Thomas S. Guide Dog - More than just a friend!
This week I sadly lost one of my best friends! Actually NO... Thomas was much more than just a friend. He became one of the most loyal, faithful and trustworthy companions I have ever known.
Thomas had been trained from birth with an extraordinary mandate and enduring commitment to serving the blind his entire life. For just over a year now, this amazing four legged young lad miraculously gave me the sight, freedom, independence and quality of life that so many sighted people simply take for granted.
Was he perfect? No
Did he always get it right? No
Was he the miraculous furry GPS on four legs that everyone expects a guide dog to be? NO!
Thomas is probably best described as a vibrant hyperactive two year old kid with an autistic love of life, of people and of fun and mischief. But wow what a loving loyal fun filled soul he was and an absolute cracker family companion, who was always seeking for your affection, attention, and the thrill of adventure; and in return he'd willingly guide me anywhere I needed to go, without hesitation or complaint.
Thomas, unlike most seeing eye dogs, would readily bound on to any escalator, in sight, whereas most other canines would resolutely dig their heals in and say, no way buddy, I'm not going anywhere near that thing! Yet Thomas was always so keen to cut the queue, with an eager leap on to the moving platform as if it were a roller coaster at dream world. He'd also walk down the street with twenty other feral fanged fur balls barking like delinquents at their fences and yet he'd calmly stroll right on past them all without even cocking a leg, or batting an eyelid. This very unordinary attribute alone, is one that any guide dog trainer would give their left arm for, as dog distractions is the second highest reason why most fail to graduate as qualified seeing eye dogs. The first reason of course being as a result of health related issues. In this department, Thomas was not only the perfect picture of immaculate health, but possessed all the swagger and charisma to win the attention,admiration and envy of every two or four legged passer by. He is without doubt that one in a million dogs and a truly rare find.
It's with deep regret that I have reluctantly decided to hand Thomas back for relocation to a new home and master. This extremely difficult and emotional decision came as a result of all my weeks of interstate travel each year and the constant lack of orientation I regularly face with so many unfamiliar locations. This has not only proven extremely tough and challenging for myself, but even more challenging and unfair on poor old Thomas, who is constantly being bombarded with completely strange and unfamiliar environments that drove my shiny black amigo into sensory overload, particularly when some careless kid drops their hot chips right on the path in front of his bubonic proboscus. Now that's just asking too much of any Labrador, regardless of how highly bred, or well trained they are!
Thomas has taught me so much about myself, about life and about what it takes to become a respected leader. After all it's easy to win a dogs affection, but much harder to win their respect. I also quickly learned that the relationship between a seeing eye dog and their blind master must be built on complete mutual trust and absolute consistency in both Behaviour and expectation.
My dear friend Thomas has not only left a hole in our back yard and pantry, but has left an even bigger hole and empty void in our lives! I will miss those early brisk 5km walks together and being able to quickly duck down to the shops without my wife Lisa knowing. I will also sadly miss the cheerful way Thomas would dance in circles at my feet when ever I stepped in the door. Thomas gave his absolute all in my service, a debt I can scarcely repay. I know there are many good dogs out there, but there will only ever be one Thomas.
Farewell my loyal and forever friend!