Seeing Eye puppies are named long before we blind folks get matched with them. To help keep track of the dogs, each litter born at the Seeing Eye is given names that start with the same letter of the alphabet. Whitney is from the “W” litter, and no puppy will be named Whitney until she retires.
We Seeing Eye grads sometimes feel at the mercy of the staff member who names the pups — learning of Whitney’s sisters Wispy and Windy made me feel I’d won the W-puppy-name-jackpot! Writer and fellow Seeing Eye graduate Jeff Flodin wrote an essay about his dog’s name, and he generously agreed to let me publish it here so I can take a few days off from the blog to enjoy the holidays introducing Whitney to family and friends. Enjoy!
by Jeff Flodin
In honor of my friend Beth Finke’s new Seeing Eye dog, Whit, whose full name is Whitney, this blog is dedicated to my Seeing Eye Dog, Randy, whose full name is Randy.
What’s in a name, anyway?
My first dog’s name was Sherlock, which everyone thought was the coolest. When I was introduced to my new dog on March 1, 2010, I said, “Randy. What a stupid name.” Randy Quaid came to mind, the dimwit of the National Lampoon Vacation movies. Then, I was reminded that randy as an adjective means frisky in a sexual way. A tease. Being fixated at adolescence, I began to see Randy in a different, much cooler light.
Then the veterinarian at the Seeing Eye told me that Randy had been destined from birth to be the patriarch of a new string of brawny black Labs.
“You mean he was supposed to be a stud?” I asked.
The vet demurred.
I persisted. “So, what happened? “It obviously didn’t take.”
The vet sputtered and stuttered and said nothing.
Try as I might, I could not crack the code of silence surrounding Randy’s failed career as a stud. Perhaps his puppy raising days in Florida had unwittingly accentuated a retiring personality. Maybe his was an issue of sexual preference. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whatever forces lay behind Randy tweaking his destiny, we embraced one another as a Seeing Eye team.
Randy’s Chicago debut was a picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan in late spring. The picnic was a benefit for an animal rescue program. Lots of dogs were there. They competed for prizes in fetching, heeling and all manner of obedience.
Randy finished out of the money in all those contests, but he captured first prize in two categories: youngest dog and largest nose. That was the day I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Everybody’s a Winner.” The Special Olympics comes to the canine world.
Randy remains true to his calling, whatever that calling might be. Some days, it’s that golden retriever across the street. Other days, it’s working the crowd from the doorway of the Ravenswood Pub. Every day, he’s attuned to food. His concentration is unwavering. Randy can stare a hole through a block of Swiss cheese while, at his south end, Mulligan the cat hangs from his tail.
The last day of training at the Seeing Eye, the instructor took me aside and said conspiratorially, “Jeff,you know we couldn’t give this dog to just anyone.” I smiled and nodded and wondered what on earth he’d meant by that.
Each day of the intervening twenty months has illuminated another facet of what he meant. Not that Randy defies understanding. On the contrary, he is a quick study. He was and is eager to please. He is totally without guile. Everything Randy does, he does full bore. He’s neither the brightest nor the dimmest. He knows no subtlety. He’s just Randy. He’s the dog who understands the phrase, “Be yourself and you will be loved for who you are.”
This essay first appeared in Vision Through Words, a blog that welcomes submissions of poetry and short essays by visually impaired and blind writers. You can learn more about Jeff and read more of his work on his own blog called Jalapenos in the Oatmeal, which he writes for The Guild for The Blind here in Chicago. Thanks, Jeff. Merry Christmas!