I have a new buddy…that’s him to the left. His name is Tango and he is a six-year-old Australian Shepherd. He came into my life in the most unexpected way. He’s a service dog and his primary job is to make me walk. I have two medical conditions that can benefit from vigorous walking therapy hypercoaguable blood–I can develop clots easily–and herniated and bulging spinal discs. When I asked my doctor if it might be good to have a service animal she was enthusiastic and agreed to authorize it.
So, the next question was: what kind of dog? Ideally I should walk 3-5 miles a day. So Yorkies were out of the running as were most other small dogs. I was drawn to Aussies and talked it over with a friend who has bred and shown dogs. She thought an Aussie — the right Aussie — would be great. She found a breeder in Orlando who was expecting a litter in the spring with summer placement of the puppies. That sounded ideal (I was thinking I wanted a puppy…not the smartest thought but that’s where I was). It was then that I began to learn about the world of breeding dogs. In this case the female dog was going to be inseminated with sperm from a top-notch Aussie who lives in California. I quickly realized we were talking about royalty and I can’t afford royalty.
But wait! Turns out this same breeder has a 6-year old Aussie, an obedience champion, fully trained and certified as a service dog–Tango! According to the breeder, Tango is “over it” when it comes to competition. He goes through the paces and does it all very well but … he’s tired of it. She had been looking “to place” him in a good home, a place where he could leave behind the pressures of competition. In a sense, retire. Well, I’m retired and looking for a service dog. A perfect match?
Well, yes, it is. Tango and I have a great time together and we are walking a lot. Each of us has lost weight since he arrived (which is a good thing) and there are times when I’ll take him out and say, “Okay, just a short walk.” but we end up walking much more than I expected. It is absolutely more fun to walk with a dog than it is to walk alone.
And he a great help with other things. My spinal problems can cause instability, especially upon bending. Tango gives a good assist in those situations. And he can pickup any item I tell him to.
When I learned last December that I had this hypercoaguable blood disorder I was a little low but life is funny. There’s that saying about a door shutting but a window will open. There is also the lovely expression, “When life hands you lemons make lemonade.” I love lemonade…and I really love Tango.☙
So I had this gorgeous puppy, whom I loved and trained and tried my best to bend his will just enough to make us work well together in the obedience ring, but though he bent, he veered this way and that way and always seemed just out of reach of my goal for him. So, with a sigh, and a few more gray hairs, I gave in and accepted that Tango, though gorgeous, sweet, smart, and confident, was not going to be the obedience dog of my dreams. And whereas he would and does always have a home at Camp Kincaid, I kept an eye out for a place that just might be better for him than my five acres where he ran, swam in the pond, cuddled with the cats and chased the UPS truck down the fence-line…a place where he could shine as the dog he is rather than as the dog I wanted him to be. Enter Alice O’Leary. Her friend talks to me about a puppy and I ask all the typical nosy breeder questions and I get put in touch with Alice directly. When she tells me what she wants to do with a dog; service dog, therapy dog, hiking companion, pack mule for camera equipment…I can only see Tango. So, we meet, he likes her, she likes him, she goes home and mulls it over and in a few weeks she calls me and says she thinks she would like to test drive Tango. She tells me she has a cat that has never lived with a dog before, I confidently say, “don’t worry, he’ll win the cat over in no time.”
She takes him home and I reiterate that if it is not a perfect fit, he can come back and I will help her find the right dog. I little pang of loss but an overwhelming feeling of this is the right thing for the dog and the person, as he left in another person’s car.
From this essay that Alice posted, I can comfortably say I was right.
Ho, and did I mention that Alice said one of the reasons she wanted a puppy was for the cute dog photo shoots she would have??? Well, have you taken a close look at Fabio??? I mean, Tango???
I am so proud of the dog that taught me more than any other.
Thank you Alice for lifting him up so beautifully.
Oh and Tango and the cat now share Alice’s bed.
Congratulations Alice. I know he will enrich your life, as mine have always done for me. Looking forward to seeing more photos!