Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ending the Way We Began

Melissa and Bastien 8mo oldOn Friday September 21, 2012 I started my day with a flurry of calls from my parents, which could only mean that something big was wrong. Little did I know when I returned the call just how big. You see in my family animals are just as important as the people. I called my parents back and found out Bastien wouldn't or couldn't get up, so they we taking him to the vet ASAP. As usual my parents put me on speaker phone so that Bastien could hear my voice, as soon as her heard me call Bastien... Bastioni-Macoroni he was on his feet. I could hear the relief in my father's voice that he was up; maybe it wouldn't be too bad. 
Less than hours later I got a call back from my mom. Bastien has cancer; it's bad- wrapped around his intestines. The vet wanted to end things then and there. There was nothing to be done. My mom, always having been my fiercest advocate that I knew my own mind and body gave my Bastien no less respect. She said "this dog will tell us when he is done, as he has many times before." She left vet's office with a week's worth of pain meds and called me with the awful news. I promptly planned with my best friend, Leslie, to get everything in order for mad dash to Washington. I knew I would know what was in store for my baby boy.
I walked into my parents place and knew the instant I set eyes on him he was not long for this world. Due to a massively bad allergy season he had lost about half the fur on his body, and while the skin had healed thanks to my mom's diligent nursing the fur just could not recover. Even in such a state, he go up to come greet me, Leslie and Shilo before we could get over to him. As usual he knew Grammy (my mom) had set out a fruit and vegetable tray and he wanted his share! So I laid on the floor with him stroking, and doing puppy massage until he purred (yes some dogs do purr with delight). I don't know how long I was on the floor, but we we there for a while. I shared the last bite of each fruit or vegetable I had from the tray., and just as he always had Bastien waited patiently for his bite taking whatever I offered gently.  He didn't care what it was if it was fruit or veggie and I was offering he was eating! We shared squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
I knew as I drove the four hours up, I was going up to see for myself and to say goodbye. I didn't want to even risk that he might suffer just so I could get there say goodbye. Bastien die on Monday September 24, 2012. The world has lost a happy go lucky, mischievous, wicked smart dog who never met a person or dog he didn't think was his best friend. Me, I lost my kindred spirit in a dog suit who outlasted 3 jobs, two boyfriends, saw me through my 20's, saved me from the utter confusion/depression that was what to do after college- afterall, to that point my whole life had been about college. He was the best ambassador and travel companion ever accompanying me to more than half the states and four countries over his career. He taught me patience and the true meaning of consistency. He was always up for a party and finding interesting ways to solve any thing that got in the way of fun. He loved snow and snowballs. Bastien thank you for it all, even the sad parts.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breaking Up While Partnered with a Service Dog

A while back I wrote Dating While Partnered with a Service Dog, and since it's bound to happen I am back with the follow piece. Sometimes relationships aren't going to last; we as humans know this and have many and varied ways of dealing with the dating phenomena known as breaking up. Our service dogs;however, are mystified as to how a person can go from being a friend and possible member of the pack to disappeared. Oh sure, as service dogs they have had life transitions- puppy raiser, to trainer, perhaps to another trainer, then to partner; however, these transitions always took them from one person who loved and taught them to another who would love and teach them. Thus, this breaking up wherein we not only stop seeing a person, but are highly likely to be uncomfortable at the very least when we see the person completely confuses our service dogs. They just don't understand why we are now embarrassed we they do the "Oh my God your back!" happy greeting dance or when the lead us right to our former partner in a public place with a look of absolute pride conveying the "Aren't you proud of me, I found the lost pack member!" while we try to disappear on the very spot.

*Please note these tips are for surviving a simple break up/dissolution of a relationship; they might help some with more serious reasons for ending.I have rarely experienced more serious reasons like abuse, true cheating, financial wrong doing etc. so I  know some of these tips helped me, as to whether they could help you-only you know that.

Tips on Surviving a Break Up While Partnered with a Service Dog
  1. Be thankful you still have your service dog. Yes, you may lack human companionship, but they will do their best to be there for you while you are sad and try to lighten the mood with their antics. The best part is they will never say "I told you so."
  2. Renew your relationship with your service dog. Just like our human friends we may have let our more solid relationship with our service dog rest on its laurels while we put all our energy and effort into making this new relationship work. Resume those play sessions, long walks, super long grooming sessions, whatever you let go in order to make time/energy for that person.
  3. Expect your service dog to act as they always have around that person. Remember, just because your relationship with that person has changed doesn't mean theirs instantly has also. If you let training protocols slide like allowing them to pet your service dog while working, allowed your partner to be very active with your service dog by providing basic care fore them, or let them be the one primarily to exercise your service dog in order to show the person how much you loved/trusted them your service dog will remember those good and happy time. Expect they will behave with happiness for all that love. You created the relationship over time, it will take time for your service dog to realize that person isn't in the pack anymore. If you feel the need to avoid the person or establish new rules that they are to completely ignore your service dog if they see it, then do so. However, for the dog's sake please don't punish them for behaving in a way that was once totally acceptable. To do so will succeed in damaging the dog's relationship with you as well as the person you are no longer with.
  4. Know your furry wing man/woman will be there to help you try again. Service dogs have a way of keeping us out there and doing things whether we really feel like it or not. They also have ways of bringing people into our lives whether we think ourselves ready or not. Know your furry wing man/women and take a chance!
  5. If something happens to your service dog and your ex calls to check in, be kind. Being nasty to them will only make a bad situation worse and make you feel worse.