Best Dog Ever

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You were never ashamed. You made me feel proud.

It took a lot of convincing from my family. They told me that I really needed a service dog. I hadn’t ever considered the idea, but I applied and I waited.

We had a rough start, you and I. You didn’t like me, and you didn’t like my treats. You loved your trainer. Your eyes looked for her in every room, and you listened for her voice. You didn’t even seem to realize that I was in the room, that I had your leash in my hand. I cried a lot. You wouldn’t eat for me. You wouldn’t jump into the car for me. You would only do those things for her.

It was no fairytale, Ross. It was work for both of us.

They put a harness on you and told me to lean on you and take a step up a curb. You hated that harness with a capital H. I didn't trust you. I was scared you would let me fall. You threw up in my rental car because you were stressed. At night in the hotel room you jumped up next to me on the bed. You were tired. I was tired. I stroked your head. You sighed and stretched out on the bed.

Then I brought you home. Rachel said, “He’s huge.” You are tall, Ross. You were made for me. You loved Rebekah and Rachel and you adored Bryan. You went with me to the bank and to restaurants. You went to church. You went grocery shopping with me. You went with us on an airplane all the way to Texas to check out a college for Rebekah. You went to graduations and weddings and funerals.

You helped me with every step. You saved me from falling, and when I did fall, you lay down next to me. You helped me carry the shame I feel about the way I walk. You were never ashamed. You made me feel proud. I came to rely on you, to know you. You watched me. Your eyes were always on me. You were my companion, my battle buddy in my most private wars. You predicted and reacted to every muscle spasm. You are a class act.

You’ve been at my feet during countless piano and choral performances. If God had given you fingers I’m pretty sure you could play Bach’s “French Suite in G Major,” and if you had been given a human voice I think you might have been able to sing the Magnificat by heart. You were a proud member of Masterworks Chorus and Manteca Community Choir, and the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus. You have been my partner in every event for eight years. You lie under the table at every meal.

You never ask me why I walk funny. You accept me when I’m crabby or sad or in pain. You’ve watched my kids grow up and then leave the house. You’ve watched me struggle, but you have been there like an unshakable mountain in my life. You have done your job with extraordinary grace.

It has been eight years of fun and work and play and boredom and music. I wish it didn’t have to end, but you are declining now. Silently you lie next to me, yet I can hear you telling me that you hurt. So I reach out and touch your head, stroke your ears, and wish and pray.

When you must leave me and this life I want you to know that you’ve done a most excellent job.

You are the best dog ever.

About the Author

Ruth Valencia is a pianist, composer and musician living in Manteca, Calif. with her husband, Bryan. They have two daughters. Ross, her service dog, allows Ruth to better deal with the difficulties of cerebral palsy

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