Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Difference Is Her

This post is for the fourth
<"Assistance Dog Blog Carnival">

I really gave quite a bit of thought to the topic. I had several ideas, but then all unbidden-like, this post just sort of came out.
This entry is for Bristol, who is my retired guide dog. We will celebrate twelve years together on July 26th. Although she is retired, she is still my partner.

When I first met her, she was this tiny red ball of fluff with a black shoe-button nose, and brown eyes that shown with mischief and fun. She was so different from my first guide dog who had died suddenly of cancer earlier that month. Bristol was a young female golden retriever, curious about the world, in love with anyone who would pet her, and so demonstrative in her affection. Rhoda, my first dog, had been a food-loving Labrador who was independent and aloof. I soon grew to appreciate the differences about Bristol. She was a calm and focused worker, who wasn't distracted by anything but the occasional squirrel. A huge change from my flighty Rhoda, who lost focus so easily sometimes.
Bristol wasn't a healthy dog; she had several ear and skin infections before I threw my hands in the air; finally trying a raw diet and a natural rearing approach with her. People said I was "just doing it to be different," but it was honestly her last hope. I am so glad I made that leap with her. The changes it brought about in her health and happiness were incredible.

Bristol and I worked together for five years, until degenerative joint disease forced an early retirement. I can't even begin to describe the difference she has made in my life. She has seen me through college, a cross-country move, getting married, getting a new job, losing everything I owned in a hurricane, and then going deaf. She was there through everything.

Adjusting to the different lifestyle of retirement was very hard for both of us. She didn't understand why she couldn't work any more, and I wanted her at my side. The tide had turned, the seasons changed. After years of her taking care of me, I was now taking care of her. It was a different way of relating, but we figured it out together, just like we had done everything else.

She is thirteen and a half years young now. Her hair is white-- her eyes cloudy with cataracts. But if you look closely you can still see the gleam of mischief and curiosity in their depths. That and love-- always love. She has Hypothyroidism, Toxoplasmosis, uveitis, High Blood Pressure, and a back end which is frequently failing her more and more. She has also lost most of her hearing but still manages to know when it's time to eat.

I know she will not be here much longer. I know that soon I will have to let her journey on without me. I think about how different it will be without her-- how lonely and sad. I hold her close to my heart and wonder how I can miss her so much even before she is gone.

Because of the lessons she taught me, I am a totally different person then I was when we first met. I would hope that I'm kinder, and wiser. Heaven knows I'm the richer for having had the privilege of sharing my life, and myself with such a wonderful partner. She has been the difference in my life-- the whirlwind which caught me up in its young exuberance and now, slowing with age, is about to set me down in unfamiliar territory, and it's territory I'll be traveling with out her.


  1. This post was beautiful and so hard to read. Bristol reminds me so much of my Phoenix. He's beginning to refuse meals and it's really scaring me. He's sleeping more too, but also seems to want to do whatever we are if it is outside the home. I'm really confused and hoping it's not a sign of things to come. Him and I will celebrate our 13th anniversary on Friday and I get tears in my eyes just thinking about the possibility of not having another.

    Thank you for writing this post, it helps me, knowing someone else is going through some of the things I am.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea your partnership with her as your guide was so short. I knew she took you through so much. I feel a connection to her through my Met. Perhaps its because their closeness in age, similar problems like joints and hypothyroidism- I can see myself in a lot of this too. They make our lives so rich and stay with us so shortly. When its her time, I would imagine there will be many guide and service dogs theere to welcome her home. HUGS