[Courtesy photo from the Salem News used without permission.]
Last week, my colleague and friend on the Salem Commission on Disability had sad news: His longtime guide dog, Elliot, passed away.
We have plenty of stories on the Commission about Elliot. He was Andy’s second guide dog, following the retirement of Yates, both dogs having been fostered and trained by Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.
One of the hardest things to remember when meeting any service animal—and I have met many over the years—is that the animal is “on the clock”. It’s working for its owner, doing its job. You can’t pet the animal or talk to the animal or interact with it as you would a pet.
As a pet lover in general, this is hard for me to remember.
Elliot made it even harder.
Elliot, like many dogs, loved most humans and wanted very much to meet new friends. Whenever I got into a car with Andy to go somewhere, Elliot would jump in the back seat, but not before giving his fellow passengers a kiss and a lick with his tongue as if to say, “Hi! You can be my buddy?!”
During Commission meetings, Andy would often pick the seat next to mine, near the center of the table.
Elliot would turn to me, lick my hand and look at me for acknowledgment. It was hard to ignore him, yet I had to gently nudge him to curl up next to Andy for the remainder of the meeting.
Which he did. Fidelco is not only good at socializing its foster dogs, but also training them.
Elliot was a great dog.
He will be missed, and not only by Andy.
My colleague, Jean Harrison, had this memory of Elliot:
I really thought of Elliot as an under the table commissioner. He was a dear, sweet dog. I occasionally had the good fortune to have him rest his head against my leg or on my foot. Which was very nice & made me feel welcome as the most junior commissioner.
Very sweet. Thanks, Jean, for letting me repost this.