Doo is a beautiful six-year-old male Hungarian Vizsla who is smart,
obedient (most of the time), energetic, mischievous, and more social
than most people I know. In his mind, every adult, child, baby,
puppy and even a cat may be his next friend, so he prances proudly
as he walks by them. One day he even stood wagging his tail at a
lawn ornament - actually it was the donkey in a nativity scene on a
neighbors lawn. I suppose you could stretch your imagination to see
that it kind of resembles a dog...
I met my beautiful boy in April of 2006 when I decided, after 22
years of being legally blind, to get a guide dog.
I have been legally blind since 1982 due to diabetic retinopathy. I
have used a cane most of my adult life. While visiting a friend in
Florida, we found ourselves planning a field trip to "hug puppies"
at the local guide dog school. I've always loved dogs but never
really wanted one. Until I went puppy hugging...
I applied for my first guide dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs in
Palmetto, Florida in August of 2005. I indicated that I wanted a
Hungarian Vizsla as my first choice. I had learned of this breed
while visiting the school, although had not ever "seen" one as the
puppies I had met at the school were all black labs or lab/golden
mixes. When I researched the breed and discovered they were short
haired, long eared, demonstratively affectionate "a Velcro dog",
easy to clean up and care for, I knew this was the dog for me.
I have always tried to be the best I can be at whatever I do, so I
had big expectations for myself. I wanted to be the best guide dog
mom ever. I had to learn how to care for a dog, how to talk to them,
and when and how to use the 42 commands I would need to make Scooby
and I a great team. We had a bit of a slow start, as my harness
handle was too short at first and I didn't really know how to use a
All dogs test their owners, at least that is what the school told
us, and of course Scooby tested me right off the bat. I told Scooby
that if he worked hard with me and taught me how to work with him,
he would earn his gold medal. I happened to have my own gold medal
with me from the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney and I had gotten a
small plastic one at a party I had attended before going to school.
As you can see in the photo I sent, Scooby earned his gold medal and
wore it proudly as we posed for the Southeastern Guide Dog School's
Over the last four years Scooby and I have done all kinds of great
things. For the first time in many years, I can walk to the local
pharmacy, post office, coffee shop, nail salon, and Scooby's
favorite place Trader Joes, which is a small specialty grocery
store. We have also been to a James Taylor concert, a Triple A
baseball game, to The Olympic Training Center where I now coordinate
bike racing camps and of course to Florida back to see his first
mom, Dot, who lovingly raised him.
Scooby knows when to work and when to relax and play. Here is Scooby
Doo relaxing on my bed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado
Springs, Colorado in September of 2010.
I have received so much more than I have given Scooby. Being blind
is not very easy at times. Something as simple as saying hello to
people you pass on the street or in the store do not happen so much
when you use a cane. I think people just don't know what to say to
you. Now that I have my wonderful companion, I have spoken with
many, many neighbors and others I pass while out for a walk. To most
of the children in the neighborhood I am simply Scooby's mom. My
house is quite popular at Halloween now since Scooby hands out candy
with me while displaying his spider necklace. So, unbeknownst to
him, Scooby has widened my social circle and introduced me to many
of the people who live in my neighborhood. For the first time, I
have a real sense of community where I live.
Another very cool thing that Scooby makes look easy is taking me
into large restrooms like you find in an airport. I travel quite a
bit and before having Scooby, I would use my cane and never really
feel totally confident entering the restroom. Not only are these
rooms convoluted, large and noisy, but it was hard to get people to
give me the help I needed. When Scooby and I enter an airport
restroom, all I say is "Scooby, find the stall" and he trots me off
to the handicapped stall! It is like magic! When we are done I say
"Scooby, find the door".
And at night, like all good Vizsla's, Scooby demands my presence on
the couch so I can cuddle up with him. When he first tried to
communicate this to me I thought he was sick. He just put his nose
on me while I was on the computer. Then he just stared at me with
his tail down. When I didn't respond, he hit me with his nose again
and started walking out of the room towards the living room.
Eventually I figured out the message. So, our time on the couch
helps us both... it gives him the cuddling he wants and it makes me
put down work to smell the roses and spend quality time with my
friend, my constant companion and my best boy.
Scooby instinctively knows when and how to approach people off
harness. One time I was in the emergency room with my boyfriend. An
older woman asked if she could borrow my dog to bring it over to her
husband who was in the next cubicle. I said sure so off we went to
meet Mike. It seems they had a dog at home and his wife thought it
would make Mike happy to see Scooby. I took off Scooby's harness so
he knew he wasn't working. I introduced myself to Mike and then said
to Scooby, "say hi to our new friend Mike", and so he did. He leaped
right up on top of Mike's lap. I was mortified, but Scooby and Mike
were thrilled with the encounter. Scooby settled right down on
Mike's lap and Mike stroked Scooby saying "I feel much better now".
I apologized to the couple but Mike said "please let him visit with
me for a while". That is pretty typical Scooby Doo though, making
people happy wherever he goes.
In April of 2010 Scooby started acting a bit odd. Nothing super
obvious. He lost a bit of energy and didn't appear to be sleeping
well. He grumbled at night quite a bit. It was only after he started
drinking excessive amounts of water that I was tipped off. I started
measuring his water intake and called the vet he was drinking about
150 ounces a day and he was still thirsty. We did blood work but
found nothing to explain his behavior. It was 24 hours later that I
found the lymph nodes in his neck. They felt like little grapes up
both sides of his throat. He was diagnosed that week with stage 3
lymphoma. We began chemotherapy immediately. In May he went into
remission and in August he came out of remission. I was so
devastated. We started a new protocol of chemotherapy seven weeks
ago and he is back in remission.
Financially things have been very hard. I do not make much money. I
organized a fundraiser in June but with Scooby's need to stay on
chemotherapy and his three emergencies due to complications from
chemo, I found myself without much money left to care for him. I am
so grateful to the Land of PureGold Foundation for their support.
Within days of my application, they told me they would help.
For now Scooby is fine. The doctor said he is doing great and that
some dogs do better on their second round of chemotherapy. I pray
everyday that we will have more time together. In the meantime, I
say everyday that Scooby wakes up wagging his tail is a good day.