Everybody's a winner

December 24, 2011 • Posted in blindness, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized, writing by

That's randy Randy.

Seeing Eye puppies are named long before we blind folks get matched with them. To help keep track of the dogs, each litter born at the Seeing Eye is given names that start with the same letter of the alphabet. Whitney is from the “W” litter, and no puppy will be named Whitney until she retires.

We Seeing Eye grads sometimes feel at the mercy of the staff member who names the pups — learning of Whitney’s sisters Wispy and Windy made me feel I’d won the W-puppy-name-jackpot! Writer and fellow Seeing Eye graduate Jeff Flodin wrote an essay about his dog’s name, and he generously agreed to let me publish it here so I can take a few days off from the blog to enjoy the holidays introducing Whitney to family and friends. Enjoy!

Randy Randy

by Jeff Flodin

In honor of my friend Beth Finke’s new Seeing Eye dog, Whit, whose full name is Whitney, this blog is dedicated to my Seeing Eye Dog, Randy, whose full name is Randy.

What’s in a name, anyway?

My first dog’s name was Sherlock, which everyone thought was the coolest. When I was introduced to my new dog on March 1, 2010, I said, “Randy. What a stupid name.” Randy Quaid came to mind, the dimwit of the National Lampoon Vacation movies. Then, I was reminded that randy as an adjective means frisky in a sexual way. A tease. Being fixated at adolescence, I began to see Randy in a different, much cooler light.

Then the veterinarian at the Seeing Eye told me that Randy had been destined from birth to be the patriarch of a new string of brawny black Labs.

“You mean he was supposed to be a stud?” I asked.

The vet demurred.

I persisted. “So, what happened? “It obviously didn’t take.”

The vet sputtered and stuttered and said nothing.

Try as I might, I could not crack the code of silence surrounding Randy’s failed career as a stud. Perhaps his puppy raising days in Florida had unwittingly accentuated a retiring personality. Maybe his was an issue of sexual preference. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whatever forces lay behind Randy tweaking his destiny, we embraced one another as a Seeing Eye team.

Randy’s Chicago debut was a picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan in late spring. The picnic was a benefit for an animal rescue program. Lots of dogs were there. They competed for prizes in fetching, heeling and all manner of obedience.

Randy finished out of the money in all those contests, but he captured first prize in two categories: youngest dog and largest nose. That was the day I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Everybody’s a Winner.” The Special Olympics comes to the canine world.

Randy remains true to his calling, whatever that calling might be. Some days, it’s that golden retriever across the street. Other days, it’s working the crowd from the doorway of the Ravenswood Pub. Every day, he’s attuned to food. His concentration is unwavering. Randy can stare a hole through a block of Swiss cheese while, at his south end, Mulligan the cat hangs from his tail.

The last day of training at the Seeing Eye, the instructor took me aside and said conspiratorially, “Jeff,you know we couldn’t give this dog to just anyone.” I smiled and nodded and wondered what on earth he’d meant by that.

Each day of the intervening twenty months has illuminated another facet of what he meant. Not that Randy defies understanding. On the contrary, he is a quick study. He was and is eager to please. He is totally without guile. Everything Randy does, he does full bore. He’s neither the brightest nor the dimmest. He knows no subtlety. He’s just Randy. He’s the dog who understands the phrase, “Be yourself and you will be loved for who you are.”

This essay first appeared in Vision Through Words, a blog that welcomes submissions of poetry and short essays by visually impaired and blind writers. You can learn more about Jeff and read more of his work on his own blog called Jalapenos in the Oatmeal, which he writes for The Guild for The Blind here in Chicago. Thanks, Jeff. Merry Christmas!

Patricia Hruby Powell On December 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

Go, Randy. Yeah, Jeff. Thanks, Beth. Wow to Whitney. Merry Christmas to you all.

bethfinke On December 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Thanks, PRP! Not sure if Jeff is checking commetns today, it being Christmas and all, so I’ll answer for both of us — appreciate the cheerleading, thanks for the comment!

Jenny On December 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Jeff’s blog is great.
Merry Christmas to you, Mike, Gus and the new pup! I hope you had a lovely day x

bethfinke On December 25, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Merry Christmas to you, too, Jenny — the first in your new house! I agree with you, I think Jeff’s blog is, as you Irish women like to say, “grand!” That’s why I asked him to do a guest post here — he’s a terrific writer.

Jeff Flodin On December 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Thank you Patricia, Jenny and Beth for your encouraging words. Randy and I just made it home. Randy considers any outing a success if he and I arrive at our destination at roughly the same time. Now he wants to order a pizza.

nancyb On December 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I love the “stare a hole through a block of cheese”. I believe Hanni trains her eyes on food believing she can summon it to herself with sheer will, if staring deep into my eyes doesn’t do the trick. Also, I have known a few guys named Randy and like them, very much. And there is Randy Newman, who I’ve not met but adore. So, good luck with your Randy, he sounds like a winner 🙂

Carl On December 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Are you not allowed to change thier names/

Courtney Wilson On December 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Do they really not use a dog’s name again until they retire? I’m a little baffled by this as in 2002, one of my teachers (I went to Missouri School for the Blind) got her first Seeing Eye dog, a black lab named Spencer, and two years later when I was in class with Kazzi, one of my friends got a golden retriever also named Spencer. Maybe they were spelled differently? I know at the time, black lab Spencer was still working. Also, if that’s the case, one of Kazzi’s brothers, Kenny, a male black lab was featured in a fairly recent issue of the Guide magazine. I will have to ask someone about that when I go back (god its about a month away, assuming my doctor has an opening between now and then, argh)


Jeff Flodin On December 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Hi and thanks so much for reading and commenting. Each time I compose a reply, Internet Explorer shuts down. I’ll try to sneak this one in, before they notice I’m up to something.
Randy Newman is a stellar example of a Randy. Randy California, of the rock group Spirit, is another. Then there was the baseball player Randy Ready. What was he ready for, I wonder?
I don’t know if it’s against school rules to change a dog’s given name, but I thought that if Randy didn’t grow on me, I’d call him something that rhymes, like Dandy or Sandy, and maybe I’d fool him. Candy might work with a female dog. Mandy might work with Barry Manilow’s dog.
Please keep reading and commenting. And a big thanks to Beth for inviting me to contribute to her wonderful blog.

Jeff Flodin On December 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

Last night, I had a dream. Guide dog schools were matching students with more than one dog. They’d given one fellow five dogs. I didn’t catch their names. Can you imagine?

bethfinke On December 27, 2011 at 8:51 am

No! I can’t!

bethfinke On December 27, 2011 at 9:01 am

If anyone has confirmation on the puppy-naming policy at the Seeing Eye, please leave a comment here, I’d love to get it straight! Someone in the little group of five students I was with while training with Whitney asked our instructor, and if I heard correctly (always questionable!) the idea is once a puppy passes all the tests and jumps through the hoops to go through the formal four-month training as a Seeing Eye dog (this usually happens when they are a year-and-a-half old) that name is not used again until the puppy retires or is taken out of the training program for another reason.

Maria On December 27, 2011 at 11:52 am

I do enjoy these guest blogs and the, “Be yourself and you will be loved for who you are,” advice in this latest guest blog about Randy is sure worth living by!

nancyb On December 27, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Jeff maybe that dream about the 5 dogs is telling you that you need to go to the North Pole….you’d have a whole team of dogs….mush!

Jeff Flodin On December 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Thanks mush for your suggestion I go to the North Pole. There are times my wife offers the same advice. For now, I’m singing, “Randy the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
And thanks for the kind words about the phrase, “Be yourself and you will be loved for who you are.” It was suggested by a friend as a fitting sentiment to end Randy’s story.

Anonymous On December 30, 2011 at 12:52 pm

They do reuse puppy names more often. While many times they do not reuse a name for years and years, their general practice is that they do not have two puppies in puppy raising with the same name. So once the pup goes back for training etc, they can reuse that name with a newborn puppy. There is actually a woman who works there who is responsible for giving each puppy a name! (Though suggestions are accepted)

Luther C. Mirasol On January 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Nice blog jeff,

Go to the north pole and have fun with the five dogs..

On the air again, and on the road again, too | Safe & Sound blog On March 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

[…] Mike will rent a car and drive Whitney and me from Montreal to Johnson, Vermont. Thanks to fellow writer Jeff Flodin, who encouraged me to apply for this fellowship, I’ll be spending the entire month of April with […]

Big Fish Story | Safe & Sound blog On June 3, 2013 at 7:05 pm

[…] might appreciate as much as I do. What better way to try this out than to reblog this post by my writer friend Jeffabout his randy Seeing Eye […]

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