Perhaps more people will focus on the contract status of Tom Brady and the new England Patriots as “legal tampering” opens on March 16. But in the 2020 Vision Quest community, all eyes, sighted or otherwise, will be on a different “free agent.”
Autumn is celebrating the anniversary of her arrival to Nashua six years ago. The eight-year-old guide dog continues to be eager to work and full of the playful energy which earned her the label of “spitfire” from her trainers. She also dominates the world of loving devotion during her “down” time.
For my part, I’m certainly celebrating my time with this beautiful girl well beyond the working relationship we share. There is no doubt these anniversaries begin to feel bitter-sweet as the average guide dog works just 6-8 years before retirement. While Autumn will choose by her actions and eagerness to work when that retirement is appropriate, we are closer to that retirement by far than the day of her joyous arrival.
Despite that reality, I focus quite delightedly upon the amazing bond we share. She’s rapidly approaching the longest working guide dog connection I’ve experienced and it shows in how well we understand each other.
I’m still amazed at how much she clearly loves me and cares for my well being. It isn’t just in her harness work, which improves the more challenging the situation we face. Even at our home resting, if I should experience stress or illness, she is attentive to my every reaction and responds by trying to comfort me with an unrivaled tender devotion. She’ll try to bring me out of an excessive work time with enticements towards the closet of Autumn toys. Her relentless squeaking of her favorite toys makes clear how passionate she is about her play.
Yet she still puts all the toys aside and breaks away from our cuddles when I ask her to work by taking the harness off the hook. She comes directly to a heel and readies for the work she also still loves. Six years of work and we are still going strong. I never get to know for how long but I do get to know how lucky I am for having her by my side.
Happy Anniversary, Autumn, and thank you for the incredible guide work, play partnership, loving affection, and most of all patience when I dare put my focus on something else for a bit. Even then, I can guess there’s a warm weight holding my feet to the floor… until I ask you to wear the harness once more!