My Baby’s All Grown Up!

Tomorrow is Opal’s fourth birthday.  Not only that, but it is our anniversary. Anniversary? you ask. Yes indeed, we celebrate the time we’ve shared together. Exactly two years ago, we boarded an airplane in Ottawa, Ontario and headed home to our life in Halifax. Both of us were filled with anxiety. Opal had no idea where she was going or what was in store for her. She left behind the Guide dog school where she had been trained (CGDB in Manotick) and the dogs, kennel staff and instructors who were familiar to her. I left behind the security of the training centre and the instructor (Jane) who had whispered reminders into my ear as we walked the streets of Ottawa. On our first day of training,  Jane was ‘connnected’ to us with a small retractable leash….just in case something went horribly wrong. It did not, of course, except perhaps for the moment when I forgot to breathe and nearly passed out. “Jane”, I croaked. “I can’t breath!”  We paused on the pavement and she allowed me to gather myself. I could hear her smiling. Twice daily for four weeks, we plowed along through various settings; downtown, suburbs, rural…we boarded buses, and go-trains, went into restaurants, malls, and office buildings. We practiced obstacle courses, found our way through construction areas, and went for ‘leg stretches’ by the Rideau Canal. All the while, Jane was by our side to correct my handling and provide us with encouragement. “Easy, Peasy, Lemon, Squeasy!” she often  exclaimed.  (I have since adopted using short rhyming couplets with Opal when we walk. Dogs, like kids, love little rhymes…”focus pocus!”,  “dandy candy”, “awesome possum”). Coming home was a big deal. I had no idea if I would remember all the commands and other information that threatened to cause my brain to explode. Fortunately, it did not (explode). Opal and I have found our groove over time. I am a sentimental fool, no doubt about that. I have called the radio station on our six month and one year anniversaries to request a song for us…’You Are the sunshine of My Life” and ‘My Girl’ (of course!)  I have not prepared much for this, our second anniversay (and her birthday). Perhaps we are becoming as comfortable as a pair of old shoes. Regardless, she remains the girl of my dreams.To quote Robert Munsch; “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always”.  Happy birthday Opal. 


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