EVERYONE IS EQUAL, UNTIL THEY AREN’T

In my world, everyone can be equal if they learn to be. You told me all dogs are red-green color blind. Since no one is red or green, I don’t know what I can’t see. I go by smell and eyes and movement anyway. I love everybody unless they smell angry or scared, look at me funny, wear hoods so I can’t see their eyes, come close to me too fast, or jump around. My relatives in Scotland herd sheep, but the best I can do is keep my world under control.

When we go to work as a therapy team, almost everyone I see wants to see us. First thing I do is jump up on the receptionist’s desk to say hello to the person saying hello to us. Some people at senior residences drive big noisy machines called electric wheelchairs. I also hear food carts and walkers. Whir, whir, clatter, clank, shoosh.  I can’t tell where wheels are going and they might roll over my feet so I back up when I see them coming. Most people who drive them are careful of my paws and tail, but not everyone, so you and I must be watchful.

People who lie in bed or sit up in chairs love to see me. How old am I? What is my name? Have you had me since I was little? What kind of dog am I? Am I a lot of trouble to groom? Sometimes they ask the same questions over and over again before you’ve finished answering the first time.

In Los Angeles (we get around), we go to Children’s Hospital. We both love it there. Children are in bed under sheets, but you put another fresh sheet on each bed over that and I jump up and children pet me. Some have I-vees and other attachments that make it hard for their hands to reach me, so I lie still until you tell me it’s time to jump down. Parents love me more than the children. They are so happy to see me, they thank you over and over again. They don’t thank me, but I hear them thanking you so it’s okay. The children come in all sizes and shapes. I love them all.

We go to Minneapolis Southwest High School on Thursdays. We stand outside the lunchroom to say good morning to people who are dragging their faces to school. I am happy to see almost everyone. Except girls holding steaming coffee in one hand when they lean over to pet me with the other. No has spilled on me yet, but I spin around just in case. I don’t like big back packs because they can hit me in the head. Some people reach their big hands full of shiny rings out to me in front like they’re going to grab me and punch my eyes out. They think I belong to them when you and I know we belong to each other. I like it when people squat down and look me in the eyes and say my name—Oliver.

You tell people how to approach me. You say, Come to his side. When he is ready, offer him a fist. Let him sniff you. You are so smart. You are almost as smart as I am. You know dogs need to meet people side to side first.

Everyone smells different. My favorite people smell is tuna fish. Some people smell like coffee. Some people smell like smoke. Some people smell like peanut butter or old sheets or oysters or worst of all—incense or cologne. It fills my nose and I can’t breathe.  I back up and get ready to run. Some people smell like fear and I get confused. Why do they want to pet me if they’re afraid? I love them anyway.

There have been places we haven’t liked. One was the juvenile detention center. The big boys there were so silly I could never have herded them into one spot, so I stood still and didn’t move. I was happy to go, but after we arrived, my legs got stiff and my mouth got dry because they didn’t smell good and they didn’t act right. They waved their arms around and shouted, Oh God, a dog, a dog, a big dog!! They were too wild. Big fire doors clanked shut behind us each time we walked from room to room. I thought I was trapped. I wanted to go home, so I just lay down. You couldn’t get me to budge. I let you take me to the car. We didn’t go back. I was afraid some of them would hurt us. I loved them anyway.

One place you didn’t like was Memory Care. I loved the little bits of food I found in corners. They call it Memory Care because people forgot to remember the food they dropped. Applesauce, jelly, crusts of bread, crackers, cookies, baloney. I gobbled up everything I smelled. You kept yanking my head up, saying, Leave it! Leave it! My neck hurt. You frowned. We didn’t go back.

I like the sound of your voice and the sound of Daddy’s voice, but whoever invented skateboards didn’t love dogs. They sound like danger. The furnace in our home in Los Angeles clangs on and off and that scares me too. I’m afraid of people who stand on street corners holding up cardboard signs. I can smell them right through the car window and they look like they’re up to something funny because they aren’t going anywhere, so I bark at them. Go away from our car! Don’t come near us! I can’t read so I don’t know what their signs say or if they want to hurt us, but barking at them is part of my job description.

Oliver’s Advice: Everyone is equal, but watch me for signs of trouble. I know more than you do about these things.

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