(Tomorrow I get to meet Marcus ‘ new Seeing Eye dog. Tonight I’m writing Garret. )
“It’s a boy. He’s blond.”
There was nothing in my husband’s words to explain the hesitancy coming thru the phone line. We expected a male, just due to Marc’s size and strength. The blond part was a bit new, his last two Seeing Eye dogs had been black labs, but that was nothing to be concerned about – just something new.
I tried to tease out the info with out increasing his anxiety. “What’s his name?”
“Garrett… and… he doesn’t want to play… I’m just… I’m not sure he likes me…”
Truthfully we knew this was not unusual, but that did not make it easy. These dogs have been thru a lot of changes by the time they are matched. They spend the first two years of their lives doing all the intense basic training and attending classes while they live with a family called “puppy raisers.” These people are heroes – they love these pups thru all the potty training and chewing and ‘toddler’ behaviors – then give them back to the Seeing Eye to do the ‘graduate’ work of how to become guide dogs and get matched with new owners and go on to live the next season of their lives. What generous love these Puppy Raisers show. So here these dogs have been removed from their homes and emerged into intense training, and aren’t really sure what is going on. They are smart and loyal – but understandingly a bit wary of what is happening.
It was two days later Marc called me laughing.
“Well, I found something Garrett likes! Towels! As I got out of the shower he ran up, snatched the towel from around my waist and went running around the room like a maniac! Then he brought it back to play tug-a-war! Guess he’s warming up!”
And that set the stage for the very unique playfulness and approach to life that is known as “Garrett the Ninja Dog.”
We grew to learn a lot about this beautiful, smart creature that came to live with us. His quirks (like how he loves to dash between peoples legs – all the way thru), how if he escapes the yard he will go immediately into the lake or the pool, how he will sneak onto furniture and stay there if Marc comes into room – silently, but hop down immediately if someone sighted enters, how he can steal a piece of steak off a plate on the kitchen counter with out making a sound or moving the plate, or wolf down your sub sandwich in the time it takes to get your car door closed. Ninja.
Garrett bonded deep and strong with Marcus. An inseparable pair, just as it should be. But he certainly allowed the whole family to have special places in his heart.
As for me – he let me be his Momma.
Shortly after Marcus received Garrett we moved to NYC for Marcus to attend Columbia Grad School. We lived in a 500 square foot apartment. All three of us. In the city. It was an adventure and adjustment and scary and intimidating – but Garrett handled it like a champ. The noises and smells and traffic and crowds – he remained unfazed. Steady like a rock. For the entire program he and Marcus navigated to campus safely.
It was also during this time we realized Garrett had some allergies. We realized this first due to horrific gas – which as you can imagine in a 500 square foot apartment was very noticeable. And once I stopped blaming Marcus we began to experiment with different food. This was trial and error – and when it went bad, it always seemed to go bad around 3 AM.
I was sound asleep the first time I felt a cold wet nose on my neck, then a gentle whining as the nose began to run down my spine. Turning toward Garrett and asking him what was wrong (because it is our pattern to talk as if they can answer which they do have a way of communicating…) he turned and walked into the corner and stood there, head down. I followed and knelt over him as he began to give back his dinner. I held back his ears. That’s when I knew he was letting me be his momma – because everyone knows it’s mom you want when you don’t feel well.
This pattern continued off and on till we got the diet right… then the magic happened.
Three AM, cold nose up and down the spine, I get out of bed, but this time Garret whines at the door. He needs to go out. I get dressed. It’s winter. Still half asleep and not knowing how urgent his issue is I pull a thick robe on and slippers – down 5 flights and pass the doorman… we are almost running. We dash across the street to the park.
Garrett runs up to a tree, then turns, looks at me, and wags this tail. Then he proceeds to drag me on a two block walk. At three AM, in my PJ’s past more people than you realize who, thankfully, don’t care at all that I’m in a robe and slippers (slippers I promptly toss upon returning to our building), and all the while he’s wagging and smelling everything and loving each moment.
I have been totally and completely punked.
And I loved it.
The city in the dead of night became our special place. Every so often Garret would get me up, we would take a long walk, enjoying the city I love, from a unique and intimate perspective.
It’s one of the many gifts Garrett gave me.
Last month we were visiting NYC and I felt the 3 AM cold nose. Garrett and I did one final private walk thru our city… A memory I will cherish and hold in my heart.
Garrett, you’ve given us so much, and now, just as your Puppy Raiser family set you free to embrace your next life, we had to let you go to enter the next season of life.
You are safely tucked in with your new family and sharing your special ninja magic with them. They adore you and I know their lives are richer because you are there.
Thanks for everything… but most of all – thank you for letting me be your momma. It’s been a joy.