A Guide Dogs Tale By: Linda Pelfrey

July 21-27 is Ohio Service Dog Awareness Week.  Unless you have a service dog, you’ll never understand the depth of the relationship between a service dog and its handler. Today, welcome guest-blogger Linda Pelfrey as she gives you an inside look at this unique bond.

Shari

In February of this year, my 7th Seeing Eye dog, Abby, retired from service. She transitioned from being a loyal working dog to a life of leisure as a pampered Princess.

We worked together for 8 years. I called her my “pack and go pup,” because she accepted whatever I asked her to do.  There was only one aspect of her personality that required adjustment on my part.  Abby adored everyone and wanted to give out her signature hugs. I am not a hugger. So, friends and family got lots of laughs when they learned that I was matched with a dog who wanted to hug the whole world. In harness, she was my trusted guide. Out of her working uniform, she used her gifts to bring comfort to anyone who needed her paws around their shoulders.

I recall a time when she broke the harness rules.  We were at a movie with friends. The film was a documentary with difficult themes. I was struggling to keep my composure. Suddenly, I had 60 lbs. of Retriever on my shoulders. She snuggled in and licked the tears off my face. She turned to the person beside me as if making sure they were all right as well. The lesson I learned that night was sometimes it is just fine to break the rules of harness conduct.

There were many times when Abby worked her magic on a hurting heart.  During the pandemic, Abby provided needed comfort to a medical worker who was exhausted by all the illness and death. He got down on the floor and cuddled with Abby. I could feel her magic bringing him a bit of respite from the trauma of these times.

There are many moments in a journey with a service dog. We feel the exhilaration which accompanies meeting our pup for the first time. We bond and connect with our new partner. We find our stride: and in the best circumstances, we experience years of partnership. Eventually, our time together ends. In Abby’s case, she retired to a loving family where she is finding what I call her inner dog. Now, she can snuggle and hug whenever she wants.

As I walk without a dog by my side, I have time to contemplate the 8 years with Abby that went way too fast. I miss her terribly… even her hugs which used to get on my last nerve. At the same time, I feel joy knowing that she is cherished by a family who has opened their heart and home to this precious pup.

I am asked daily when I will have a new pup at my side. I am waiting patiently for my school to find the best match for me.

Abby’s chapter in my life has closed.  I have mixed feelings about what is next.  I am not the 20-year-old who began a journey with guide dogs. Also, there are numerous challenges to consider. Our dogs must often travel in places where untrained dogs present distraction and sometimes danger to us. We deal with ride share refusals, and additional paperwork while flying. Some days, I consider counting Abby as my last dog guide.

And then, I remember the past 40 years of partnerships that brought me independence and joy. And, in Abby’s case… a dog who taught me that hugs can bring healing and comfort.

Despite the challenges, I look forward to a new chapter in my life with a pup by my side.

10 comments on “A Guide Dogs Tale By: Linda Pelfrey

  1. Carol Lake on

    Linda, I so enjoyed reading your post. You really made me feel the connection between you and Abby. I also enjoy working with you as a fellow team member.

    Reply
    • Linda Pelfrey l on

      Thank you so much for reading. I am enjoying getting to know you as a coworker as well.
      I’m glad we are on the same team together 🙂

  2. Connie on

    Beautiful story. I know Abby well and she was a great source of comfort for me when she was off harness. She was a surrogate emotional support dog for many at Goodwill Easterseals.

    Reply
    • Linda Pelfrey on

      I said to my family that Abby belong to the whole world. She did her job as a guide… But I believe she was also created to provide love and support to those who needed it.

  3. Matthew Rizer on

    I could tell how much Abby cared for you. I love Abby. She was such a loving amazing service dog. I remember once how Abby got some dog hair in your computer keyboard Linda

    Reply
  4. Candy Mullins on

    I truly enjoyed reading your post. As Abby’s adoptive mom I’ve gotten to see a side to her that we didn’t get to see at work. Abby is mischievous (which I absolutely love about her), very playful and a puppy in a senior dog’s body. My husband and I have been truly blessed having Princess Abby in our lives.

    Reply

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