So I WIll Write
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.