Other Voices: My Name is Kiefer

Hi, my name is Kiefer. I used to be a guide dog. Now, I’m retired. I live with my mistress and her new guide, Ecko. She also has another person. She calls him her husband, but he’s really my petting machine and treat dispenser.

I will be fifteen years old just after the shortest day of the year. Sometimes, my mistress says that, if I were a person, I’d be 105 years old. I think she’s crazy. She doesn’t know how to think like a dog.

She also thinks I can’t hear too well anymore. Actually, I just don’t always choose to acknowledge what she says. When I was her guide dog, this was important. If I didn’t listen to her, we could get in some trouble, like if I went right instead of left, or just kept going when she told me to stop.

But she doesn’t listen to me all the time, either, and I know she’s not old and there’s nothing wrong with her hearing. She plays piano, so she can’t have hearing problems.

Anyway, about her not listening … She thought that I was just being stubborn sometimes if I disobeyed her. It’s true, I am stubborn. I want to do a good job, and once I’ve been taught what I’m supposed to do, I’ll keep doing it until I can’t. (That’s why I had to retire–I wanted to keep working, but I had really bad arthritis, and climbing stairs and wearing my harness just got too painful.)

Sorry, I got distracted again. Getting back to her not listening … I remember once, I stopped to let my mistress know that there was something in front of her that she shoudln’t walk over. That’s what I was taught to do, especially at the top of stairs, at curbs, and whenever there was something I thought she needed to know about.

Well, she scolded me! She tried to make me move, but I wouldn’t. She said a bad word, too. I don’t know what it meant, but it sounded bad, and she only uses it when she’s angry. Anyway, she walked forward even though I tried to tell her it was a bad idea … and fell into a fountain! Like I said, she doesn’t think like a dog.

About water: I don’t like it. I hate having to go outside in the rain. Once, my mistress and I took a long airplane trip and went to live in a big house in this place that was really hot. (Did I tell you I hate plane rides?)

Well, there was a big pool with a waterfall. I thought it was just decoration, but she thought it was for swimming. She took off all her regular clothes and put on this skimpy little thing so that made the scent of her go all over the room. Then, she went out by that pool and told me to stay, and she jumped in!

I’m no dummy. I knew this was a dangerous thing for her to do. No one else was around, so I jumped in to pull her out.

But, oh, I really don’t like water, and this water stank like chemicals and I couldn’t touch the ground. So I jumped back out and started running around in circles and barking.

With my mistress, you can’t stare at her to beg for treats. You have to stick your nose right up in her face, or nudge her arm, because most of the time, she doesn’t even look in my direction. Even when she does, I know she can’t see what I’m doing.

So I knew I had to do something to get her attention. I started running around and barking as loud as I could. She told me to be quiet, but I wouldn’t. (I’m stubborn, remember?) Finally, she came out of the pool and we went inside the house. Ah, she was safe!

When her new guide dog, Ecko, came, I got really depressed. I felt like I’d done something so bad that my mistress didn’t want me anymore. I tried to ignore Ecko, especially since he had a lot of energy and was really big and had no manners. All he wanted to do was play, but I was too sore most of the time, and I’ve never been really foolish and goofy, anyway.

What I discovered, though, is that, even though I don’t have to get in harness every day and go with my mistress all over–and I’m really glad Ecko has to go on planes now instead of me–she still feeds me, loves me, pets me, and even takes care of me when I’m sick or really hurting.

The feeding part is one of my favorites. My mistress isn’t a big treat-giver, but my petting machine (I mean, her husband) gives me treats for doing just about anything. It’s true, stairs are hard, especially now that my back legs are getting pretty weak. My mistress will sometimes give me a treat if I come upstairs, but sometimes she doesn’t.

But it’s funny. Even if her husband is doing something else, or sitting in another room, and I’ve already gotten my treat for coming upstairs from my mistress, if I go over and make it really obvious that I just came upstairs, he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and go get me a treat.

He even keeps them in his pants, because he gives them to Ecko, too. The other day, he left a pair of pants on the floor. I smelled a treat in there, so I decided to check it out.

It was in one of the pockets, and I could feel the lump of it. I worked and worked and chewed until I got into the pocket.

But the lump was a rock! I ate it anyway, just in case. Then I left the pants and ignored them.

The best part was that he thought it was Ecko who had done it! (That’s another benefit of having another dog in the house–you can get away with more mischief by looking more innocent than the other one when your people ask “Who did that?”.

I love lying wherever my mistress is. She’s typing on the computer right now, and a funny little man’s voice comes off her desk when she does it. I can wander into the piano room and drink water whenever I want to (which is a lot lately), and I can let her know if I have to go outside.

Ecko doesn’t always stay with her. I might be retired, but I’m still better at this than he is. He likes the car more, though, and I’m sure that makes it easier for my mistress to travel. I always hated traveling.

It’s been fun teaching Ecko how to be a good dog. He didn’t want much petting when he first came, and he never wagged his tail. Now, we have to push each other out of the way if we both want someone’s petting and attention. He’s also figured out that it’s fun to lie on the rug outside the shower because the whole bathroom gets filled with the scent of our mistress, and that’s one of the most wonderful things in the world. It makes you feel safe knowing she’s around.

It’s kind of hard still when she leaves with Ecko. I know she’ll be back, but I don’t know when, and it always seems like she’s away too long. If I’m not too sore, I’ll lie in the hall by the garage door and wait until she comes home, or I’ll curl up under the big black piano. I like it under there, even when she’s practicing (maybe that’s why my hearing isn’t as good as it used to be). Or I’ll go upstairs to the bedroom and wait in my bed.

It’s getting chilly outside now, and pretty soon, the dry leaves I like to sniff will be gone and there will be snow instead. I love the first good batch of it–not just the dusting, but the kind that’s deep enough that I can bury my nose in it. It’s really cold and makes me sneeze, but it’s fun. It makes Ecko run and jump like an idiot. I never understood how he could just go around the yard like that, sometimes with a stick in his mouth. It seems kind of undignified.

Oh, well. He’s gotten a lot better at being a guide dog, and I’m proud of him.

And now, my petting machine is here and I’m going outside. (Hmmmm, I wonder if there’s a treat in it somewhere for me …)

Explore posts in the same categories: Blindness, Dogs, Family and Friends, piano

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