You’re not REALLY suppose to call dogs by names other than their real, given name, but sometimes stuff just seems to roll off the tongue…’in the moment’. For example, I often call Opal, ‘Puppet’. This is my special term of endearment for her. Admittedly, I have occasionally also saddled her with; ‘Little Girl’, “Ope’, ‘Little One’, ‘Opal Winfrey’, ‘Magoo’, ‘Bubba’, ‘Goofy Girl, ‘Pooping Machine’, ‘Destructo’, and ‘You Big Galloot’. I’m sure you can figure out how some of these handles developed. She is a petite, compact dog, albeit a bruiser. She can just about knock you off your pins with her powerful tail or swaggering butt. She plays hard, no doubt about it. A ‘waif-like’ woman (which I am NOT) would keel over handling this dog. Good thing CGDB gave her to ME. ‘Opal Winfrey’ was her nickname at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind where we trained (Maybe it had something to do with her being a black, powerful bitch…oops. Did I say that?!). As for ‘Bubba’, that came in a dream… weeks before Opal entered my life.
Several weeks before I left for Manotick , Ontario to train with the dog that would eventually be my guide dog, Opal, I had this dream. Realize that one does not learn any details about the dog which the guide dog training school is planning to match you up with, until after you arrive on scene. I had no idea what breed or sex of canine I was getting, nor did I know the name of this dog…until the day we met (that’s for another blog or book chapter). I had been reading the CGDB pre-training material . I listened to a CD and learned about the expense of training a dog/handler team ($35,000.00+). I worried about the difficulties the school might have in finding a dog for me. When I lapsed into dreamland that night, I saw myself at the CGDB training Centre. There I was… sitting in a room, about to learn the details of my dog’s pedigree. The chief instructor came in and sat on my cot ( apparently they could no longer afford beds for their clients). She said, “Your dog is an 8 and 1/2 year old miniature collie mix”. I asked her, in horror, why my dog was so old and so small. She replied, “Money, there’s little of it. We can’t afford pure bred dogs any more. We collect strays and train them”. She added, “Don’t worry, he’ll take up so little space in your home”. Then, I asked about the dog’s name. “Bubba”, she replied. Mercifully, I awoke at that point in my dream. I later mentioned this nutty dream to the real chief instructor when I spoke to her on the telephone, a day or so before leaving for Ontario.
I recall sitting in the lounge at CGDB several weeks later, having just arrived there the day before. This was the big moment when we (me and people I was training with) were being told the details about our dogs. My turn finally came. I held my breath. The instructor had an impish smile in her voice when she said, “Helen, you’re NOT getting a dog named Bubba…you’re dog is a black lab bitch, named Opal IV.” The rest…is history.