So I had this dog. He was a special bred dog and was a mix of Yellow Lab and Golden Retriever. He had a body of a Lab with a head and feathered tail like a Golden. So far so good.
However he had special training first from a puppy raiser and then from a guide dog trainer. Yes, he was trained to lead blind people like me. So far so good. I paired up with Darber in 1999. Yes, his name was Darber. Not sure where that name came from. The guide dog school described these mix breeds as Golden/Lab crosses. I guess in order to get the best of both breeds. Gentle, loyal, and eager to please. And to please the dog partner, me.
But anyway we trained together for about three weeks at the Guide Dog facility at San Rafael, California north of the Golden Gate Bridge. . Darber seemed a bit Alpha-male but willing to guide. We had an issue or two before we left the guide dog school. But we graduated anyway. Boarded a plane at SFO and flew home. We sat just behind the bulkhead and all Darber wanted to do is look out the window. Maybe looking for UFOs or something. Don’t know. My other guides boarded a plane and quickly fell into doggie slumber at my feet.
But anyway to make a long narrative short Darber still had guide issues. But after two years of him guiding me I had enough. He basically went towards where he wanted to go and not where I needed him to go. So I contacted the guide dog school and as they say at the school Darber had a career change and I went back and trained with another dog. Paring up with Rickles. The best guide dog I ever worked with.
But anyway, what to do with Darber. He still had good obedience, seldom barked, and was a very good pet. Then a teacher friend asked me to bring Darber to her school. So I did and Darber was received with a hundred pets on the head. They loved him there. Then the teacher friend ask if Darber could come two or three days a week. At that time Darber was staying with my oldest adult daughter and she agreed to drop Darber off at school on her way to work. Then that routine stuck. Thus Darber’s career change began and it was from Guide dog into Therapy dog. The school kids took turns each morning running out to my daughter’s car to escort Darber into the school where he had a spot in the teacher’s classroom and stayed until the final bell each day he visited. The teacher told the kids to not feed Darber any of their lunches. Darber had a special diet and to not feed him people food. Yeah right!
None the less, Darber became a regular presents at school and fulfilled his position as therapy dog. Actually bringing a bit of calm and release of tension during a normal frenetic school day. Then after a full year of Darbers presents at school he was featured in the school’s year book with two full pages of kids posing with Darber the therapy dog.
Then followed graduation for some of the seniors. Most of the grads wanted Darber to walk with them as they receive their diplomas. But the parents nixed that idea. Even though the school thought it okay.
Then finally it was his third year at school on therapy duty when Darber, at age seven, fell very ill and died. The school kids were most distraught and tears were shed. I never knew what it was that caused his sudden death. Not sure. One of the teachers with a religious fervor placed her hands on Darber and prayed for his recovery. But to no avail sorry to say. I’m certain Darber is now in doggie heaven. Running, barking, and enjoying his second career change. Rest in peace.