Today is Bristol's and my twelfth anniversary as a guide dog team. Ok, she's retired, but she is still my partner. I've been thinking quite a bit about everything we've done together, and it is really amazing that one little dog can have such a big impact on a person's life. I got Bristol six days after losing my first dog, Rhoda, to lymphoma at age 3 and a half. To be honest, when I first met her, I couldn't imagine myself ever meshing well with this goofy and very demonstrative little red dog. I was used to Rhoda's aloof mannerisms and high-drive nature.
Our first year together was mostly about me getting over the loss of Rhoda, and trying to figure out what, exactly was wrong with Bristol. If she wasn't having ear infections, her skin was infected. If she wasn't vomiting-- usually in public-- she was having diarrhea, thankfully always in the grass! It was scary and frustrating. Some how, in the midst of all of the sadness and fear for her health, I handed my total trust and my heart over to her, and we've never looked back since.
I couldn't even begin to describe all of the places we've gone together, the changes she has brought to my life, and the deep bond we share. So to take a leaf from two of my favorite bloggers, Brook and Jess, I give you....
Twelve Facts About Bristol:
1. She only weighed 37 lbs and was 16.5 inches tall when I got her from the guide dog program.
2. Bristol was supposed to be a breeder dog for said guide dog program, but thankfully didn't pass the tests for breeders!
3. Bristol's favorite treat is jelly beans. Because of her tendency toward yeast, she can't have many, but she had some today!
4. Bristol has ridden in a boat, a horse-drawn carriage, airplanes, trains, buses, and streetcars. But her favorite form of transportation remains the gulf carts at the airport.
5. Bristol loves to swim. She will swim for an hour or more if you let her.
6. Bristol has helped with the training of at least 5 other guide dogs.
7. Bristol used to go deer hunting with me, and when we shot one, she would try and drag the entire carcass back to the truck by the leg. Needless to say, that wasn't happening.
8. When I first introduced Bristol to raw meaty bones and organ meats, she hated them and went on a hunger strike. Now she eats them with gusto-- even the liver!
9. Bristol is largely deaf now and apparently her bark has changed since she can no longer hear herself barking. She now has a Deaf Accent!
10. Bristol's favorite game is tug of war, and she will win almost every time because she never gives up!.
11. Bristol gave me away at my wedding but my honeymoon cruise was the first time I ever left her behind; I took Mill'E-Max instead. I had to call my friend who was watching her when I made port in Jamaica just to make sure she was alright.
12. Whenever we get new dog gear, Bristol has to be the one to try it on first. She stacks herself and grunts at the person holding the new harness, leash, or vest until they put it on her and let her parade around wearing it. And of course all of the people have to mention, frequently and loudly, how beautiful they think she is wearing the new gear.
I honestly don't know if we'll make it to thirteen years. So today we will celebrate enough for a long time, and then live each day as if it were the only one we had.
Thank you Bristol, for everything. You are the very best!
He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds;
my other ears that hear above the winds.
He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea.
He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason
by the way he rests against my leg;
by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile;
by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.
(I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not
along to care for me.)
When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.
When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.
When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.
When I am a fool, he ignores it.
When I succeed, he brags.
Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful.
He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion.
With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace.
He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant.
His head on my knee can heal my human hurts.
His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and
He has promised to wait for me...whenever...wherever--
in case I need him.
And I expect I will--as I always have.
He is just my dog.
-- Gene Hill