“You’ve Got Personality”

Dogs are individual, unique creatures. Like people, they come in all shapes and sizes. They come with hair of varying length and colour (some with none).  They have different ‘voices’… deep resounding barks and small yips. Like humans, they can experience illnesses and conditions like diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart failure, allergies, infections, arthritis.  Dogs have basic needs like humans, including food, water, sleep, socialization, shelter, sex and relieving (in no particular order).  But do dogs have personality? Answer: ABSOLUTELY!

Lloyd Price wrote and sang ” (You’ve got) Personality” in 1959. I think he was singing about his sweetie.  Good enough, but I sing it to my guide dog, Opal. What makes Opal….Opal? Hmm. Plenty!

Opal licks her paws when she needs to relieve (some dogs would go to the door, some would bark, others would pee on the floor).  She ALWAYS pauses to scratch her left shoulder just before I put her collar and leash on to take her out first thing at 5 am.  It ‘s some sort of habit she developed, like a good luck ritual reserved to start her day. Opal has an EXTREME fondness for soft things. She once nimbly picked up a woman’s glove from a seat at the ferry terminal as we passed by. Ditto plush toys at shops on numerous occasions. She enjoys licking toes, particularly the ones attached to women’s feet within her range, like on a bus. Needless to say, I am on guard in sandal weather.  Opal insists on physical contact with me when she is gnawing her ritual after-dinner bone. We usually lie on the floor together so she can curl up alongside. Like other dogs, she does not enjoy getting her feet wet as she walks through puddles or relieves on grass,  though, paradoxically she loves to swim. Opal loves to dance, but hey, so does her mum. We went to see “White Christmas” at the Neptune Theatre last winter. Patrons were more interested in watching Opal watch the musical (she sat up in the front row of the balcony and was riveted to the stage full of tap dancing singers). Opal has in ‘interesting’ custom of having a go at the ‘dominance pillow’ every evening. The vet says it’s not about sexual urge, but has more to do with frustration or dominance.  Opal has a stressful job and does not have much say in what she does with her day, so she expresses this primaly. The most totally ‘Opalish’ trait? The girl crosses her legs. She delicately puts left over right paw when she lies down.  Not just once in a while, but most of the time and everywhere. I hear people remarking about this on buses, at restaurants and everywhere else we go. It’s endearing and cute as all get out.   Opal will sneeze a few minutes after she gets into a car. She does so with the same gusto my late father mustered when he sneezed.  It is a rather perilous habit (probably dust in the air?) that causes taxi drivers to swerve wildly in surprise.  Now,  when I get in the car, I caution the driver…sort of an Opal  PSA.  My girl is a busybody extraordinaire. I am convinced that she is the reincarnation of my grandmother. She is ALWAYS curious beyond belief,  looking out the window, rooting through any open handbag within range, gazing at anything different in our travels… she notices the decals that someone puts up on the glass door of our apartment building for occasions like Halloween, Christmas and Easter. She once stopped cold on the sidewalk when she spotted a few little boys across the street having a fight and bullying one boy.  I called out and they stopped beating up on the kid.  She finds interesting stuff too.  Opal has found a five dollar bill (we shared), three pairs of gloves, earrings, scarves,  a pair of tweezers,  socks,  toys,  mail and more. Despite the distraction,  I think this makes her a good guide dog. She is totally aware of her (our) surroundings. Yeah, she’s got personality. She’s a happy, quirky, curious social butterfly with delicate feelings and a complex mind. She’s my girl.


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