One of my favorite dog breeds is the Labrador Retriever. They are loyal, obedient, great with kids and are just fun to be around. In addition to making amazing pets, they also serve as companions to hunters, sportsmen and most notable, visually impaired people. Sure, other breeds are trained as guide dogs. But, I think I will always be partial to the lab. Why? Let me take you back…
It was November of 2001, less than 6 months after being diagnosed with LHON. I was sitting in a room with a person I had just met a couple of days ago. We weren't from the same town. We weren't the same age. We didn't even have the same interests. But, we had one very important thing in common. Well, two actually. We were both visually impaired and we were both waiting for our new guide dogs.
You see, I was at Leader Dogs for the Blind, an amazing guide dog training organization in Michigan. Someone had told me about this group when I asked the question many new VIPs will ask at some point: “Am I able to get a guide dog now?” With a little research, I realized that I was a great fit for a guide dog. So, after some intense Orientation and Mobility Training (ore on that in another post), I was off to Leader Dogs.
I sat there awaiting my instructor to enter the room. Basically, the process was that the instructor would come in, tel you about your dog, get your leash and leave to get your new companion. My instructor, Jim, came in the room and told me my new friend's name was Scout and he was a yellow lab. Jim was very fond of Scout and had great things to say about him. He took my leash and left the room.
A few moments later, he entered the room with the most beautiful lab I had ever come across. He had a big block head and was a pretty brownish-gold color. Jim handed me the leash and left the room. Scout spent the next little bit waiting for Jim to come back. After a while, he figured out that he wasn't returning. I think the food I had put in my pocket seemed to help. This was the beginning of an eventful time for Scout and I.
No, you are probably wondering about the “hating water” part of the title. Well, you know how labs really like water? I mean, labs are fantastic hunting dogs and one of the reasons is that they will dive into the lake to retrieve a fallen duck or goose. (At least, that's what my in-laws tell me. I've never actually been hunting and feel my days of shooting a gun are past me now.) But, not this lab. Not Scout.
I remember one such day while I was at Leader Dogs. Understand that we stayed there for almost a month in training. We walked around the city, practicing all the things we were learning. One such day it was sprinkling. It had been raining all day, so the sidewalks were wet. This did not make Scout happy.
While we were walking down one particular sidewalk. Scout started making a move to his left. Since he was on my left, this put him into the grass beside the sidewalk. With no time to realize what was happening, I began to walk right through a large puddle that was at least angle deep. Scout strutted along in the grass until he was past the puddle and them resumed walking on the sidewalk. At this point, I just had to laugh and keep walking.
Scout and I had many great adventures along the way. In fact, this wasn't the last time he would do his best to avoid the water. And, he was an amazing partner.
I hope you enjoyed this moist trip down memory lane. I hope to share more about Scout as the time passes. But, suffice it to say, he was one of kind.