News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

Zane’s Retirement

Hi, everyone
Zane’s retirement looms closer and closer, and it seems every time I work him, I get more and more confirmation that retirement is what needs to happen. Earlier in the summer I was in this gray area where I wasn’t sure. Now, I definitely know, but it’s the timing I’m trying to get right for everyone possibl: Zane, me, Phil, and his new family.
If it was Zane only, I’d have no problem putting the harness down today. As it is, I’m working him only in familiar environments and especially crossing familiar streets. Tonight we went to dinner five blocks from where we started, and due to construction and unreliability on his part, we took a cab. I’m taking either rides or paratransit. 
Phil has a surgery tomorrow which will hopefully allow him to start working in a week and a half. Work means no more home health nurses coming almost daily and cluttering the space. I’m hoping to retire Zane the weekend before Phil goes to work. I’m hoping some of the emptiness will be offset by the positive factor of having our space back. I’m also hoping to have some final things like knowing when he’ll have his final evening at the Malt Shop. Also, I’d like to have a little blessing ceremony to acknowledge his retirement the last time he comes to Mass with me.
Zane has been a comfort to Phil after having to come home 2 days after his dog died in March. He’s comforted Phil when in pain and especially when he felt he had little control over his own life — dictated by doctors, nurses, and the wound.

We had the meet and greet with his new Black Lab “brother” four years his junior last Friday, and it went very very well. My friend Kathleen is a single lady in her 60’s who is a retired teacher. She has a small parttime job a few hours a week and volunteers some as well.Otherwise, she spends time with her dog and the dogs of other dog lovers in the neighborhood. There are a lot of them!! Zane reminded her of her Lab Shaimus from the first, and I couldn’t ask for a better home. I want to give her notice,, so she can schedule a few days away from her job as she wants to help Zane get acclamated.
A friend of mine told me tonight I’d survive retireing Zane and will retire other dogs, but I think we have a situation many don’t have in that usually, there’s another dog in the equation. I remember having “dog envy” when Phil and Wanetta were such a unit between Tanner and Shelly and a year later between Shelly and Wynell. Phil remembers Wnell’s presence comforting him but not to the extent Zane’s has over the last few months. Wynell’s retirement was difficult, but it was offset by how Garron made sure to include me in his love. Now for the first time in 19 years of marriage, neither of us will have a dog for a while. Yes, we can function, but as a couple, we are often identified as the couple with the guide dogs. Dog envy aside, saying goodbye to a dog is softened, a little by the presence of your significant other’s dog. So this is unchartered territory for us having absolutely no dogs in the house. And let’s face it. We’re already feeling the loss in public, and then we notice people treating us differently due to the dog’s absence. That makes it tougher, but even that’s softened by the presence of the other person and their dog. 
My application for a new dog is in, and although I asked for home training given Phil’s wheelchair etc., I don’t know whether I’ll get it. Phil is not likely to be ready to work a new dog until next spring. If the school asks me to come there I’l have evaluating to do. I feel pretty strongly that either my dog should come home months before a Minnesota winter or train in it. The school doesn’t understand that snowy sidewalks and street corners aren’t always shoveled like they tend to do for us during training. I’ll also have to consider what stage Phil is at if asked to come to school. There are a lot of things up in the air. In some ways I’m holding out for Phil but it’s more painful and drawn out to see the inevitable coming. The only comfort is that I’m doing everything I can to prepare and help others prepare for Zane’s retirement. 


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