Saturday, March 10, 2018
Slice #10- Going to the Dogs
I'm 59 years old. And in the next few years, I will need to start think about retiring. A lot of people are excited about retiring.
I am not one of them.
I love, love, love my job. Love working with teachers. Love kids. Love sharing books with teachers and kids. I work a lot. Probably upwards of sixty hours, and some weeks, like this one, closer to 80. If I retired, I would need something to do. I don't have a husband. Never have. Probably never will. Most of my friends are married. They do things with me, sometimes, but most of their lives are about their spouses. I get that and it makes perfect sense, but it also makes for a lot of lonely weekends.
A couple of years ago, I started thinking about a hobby. My hobbies right now are reading, kids, and learning about my craft, by going to education classes. I don't knit or sew or paint. I don't cook or bake. I kill pretty much every plant that comes into my house. I don't know how to play bridge. I'm not saying that I will never do those things, but I definitely don't do them now.
I thought about things that I love. Not including kids and teaching and books. One thing that immediately came to mind is dogs. I love dogs. And so I started thinking about hobbies that involved dogs. For the past five or six years, I've watched a web cam, Warrior Canine Connection, that raises dogs for veterans with PTSD. They are located in Maryland (they might be opening a branch in Colorado soon), so that's a little too far away.
Last summer, though, I ran into Debbie, a friend I had taught with years ago. Debbie was accompanied by Shadow, an enormous black lab that she is raising for the Canine Assistance Partners of the Rockies. Shadow is in advanced training and within the next six months he will become a mobility dog for a woman with multiple sclerosis. I told Debbie I was looking for a hobby, and was interested in dogs, and she invited me to attend training with her.
And so since last fall, I have been attending classes two Saturdays a month. Besides Shadow, there are anywhere between 5 and 8 dogs, all labs, ranging in age from 4 months to a little over two years. I don't get to do a lot- sometimes I hold a dog's leash at one end of the room, while the owner walks to the other end of the room and calls them, or I serve as a prop in a training exercise. Everyone once in a while, if the trainers have brought an extra dog, I get to hold a leash and take the dog through the exercise.
I have loved these Saturday mornings. I love the dogs and their handlers. Besides Shadow, there's Ully, an 18-month-old black lab. Her puppy parents, J and M, are a retired occupational therapist and sociology professor. Ully is their third service dog. Their second dog, Rosie, is the mama to Willow and Walker, two bouncing four-month-old pups who just came from Maryland, where Rosie whelped after she was bred to a dad from the Warrior Canine Connection. And there's Valor, an high-spirited seven-month-old black lab, who is just learning to curb his impulsive tendencies so he can become a service dog. His mama is about my age, recently retired. She took Valor in respite care, and then became his full-time mama. She makes me laugh every week with his exploits, most of which involve his fascination with toilet paper.
I'm not sure yet what my role with this organization will be. They'd like me to raise a puppy and take it to school like Debbie did with Shadow, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. Puppies, and especially service dog puppies, are a LOT of work. I'm also not sure that my aging lab, Star, would appreciate or be kind to a puppy. I might become a respite care home, for the dogs when their owners go out of town, or just have a situation when they need a break. Or I might just volunteer in the office this summer, at least for the time being.
At any rate, I need to find a hobby. I'm hoping that raising service dogs might be a possibility.