It's been a week since I blogged and Rockwell has been gone three days. I already miss his little happy face greeting me when I come home, his utter joy at mealtimes, the ears back and snorgling in his corner at the front door, the affectionate way he would lie at our feet in the evening.
I've been wondering how to write why he went back a week early without me sounding like a whining weenie. But I think I'll just write the way it all transpired and leave you to judge. I think I have enough perspective now to do that, and it was perspective I lost for a while there.
Over a month ago, the pattern of our lives changed a bit. Peter was home on holidays and then bereavement leave, instead of going to work every day. We knew Rockwell would be returning to Guide Dogs fairly soon. It seemed pedantic to make him walk properly all
the time when he'd be really working soon. So I started to slack off. I let him bounce around at the end of a long leash because he seemed to enjoy himself so much. We kept up the strict no-human-food rule and the other rules but we didn't impose discipline while we were out. And then it started to show.
It got incrementally more difficult, day by day, for me to insist that walks be done my way. And then Peter went away for over a week. He had a business trip he had to do. I also started teaching for the Fall session - only mornings but it was a change. And the week that Peter was away, Rockwell really stepped up the lie-in-the-road-and-won't-come-home behaviour. It got so that I dreaded going outside the house with him because I knew I wouldn't be able to get him home without a struggle. But I had to take him out, four or five times a day.
Soon, the constant anticipation of a confrontation four times a day was making me doubt my sanity. And then of course, I'd say to myself, "it's just a dog! You can do this!" But it's amazing what a little negative brain chemistry will do to transform one's thoughts from normal to despair. And then I'd say to myself, "Peter's coming home in 4 days (or 3 days), and I have an appointment to see Sheila on Monday (the day Peter got home)". And I soldiered on. On the weekend, I enlisted the help of my friend in need and neighbour to walk with me and Rockwell so he would be a distraction and I could get Rockwell home. It worked but even so, Rockwell would still tug at the leash and lie down at the end of the walk. But on my part, it was a huge amount of moral support just to have to company.
One morning, as I stood outside while Rockwell lay in the road and I waited for good behaviour (knowing that I could not make
him do what I wanted), another neighbour snapped this photo of the two of us with his cell phone. It might look amusing at first glance but what I see is me, trying not to have a breakdown in public.
And yet, when we finally did make it home, he showed me how submissive he is, so I know he was not doing any of this for any bad reason.
And then, we'd spend the afternoon in companionable silence, with me sewing and him looking out the window and keeping me company.
When Sheila finally showed up Monday morning, I broke down and cried and said I couldn't do this any longer. Even though I knew Rockwell would be going into kennels while we were away during the last week of September, I asked her if she could find some place for him to stay in the meantime. I felt like a total loser for asking and I felt like a failure, having come this close to the end of his legitimate stay and then bailing. But I just couldn't take it any more, the constant dread and anticipation of confrontation. So I bailed.
Sheila bless her heart said she understood completely and she would make arrangements. We both agreed that Rockwell could really benefit from a more stimulating home, somewhere with other dogs and more people. And in fact, that is where he is now - somewhere where I hope he is whooping it up. We also agreed that I had been handicapped in my year with Rockwell because I didn't have a large secure yard and I didn't have a car. I had thought I would be able to cope without a yard and a car and I did for most of the time, but they would have made the difference at the end.
So there it is - the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, I know that Rockwell thrived under my care and that I taught him a lot of good things, including not to be afraid of loud noises and not to be nervous about small things. I probably took my volunteer job a little too seriously but then, I do that with the rest of the things I do in life too. I probably compared him a little too much with his predecessor Uma and he was a totally different personality. But he was a little too rambunctious and boisterous for me and I guess it just wore me down. I am also not very good at asking for help when I should but I'm getting better at that.
In any event, I wanted Rockwell to succeed in his ultimate task, which is becoming a guide dog, so I think I did the right thing in asking him to be placed somewhere else until he goes in for formal training. He is a smart dog and very outgoing and personable. I am so anxious for him to end up being a proper working dog. I will get updates from Sheila from time to time, telling me of his progress through school. And they will let me know if he is going to graduate and when. I just won't be able to visit with him once he's in school, so I will have to rely on second hand reports.
And I don't think I will be taking another puppy for several reasons. One reason is that I discovered I was allergic to dogs, more than I thought I was. I had become accustomed to Uma's dander so that I didn't really notice it any more. But when Rockwell came to stay a year ago, my allergic reaction caused me to get sick with one virus after another, about every month or so. Two other reasons are the yard and the car issues. Anyway, I think that's enough explanation for now. Later, I'll post some more photos of our last evening together, after I get them out of Peter's computer where they are now.
This was our last morning together, and Rockwell is under the table, getting his chest scratched one last time by Peter.
And here I am, giving him the last hug goodbye. Even though I've asked for them to come get him, I'm already tearing up and starting to miss him.