Note: This is a revised post, originally posted 7.19.2009
It is another partly cloudy day. The last one I expect to see this week. I could base my prediction on the local weatherman's forecast of lower than normal temperatures and thunderstorms. Instead, I look at the trees for conformation. The breeze grows stronger throughout the day and the silver undersides of the leaves are exposed. The silver maple sparkles for a moment. This is how I know tomorrow will bring rain.
We are walking, Marshall and I. He is a good walker. His toenails tap the pavement as he bounces next to me. I call his happy walk "tip-tip-tip". His head is up, his whippy tail reminds me of the Wacky-Waving-Inflatable-Flailing-Arm-Tube-Man outside the local Chevy dealership.
Marshall is a happy puppy. I'm realizing as I write this that he only has a few short months until he is no longer a puppy. He will be two in November. People always think he is much younger and mistake him for a sixteen-week old Rottweiler. The truth is we don't know what he is, a Heinz 57 mutt that most closely resembles a German Pinscher, the dogs that are the ancestors of Doberman Pinschers, Schnauzers, and Affenpinschers.
His prance has been passed down from three hundred years of working dogs. Marshall walks with pride. He has a job and he does it well. I am currently working with him to be a service dog. My service dog.
I am one of the thousands of people with an invisible disability. People with Epilepsy, Autism, Diabetes, Alzheimer's, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other serious psychiatric disorders fall into this category. Marshall is being trained in medical alert and response, certain tasks to help me in my daily life, as well as all of his public access standards. I may have periods of recovery where I may not fit the definition of disabled and meet the requirements to bring Marshall with me. I actually hope for those times. We continue training regardless of what the future brings, trying to stay in "the now".
He is off-duty right now and enjoying the scents coming to him in the pre-rain breeze. We stand for a moment in the shade of an oak tree, close our eyes and smell. Someone is burning leaves and yard waste and from far away someone is grilling. The scent of sun-ripened blackberries down the path beckons me. I start to walk ahead, but Marshall is not moving. He has firmly planted himself next to the tree.
When I move closer, he nudges my knee. It is one of his gentle alerts. I take my pulse and realize I do, in fact, need to sit down and continue the deep breathing we were doing before. The tightness in my chest builds then subsides and I breathe through it. A few minutes later, I feel a tug on the leash. Marshall is standing on the path with his happy wagging tail. He tap-dances at me to tell me it's time to get going and I'm ok again. It is time to finish our walk, side-by-side.
I am reminded at this point of a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh's "Faith as a Living Thing".
Faith is nourished by understanding. The practice of looking deeply helps you understand better. As you understand better, your faith grows.
My faith has been fed today. And I think Marshall's has, too.