by Roja Thomas (Joy’s guide dog)
When I wake up in the morning, I run in circles 90 mph until I almost fall over (don’t judge). Joy and her kids laugh really hard when I do this, and hearing their laughter makes me prance around the house like an even bigger maniac. I love when Joy’s kids are home, and especially when they have lots of friends over after school. There’s nothing I love more than a house full of rowdy children. Except when one of them pulls my tail (true story ahead!).
Joy is not very strict, not like some of the handlers I’ve seen out there (psst, she let me walk from mat to mat in yoga last week, greeting every friendly classmate in the room, but you didn’t hear that from me….). If there’s one thing she is strict about, however, it’s protecting me from crazy midgets (aka. small children in stores). If we’re browsing through an aisle and she hears a little kid coming up behind us, yelling “doggie!”, she commands me forward immediately and we head to another aisle. Sometimes I even hear parents calling after us, asking Joy if their screaming child can pet me, but she marches right on, and I don’t wag my tail even a smidge.
One time she was babysitting a second grade girl— one who should know better— who pulled my tail really hard. I’m not the barking type, so I didn’t even make a sound, but Joy’s husband saw her do it, and when he told Joy, that girl wasn’t able to play with me or even come near me the rest of the day. If there’s one thing I can say about Joy, as much as she won’t stop yapping and tapping on that phone of hers, she always watches out for me. I guess you could say it’s a mutual thing.
That’s why I’m never nervous to do presentations at schools with Joy. She has the kids sit far enough back from us that they’re not grabbing for me, and the kids all stare at me and tell Joy how cute I am (not trying to brag, but they all say how soft and sweet and well behaved…did I mention good-looking? Psst…I even heard Joy’s brother-in-law once say I’m his favorite family member out of the entire Thomas family. #blessediguess).
Last week I got to go show off in Joy’s daughter’s Kindergarten class. I’m not proud to admit it, but I did start to sniff and lick some children in the front row while Joy was having me show them how I guide her. I think this embarrassed Joy, but I just couldn’t help myself…they were just like that cute 5-year-old that I snuggle with each night and they were all so friendly!
Then just yesterday I went with Joy to show off my guide work skills in front of 100 4th graders at Joy’s niece’s school (yes, you heard me right, 100!). Joy, of course, was all yakkity-yak most of the time, but she did let me show them how I move her forward, know my left and right turns, how to find doors and chairs (all that easy stuff!). She also brought out that clicker game thing, which she hasn’t used with me in months, so that was a fun surprise. One boy asked what I would do if I saw someone with a gun, and Joy kind of laughed and told him that I’m not a guard dog and would probably wag my tail and lick the guy. Can you believe her? How rude! I could so be a guard dog! Wait, what’s a gun?
Those 4th graders remembered every word Joy was saying, even though she was talking way faster than I could understand. They even remembered when my birthday is! (June 8, btw, I like gift cards and tug toys if you must).
So that’s my life lately. Lots of schools. Lots of inside time. I’m not used to this Chicago indoors-for-3-months business. I did get to guide Joy outside a little bit this week, but there was this crazy slippery water that had hardened and made Joy and me slide all over the place. I heard Joy call it ice and decided we better go around it. She got all excited every time I went around it, like I’d done some amazing trick. Oh, that silly handler of mine…doesn’t she know that I avoid anything that is cold, hard and slippery?
As for the rest of the winter, I’m hoping Joy takes me to show off my guide work skills in some school with nice weather…I’m thinking Florida or California. In the meantime, I’ll keep steering us away from the ice and avoiding small children who attempt to pull my tail.