John Toth is a volunteer who shared this essay he wrote about his experience with one very special WDC dog.
To say I am enamored with Sirius might be an adequate description of our relationship. To say that he appreciates when I throw the ball for him, or when I sit near his crate, would probably be true. More importantly though is what Sirius means to all of us. His unquestioning devotion, unapologetic love, and sheer enthusiasm are a sustaining and comforting constant in an uncertain and turbulent world. Sirius, true to his name, carries a comforting light in his questioning and insistent brown eyes.
Sirius is a greyhoundish yellow lab. His stomach rises up into his hips and he stands in a prancing and ready manner. His frame is muscular and sinewy. When Sirius is frustrated, he barks throatily, almost wailing. When he peers out from his crate with his deep set and roguish eyes, he seems to constantly ask “Why am I not involved in ALL THE ACTION?” When he is excited, auburn hollow hackles will stand along his back like a ridgeline bracing against another sunset. When Sirius is happy he will sprawl out on his belly, back legs straight out, and pull himself with his front legs like a soldier crawling. He is unique. He is beautiful.
To play ball with Sirius is not like to play ball with any other dog at the Working Dog Center. Pacy is faster. Tsunami is more agile. Sirius in comparison unapologetically demands all of you in the game. He needs all your love. He seems as if through vibration to say “I can’t be this wonderful without you being a sparkling version of yourself in our time together.” He is an elite athlete with the endurance and tenacity inherent in his well-breed genetics.
The difference between Sirius in a game of throwing and retrieving is subtle and undefinable. He doesn’t have brakes, he returns to you with a happy momentum of such strength and gentleness. I truly wish that the feeling of Sirius crashing into your upper thighs and midsection could be saved. It is a sensation of pure acceptance, a feeling of safety. Sirius has a wonderful tenacity of spirt. This will serve him well as one of the new members of New Mexico Task Force One where he will save lives as a search and rescue dog. That exuberant love will not be exhibited in mock searches or games of fetch; Sirius will be a beacon of hope for a lost and thirsty hiker, he will do what he was trained to do.
Sirius doesn’t care what clothes you wear or whether you missed that spot below your ear shaving. He doesn’t care if when you throw the ball it is a deep throw or a short one. The effort is what is important. That you echo his enthusiasm with your own love. I did not want to go through the formalities of saying goodbye to my friend, so on Friday, February 27 I arrived at the center well after he was to have left. As I was walking onto the South Bank Campus I saw a silver van pulling away. Maybe it was the exotic license plates or the unfamiliarity of the vehicle, but I knew that this was Sirius and his ride to work. New Mexico Task Force One kindly let me stick half of my unapologetic frame into their van to hug Sirius and convey the adoration all of us at the Center have for this eccentric, loving, and mischievous animal.
That was it. But, as I walked into the Center, past our beautiful pack of yellow puppies, I thought happily he’s gone and he is taking that glowing, trembling, irreplaceable love off to find someone else who needs him.