A point of some minor contention in my marriage is our direct disagreement on fate. I have never been a person who gives much credence to the idea of fate. I have always believed that life is more chance, whereas Carla truly believes in fate. She believes that things happen for a reason. We have never argued on the subject, but have had many a discussion on the thought of fate.
Now I consider fate to be more often a mere happenstance or coincidence. Never in my life have I had a moment where I thought the idea of fate was realized. Now I find myself questioning this. Coincidence is common, and open to interpretation, but in getting to know my dog Gopher and the circumstances surrounding him. The examples of coincidence have been almost overwhelming. It has brought to a point where I consider the possibility of fate. I know this might make some of our readers laugh, as some will think, he is just a dog, to that I provide you a quote courtesy George Graham Vest, a fellow Missourian and trail attorney fighting for a dog in 1870.
“Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.
Gentlemen of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”
Obviously though if my readers thought any dog was just a dog they would not have read this blog so far, and I am probably preaching to the choir. Yes, I am his master, although I despise that term, and even Gopher’s owner, another term which I despise, even if I understand the legal necessity. Gopher is also my partner and registered as such in the Delta Society. I like this idea much better; he is also my best friend. The lessons he has taught me, the compassion he has increased in me, may have been prospered by another animal or human, but some oddities about Gopher call me to question my ideas on fate. Probably to the delight of Carla as she loves to prove me wrong and that rarely happens.
So how does Gopher make me question my ideas of fate? Simply by example and coincidences, after three years they seem too large to ignore. Our goal was to make Gopher into a therapy dog prior to his birth, we taught him the obedience and confidence he needed, but he taught us about therapy, and he happened to be our boy, and that is where fate entered my life. The majority of my samples you have heard me discuss some times more than once, and I will highlight them with the link to the original story for those who may be new to this blog.
My favorite instance of this was mere weeks before our first therapy visit, when Gopher behaved in a manner he had not done so before and brought comfort to a stranger and recent widower.Always ready... Gopher did not know the man, nor did I, he was not visibly upset, he was just sitting on a bench. Gopher needed to go be near him, and spend time with the man who had just lost his wife, why he desired this so strongly I will never know.
The next time I would see how much of a therapy dog Gopher would be was on his first visit.First Visit The patient was less interested in visiting with the dogs and had paid attention to very few of them. Nervous as I was doing this for the first time, I instructed Gopher to approach, and he ignored me. I was embarrassed until I saw what he did next and how he got this young girl to become engaged, smile and laugh.
Finally another fine example of his skills is what he has done for me. The above instances could not be trained and were merely part of his own personal character; another part of his character is his loyalty to me and what he has done for me. Nearly two years after Gopher came into our lives, I entered one of the darkest portions of my life, a struggle that is still ongoing, and a continuing fear that to say it is crippling would be an understatement. Many days I want to do nothing more than shut off all the lights, lock the doors, and keep the world out. Gopher does not let this happen, his desire to work reminds me I cannot succumb to fear, he cries and dances at the mere mention of ‘Work’, he loves his job. It also gives me a sense of purpose, and contribution to society.
While working before entering a room of a new patient when the fear comes in, the feelings of inadequacy, fear of my own voice, Gopher without command pauses. He sits down by my side, leans in, nudges my hand with his nose, and places his paw in my hand. He does not push me at this point as he has a tendency to do when he wants to play, or we need to go, this is a pause, he knows without command that I need him at that moment. I have little to complain about in life with a loving family, wife, and friends. The façade of confidence I put on for these people in my life, though is merely a mask, and occasionally I let them in to see my vulnerabilities. I always let Gopher see this side of me. After the nudge, we enter the room, introduce ourselves, and proceed with the visit. Not all the visits are remarkable, although some are.
The most remarkable portion of every visit is the change in me personally. After those moments where I might pause, I always enter. With Gopher by my side and the work ahead of us, he has not only given my life in society purpose, he has given me confidence I have never realized. He makes me not scared of my own voice, no one, human or animal has done that for me.Gopher's Biggest Fan
So all of these are just examples of how truly amazing Gopher is, something that has been noted by peers who have many years more experience than me in giving animal assisted therapy. Gopher is one of those unique dogs, who seems to be made to do this work. Our other boy Squirrel, and other therapy animals perform admirably and do no less great work, but Gopher truly is a savant of therapy work. How does this tie into fate? As I said before, prior to Gopher being born we were going to try and train a therapy dog. A desire I had to fulfill this role. In 2008 we tried to see if our landlord would let us get a dog, he said no, but the desire was set in us and we bought a house. We were impatient to get a dog and placed a deposit on a litter we found prior to closing. Despite delays we closed in time and did not have to wait for a later litter. All the cards were falling in place for that September morning when we would travel north, to meet Gopher and begin this journey.
We had the choice of two males and I leaned one way, Carla leaned another and we both could be easily persuaded either way. It may have come down to a coin toss. Back to the Beginning We set our respective pups we were holding to go play with the litter and watch to maybe help us make a difficult decision. People will tell you time and again that they selected a pup, or adult dog, based on a feeling, or the dog showed them more attention then another. I am too hard-headed or dense for such things, and both pups were affectionate, loving and playful. Gopher would then without room for misinterpretation make the decision for us. Despite all of the wonders of fall before him, a lush garden, litter mates whom had been his whole world until that moment. He as an easily distracted puppy would do something inexplicable. Gopher walked five to ten feet from us as we watched heading toward the wonders before him, turned, returned to my side, sat down in perfect heel position and looked up. This was an amusing story for us for a long time, but now after what I have seen him do that I could not train, the lessons he taught me that I could not have imagined, has become even more magical. Was it fate? Did all the events leading up to this moment go beyond mere coincidence? Three years ago if I had read this, I would has said yes it is coincidence, but now having a front row seat to these events, I feel for the first time that fate could be real. It came to me in the form of a Golden Retriever, who was our Gopher, before we even knew he would be Gopher. Where he has taken me has been amazing, and where we will go is uncertain. I live in constant fear of what tomorrow will or will not bring. No one knows what my future or their future holds, but due to fate that brought Gopher into my life, I feel more prepared that I can handle the tomorrows with him by my side.