the loss of assistance you have depended upon for so long. Losing a service dog changes you. Some can't bare to face that grief again and choose not to continue with another partnership. Others like myself choose the pain, to have the dance. Garth Brooks conveys this perfectly in *The Dance* ...How could I have known you'd ever say goodbye/ And now I'm glad  I didn't know/ The way it all would end the way it all would go/ Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain/ but I'd of had to miss the dance/ ...  When I think of the last month Met and I spent together as he was stepping out of harness, I am so grateful for that last dance.

© 1997 - 2013
by Karyn LaGrange