Yesterday I had an appointment to get my hair cut. As usual, Talos was my companion. The employees know him well there. On the rare occasion when he isn't by my side, they chastise me for denying them a visit with T.
On the drive home from the salon, tears were flowing. I realized this was the last time Talos will ever come with me to get my hair cut.
And so it goes with service dogs – they're temporarily in our lives. And the realization that he'll be going soon hit me like a sledgehammer. I'm having a hard time even writing this post because it makes me think again about his leaving…
And so begins the first of the lasts: I just had my last hair cut with Talos. Soon there will be the last grocery store visit, the last walk in the park, the last snuggle on the couch, the last night hearing his snoring in my bed, the last ride together in the car, the last goodbye as we drop him off at the agency.
It's times like this that I wonder why on earth I do this. Why I raise and fall in love with these dogs. The pain is unbearable when I turn the leash over to the agency. Those feelings are all out of selfishness, I know. I don't need the dog. I just want him. I know he'll do someone a world of good. My mind knows all that. But my heart doesn't really care.
Talos is a little different than the other dogs we've raised. I've been forever enamored with giant dogs, Danes specifically. When I was about five or six years old, we'd visit a store who had a harlequin (spotted) Great Dane (just like Talos). The dog would be laying on the floor and I'd lay down inside the dog's legs (that's how small I was) and would stay there while my parents shopped. I was entranced. The dog was magical to me.
Fast forward thirty years and I find myself just as entranced with Talos as I was with the Dane in the store. Even more entranced now, I think, because I'm older and can appreciate every little thing about him. And now wondering what on earth I'll do without him.
I remember the day we brought him home. I kept thinking "I've got a real live Great Dane in the house! A Dane! HERE in the house!" One year later, I'm still pinching myself – a Great Dane! HERE! Living with me, going to the store with me! Sleeping in bed with ME!
He'll be fine, I think. He needs someone to scratch him, love him, play with him, and feed him. He'll find that, I know. I'm not worried about him, it's me and my state of mind I question.
Once I say goodbye to him on July 23 in Virginia, I'll get one more chance to see him. Puppy raisers are invited to Graduation. We'll be given the leash one more time and will present Talos to his new partner as part of the graduation ceremony. It's a proud, profound moment. One that's filled, for me, with mixed emotions. It'll be the first time he and I will have the chance to see each other since turn-in. The excitement and surprise I'll see on his face will bring me to tears, just as it has for the other service dogs. It's just that with this big lug, there will be a few more tears of sadness than joy. Again, only selfish tears, only because I've fallen so ridiculously, painfully hard for him. My silly, crazy, lovey, sweet, goofy, clumsy Dane.