We come upon the first anniversary of losing Solange and of course still say greet the day with a “good morning” to her.
She was not a heroic dog; she did not save a child from drowning or find one lost in the woods. She did not win any awards for confirmation or obedience, nose work or field trials but was trained in all those and demanded a game of “find it” every night until her very last. She did however, have a regal bearance and attracted attention wherever she went. She saved Renee from drowning in self-pity after a breast cancer diagnosis but most of all she loved the thousands of kiddos and nursing home residents she cared for in her long career as a Certified Therapy Dog through Therapy Dogs International.
Trained with the Empire Service Dogs, she was very well behaved and reliable in all situations but firmly believed we were in immediate jeopardy if she could not herd us into a closet during a thunderstorm.
Her strict code of behavior fell short as did ours with having a sweet tooth … she stealthily unwrapped a whole box of truffles from French Broad Chocolates and merely licked the tops of each and laid next to the evidence until we returned a few minutes later. She also managed to teach her Golden Retriever cousin the benefits of butter Italian cookies that were out for Thanksgiving on a tiered glass stand. Being taller, slimmer and clearly having a more dexterous tongue, she managed to get every butter cookie off the stand (leaving behind the less desirable ones) without tipping anything over or leaving a crumb. But the evidence of the midnight raid was evident on their whiskers in the morning. Her antics are too numerous to recount.
Who knew that the puppy that we had serious doubts about for the first two years of her training would grow to be more patient than Job especially with rambunctious toddlers and with her favorite peeps… First Graders! We first noticed her love for children while she worked with Renee each day in a nursing home. Though she had deep attachment to many Residents we noticed that even if she was taking her nap under the desk, she would jump to attention if she heard the children from the adjoining day care center. All sorts of squeals of laughter would commence as she joined in the fray of their visit.
Her greatest moments were in the quiet and unnoticed moments. At school or nursing home, she knew just when to put her head on a tapping nervous knee, or to nuzzle the inside of someone’s hand to show that they were not alone in their fear. She knew when to fall asleep while they read to her and that words would miraculously start to flow instead of their previous faltering attempts. The children truly believed she could count, read and tell time as she diligently watched and nosed at their efforts. She patiently wore their headphones during phonics, tilting her head at the appropriate times, proudly walked next to the most timid child when they delivered their birthday cupcakes to the principal’s office and patiently laid next to a sick or injured kiddo while they waited for a parent. She sat quietly next to the bed of a Resident often providing comfort to the family and the staff caring for the Resident.
Her mere presence brought smiles and sometimes it was a teacher or a department manager who came out to the hallway as we passed by and said “Solange, I need a hug today.”
She served as ambassador, counselor, comforter, substitute (Grand) Parent when a child didn’t have a representative, snack parent, and confidant. Even the most challenged child showed mercy, compassion and protective kindness toward her and taught them patience. If she had a sore ear or wound on her tail, they were there to pave the way for her make sure she would not be harmed.
“Night-night, sweet girl.”
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