A guest post I wrote for The Bark blog earlier this month explained why it was that I’d been toying with sending Harper back to Morristown while I stay in Chicago and recover from my broken foot. That guest post (called “What’s a Seeing Eye dog do when his human breaks her foot?”) ended like this:
While getting regular workouts with Seeing Eye trainers in Morristown would be great for Harper’s work ethic, we worry what a temporary move back to Seeing Eye School might do to Harper’s mental health. Not to mention … mine.
A few days after that post was published, Mike took Harper to a regularly-scheduled vet visit. I stayed home, slumped in front of my laptop with my cast up on the back of the couch. Harper checked out fine except for one thing. He’ gained five pounds.
So it wasn’t just about our mental health anymore. Now my broken foot was affecting Harper’s physical health, too. I cut his food down from two cups to one-and-a-half cups a day and gave the Seeing Eye another call.
John Keane, Manager of Instruction & Training, said that, yes, I could send Harper back to the school for a while.” Our trainers could walk your dog every day, and of course Harper would perform for them,” he said. “But really, what would that get you, Beth?” Not much, I admitted. Just like cars that squeak or malfunction at home but perform perfectly at the mechanic’s, guide dogs are notorious for behaving well with instructors. It’s working at home that really matters.
“We usually only have dogs come back for help if they’re having problems in traffic, problems that are so serious they can’t be solved at home,” John said. In that case, trainers might try to re-enact the traffic problem while the dog is there in Morristown, see if they can remedy it, then bring the dog back and work with the team in the graduate’s home environment. I’d been doing my best to get out with Harper a couple times a week, even with the boot cast. “I really don’t notice any problems with traffic,” I told John, and he was happy to hear that.
“We’ll send someone out to give you another refresher course once your foot is healed,” John assured me. “Just be sure to let us know the minute you get any hint about when you might be out of the cast.” John is the guy in charge of scheduling home visits, and he wants to get mine on the calendar.
I may be making that magical phone call to the Seeing Eye very soon: last Wednesday the foot doctor gave me a prescription for orthopedic shoes! I never dreamed I’d ever, ever be so excited about the prospect of wearing orthopedic shoes, but trust me, I am doing the one-legged dance of joy. My foot is on the mend, the doc said, and once my shoes come in and get fitted with a wide shank for added stability, the boot comes off for good. And then, watch out, world: Harper and I will be on the road again.
Flo has been checking up on me every day since I got my cast on. She was elated to hear how protective my new shoes will be, and relieved to hear my foot is healing. “I’ll have to start out slow with the new shoes, you know, only one block the first day, then two the next,” I told her, explaining those are the only shoes I am allowed to wear the next couple months. “Guess I won’t be wearing any of my summer dresses for a while.”
“Oh, you can still wear your dresses,” Flo assured me. “They wear anything these days.” It’s a Floism she’s been using since I was a teenager. And you know, she’s still right.
One break was so severe that it will heal crookedly. So much for a future career as a foot model. Even after a few months, when I can get out of the orthopedic shoes, I’ll have to stick to practical ones. Hardly a concern, though. thanks to Flo’s daily phone calls, Mike’s help at home and his work with Harper, my sister Marilee and our friend Matt Cunningham subbing with Harper when Mike was out of town, and you countless others who have helped keep my spirits up the past couple of months, you’ll be seeing me back on the streetd soon. I’ll be easy to spot: just look for the happiest clodhopper in Chicago.