So I WIll Write

 In Blog

When doing Narrative Nursing workshops, we use reflective and therapeutic writing to heal hurts brought on by the sheer nature of the profession. This spurs from my M.S. in Narrative Med from Columbia University. I’ve studied stories and their power to frame our experiences in order to provide help to the storyteller.

Anecdotally, I will admit that writing my memoir, “After This…” significantly helped me understand the trauma and medical nightmare I endured.

Now, Faithful Reader, I’m about to live through another loss. One week from today, Garrett, my yellow lab Seeing Eye dog, will retire and permanently hang up his harness. This will be the third time I have retired a Seeing Eye dog. This is hard.

I’m going to practice what I preach. Writing will be my healing help during this loss.

Garrett has been by my side since December 2010. He was a little stand offish at first, but after a few days he figured I was trustworthy. Both Dasher and Carson, my previous two Seeing Eye dogs, were black labs who, from the get go, were playful and super affectionate. Still, I trusted the trainers who said some dogs just take a little time to warm up to their new master. After a few days, Garrett and I bonded when he first showed his favorite things on earth to do: play with towels and going through the wickets. What’s that, you ask? Ever play croquet? Those metal things the balls roll through are wickets. Garrett has always, ALWAYS loved to run back and forth through everyone’s legs! It is quite adorable – and has surprised more than a few ladies as he dashed under their dresses!

If we have met in the last six years, I’m sure you remember some Garrett stories. Here’s one that doesn’t get told very often:

First, I’d like to dismantle and clarify an assumption that is often made about Seeing Eye dogs. Many people see the vulnerability of blindness and may think the dog does double duty as a guard dog. Negative, Ghost Rider.

Seeing Eye dogs are actually removed from the program if there are any signs of aggression. Duh! You can’t have a vicious dog anywhere in public-that’s not safe for anyone. Having said that, Seeing Eye dogs are (ahem!) dogs. They are in relationship to people; especially the bond of dog and handler. One reason so many people love dogs is due to a dog’s loyalty. My dogs are no different.

Less than a year after receiving Garrett, The Hotness and I relocated to Manhattan to begin my grad work. Garrett did a fabulous job navigating the streets of New York with me that year. He deserves combat pay for that assignment!

One of the first nights we were living in the city, Garrett and I went out for a little fresh air. We crossed Morningside Drive and sat atop the steps of Morningside Park. There are probably 20 flights of stairs that descend into the park. Yes, 20 flights, not steps. People get to the top and they are huffing and puffing like they’re gonna blow your house down. Garrett was laying next to me, probably with his head on my leg. Good chance he was snoozing, too.

Then, we heard sound coming from down the stairs. First, the scuffle of shoes. Garrett noticed, his ears perked up and he intently stared into the darkness. Next, more shoe sounds. Garrett sat up immediately and pointed his nose down the stairs. Next, the huff and puff of someone ascending towards us. Garrett let out a one second throaty growl and the quietest woof ever. I should mention that Garrett has a bass voice like Barry White.

“No,” I said softly. He immediately relaxed. I scratched him under his chin and he turned his attention back to me, no longer concerned with any potential danger.

When the stairclimber got to where we were, he said, “Beautiful dog…is he friendly?” Yes, very much so. In six years of having Garrett that is the only time I’ve ever seen anything out of this dog other than playful attention. At that moment, I knew his loyalty ran deep.

On Monday, Nov. 28, we will travel to Detroit, Toledo and Troy, Michigan for trauma conferences and hospital presentations. Afterward, we will travel to St. Louis and Garrett will be adopted into a loving home. More info on that tomorrow.

For now, thanks for indulging me at this major life change and thank you for giving me the opportunity to honor Garrett and tell his stories during this transitional time.


Garret the Ninja Dog

Garret the Ninja Dog

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Showing 18 comments
  • Kendra Hansen

    I’m so glad I got to meet Garrett back in August. I’m sure he’ll be in great hands with his new family. Hugs.

    • MarcusEngel

      Thank you Kendra.

  • Linda Thomure

    Hi Marcus, I am aquatinted with your parents and have lived on Pinnacle Lake Rd since 1996. I work for the Scott Agency in Montgomery, 16 years now. My question is, what will happen to Garrett now as like your previous dogs? Do they go up for adoption?

    • MarcusEngel

      Linda, I’ll be posting a bit about what happens in the next day. Thank you for reading and taking the time to ask!

  • Shelle Ridings

    Hi Marcus! I remember seeing you speak as the keynote speaker at an ABHES conference I attended. Garrett was pretty new to you then. If memory serves correctly, I am thinking February, 2011. It both warms and saddens my heart to hear of Garrett’s retirement. I cannot wait to hear the rest of the story! Hugs to you both!

  • Mary Casey

    I was so honored to meet you and your dog at UVA medical center in Virginia. I enjoy reading your posts. Sometimes its great to know we ( us therapists) can help someone like you.

  • Judy Foutz

    Had the pleasure of attending one of your workshops in Roanoke, .VA and meeting Garrett. You told us a little about his new home. I won’t spoil the story for others but it sounds like he will have a very good home. Know you will miss him.

  • Kirstin Brubaker

    I had the pleasure of meeting you and Garrett several years ago when you spoke at Lancaster General Hospital. I must admit that I originally signed up for the event to see Garrett. Having raised three Seeing Eye Dogs,I knew that Garrett was about the age of our first dog Grace and most likely they were litter mates. Knowing how difficult it was to transition the puppies back to the Seeing Eye after only a year and half, I can’t imagine what you and your family are experiencing. I will look forward to following your writing !
    And for the record… your presentation to our staff was amazing! Glad Garrett drew me there! I will be thinking of all of you and sending good thoughts ?

  • Vicky Williams

    Glad you are documenting this life change. God bless you during this tough transition.

  • Jane Horak

    I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have to lose your buddy after being together for so long. It is comforting to know he will be going to a good home. When will you get another dog?

  • Jenna Watson (Beattie)

    I understand why your dog’s have to retire, but having a lovable yellow lab myself, I am so sad for you both. I know the powers that be will make sure you have a new partner to have adventures with and it won’t be long before a new bond forms both between you and your new friend and Garrett and his new family. Just know we are thinking of your family and Garrett and praying strength for you all.

  • Angie Clarkson

    I feel so privileged to have met Garrett at the STN conference in Jacksonville in 2014. Oh yeah Marcus your presentation was nice also?. I still tell everyone about your programs and your amazing work! So glad that Garrett is going to a good home but not sure how you can let him go. Safe travels to you both and look forward to hearing more.

  • melissa

    I have a question and I don’t want you to take it the wrong way. I am very curious how someone could abandon such a loyal dog? He helped keep you safe. He gave his life to you. Why not keep him in his old age. Now he needs you. Please help me understand this?


    Hi Marcus:
    My name is Katie and I’ve been an admirer of yours for the past year, now. I can imagine how hard this decision to retire your partner in crime must be. I can sympathize with you because for the past seven years now I’ve been partnered with my nine-year-old black Labrador retriever named Valley who has been specifically trained to be my arms and legs.
    I’ll never forget the day when his trainer came over and handed me the leash. I was so excited and scared. So much work had gone into him and I feared ruining him in the first few minutes. His trainers assured me that this wouldn’t happen, but in the last two days I saw some stubbornness yet, playfulness that I wasn’t sure could be managed, but he won me over. We worked together to build a bond between handler and dog, and that’s a bond that will never be broken. Garrett will forever hold a special place in your heart. Just as Valley will forever hold a special place in mine as my first partner in crime because he may be my first service dog, but he won’t be my last.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers as you transition.

    Your pals,

    Katie & Valley

  • Norma

    Marcus, it was a pleasure to meet you & Garrett earlier this month at the Carilion Trauma Conference. Carlan, Steven & I were touched by your story…hit close to home ?

    Thank you for blogging about Garrett’s transition. Writing is my therapy, especially when sharing memories & it sounds like you two have some special ones.

    Looking forward to hearing more. Take care of yourself.

  • Lisa Randall

    I have been reading your books and following you since I heard you were going to speak at the leadership meeting at the hospital I work at. I was so disappointed I was unable to hear you speak because I am out on medical leave, but I heard your talk was amazing. You and Garrett are in my prayers as you go through this transition.

  • Laura Smith

    I met Garrett a few years ago in were awesome, and so was he. Thank you for sharing.

  • Adelle Clinton

    Hi Marcus! My name is Adelle and I had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the University of Virginia in one of my nursing school classes last fall. I know I can speak for all of my classmates when I say that we were inspired and touched by your story, and it has helped us strive to be better nurses today.
    My family has been raising guide dogs through Guiding Eyes for the Blind for over 10 years now, and one of our most recent dogs was a retired guide that we had raised as a pup. Gordie spent 8 years in Chicago with his owner Gina, and then we were lucky enough to have him back when it was his time to retire. We were thrilled to have him and treated him like a king because we knew how important he was to Gina and what an amazing service he had done for her. We loved him immensely, and I know that the family who gets to have Garrett will treat him just as well! I hope you find some comfort knowing he will be so loved and cared for, and I wish you the best of luck with this new transition.

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