Many people ask me about my Service Dog, Char. Char acquired this name because it seemed to fit what happened to my mind, and spoke of so much more. My mind was charred as I desperately sought asylum in hope. Char seemed to represent hope with colouring that moved from a blackened start into the most silken caramel. Beyond this beautiful metaphor Char also thought when I said their name I was saying “car” causing quite a lot of excitement most evident in a helicopter turning tail wag.
I expect your mind found beauty in the charred metaphor and laughed at the humourous anecdote just mentioned? I expect questions such as “Is he a boy or a girl?”, “What does your dog do for you?”, or “What service does your dog provide?” are questions that rivet you from that sweet blackened metaphor and clunk you into the chaos of everyday life. Enjoy your chuckle and know those questions can rivet the handler into their own chaos. Into the reason they stand out because they have a Service Dog.
When those questions are asked I can be wrenched from my oblivious place of safety and have to remember a stranger is asking something of me. Usually I dust off my gentle listening ears and practice hearing the stranger’s sense of awe and wonder. I then look to appreciate their innocent curiosity. I know these questions come from a good place, yet the questioners may not know what they ask.
The curious questioner may not realize these are personal inquiries which, when answered honestly, require the disclosure of private medical information. The honest answers could even provide a stranger with medically determined symptoms. Down deep inside I know these are the very same symptoms society appears to want to ignore. If this information were understood then those questions would not be asked. So to answer those questions I say – my Service Dog allows me access to a life that that looks more “normal”. Char is a living breathing being who’s role could be equated to that of a wheelchair. A Service Dog, such as Char, is a gift and a profound responsibility, not a pet.
In policing we often talk about targeted enforcement. In the Olympics our hearts are pulled to the deep wells of emotion because those athletes have a targeted approach, knowing only one will get the gold. Char has me reaching my target, my gold. The target of remembering joy and knowing beauty, once again. Joy and beauty cannot be found in the place where my mind cowers, curls up into a ball, and forgets there is a body attached to that cowering mind. Char requires I exit this cowered existence and venture into the world, once again.
Char insures the hyper-vigilant part of me can rest, because the job is shared. With the vest on Char does all the watching and loves to work. Once the vest is removed Char is off duty, sniffing, wagging, and playing. It is well earned the time off.
PS: Char is a Leonberger who does not find the binary tag of male or female anything of consequence. Char does not identify and has a preferred pronoun of “they”.