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Keller, St. Patrick, and a Taste of Spring

March 12, 2014


Keller, St. Patrick, and a Taste of Spring


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



            On St. Patrick’s Day of 1990, I was putting the final touches on my packing effort:  I was anticipating the biggest leap of my life.  To be better prepared for what was ahead of me, I had read several books; and Dad had read to me the brochures.  Finally, on March 18, 1990, I, with great excitement, took the short flight from Indianapolis to Detroit.  At the Detroit airport, a trainer from Leader Dog School welcomed me not just to Michigan, but to the next stage of my life—a life with a guide dog. 


            Although I had always had dogs in my life and had always gotten along very well with all puppies and dogs that I had ever met, I was filled with nervous excitement about this prospect of a guide dog in my life.  At times, I did wonder if I would succeed with a working dog.  Thank God, I did and have continued to do so for what will soon be 24 blessed years.


            After working with my trainer (Tom) and an empty harness for a couple of days at Leader Dog School, I waited on that Wednesday, in my dormitory room for the most important arrival in my life.  At 1:11 p.m., on March 21, 1990, Keller—a gorgeous golden retriever—came into my life.  When my trainer told me to call my first Leader Dog to me, Keller happily obeyed.  Within a few minutes, I was sitting on the floor with her; and she was cuddling against me as if I had known her since she was a puppy.  At age 21 months, the highly trained and intelligent Keller weighed 54 pounds and was full of love.  When some officials and special guests looked into our room a while later, one of them commented, “They have already bonded.”  Although Keller was still very attached to our trainer, I did realize in those early minutes that my beautiful golden and I were already forming an extraordinary relationship.


            Of course, there are so many times when I recall my first guide dog.  However, when there is a taste of spring in the air, when St. Patrick’s Day is on the calendar, or when March 21 arrives—my thoughts do return to those first moments and days with my Keller.  I remember so clearly the first time Keller and I walked down a block in Rochester, Michigan.  When I first told her “Find the curb” and she did, the world in front of me may have looked gray; but my heart was filled with golden happiness.  “Good dog!” I, exhilarated by this small step, praised my Leader Dog.  Somehow, I managed to say, “Keller, left” and made the appropriate arm gesture as we turned onto Fourth Street.  We were on our way to meet many more curbs, milestones, challenges, and joys.


            Of my three guide dogs, Keller was the most dedicated to her work:  she absolutely loved to be in harness and to work.  This golden had a reddish-colored coat of long hair; thus, a number of times, people asked me if my guide was an Irish Setter.  With this typical question and St. Patrick’s Day in mind, I will share with you a (slightly modified) limerick which I wrote last year.  Even though this poem is of the “nonsense” variety, please understand that Keller took her work very seriously and was cherished by me for all her many wondrous qualities.



All for Keller


There once was a golden named Keller,


who thought she was an Irish Setter.


On St. Patty’s Day,


she’d get carried away


and want green vittles from an emerald pitcher!



A Taste of Spring


            During this past week, my third Leader Dog and I enjoyed a taste of spring—despite all the puddles, a necessary by-product of melting snow.  Zoe walk very slowly and carefully through the puddles.  On a recent “Wordwalk” with Zoe, I thought of the following short poem.



Mother Nature’s Tasting Party


Past the Polar Vortex, on March seven,

was I in Milwaukee; or was I in Heaven?

The thermometer read 44 degrees!

Oh, Mother Nature, you are such a tease!


I loved attending your Tasting Party for Spring.

The wine had that bouquet of no wind.

The cheese had no sharpness of chill.

The crackers were not crunched with ice.

The salad was not tossed with snowflakes.

The arancini were rice balls—not snowballs.  Hurray!


You know, I am a gracious and grateful guest.

Give me a warm welcome, and I will deem you “the best.”

Dearest Mother Nature, here is my permanent RSVP:

Each time you have a Tasting Party for Spring, please invite me.



Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Zoe


March 12, 2014, Wednesday



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  1. What a fitting tribute to a special pooch. Thanks for a walk through the years. Happy St. Patty’s Day to you as well my dear.


  2. A Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and Zoe, Alice! Thanks for the heartfelt remembrance of dear Keller and the delightful poem to welcome spring.
    Love, Mary

  3. Hi Alice, thank you for sharing your memories. I’m glad St. Patrick’s Day was a happy time for you.

  4. Carole permalink

    Thanks, Alice! I always love the stories of your three very special girls! Happy St. Patrick’s Day with love!

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