Saturday, September 9

Tony's Letter

Greetings. The following is dedicated and written to Tony, my former guide dog that just passed away.

Dear Tony,

This is a hard letter for me to write, since you’re not with me anymore. I know you are with God in Heaven though. Which probably means that you’re reading this from somewhere in cyberspace. I don’t know how advanced the technology is in Heaven. I trust that you are doing well regardless. If you get the chance, send word to me of what things look like up there.

Anyway, I wanted to write you this note and to tell you how much I appreciated you an your service as a guide dog. You guided me for 4 years. You were a wonderful guide dog. Even though retirement came earlier for you than for other guide dogs, you still put everything into your work, and later into your play as a retired dog guide.

What can I say to express my appreciation and love for you? How can I summarize the 11 years that we spent together? I’m not sure there is a way. However, hopefully the following paragraphs will scratch that surface to some degree.

I remember when I first arrived at The seeing Eye on May 27, 1995, climbing out of the Lincoln Town car and not really knowing what to expect. Everyone was so friendly when I walked through the Seeing Eye’s front door for the first time. I felt like I had known them all my life, even though we had just met. I then met you the next day, a Sunday. I remember that you were a little sad from being separated from your trainer, Peggy, since you were running back and forth for the door to me. Each time you came back to me though, I had a hug for you. And, eventually, I guess you decided that life was better with me than over by the door. That time was a whirlwind of activity as I tried to understand how to use you properly and all the commands. I’m sure that there were times you must have thought, “Come on, do this, this, this,” as I was struggling. But, as it would happen many times after that, you were patient with me.

Then we came back to Dallas 27 days later, and that presented another set of challenges for you, since you were then getting used to my environment, not the other way around.

We had many a happy time and some sad ones during the working part of your life. Such as, when you peed on the Richland Community College bridge during class changing on a weekday. I feel bad that I didn’t pick up on your signals to me, but I was young. After all, it only happened in the first few months that we were working together. Or, the time I took you to Six Flags Over Texas. I’m sure you were confused by the roller coaster cars moving overhead, thinking that they should be on the ground like other cars. Or, the time we went to Colorado to go skiing. That was a fun trip.

In 1997, we moved from Dallas to Denton so I could transfer to the University of North Texas. Those were fun times as well. I remember getting lost on the first day of classes, thinking that I could find my way on my own and could take a shortcut. My shortcut, or perhaps you’re thinking, somehow got us to Pizza Hut on the edge of campus, instead of to the Student Union building. Looking back, I wonder if you had planned things to happen that way. Or, all those looks you gave to Heather. She was doing her best to guide me while you were trotting along on leash. When thinking of Heather’s guiding, I can’t forget when she accidentally walked me into the back of the stairs. I told her it was ok, even though it wasn’t, and then you must have given her a dirty doggie look, because the next thing I hear from her is, “Shut up.”

Yeah, we had some good times. I don’t have the space to recall all of them. You were there with me in the happy times; in the sad times; when my dad’s mom and grandmother died; when at the Colorado Center when I tried to use my cane and came back from the library feeling down about my abilities, you comforted me. When I got the news that I was able to go to the Colorado Center from my state rehab counselor, you wagged your tail in anticipation, even though you might not have known what all the excitement was about. In 2003, when I graduated from college, I know you were with me there, even though I used my cane to walk across the stage. So many memories.

About a week ago, on September 1, when Geoff, Larry and Jesse came over to move and hook up the new washer and dryer, you went out to greet them, even though you weren’t feeling well. I’m grateful that they were there, since it was Geoff that called me at work to tell me that you weren’t feeling great. On the bus ride home, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew things weren’t good. I remember calling my dad and telling him of the situation, and then calling Jack, who said that either he or his wife would meet me at the apartment to help take you to the vet. I remember getting home, meeting Jack at the door, throwing my stuff down, and going to the bedroom to check on you. You were lying on the mat you used in the bedroom and obviously weren’t doing real well. It broke my heart that you weren’t able to get up and walk out like you had done so many times before. Jack carried you to the car, put you in your usual spot in the floor below the dashboard, and I got in, and we rushed off to the vet. It was kind of fitting that you were below the dash, since that’s where you always sat when you were guiding.

When I heard from the vet that you were on oxygen, but that you were not in the best shape, I then had to make some decisions. That was one of the hardest times of my life so far. I had to decide if we were going to try to bring you back to some semblance of health, or put you down. After some thought, I decided to put you down. I’m sorry for not asking you at the time what you wanted to do.

I remember going into that room and putting my hands on your rump. You wagged your tail, which I appreciated. You knew I was there. You were glad for my touch. I couldn’t say anything meaningful to you, but you understood and were fine with simply my touch. Jack told me when they gave you the shot and when you stopped breathing. I felt it all though. I know when you stopped. In fact, I remember pleading with you not to fight what was happening when your breath quickened ever so slightly. After you left this world and went into Heaven, Jack and I said our prayers for you. I remember praying a simple prayer to God, saying just, “Thanks for Jack, and thank you for Tony.” That was all I could say, but that’s all I needed to say. We stood there a few minutes. Another hard thing was leaving your body lying there. Thankfully though, one of the nurses offered to take you to her ranch of exotic animals, the Sunrise Exotic Ranch, and burry you there. I gratefully took her offer and thanked her. I plan to come out and see your graveside soon, and to see what animals your lying near.

It was hard for me to leave that room, but I knew that I had to. I got the call from Geoff at about 12:05, and you officially died at 1:25. This brief amount of time would come to mind later when I started dealing with the fact that you were no longer with me. Officially, the doctor said that you had congestive heart failure. I don’t know what all that means, except that you were not doing good when I came home and when Jack and I took you to the vet.

Another hard thing was calling Mom to tell her of your passing a little after 2. I don’t get real emotional, as far as sadness anyway, so recalling for others your passing, and beginning to deal with it over the following 3 days, had me crying and my throat closing from the emotion of things. My parents came down for the weekend, which helped a lot.

Tony, I thank God often that I had someone wit me most of that day, and that there were people here to tell me that you weren’t feeling great. From Geoff and Larry, to Jack, to talking with my parents and friends on the phone; there weren’t many times when I was by myself. Actually, in those quiet times when I wasn’t talking to anyone or with anyone, God was with me, so I’m quite sure that I was never alone that day.

I want you to know that I’m in the process of giving away some of your things, such as your bowls, dog food, medicines, spare leash, and other things. But I’ve decided to give them to people that have or are going to get guide dogs. That’s one thing I’m doing to remember your service. I’ve also called the Seeing Eye to inform them of your death, which they were grateful for. I don’t know that I’m going to get another guide dog. At least not right away. Whether I do or not, I’ve heard it said that people always remember their first dogs, and I’ll definitely always remember and treasure my time with you. No matter if I get several more guide dogs, or some pet dogs, you’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Being at work helps me stay occupied and busy. When I come home though, there have been times when I’ve missed seeing you, or have expected to see you. Such as your normal feeding times, when I enter or leave the apartment, and others. I’ve left your main leash and collar on the inside doorknob to remind myself of you. I always touch them when I leave the apartment. I’m also keeping your mat in the bedroom. I had to clean it since it was still dirty from the day you left. That was hard in a way too. Part of me wanted to keep it just like it was so that I could remember, but then again, my company probably would not have liked that too much. After it was cleaned though, I placed it in its usual spot, right my the desk. I remember being in the efficiency in Dallas and you and I having those disagreements of where the mat should go. That was a small efficiency to begin with. You would move it close to the bed, since you wanted to be near me. After tripping over it several times and you, I would move it to the other side of the room, and you would gradually move it back again. It seems we had the same disagreements over the mat in the bedroom.

I wasn’t the only person that cried over your passing. Aside from me, here’s a brief list of the other people that have cried tears for you, in no particular order: Jack, Mom and Dad, grandmother on my Mom’s side, Janie, and others. Many people have offered their condolences, to numerous to list. Tony, a lot of people miss you down here. However, I know that I’ll see you again, whenever my time is up. You lived a long 13 years, which is great for a lab. So, I’ll see you soon, and I mean really see you, not just through my fingers.


1 comment:

  1. Dianne9:01 AM

    Wayne, Tony will always have a special place in our hearts. He was a very special dog. Other dog owners commented and noticed Tony's sweet and gentle spirit. Tony was a beloved friend to the entire family.
    I always loved watching the two of you work. It was a graceful sight to behold watching Tony guide you.
    I love you, Mom