Most pooches, when we reach A Certain Age, think about slowin’ down, leavin’ all that goofy puppy stuff to the goofy puppies, maybe doing more snoozing an less fetchin,’ givin’ the squirrels a break. But not Gabriel Anderson (who’s 87-anna-half in dog, gettin’ a liddle white around the whiffles, but you’d never know it, otherwise).
Gabriel’s a big, good-lookin’ Golden Retriever who’s been with his Mom, Sheri Searle, since he was a puppy, back when it was just the two of ’em. Ever since puppyhood, Gabriel’s had this Special Quality that makes humans feel Much Better just bein’ around him.
So when his Mom opened the door, Gabriel (and his distant cousin Solaris) greeted us very politely with welcoming wag-an-sniffs.
“Please come in. Is it OK if I call you Bonz? You can call me Gabe.”
“Of course. Gabe it is. I know you have a wonnerful gift for helpin’ humans, an I wanna hear all about that, an also about the rest of your life.”
“OK. I’ll yap an you can stop me if you have any questions. Ready? I was born in Colorado, an Mom was goin’ to school out there. I was just a liddle pupster when she adopted me. I was her first pooch, so she took, like, zillions of pickshurs of me.” (He showed me some of ’em.)
“See, here’s my first bath, which I didn’t like. The fluffy towel was nice, though. First time I ever went swimmin,’ me anna coupla pooch pals – Emma, a Border Collie, an Edward, a Lab – were atta lake. It was real big an I was real liddle an Mom was real nervous. I had this nice stick in my mouth an Emma an Edward were already swimmin’ around, so I dived in with my stick an swam to the middle of the lake. Mom didn’t know swimmin’ came natch-rull. Oh, an here’s me meetin’ my First Cat – Lua. She let me know right away who’s Boss of Everybody. Her. Learned that pretty fast. My Cat Strategy is: Strategic Retreat. An here’s a pickshur of me playin’ in the snow. I LOVE the snow! I’m a total Snow Nose. An here’s me on my first Halloween. Mom dressed me up like a Hippie, with lotsa flowers. I wasn’t thrilled, but I Went Along cuz it made Mom happy. An here’s me with my Grampa Anderson. We’re buddies.”
“It’s so Cool Kibbles that you have all these great pickshur mem-rees.”
“Well there’s one mem-ree I couldda done without. See, when I was a puppy, I usta chew EVERYTHING. Well, on my first Christmas Eve, I was chewin’ this sock, which I wasn’t ’spose to, an I accidentally swallowed it. Totally. An I got a BLOCK-age. The vet hadda do an oppa-RAY-shun, an I hadda wear the Cone of Shame an have PILLS an be quiet for 6-to-8-Weeks. Mom hadda get a loan.”
“Soggy Dog Biscuits! That sounds serious!”
“It WAS. I coulda Bought the Doghouse.”
So, how’d you get down here?”
“In 2006, we all piled into our Honda Civic: Mom an me an Lua an Jamie (also a cat), an all our stuff. Took two days. We moved so Mom could go to school some more, in Gainesville, where there’s a Big Human School called a uni-VER-siddy. Mom studies BUGS. I myself hardly ever think about bugs, but, hey, I’m a dog, so …”
“Mom makes sure I getta good ed-juh-CAY-shun, too. I’ve passed a whole buncha classes an pretty soon I’m gonna get my AKC Therapy Dog Excellence Title and AKC Achiever Title.”
“Woof, Gabe, that’s PAWsome. I’m impressed. You must be In Demand!”
“I am. I’ve logged more than 200 visits to hospiddles an other places in Vero an Sebastian. I’m gonna get Hospice-qualified, an I’ve got my own Official Card from the Scully-Welsh Cancer Center that has my pickshur an ‘Gabriel, Pet Therapy’ on it!”
“Seriously Cool Dog Biscuits!”
“My calendar’s even fuller than Mom’s. Every week, we do rounds to see who’d like a liddle visit. We gotta lotta REG-ulars. My Peeples are patients, volunteers, chapluns, dockters an nurses. They sometimes get right down on the floor with me an play. It helps ’em relax an be happy. I have a Great Sense of Re-sponsa-BILL-uddy to My Peeples. It’s, like, my Purpose in Life.
“I’m also a (fluffy) nonjudgmental reading coach for a buncha liddle humans at the Brackett Library. The program’s called Paws to Read. We get all comf-tubble on the floor, an the kids practice readin’ – to me. My favorite book so far is ‘Muddypaws.’”
“Whaddya do in your free time?” I queried.
“Well, I enjoy travelin’ with Mom an Dad. (He’s Adam.) I’ve been to 15 states. An me an Mom are gettin’ into dancing.’ We make up routines for one of our classes – Canine Free Style. We have two routines, one to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” an one to “Hit the Road, Jack.” Spins are the most fun. I could spin all day.
“One time, when Mom an Dad were Elsewhere, I passed the time by figuring out how to unlock the doors, which, in retrospect, wasn’t the best idea I ever had. Now Mom an Dad always use the deadbolts. But probly my Most Favorite Mem-ree, Bonz, is when I walked Mom down the aisle when she and Dad got married, back in 2014. I even got to go onna boat ride with ’em after.”
“Woof, Gabe, that is Really Special.”
Heading home, I was pickshurin’ all the humans Gabe helps, just by bein’ himself. When he was talkin’ about his full calendar an all his Re-sponsa-BILL-uddies, I was thinkin,’ “Woof, yeah! I can TOTALLY relate to that! I’m a Busy Dog, too!”
Then I ree-lized, I only work one day a week.
Till next time,