I got a call last week from Chuck telling me that on July 1st we would be getting a black lab female puppy. That exciting news heralded the bittersweet news that Bingo was in all probability going In For Training (IFT) in July. Despite being a blockhead (in some respects, in other respects he is a sweet boy), he would in all likelyhood be joining some of his littermates and starting the next phase of his journey to become a guidedog.
It got me to thinking about the impact of Bingo on the school, on us and on his future life partner. Some of you may know Mike Jernigan (who is a spokesman for Paws for Patriots (this link has a short video of Mike and Brittani and a description of how Paws for Patriots got started) for SEGD). I had an opportunity to have a fairly in-depth conversation with him and his wife and it happened to be on Bingo's birthday. He had Brittani with him and we tried to get the dogs together, but Bingo was just too excited. Leslie and Mike were very sweet saying, "He was very good the first 10 seconds."
"That was shock." I said. I looked back at Bingo who was not being a good boy and was on a tie down and was straining to get to Brittani. I shut the office door on him.
Mike talked about what an impact Brittani had made on his life. I want that same connection for Bingo and his partner. That's what this whole process has been about. And I know that when I push away the thought of driving up to Southeastern and opening the door to the car and saying, "Bingo, out," for the last time, there will come a payment due. I know it will be sad (Fred might even go so far as to say traumatic). However, I remember the main goal: he's someone's chance at freedom.
But I also know that I will not be alone in my grief. One of the lower division faculty members came up to me on Friday when Bingo was out of coat to pet him and told me that her daughter had been begging her to get a dog. She was holding firm and said no. Her daughter started to cry, "Well, at least I have Bingo!"
Bingo isn't just my dog. He's the school's dog. I walk down the hall with him and it's like walking with a rock star.
"Look! It's Bingo. Do you see him!"
And it happens every day I bring him to school. For some kids, it's enough to just catch a glimpse of him walking by. That's their dog. Bingo is theirs.
And so next year, when our new little girl comes to school, they will adopt her and make her theirs as well, but I can guarantee you that they will want the Bingo report cards and status updates. Whomever gets Bingo needs to know that they are acquiring a dog with a huge extended family who loves him and is very concerned about his welfare and happiness.