|Rooney cuddling with his best girl, Miss A
He begins every day with Miss A. A is in seventh grade. Her older sister has to be at a nearby high school at 7:30, so she drops A off on the way, usually between 7 and 7:15. Rooney loves A. He lays in my door, which is at least a half a city block away from the front of the school, listening intently for the front doorbell, and letting out a low pleading whine every time he hears it ring. When A finally comes around the corner, Rooney leaps to his feet, tail wagging frantically. We're still working on what it means to be a respectable and politely behaved service dog, and almost every morning, we have to practice with A. Rooney would much prefer to greet her front paws on her chest, licking her face frantically. And then it's time for toy after toy after toy, "A, do you want to hold my stuffy? It's my favorite. No, too slobbery? Ok, well do you want to play tug of war? I like tug of war. Not that either? How about ball, you want to play ball with me?" Roo's devotion to A is almost embarrassing. As long as she is there, no one else, including A's best friend, who also comes by pretty much every morning, is even given the time of day. When classes start, and A has to leave, Rooney goes to bed, and sulks for an hour or two.
Or perhaps he's not really sulking. Perhaps he's getting geared up for Round #2. He does a quick chaser with the sixth grade girls at lunch time, his adoring hordes crowd into my classroom every noon. They take turns walking him up and down the hall, practicing his training moves, and taking erasers and chewed gum and other random objects out of his mouth. He smiles and pants and prances around the room, reminding me a little of "The Bachelor" on a group date.
The sixth graders don't know, though, that they are just a filler. Rooney is actually waiting for his afternoon girlfriend, Miss Nina. Miss Nina is the night manager at the school. She is a dog lover (with six or seven of her own) and Rooney pegged her immediately. She usually comes by to say hello to him after school, and we have another opportunity for polite greeting practice. For some reason, Rooney has decided that Miss Nina might like puppy bitey face games, so he greets her with an open mouth, and snapping-ish teeth. He's not really biting her, but I do have to admonish him with "No teeth" repeatedly. It doesn't help that she always laughs when he does the teeth thing with her. Miss Nina is in charge of the second floor, and every time Rooney and I go out into the hall, he cocks his head, listening for the vacuum cleaner. When he hears her, if I'm not holding onto the leash, he ignores all polite service dog rules and races off to say hello. He's recently decided that he likes her keys, which she wears on a lanyard, stuck in her back pocket, and every chance he gets, he grabs them and races up and down the hall until we can corner them and take them away.
One might think that all of his weekday shenanigans might be enough, but unfortunately they are not. Rooney has a weekend girlfriend too. Mary is his weekend buddy. Mary is 91, one of my mom's friends at the senior center. We stop by to see her, not every Sunday, but pretty regularly. Rooney is more than happy to sit adoringly at Mary's feet, enjoying a good cuddle, and snacking on the dog biscuits she keeps on her kitchen counter (she also has another stash in the seat of her walker, in case we run into her while she is out and about). Rooney loves him some Mary.
Rooney is a sweet, sweet guy, but he's also a bit of a cad. I'm wondering if that's going to be a problem when he turns into a full-fledged service dog...