Rocket's DogBlog - Wingman

Chapter 24

November 17, 2011


Dinah here, filling in because Rocket is on vacation in Breckenridge. He's with a puppy raiser named Carol and her family, and Marianne and John have Carol's puppy. Hachi is only 11 weeks old, too young for a mountain vacation, whereas Rocket at 8 months is the perfect age.

I was at Marianne and John's house last weekend because my puppy raisers were in Oceanside watching their dog, Calhoun, aka Calley Malley Hoon Hound, graduate, which is grist for another DogBlog. I'll let Rocket fill you in on the details another time.

I want to tell you about a very special CCI graduate dog named Lucky. The entire CCI family was saddened to learn of Lucky's death last month from a fast-moving cancer. His partner Randi is, as you might imagine, devastated. I was privledged to attend his memorial service last Saturday with Marianne and John and Hachi, and a lot of other people and dogs.

I am going to warn you right now, get the tissues. Trust me, you're going to need them.

What made Lucky so special? Oh, so many things! He was smart and performed all of his CCI commands perfectly; he was sweet and cuddly and loved to sleep with his head on a pillow next to Randi; he had a whole body wiggle, not just a tail wag; he loved people and often comforted the kids at Children's Hospital where Randi works.

He was handsome, so handsome in fact that his portrait graces a Cru Vin Dogs wine bottle. He was a fabulous ambassador for CCI and Cru Vin Dogs, often accompanying Randi to events and presentations.

At his memorial service last week Anne, a CCI national board member who knew and loved Lucky, gave a charming description of Lucky joining other dogs in Heaven. Mary, from Cru Vin Dogs, spoke about all that Lucky and Randi have done for and with Cru Vin Dogs. Lots of people stood up and shared their memories; many were funny and made everyone laugh through their tears. A slide show with photos of Lucky played in the background throughout the service.

But the best part was when Randi spoke about her amazing, special partner. I can only hope that someday I graduate to be the kind of partner that Lucky was for Randi. There is no better way to convey what CCI is all about than this tribute. Here's what Randi shared:

Thank you for sharing your memories; I look around the room and I see all the people Lucky loved and who loved him.

For all of you who came alongside me in immeasurable grief, I thank you; always and forever, my sorrow will be intertwined with gratitude for all the love and support that you gave both me and Lucky.

Thank you for coming today to honor his life of service. He touched so many people in his time here. He was extraordinary, wasn’t he? I knew the moment I met him that he was the best gift of my life. And I knew he came straight from God’s hand.

Thanks to puppy raisers Beau and Adrienne Beamesderfer for their selfless gift of raising Lucky to be the amazing service dog he was. Thank you to his trainers at CCI, Simi and Todd: you taught him well. How could I ever thank you for the gift of Lucky?

Lucky knew more than 50 commands, and so many of them he loved to execute: get, pull, visit, jump; but I think his favorite was the "release” command. Release meant he could chill out and be off the clock and just be a Labrador. He would “stop, drop and roll” and do puppy runs for joy. He was always ready to work again though; he could revert to dedicated service dog mode at the sound of a command. He was always so proud to be next to me, doing his job; he didn’t just walk, he pranced. He was my wingman, he made life fun. If I can live exuberantly and love boundlessly like my Lucky did, I will have lived a great life. Lucky me!

He taught me that life in a wheelchair was just fine, not a big deal. He taught me how to get on with my life. And get on with life is just what we did; we were a team, and boy did we have fun.

Lucky belonged to me, but not just to me. He was a busy guy with lots of speaking engagements and appearances, so much so that I used to say that it was Lucky’s job to look after me but my job was to manage his Blackberry for speaking gigs and wine tastings and CCI appearances. And then there were vacations to see my brothers or maybe a romp on the beach. Lucky was a great travel buddy; more than a few times we got upgraded to first class because the flight attendants took a shine to him.

Visiting friends' houses was such a delight for him; he loved everyone’s dogs. It was great fun to play with his buddies Casey and Amber, Teddy and Stitch, Bella and Kendall and Luke. And then there was work! He loved going to work to see his “Aunties” who spoiled him rotten, belly rubs and all. When anyone came to visit, it was always cause for joy. When Ann came he could barely contain himself, he was so excited to see “his Ann.”

Lucky knew his purpose in life and he carried out that purpose with wholehearted commitment. His was a life of dedicated service and he lived it well. I knew when I got Lucky that he would help me in my life and help me with the tasks that I could no longer do alone, but what I didn’t expect, the sweetest surprise, is what he would teach me along the way.

Lucky reminded me that in this chaotic world we need to stay in touch with a simpler existence. He taught me that if you have your friends, a warm bed and some food in your bowl, you are blessed beyond measure. He taught me that every day is worthy of delight, no matter where you find yourself, or what the circumstance, there is always joy in the journey. He taught me that a slower pace is actually a gift, you can take time to really see and “smell the roses.” Lucky showed me that just being who are is enough to make you a hero.

People often asked “What does Lucky do for you?" I would try to find a succinct response that summed it all up, but I never could. I knew they meant what tasks did he do for me, but the question always begged a much deeper response.

It wasn’t until after he was gone that I knew the answer to that question: he taught me how to dance. He taught me the dance of life in a wheelchair, and he made it a joy. I always felt so “Lucky” to have him by my side, he knew the rhythm of the dance, how to turn with the chair, how to drop behind or move beside, he never missed a step, he was the perfect partner.

He was the one to escort me into life in a wheelchair, into this new chapter of my life, into a different way of dancing, and he did it with joy, grace and courage. He taught me well.

And so, Lucky, I thank you for your six years of service, for following each and every command to a “T.” I thank you for being my constant companion, my confidant, my team mate, my dance partner, the sunshine in my every day, the comfort in my night, and my very best friend. I loved you every moment and I will forever be grateful for being graced by your joyous company. You lived well, you did your job, you did what you came to do, well done.

I have just one final command for you for my sweet, magnificent friend: Lucky, release!

I warned you about the tissues.

Chow for now,

Dinah (for Rocket)

Questions or comments for Rocket? Would you like to be notified when Rocket updates his DogBlog? Send him an e-mail!

Would you like more information about Canine Companions for Independence or perhaps be a puppy raiser? Call 1-800-572-BARK or go to CCI for details.

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