Sunday, March 9, 2014

My Original Hero

I've avoided writing about this for a few weeks now, but I think it's time, especially since writing is a major tool for therapy.

When a dog graduates, puppy raisers have the opportunity to attend graduation and meet the puppy's future partner. It's a really exciting moment when you find out who was matched up with your former little ball of fur. Personally, I'll always remember that first conversation I had with Lori, Hero's partner. There aren't words to describe how I felt when hearing stories about Lori and Hero's first steps, or his little personality quirks that he never grew out. It was life-changing to hear about how Hero gives her confidence, mobility and independence. Yet, all I could imagine was the first time I held Hero in my arms, and I could only picture him as that small, helpless pup.

As I continue to hear about Hero's progress as a guide, that's still all I can imagine. When I hear stories, I picture baby Hero in a big, grown-up harness traipsing along the sidewalk next to Lori. Although I've obviously seen him as an adult dog, that's not the Hero that initially comes to mind. Lori and Hero are a great match and I am so happy that they are together.

There is so much good. Not long ago, Lori shared a story with us in which Hero saved her from an overhead obstacle that probably would have caused a severe head injury. This kind of story is commonplace in the world of Guide Dogs, as they literally save and affect their partners' lives daily. Knowing that Hero is among these canine saviors make everything worth it. Every small issue we ever had raising him, every challenge I ran into with campus life, giving him up - everything.

However, there is also some bad. Developing a lifelong communication with your dog's partner means that you don't only get the stories with the happy endings. You also hear when something is going terribly wrong. In Hero's situation, this has recently been the case. He is in such a good, loving home with Lori, but he has become very sick. The vets are not sure why. He is currently being housed at the Oregon Campus for observation and future decision-making. I won't go into detail, but we're all very concerned.

Once again, all I can see is fluffy baby Hero. When he was just 8 weeks old, he had a spider bite, or some sort of poisonous encounter, and almost didn't make it. I think that this experience made him stronger, more alive, happier even. Hero is an anomaly. I strongly believe that he always will be. I believe he will come out of this and be an even better guide, with an unbeatable attitude.

Whatever happens, however, he will always be my hero and Lori's hero. We will always share that bond and connection. His time with me was short-lived, and although I hope and pray that his time with Lori is 10 times longer, the affect that a dog like Hero can have in such a short time is incredible. He has forever changed both of our lives and whatever is next for him, I believe that he will have an eternal purpose and be an immortal hero.


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