As a retired service dog, now over 12 years old, Ripley spends most of her day just lounging on our king-sized bed – and looking forward to her next meal. Her eyesight isn’t so great now, due to advancing cataracts, and her hips hurt from arthritis. She has fully relinquished her main duties to Rocky.
But that doesn’t mean she has relinquished her desire to serve me, to be important in my life. I have to remind myself it is critical to give her jobs which are within her ability, so she can feel she is contributing, and still earning her keep as a service dog. She does some of her old jobs, like remind me to take my medication twice a day – but Rocky does that in tandem with her, so it’s not special for her alone. We needed something else.
It’s hard for her to go on long walks because of her hips. But she loves short walks – and I mean very short walks. So we hit upon a perfect solution.
Every day, Ripley and I go to the end of our driveway to pick up the newspaper. Sometimes it’s during the day; usually it’s not until after dark, when it’s nice and cool. I do not need to put Ripley on a leash. There is no danger that she will take off running after one of our desert bunnies (unlike Rocky!). She meanders slowly down the road, at her own pace, knowing exactly where we are going. She halts at the end of the driveway and waits for me, if I have fallen behind because I stop to pick up trash that has blown into the yard from the wind.
I retrieve the newspaper, and the mail if we haven’t picked that up yet. Then Ripley turns around, and heads back down the long driveway to the house. She may stop to smell a few plants, or take a pee break. But other than that, it’s a pretty direct path.
And when we have arrived back at the front gate, and I let her in through the main door, her tail is wagging, her eyes are happy, and she proudly suffers through having Rocky and Malakai sniff her from head to tail, investigating where she has been on her own private outing.
Service dog job accomplished. Another good day.