Friday, August 14, 2009

Doggy Reunion

I've given up trying to catch up on my year and am plunging right into the here and now with this post.
I experienced a delightful evening this week at the "Golden Birthday" party for Brea. Brea is a dog, not a person, and a party like this is unusual indeed, a reunion for people and canines who had been associated with a service dog program in Montana. Brea turned 12 on August 12, hence the concept of her golden birthday, not to mention that she and most of the dozen or so dogs who attended are Golden Retrievers.
I became a part of this group while working on one of my most fun and rewarding projects, my book The Right Dog for the Job with photographer Bill Muñoz, about Irah, a Golden Retriever puppy who began his life as a candidate for a service dog but ended up being instead the beloved and wonderful guide dog for blind piano tuner Don Simmonson. Bill and I spent many happy hours observing and working with the dogs and people in the program and made many new friends, both canine and human, in the process.
As with any service dog program, many of the animals ended up as family pets instead of working dogs--idiosyncrasies that don't matter or that even make a pet even more beloved can easily deep six a serious career. But the stories that came out during the evening showed how wonderful and varied the bonds can be between humans and dogs and made me realize that the dogs who didn't make it had become just as important in the lives of their families as any working dog.
As I have no dog of my own now, one of the best parts of the evening was the constant circling of the dogs around the humans, snuggling their muzzles under our hands and deftly tossing upward so the hand ended up on top of a soft, furry head. Knowing this would happen in a room full of what some people call "velcro dogs," I had been smart enough to wear khaki colored pants with a slick finish, so I escaped relatively unfurred, but very content.

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