Whitney and I took a train to Champaign Wednesday to give a presentation for an animal sciences class at the University of Illinois. While we were there, we stayed at the house of an old friend: retired Seeing Eye dog Hanni.
Whitney and Hanni are both Labrador/Golden Retriever crosses, they are both graduates of the Seeing Eye school In Morristown, N.J., and both of them are very, very smart. I had no trouble telling them apart, though. Hanni is a tail wagger — you know it’s her when you hear a thump, thump, thump on the floor. She’s taken on more and more of her Golden Retriever side in these matronly years: she wears her hair long and full. Her coat matches her personality: fluffy.
Whitney, on the other hand, is a lean, mean machine. She’ll be five years old next month, and she no longer shows signs of childish jealousy that she used to on visits with her predecessor.
Fourteen-year-old Hanni is in very good hands with her people Steven and Nancy. She’s slowed down, of course, and when we enter the room, she just lifts her head and acknowledges us with the thump, thump, thump of her tail wagging against the floor. The only person she gets up to greet at the door now is her beloved Nancy. I use Whitney as a role model: I don’t show any signs of childish jealousy. Truth is, I’m joyous.
At 14 years old, Hanni still gets out regularly for walks. Sometimes, she even runs. I eavesdropped on Nancy in the other room as I buckled Whitney’s harness on to get ready for our trip back home to Chicago. “Wanna go to Homer Lake today, Hanni-boo?” she cooed. Whitney guided me out for our ride to the Champaign train station then, and we left to the happy sound of Hanni’s tail thump, thump, thumping her answer to Nancy’s offer.