A little thumpin' thumpin'

November 15, 2014 • Posted in careers/jobs for people who are blind, guide dogs, Hanni, public speaking, Seeing Eye dogs, travel, Uncategorized, visiting schools, Whitney by

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.

There’s Whit with Hanni’s bone during a previous visit to Urbana.

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.

Linda Lyon On November 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Love this, Beth, and we love Hanni, too. When we visit Steven and Nancy, she’s always right outside our door in the morning. I feel as I have a guardian angel. She’s also the only dog who has visited us at our summer home in Galena. She was a perfect lady and can come back whenever she wants. 🙂

Linda Lyon

bethfinke On November 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Galena? Hmm. If I promise to be a Guardian angel right outside your door in the morning, can I come too?! _____

Sheila A. Donovan On November 16, 2014 at 9:48 am

I’m glad that Hanni is content in her new home.

bethfinke On November 16, 2014 at 10:09 am

Yes, she’s in Hanni heaven with Steven and Nancy — it’s wonderful.


Charlie Simokaitis On November 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Thanks Beth. It always amazes me how my VI friends give up their Seeing Eye dogs when they retire. As a dog-lover it seems like it would be so incredibly difficult.

bethfinke On November 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Well, it’s never easy, but what’s helped me is to think of the dog’s benefit rather than mine — all of my dogs have retired to homes where there were no children and no other dogs, so my retired dogs all have received the undivided attention of their new people. If I kept my retirees they wouldn’t get that undivided attention they love so much, I always need to focus all my attention on my new dog. Thinking of it that way helps me with the painful retirement decision, and having terrific people like Randy (who adopted Dora) and Nancy & Steven (who adopted Hanni) and Larry & Chris (who adopted Harper) helps tremendously, too.


Deborah Darsie On February 1, 2015 at 2:20 am

I love the insight you give on the challenge that comes with retiring your Seeing Eye Dogs.
This is one of those ‘mystery’ events which we who do not share such an important relationship which is far beyond the traditional pethuman bond.

What an amazing retirement your past partners have earned!

bethfinke On February 1, 2015 at 9:28 am

Totally agree. It can be absolutely heartbreaking to retire a guide dog, but friends like these who love and take such good care of these Wonder Dogs once they’ve retired…well, they make it as easy as it ever could be. _____

Leone Anderson On November 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I remember Hanni from your visit to Freeport. I’m pleased to know she’s in good hands. All my best to you, Beth. Lee

bethfinke On November 22, 2014 at 9:56 am

That visit to Freeport sparked some pretty special friendships, didn’t it? Good to hear from you, Lee.

bethfinke On November 22, 2014 at 9:58 am

PS: I’ve met a man who grew up in Freeport via a memoir-writing class I lead. Fun to hear stories of that part of the world from 70 years ago.

Mayville | Safe & Sound blog On February 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm

[…] Might be good to start my presentation with an explanation. Hanni had retired from guide work, I told them. She lives with friends, she plays in the forest preserve a lot, and she just had a […]

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