by Rick Sylvester
“There are those who give with joy,
Recently, I was given yet another Good Dog experience that provided yet another epiphany. In the beginning, Laura and I were confident that our little non-profit had very worthy goals and the potential to do phenomenal things for families dealing with ASD - as it did for ours. We got confirmation right out of the gate when we placed companion dogs with several of our first families, who became as equally thrilled and amazed as we. At that point, I guess destiny saw we were serious about this unconditional love and acceptance gig and decided to up the calling.
Part of our planned Good Dog work is providing community outreach to schools, after school programs, special needs facilities, therapy offices and ASD-related organizations. We only promote these free visits when we can squeeze them in among our many other “higher priorities”. It took us four local outreach visits at different facilities before getting a hint about their greater importance. Then, we unknowingly scheduled a fifth appointment with a higher power. One that delivered a revised agenda for us with no uncertain terms.
As destiny would have it, Blue Roses Girls invited Good Dog for a one-hour visit to their Camp DOLLS event in Rancho Bernardo. The first line on the Blue Roses Girls website reads: “Welcome to Blue Roses Girls where all girls who experience social, sensory, cognitive, and physical differences are welcome”. Reading further it says: “Blue Roses Girls Group was formed because making and sustaining friendships becomes more challenging as the social dynamic of girl friendship shifts from playing together to talking together about common interests such as hair care, skin care, make up, boys, dating, and hanging out at each other’s homes”. Sounded like a perfect venue for Laura and Orbit to conduct an outreach. As destiny would have it, Laura could not make it…So, Rick? Yep.
Following a stressed filled day that included several infuriating traffic debacles on our way to arrive on time at Camp DOLLS, Orbit and I tried to make a quiet entrance through the back of the conference room where the girls were in mid-activity of some sort. We were spotted, however, and then welcomed by an outburst of hearty girly cheers, “IT’S ORBIT!” I waved and slipped through the room with Orbit out to the designated grassy play area just outside, as to avoid causing further interruption. This unexpected and high-spirited reception was the perfect antidote to erase the funk I was having over my day so far. But then, what happened to me over the next hour was on an entirely different level.
We began the outreach by sitting in a big semi-circle and talking all about Orbit’s important job as Elliot’s companion dog. They girls were especially interested to hear about Orbit getting to go on rides at Disneyland. Next, most of the girls participated individually in taking hold of one of the double leashes and walking Orbit across the lawn together with me. This is when the atmosphere started to change. I instructed them on giving commands like heel, sit, down, stay and they responded like confident little pros. Their excitement, enthusiasm, focus and enjoyment of this little activity was astounding to me. Sometime during the third round trip, I started to get a little choked up by the intensity of their passion for our strolls together. There was some kind of connection going on between the three of us on each walk that was beginning to overwhelm me. This is when I began to feel what I would have to call a little metaphysical interception starting to override my normal emotional functioning. As our professional canine trainers, Tim and Elise, always profoundly profess, “The energy of the dog and the handler travels back and forth through the leash…always remember this.” If I didn’t fully get it before…well, I was REALLY starting to get it on these little walks, now. This, however, was going far beyond who is the alpha dog in this relationship and who is follower. The leashes were like little dangling lightning rods for joy, inspiration, and love between Orbit, the Blue Roses Girls, and back to me. WOW! My eyes kept welling up behind my sunglasses… luckily I had them on, as I was trying with all I had to retain my manly composure. “YES!” said the voice in my head. “Now, this is what it’s all about. Do you see what’s happening here? Can you feel it? Do more of this!”
We concluded our time together by playing fetch, each girl getting a chance to chuck the ball for Orbit, until the heat starting getting to us. At this point, Orbit got downtime and lay on the grass totally surrounded by doting girls. He was in heaven with all of the attention, of course, and hammed it up by offering big sloppy dog kisses for all girls whose faces were in range. Even some of the more animal-averse girls courageously stepped up to give Orbit a quick stroke and pat on the head, retreating quickly, but with what seemed like a new sense of personal accomplishment. This break in the action gave me time to stand back and become more aware of what had been created out on that lawn. As I watched these beautiful and amazing young ladies interacting with Orbit, I was able to reflect on what they had shared with me - this graceful wisdom through all that they are. I considered myself blessed to have been among a gathering of angels. Their message has been successfully received. Thank you Blue Roses Girls!!!