She was hand picked for the job because, in a well-bred litter of working Border collies, she appeared to be the most sympathetic. Before she could see, she would scrabble across the rug to press against the breeder’s hand and when another puppy fell asleep alone and woke up cold, it was this puppy, then called the little dark tri, who left the warm pile of sleeping puppies and went to him, curling herself around him so that he could go back to sleep.
She learned quickly, copying Flash, my second service dog, doing the job before she knew why she was doing it. She’s attentive, well-behaved in public (and sometimes even at home), patient and so wise it startles people, including me. She figures out somehow, it looks like magic, that there are places she goes with me, places she knows where other dogs do not go, where she needs to be unobtrusive. She knows how to navigate museums, airports, restaurants. She knows how to disappear, but be there when needed.
Here are some of the questions I have been asked:
Doesn’t she get affection from anyone but you?
Does she ever get a vacation? Does she ever get to go anywhere without you?
Why are you so mean to her? (Me, shocked: What do you mean?) Why don’t you ever let me pet her?
And, of course, the infamous, What do you have and what does she do for you?
Pity the poor service dog, forced to be with her partner all the time. Does she dream of being left at home along all day, like a normal dog? Pity the poor service dog. She’s not allowed to be distracted by people who just won’t let her do her job. Pity my poor Sky, forced to travel with me rather than by herself.
Most service dogs, dogs blessed with work they and their partners value, get lots of time at home to play, to rest, to loll around and be given treats, to be brushed and groomed and fussed over, to play with other dogs (ours has one of her own!), Most service dog partners know how to exercise their dogs – or get help from people who can, how to play games, even if they play from bed or a wheelchair, how to talk silly, be quiet, give a working dog a balanced, satisfying, wonderful life. Most service dogs work hard, yet they are treated like royalty because that is exactly what they deserve.