Chloe and I were recently in a Wal-mart shopping. In the household cleaning section, one doesn’t expect to run into a child. Among the 4 or 5 other shoppers and carts stood a 5 or 6-year-old little girl. I don’t know how she ditched mom, but she was obviously unsupervised. She was about 20 feet away when she first caught sight of us and slowly made her way down the isle towards us. Inwardly I cringed… for I didn’t really feel like asking her not to pet Chloe. Instead she got close enough and looked at Chloe’s vest (although I’m not sure she could even read), and then at the side of my head where my cochlear implant and BLING sparkle for all the world to see!
She smiled at me and said, “This is a WORKING DOG”.
I replied (with some surprise), “You are EXACTLY right! Chloe is a working dog”.
Unsure of what communication might follow that exchange, she smiled impishly up at me… reached over with her index finger an POKED me while exclaiming, “TAG! You’re IT”. With a squeal she was gone and around the corner with pony-tails flying behind her.
Service Dogs and Play
Chloe’s tail started wagging and she looked up at me with an expectant, “Yeah! Let’s go!”
I just grinned at her and caught sight of a lady about 3 yards from us just grinning from ear-to-ear, having seen the whole thing. I smiled back, calmly walked by her and just as I was passing her – reached out and poked her while saying, “Now YOU’RE it…” She burst out laughing and we went on our way.
I am asked occasionally if Chloe is ever allowed to play. Most recently this came up at a DEMO we did for the Department of Disabilities for the state of Maryland. I think people love the idea of working dogs, but often wonder if the dog is ever allowed to be “just a dog”. We always assure people that our dogs have plenty of opportunities to rest, play, and just be a dog. They are frequently rewarded throughout the day with treats, praise, and physical touch. Walmart is not the BEST place to induce Chloe to play, so I opted out of the game of “tag”… but I can assure you that Chloe is allowed to play with our family dog, and with family members very often.
All Work and No Play
Just like people, dogs need down time. Especially working dogs IMHO. But we could learn a few things from our furry partners. Chloe often naps when waiting in line at a busy cash register, or if we are traveling by Metro, airplane, or even the family car. She knows when to rest and get some shut eye. She also knows when to play and enjoy a major tail-wagging romp! I try to remember to take “5” and rest when I can. I try to get 8 solid hours of sleep each night because I actually hear better, and walk more steady if I make sure a good night’s rest is priority.
Perhaps we should all play tag from time to time. Hey! It is good exercise, and I’ve not met anyone yet who didn’t smile after being tagged!
© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal