A Little Ray of Sunshine

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Arco 28T2 is dying today. He is ten years old. Arco came into my life as a rambunctious, out-of-control eight-month-old half-grown yellow labrador retriever in December of 1995. Halfway through his puppyhood, he had been only trained to 'curb', the practice of 'doing his business' in the gutter off a sidewalk. He left us in June of 1996, a mostly-obedient, tall, and bored nearly-grown dog. During that time he was my shadow. Where I went, he went. He loved to lick, and my girlfriends learned a new way to define short skirt and long skirt. If Arco could stick his nose under it and lick them, it was too short. He loved to ride elevators, especially the glass one on campus. He went with us Job's Daughters to the Shrine Hospital in Salt Lake, and calmed his natural rambunctiousness to play with the children there. He was at my installation as Honored Queen, and so well behaved that several mothers did not even realize he was there. When my Council gave me a 'poodle skirt' when I retired as Honored Queen, they had put Arco's image there instead of a poodle.
There is a picture of he and I on the wall, just before a DeMolay event. I was Chapter Sweetheart that year, and Arco loved the DeMolay guys. I'm wearing a dress and tiara, and Arco is wearing his green 4-H Guide Dog Puppy in Training vest. His fur is even lighter than my hair.
When he graduated from training, we went to San Rafael for his graduation. He had finally filled out. His person, like I, raised rabbits. Arco was his third guide, the first, Jojo, was too arthritic to guide anymore. The second, Dime, had lasted only a few months, unable to cope well with Mr. Newhart's rabbits. Arco grew up playing around my rabbits. I even had one of the same breeds. When I left for college, I sent several of my does to him. Having hopped all over Arco (literally), and had their kits do likewise, they recognized him, and I recieved a picture of one doe, Sunflower, and Arco touching noses in greeting at his arrival.
Arco behaved so well with the rabbits that Mr. Newhart was able to take him to shows with him.
Arco was one of nine puppies, all with 'A' names, as Guide Dogs does. Only one of his littermates did not pass Guide School. The usual fail rate is 50%. One of them even became a breeder.
Mr. Newhart passed away while I was at college, from cancer. Guide Dogs decided not to place Arco with another person because of the great distress caused when a dog must retire or dies. I lived in the dorms, then, and my parents took Arco back. I had adopted a Career Changed dog, Hogan, who had been with a girl in my 4-H group. Her family already had another guide puppy, Watson, her mother was the dog leader, and raised dalmations, and they had a scottie as well. Her mother said seven adult dogs, a guide dog puppy, and the dalmation pups are enough. So they asked us to take Hogan. He had not quite made it through guiding school, washed out just two weeks before graduation. We discovered later that he has a strange fascination with motors, loving to rub against the exhaust. He has to be shut inside when Mom mows the lawn.
Arco and Hogan came to live with me briefly in a small apartment. We went three or four times a week to the dog park, but it was not enough. I was very busy, with school, wedding plans, and other activities. When we married at Christmas time, my parents took the dogs home. Pregnant with our oldest, we moved to a bigger place, but it did not allow pets.
Arco and Hogan had become very good friends. Neither one was a normal, sane dog. Both had lived all their lives allowed access to anywhere humans go, and with constant human companionship. My parents got them both through the worst of their neurosis. Hogan still follows people so closely that if you stop suddenly he will ram headfirst into your knees and knock you down. Arco has never had any interest in balls, chasing squirels, or many other normal labrador pursuits. It took months for my parents to convince either of them that it was okay to walk in the creek, and longer to teach them to swim. (Guide Dogs are trained not to go through water.)
For the last several months, Arco has been suffering from kidney failure. Yesterday, when I said goodbye to him, he was no longer willing to lick me. Arco not licking is like the sun not rising in the east. My husband dug a grave for him on my parents land a few weeks ago. He's held out longer than anyone expected, but Arco has always been willing to endure suffering without complaint. When I caught his tail in the door of the car when he was a puppy, he barely whimpered.
Mom called to tell me that the vet is coming out in a couple hours to put him down. He is no longer able to get up and walk, and will not eat. I don't know what will happen to Hogan without Arco around. I have a picture, taken about a week ago, of baby patting Arco on the head, the first time he's approched any of the dogs. Previously it has always been cry in fear if they look at him. I'm not looking forward to explaining to my older son why Arco is gone. He knows Arco's sick.
He was a good dog, a faithful servant.

If you want to know more about Guide Dogs and what they do, here's an excellent example: http://www.guidedogs.com/news-Hingson.html Roselle, pictured here, is colored like Arco, but is much smaller.


  • At 10:14 PM, July 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think it's fantastic that you train guide puppies. I don't think I could do it.

    I'm so sorry for your family's loss of a wonderful dog. I know how traumatic that can be. Know that he was well loved and couldn't have asked for a better life than being around those he adored.



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