A year ago, when I let Bianca leave this world and go on to whatever her next adventure would be, I couldn’t write about her or talk about her or even think about her too much. It hurt so damn much to say goodbye, and in my usual way, when something hurts like hell, I need to shove it away, lock it up in a secret hiding place and throw away the key for a while. But today, one year later, I can think of the good things and bad things and feel so much thankfulness that with all her foibles, with all her joy, with all her being, Bianca was mine. In a sort of written snapshot form, here are some memories of Bianca.
How could I ever forget the moment I met her? She danced to me, and put her head in my lap and wiggled and wiggled and wagged that crazy tail and flung herself into my heart and soul forever, from the first moment.
What about all that incredible safe confident guide work? I crossed intersections with Bianca I would never have done before. Ah, yes, the not so joys of Las Gallinas and Los Ranchitos, in San Rafael, when I worked at GDB. That crossing terrified me. Huge, busy, between a mall and a strip mall, with delivery trucks going through the intersection at all hours. And an island in the middle. What was that island you might ask? It was a pole, in the middle of the intersection, with cars, buses and trucks whizzing around me in every direction. When I would gesture and tell Bianca forward, my heart would be pounding with extreme nerves, but my voice and expression were calm and confident. And because I exuded calm and confident, Bianca would take off and tail wagging, face smiling in her way, she’d take me right to that pole, then swing right and cross the turn lane, at last at the sidewalk. And she knew, she knew she’d done a great thing. Always after that crossing, she’d prance up to the sidewalk, knowing the praise and kibble reward was coming, and she’d continue to dance down the street, knowing she was a great guide dog.
I remember how we went to starbucks every morning during training, and so forever after, whenever we passed a Starbucks, even ones we’d never visited before, she’d slow down, hesitate and turn her head, glancing at the door and then glancing up at me, asking, well, do we go in here. Aren’t I something?
Then there were the times when I wept with heartbreak, and Bianca would snuggle up so close to me, letting me bury my face on her side and cry and cry and cry, soaking her coat with my tears.
Or how about the times, the exuberant little black lab would sit, perfectly still, not twitching even an ear, so that a colleague who was terrified of dogs, could take a chance and meet Bianca?
Oh, and the mischief! The times she ate the butter softening on the counter. The time she just had to taste a chocolate chip cookie to see if it had turned out right.
Then the time she ate a whole pound of Sees Candy soft centers, wrappers and all, and had to be rushed to the vet?
Or the time she ate snail bait at Brenda’s? and had to be rushed to the vet
Or the time she ate the paintballs at Karen’s? And had to be rushed to the vet.
And the time she stole the dozen or more ibuprofen from Joylene’s purse? And ended up spending a day and night at the vet.
The paper towels she shredded. The way she tried nesting by getting on my bed and pulling all the blankets and sheets into a perfect sleeping place for a black Labrador. The squeaky toys she loved. The Kong she tried to play tug with. But Bianca, Kongs are not meant to be tug toys! The way she could lie quietly under my desk, or a table in a restaurant, shocking the people who only saw her energy or mischief.
She had a billion sides, a billion qualities, smarts to rival anything I’ve ever known, and endless all-encompassing love and affection for everyone. Especially me.
Now, I reach over and hug Petunia, another incredible guide and companion. I think at her, don’t feel jealous when you hear the name Bianca. Sure, you’ve got some damn big paws to fill, but you are a beautiful funny, sweet girl all on your own, with a fantastic work ethic, a great guide, a loving companion. And best of all, you’re not eating candy, snail bait, paintballs or ibuprofen. You’re not shredding paper towels or trying to play tug with the Kong. You’re just you Petunia, and girl do I ever love the heck out of you!
Thank you Bianca for all the years of great work, headaches from the mischief, loving and joyful companionship. I’ll never forget. But there’s no doubt, I’m really happy to have the well-behaved dog I have now!