Sunday was dogapalooza in the suburbs. Beth and I and Whitney took the train to Wheaton, where our friends Steven and Nancy, with Hanni in tow all the way from Urbana, picked us up. From there, it was on to Chris and Larry’s, where Hanni, Harper and Whitney—Beth’s last three Seeing Eye dogs—met and rollicked until they and we were exhausted. (As a bonus, our friend Greg was also there, visiting from Seattle.)
I probably don’t need to explain much about Hanni, the one on the left in the photo, given that she has her own book. I will say this: she looks pretty darn good at age 14. That’s thanks in no small part to the care she receives from Steven and Nancy, who adopted her when she retired three years ago. Hanni’s having a great retirement in Urbana.
The male Yellow Lab on the right is five-year-old Harper. If you’re a regular reader, you know the story—but if not, here’s the scoop on Harper. Right from the start he seemed somewhat ill at ease as a Seeing Eye dog. He walked very briskly, but in retrospect we realize he went so fast because he wanted to get his work over with as quickly as possible. He was stressed out by his responsibility, but still, he did his job—and saved Beth from a catastrophic accident. That incident, though, led to a canine version of post-traumatic stress disorder—he refused to walk more than a block from home. Hence, early retirement, and placement with a great couple (that’d be Chris and Larry) in a sweet little house in a quiet neighborhood. It took time, but he got his mojo back and he’ll walk for miles now.
And of course the copper one with her back to the camera is Whitney, my current favorite. Whitney’s great at her job, but off the harness she’s a bit of a deliquent. She licks. She sniffs. And she destroys toys. Sunday afternoon, she ate through a Frisbee, ripped a tug toy and ate through to the stuffing of one of Harper’s squeak toys.
It was great fun having them all together, but as much as I love the dogs, it was better seeing our friends. At one point I stopped and had a moment where that Talking Heads song–”Once in a Lifetime”– played in my head, “You may find yourself…”. And I wondered how Beth and I found ourselves on a quiet street in Wheaton, with three former and current guide dogs and five adults, all of whom I pretty much adore.
Of course, the answer is Beth, who is a sort of one-person network. But more specifically, it dawned on me that it was, of all things, Beth’s work with hospice back in Urbana many years ago. That’s where she met Greg, when they were both volunteers. It’s also how she came to meet Gladys Bollero—Nancy’s mother. Gladys had severe MS, and Beth visited her regularly, and we eventually got to know Nancy and Steven that way. Back to Greg—he introduced us to his friends Chris and Larry, with whom he regularly hikes the Grand Canyon—when we moved to Chicago.
Which I guess may all sound kind of mundane. But to me, for a moment there, taking stock in Chris and Larry’s living room, dogs running, us chatting, I thought it kind of miraculous the way we people find each other.