It’s been a busy travel week for my Seeing Eye dog and me. We flew back from our fun-filled Sisters’ Weekend in the Pacific Northwest Monday night and then turned around Wednesday to take a three-hour train ride from Chicago to Champaign, Illinois. The next morning the two of us gave a presentation for an animal sciences class at the University of Illinois. While there, we stayed overnight in Urbana at the home 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’s six years old now, and she no longer shows signs of childish jealousy that she used to on visits with her predecessor.
Sixteen-year-old Hanni is in very good hands with her people Steven and Nancy. She retired five years ago, and she’s slowed down since then, of course.
Hanni no longer runs to greet us when we enter the room. Like the royalty she is, she simply lifts her head and acknowledges us from her bed. The only person she gets up to greet at the door now is her beloved Nancy. At 16 years old (you figure it out in dog years, I can’t do the math) Hanni still gets out regularly with Nancy for walks. Sometimes, when they head to Homer Lake, Hanni even runs.
Nancy and Hanni came in our bedroom Thursday morning to check on us just as I was picking up the Seeing Eye dog harness — it was time to head over to campus for the guest lecture. “Whitney, come!”
“Think Hanni will want you to put it on her instead?” Nancy wondered out loud. I held the harness up, Whitney lifted her head to slide in, and as I buckled her in, Hanni answered Nancy’s question loud and clear. She turned 180 degrees and happily left the room. The girl enjoys her retirement, and who can blame her? It’s a joy to behold.