I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while…but either never felt like I had the time or the mental energy to put all this stuff into words. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it justice, but I can try.
Having to go back to the cane has made me realize how many things I took for granted that Trixie did. At first, I would find myself nearly cluning trees and poles until a voice in my head said loud enough “You have no dog! You have to compensate! She’s not going to fix it at the last second!” I also started noticing just how narrow certain areas are, and how perfectly she navigated them so I had no idea. Our lovely new bus terminal comes to mind. It was annoying, but for totally different reasons. There’s this one place at around Platforms 2 and 3 ish where you go from having a really wide area to walk to holy crap you’re going to fall if you’re not careful. I’ve also nearly gone head over heels down the flight of stairs there just because I had subtlely veered off course. I also went through a phase where I would come home from an average route completely exhausted. Trix took over for the cane so seamlessly that I didn’t really think I would have trouble adjusting back. After all, I got by pretty well with the cane, right? Right? Oh lordy I have gotten rusty.
At this point, all of this is getting easier, but I still walk friggin slow. Sloooow. It’s frustrating as hell, considering I’ve gotten used to getting places within a certain timeframe, and now that’s not happening, Sunny Jim! Also, my distance judgment is all off. I expect to get somewhere at one pace, and because I haven’t covered as much ground as I used to, I’m not there yet, so think I’ve missed it. No, you haven’t gone as far because you’re sloooow.
I think it must be amusing to watch me…walk? Run? I don’t know. I’ll be trying as hard as I can to go fast, but I’ll still be getting left in people’s dust. It’s like paddling as hard as you can against the current. I’m just not used to being this slow.
But at the same time, I’m scared of starting over. I know that when I get the new dog, it will be a whole new relationship. S/he will have a whole new set of strenghts, weaknesses and quirks, both to do with working and in the house. I will be cementing behaviours that will affect our team for the rest of its life. Plus I will be dealing with second dog syndrome. I will want to compare this dog with Trix all the time, even though I know I can’t and shouldn’t. But without thinking, it will happen. I have worked so hard to get to the spot we were, and now, I feel like all too soon, I’m starting again.
Over the last little while, when I was out with the cane, I would catch myself coming up to intersections thinking “Oh god, I have to teach the new dog about the weirdness of this intersection. *cringe*” Now, of course, all of that is out the window since we’ll be moving, and I don’t have clue 1 about what I’ll have to teach the new dog, but every time I would think about that, I would feel this bit of dread, even though I know I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
It’s funny what little things get embedded in your subconscious and you don’t even know it. At the beginning when I started using the cane part-time, I would catch myself momentarily tensing up when entering a restaurant, preparing for someone to tell me I couldn’t bring the dog in here. The ridiculous part was that scenario didn’t play out very often, but I guess I had always prepared myself for the potential, and had done it so often that without thinking, I was going through the usual motions. Also, for a while, whenever I heard kids talking, my mind would insert the word “doggy” or “puppy.” Then I realized “Hey numbnut, they’re not saying that, you don’t have a dog. If they’re saying ‘doggy’ or ‘puppy’, it’s not for you.” But it was a strange experience what the brain started dreaming up.
Then there was the day I almost praised my cane. I’ve talked about telling the cane forward, but one day, when my cane found a big drop-off and I felt it and came to an abrupt halt, I almost praised the cane. Then I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Guh. That’s not a dog.
I’ve talked a lot about people asking where Trix is. I do believe I actually saw a dog ask the question. Now you really think I’m crazy. Let me explain. Some people bring their dogs to work. I was coming into work one day, and a dog came towards me, full tilt. Then, he got within a few feet of me and stopped dead, and backed up a pace or 2. I think he was expecting his buddy Trix, and when she wasn’t there, he was quite puzzled. I didn’t know if I was going to laugh or cry at that moment.
Speaking of not knowing If I was going to laugh or cry, that’s been my feelings about the class date. Of course I want a new dog, but getting that new dog means I have to admit for sure that Trix’s career is over, and I have to let go of her and commit to a new dog. The good thing is Trix is healthy and hopefully has several years ahead of her. But it’s still hard.
When I first got my class date, I was happy to have a date, but telling people was not the experience it was when I went for Babs or Trix. Steve still chuckles about the tone of the email he got from work with the date in it. It was something like “Well…I go to class on March 24. It’s a two-week class. Eek. I’ll be in the hotel. Ug. There it is.” He said for half a second, he wondered what the heck my problem was, this should be happy news, but it didn’t take him long to figure out that there are mixed feelings when you’re moving from a dog you’ve had for years to this brand new one, and I hadn’t reached the point of totally accepting she was retired.
Then a couple weeks later, as I moved a little closer to accepting Trix was retired, I got the package with my new contract and an SD card with lectures. I got the package, looked at it, went “Yea! I have my SD card!” immediately followed up by “Boohoohoohoo, my SD card is here.” It was like I reached the top of a cliff and fell off in the next second. There was happiness, immediately followed up by feelings of betrayal and guilt for moving on when Trix was still bouncing around our apartment, and sadness that this was in fact reality. I didn’t know I could feel such different things at the exact same time, but there it is.
As I passed through stages of acceptance that Trix was retiring, certain subjects would make me cry, and I really think they spoke to where I was in the process. First, all I had to say were the words “semi-retirement” or “part-time”. Next, as I was making it official that yeah, her career is coming to an end, the trigger phrase was “the new dog”. It happened so suddenly that I’m sure some people must have thought I was putting it on. By this point, I could say she was retiring, and that made me sad, but saying “new dog” would be too much.
After I decided she was retired, saying retired, past tense, seemed too hard. It was a little easier because I was pretty sure this was the right decision, but it was hard to move from retire-ing, to retire-d. Ah the importance of verb tenses.
Then, I would cry whenever I would talk to the vets about running followup tests because she would be leaving soon. Talking about the date she was going was enough.
And finally, at the end, I could talk about when she was going, but when Chuck called and talked about adoption papers, waaaaa!
There are some songs that I think will always remind me of this whole Trixie retirement thing. I figured I would mention them here. A couple of them make sense, a couple of them not so much.
I’ve already mentioned what the radio did the day Trix left.
Then there was one of those times Trix ran to the door and stood as if to say “Put the harness on. Come on!” I looked down at her and said Trix, you’re breaking my heart… I should just call you Cecilia.”
Damn I never used to cry when I heard that song…hmmm…not so much anymore.
This song, I can’t even figure out why it bothers me so much, but it does. One night I was struggling to get Trixie home in the dark. We had had a pretty good day, but she was spent and it was showing. The whole time her head was low, almost sniffing the ground. I was basically heeling her home, caneless, thankful that I knew the area like the back of my hand. I wonder now if she was trying to compensate for her low vision or if she was just spent and this was how she was showing it. Anyway, into my head popped Somebody that I used to know.
I don’t know if my mind was trying to tell me that Trix was struggling and our ability to work together wasn’t so good and the good days were something in the past, something I used to know. Inexplicably now, whenever I hear this song, I get a little teary.
And this one makes no sense, but it belongs here, so let’s go. It was a Saturday in July and Trix had just said “screw you, I ain’t workin’!” I had to head out with the cane and go to a rather complicated plaza with patio tables and poles and displays and plants and you name it, I hit it. I was not too good with the cane, and it was showing…so I had to walk slower than slow. There was this one guy I knew at school that took half an hour to get between school buildings at the school for the blind. I felt slower than him, and it was driving me insane. As I smacked tables, nearly tripped over things, and generally felt like an immense oaf, Adele – Set fire to the Rain blared over the speakers.
I didn’t understand a word, but I felt the rage and frustration and almost broke down right on the patio. Every time I’d get silly and think maybe Trix wants to work, I play this song and remember that the reason I was struggling in that plaza is because she told me “No, I’m not working today.”
And now that everyone probably thinks I’ve gone cuckoo for cocoa puffs, I’m all out of thoughts. But I have to say as hard as this whole retirement process is, the school has been trying their best to make it easy on me. Kim, the counselor, has been really awesome. It can’t be easy for her, always hearing from us when our dogs are sick or retiring or some such. After Chuck heard my great big list of problems, and saw it himself, he never made me feel like I was giving up too soon or anything, and this was before we had it confirmed that her vision was going. All the hard parts of retiring have been dealing with my own feelings, nothing to do with GDB.
Hopefully you’re not all bored, or thinking I’ve lost my marbles. If you’ve read this far, damn you’re good!