In Tajikistan, a man gets a goat as a dowry. Me, I got Buckley, the Serve-ish Dog.
The way this all started was that years ago, Buckley was to be a serve-ish dog to my now step daughter. However, as it turned out, while she loves cartoon dogs, she’s not keen on real ones. BINGO is a hit; Buckley, not so much. So, Buckley got to live a life of leisure, sleeping, sunbathing, reading tabloid magazines. He was like a Kardashian – he might have had talent, but why bother getting off of your butt when there are pizza scraps to eat.
So, it occurred to my fiancee and me that when she moved from California to Pennsylvania, I had a disability (actually, we already knew that part) and with Buckley being so well trained as a serve-ish dog, it was a marriage made in Heaven – although, technically, I had to marry Holly, not Buckley. Therefore, we bought Buckley a First Class ticket, minus champagne, and flew him out. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
It was really perfect timing. Rosie the English Bulldog passed away months ago, and I was ready for a new dog, missing that companionship. Interestingly, Rosie the English Bulldog was a serve-ish dog, too, only she had it backward – we had to serve her. I don’t want to sound racist, but English bulldogs are like that.
I’ve spent a month now working with Buckley and he’s doing great. It turns out, he has a brilliant Pavlovian mind – that is, he’ll do anything for a bacon treat. If I have a bacon treat on my lap and I say, “Buckley, tie my shoes,” he’ll do it, which is impressive considering that he lacks opposable thumbs.
He has an official service dog vest, and when he wears it, he’s like a cop in uniform, puffing up his posture like he’s of importance. However, I have yet to see him racially profile anyone. Rather, in public, he sticks by my side, follows every command and is a legitimate, behaved service dog. I’ve learned, though, that he’s far smarter than the general public. He’ll lie motionless beside my power chair in a bustling restaurant, wearing his neon-green vest that says SERVICE DOG in giant reflective letters, and giddy people come up and ask, “Oh my goodness, is he a service dog?” I have to stop myself from replying, “No, he’s a Shetland pony in a Halloween costume – want a ride?”
I’ve also learned that there’s no official registration or standard for service dogs, and legally they can go anywhere you go. If questioned, all you have to say is, “He’s my service dog,” and you’re sitting side-by-side on a roller coaster at Disney World (Buckley was such a good sport, wind blowing in his face!). As such, you encounter individuals ranging from those with lifelong visual impairments to wheelchair users to super models with anxiety all using service dogs. And, there’s a huge range of training for service dogs, from two-year schools, to no training at all (hence, super models with anxiety). Buckley lands in-between. If there’s an educational hierarchy for service dogs, his degree is from the University of Phoenix. He’s trained, but not a West Point graduate.
Interestingly, my peers with service dogs are the worst snobs. They’ll come right out and ask me, “Is he a real service dog?”
I now reply, “Buckley, tie my shoes. …Does your mutt do that?”