Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Tribute to Verona

The Booty Dilemma
By Ann Chiappetta
Inspired by Verona, the guide dog
November 2010

Yes, it’s that time of year again, so dust off those fleece lined boots and air out your winter coats, gloves and hats. Don’t forget the lip balm and sunglasses for chapped skin and snow glare.

While we’re on the subject of winter accoutrements for the two-footed species, being a dog owner and most importantly, a guide dog handler, I am reminded to make sure Verona has her winter outerwear as well.

The type of doggie gear I am referring to is the dreaded booties. I don’t think any dog likes them, but rather, dogs tolerate them. Some dogs refuse to wear them. Verona, thankfully, is putting up with them, preferring them to the ice crusting between her toes. Brrr, sounds uncomfortable, right? So, then why do dogs dislike booties? Why, if they are above the grade in intelligence because they are guide dogs, can’t they at least embrace the booties?

This is what I say to Verona when she assumes a defeated posture whenever I bring out her footwear and ask for a paw.
First, the tail drops, then the head droops and the ears hang low, and finally, dejectedly, she picks up her foot and turns her head away from me as if to say she is philosophically opposed to her pretty, insulated red booties. I tell her that I love the fact that her red footwear matches my red coat, and, isn’t that great? She tells me she isn’t moved by my cajoling by keeping her head turned away and sighing.

If that isn’t bad enough, she assumes the duck walk, which is very humiliating for a dignified Labrador. I realized how much she disliked her booties by the mere fact that she will not take the proffered treat after a paw insertion. Thankfully, after ten minutes or so, the duck walk becomes a prance and the tail and head return to almost normal as we tromp outside into the cold, wet, salt sprinkled weather,
“It’s better than cold feet, right?”
I say to her as the wind whips past my collar and stings my face and cheeks. She shakes and I wish I could read her thoughts. My mothering instincts know that her ears are getting colder by the minute. I wonder if someone has considered inventing doggie ear muffs, and if I could get her to wear them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

love the new job

Okay, so it's going on a month that I'm working for the VA. It's been great so far and I know that I'll be able to finally get my lisence and move forward with my plans for the future. I need to say, however, that my heart is also in a good place, as I feel that I can provide, in a small way, the compassion and understanding Vets deserve for protecting our freedom.

Let me go even further and state that underneath I'm a fervent patriot and over the years since 9/11I've felt pulled apart by the current deployments in which our Nation has become involved; this galvanizes my effort to support the men and women coming back . I can't make the government change anything firsthand but I can do my part for our society individually by doing what I can and that's why I love what I do. So, for me its all about serving and purpose and helping others.

Okay, off the soap box.

Now, on to Verona: she has become an unofficial therapy dog when not in harness. She understands when it's time to work for me and when it's time to give to others. It's an amazing thing. Just the other day a Vet was hanging out by my door and I could tell she wanted to ask me something, as she was hesitating. So i asked if she wanted to come in and say hi to Verona and she came straight in and Ro went over and put her head in the woman's lap. It was just ten minutes but I could tell that when she got up to leave, the Vet was less stressed out and for that I am glad Ro could help.

So, I know we're in the right place. It's like coming home.