That Friday afternoon a member of the GDB nursing staff phones to review my medical history. I’m impressed by her friendliness and apparent familiarity with my food sensitivities and lesser-known metabolic disorder.
Despite my busyness over the next two weeks, I’m acutely aware that my most highly anticipated phone call from GDB staff has not yet come.
Late Friday afternoon, ten days before class, it arrives.
“Donna, this is Larissa from GDB. I’m the instructor who’ll be working with you and your dog. Do you have a few minutes to talk now?”
We review the class schedule. The first week-and-a-half are pretty firmly set, but there is room near the end for us to customize training.
“Is there something special you’d like to work on?” she asks.
“I speak professionally and have two speeches booked within two weeks of our return. If possible, I’d like to practice walking on and off a couple of different types of stages. It’s very important that my dog feel comfortable onstage and that the two of us transition on and off as smoothly as possible. We need to look like we know what we’re doing. I’d also like to try to teach my dog to guide me to the microphone.”
Larissa replies, “We actually have a stage here…but it’s not raised. We can work on the two of you walking to and from the microphone, and having your dog show you the lectern. There are hotels, theaters and other venues nearby where we should be able to work. I’ll make some phone calls and have something more for you when the time comes.
I see you’d prefer a small, female black lab. Can I learn more about the reasoning behind your choice?”
I answer, “With no public transportation, I use special transit, which subcontracts a majority of trips for its ambulatory passengers out to the local cab company. Smaller dogs fit more easily than larger ones into most taxis and personal vehicles. I think it’d be easier to find a female lab that is small enough to fit comfortably in a cab than to locate a male of comparable size.
I’ve always had female dogs and like their temperament. Besides, (I smile) I live with two guys -my husband and son- and would like the company of another female.
Most of my professional wardrobe is made up of darker colors. I don’t want to worry about light dog hair showing up on dark clothing while I’m onstage. A friendly, ‘waggy’ dog with a big personality, who settles quickly would come across very well on stage,” I conclude.
Larissa asks, “What’s more important—color or gender?”
My self-doubt starts talking…LOUDLY: “Why is she asking this? I’ve put SO much time and thought into this decision.”
I’m agonizing over this non-negotiable, already decided fact, second guessing myself like crazy. It’s as if I’m being tested and don’t have the guts in the moment to say: “They’re both equally important.”
“Oh! That’s so hard! Wow…” I say (thinking with my left-brained desire to look ‘put together’ onstage)… “I guess if I had to choose… I’d say color is more important.”
Larissa then asked, “What if you had to choose between a more laid-back, black dog and a more energetic yellow one?”
My fears have my imagination in overdrive! I’m picturing myself (on one hand) with a sweet, slooowly plodding black male lab whose gate will only become slower with time. On the other, I’m being left in the dust by a pretty yellow female lab devoid of the big, sweet personality I crave.
“The black dog,” I groan.
We say our goodbyes… and my uneasiness taunts me throughout the weekend.
At the point of surrender, I leave a voicemail first thing Monday morning.
“Larissa, this is Donna Anderson. I’ve been thinking about my dog preferences…Pace and personality are most important. I spent the weekend picturing myself with different kinds of dogs… I prefer gender to color. You guys are the experts. You’ve successfully matched people with dogs for lots of years. I’d prefer a small, black female lab with a big personality, who settles quickly…If you don’t have one that would match my pace, or believe another combination would prove better for me… I trust you to match me with the right dog.”
Copyright (C) 2015, Donna Mack Anderson. All rights reserved.