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Remembrances of Zoe at the Hall of Fame Museum

April 27, 2016

 

Remembrances of Leader Dog Zoe at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

As we look toward May and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on the 29th, I clearly remember going to the Speedway for qualifications at age five and fondly recall my most recent trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2014. When my sister, my Leader Dog Zoe, and I took a road trip to our home state of Indiana, visiting the massive and impressive Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum and the track again was part of our itinerary. On that very warm summer day, we entered the museum and were quickly welcomed by a volunteer who also happened to be a Lions Club member. Of course, he was quite interested in my beautiful and very well-behaved Leader Dog. Having toured Leader Dog School, he was knowledgeable of guide dogs and their important work. As usual, I was happy to have the opportunity to thank this gentleman for his Lions Club’s donation to Leader Dogs for the Blind and for his own efforts to help make possible magnificent Leader Dogs, like my Zoe, who patiently stayed beside me while the Lion member and I spoke. Then, he suggested a direction for our beginning our visit at the museum.

 

In 1956, when I was first allowed to go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with family members, the first Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum was established. In 1976, the doors to the current Hall of Fame building opened to the public, to race fans from around the world. As a public building, the museum also welcomes guide dogs.

 

While we walked around the displays at the museum, my sister took photos of Zoe by some famous Indy cars. Zoe was always cooperative when posing for a camera: she, like my other guide dogs and pet dogs, enjoyed having her photo taken. In the museum’s theatre, Zoe lay perfectly beside me throughout the documentary concerning the history of the Indianapolis 500. Eventually, Zoe and I weaved our way through the two museum stores where my sister described souvenirs to me. Zoe always had a very smooth and extremely careful way of leading me through crowded store aisles. I imagine my black lab/golden retriever preferred the coolness of the museum to the warm, humid Hoosier air outside.

 

Later, we did return out into the sunshine to board a touring bus. Although I had taken a ride around the famous 2.5-mile oval on two previous occasions, I was pleased that Zoe would then be able to boast of her ride around the Speedway track. Just before the bus driver left the driveway in front of the museum, she reported on her radio, “I have eleven guests and one guide dog.” As the recorded voice of historian Donald Davidson clearly shared interesting facts about the most famous oval track of motor racing, Zoe became one of a select number of guide dogs to take the storied ride around the track at a comfortable speed of approximately 55 miles per hour–not a track record, nothing to vie for pole position, but a memorable ride for Zoe and me. Even at this unremarkable speed, we could feel the banks of the corners of the track. Approaching the well-known “Yard of Bricks” at the start-finish line, the vehicle slowed down: even in the small bus, we could discern that we were going over the “Yard of Bricks.” However, no black-and-white checkered flag waved for my Zoe as the winner which I have always known her to be. Nevertheless, in my thoughts and with all that I positively and lovingly experienced with Zoe since our first meeting on June 6, 2009, I can tell you that Zoe deserved the checkered flag at the end of so very many of our walks together. Zoe was always in the lead and was always the winner. Checkered flags, blue ribbons, trophies were not her motivation: she was always in the lead because of love, devotion, and much-deserved praise.

 

This year, when I listen to the qualifications, the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” and the 100th running of the race–I will remember all of the exciting times that my family and I enjoyed at the Speedway; and I will cherish the memories of the times my Zoe was at my side while we traveled, visited family and friends, as well as points of interest in my Hoosier homeland.

 

* * *

 

During this final week of National Poetry Month of 2016 and for International Guide Dog Day (April 27), I will share with you one poem, inspired by the above memoir.

 

Zoe–Always in the Lead

 

 

Zoe, you were always in the lead;

but now the race is over.

Your empty harness rests motionless on the doorknob;

the leash is draped over your harness.

So many tranquil, triumphant,

touchable remembrances

of you, my unforgettable guide dog,

adorn this empty house.

Empty harness, empty house.

Where are your trophies?

Where are your blue ribbons?

Where are your checkered flags?

 

From the day you stepped into my life

until the day you left this world,

you were always in the lead.

Where are the cheers for you?

Where are the standing ovations?

Where is your Victory Lane?

 

Despite your life of giving,

your life of excellent

and extraordinary ways–

no awards, no achievement citations,

no parade, no funeral,

no certificate, no medal–

only a metal tag

engraved with your unique

Leader Dog number

and only a worn leather harness and leash

emblazoned

with those two famous words:

“Leader Dog.”

I wish more–

so much more

for you.

 

I only know

you now are on another track,

another path

where prayers are whispered

and candles light your way.

Not just I,

but many family members and friends

still and forever

praise your glorious ways.

Words–I can give you

only words

of gratitude and praise.

 

As you fly with the mourning dove

and ride in the red Ford,

know how much

you are missed,

tremendously missed

in my life,

in this empty house,

and in “The Greatest Spectacle in Guiding.”

 

 

Enjoy this day–International Guide Dog Day!

Alice

 

Post-script: Since this week is also “Independent Book Store Week,” please take the time to visit an independent book store near you.

 

April 27, 2016, Wednesday

 

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8 Comments
  1. Alice. I don’t really know what to say, other than the Medal of Honor, on this National Guide Dog Day, should be awarded to your Zoey, and every day hereafter will mark the beginning of a journey to the heavens above for one of the specialist of special Leader Dogs.
    You have touched my heart with your tribute. I don’t know what else to say, except thank you for sharing as only you can do.
    Thanks for the trip around the Motor Speedway, and God bless.
    dp

  2. Another winning post, dear cousin!

  3. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–It was so enjoyable to read your memories of the Indianapolis 500 race track, both as a child, and later with Zoe. I couldn’t comment yesterday when I read the poem because I reacted to it so emotionally; I’m not sure if there ever was a guide dog more loved and honored than Zoe, and your beautiful poems and stories do make her a champion!–Sue

  4. Oh, Alice, I have such fond memories of our adventures with Zoe that summer of 2014! The visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and Track was definitely a highlight of our trip. Zoe was a great travel companion–a first-place winner for sure!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–Thanks for your nice comment. Although Zoe loved to work and to guide me, she also loved to ride in a car. During our various road trips and just a few flights, Zoe was such a great traveler and adapted so readily to her new surroundings. Thanks for so often being our chauffeur on our special journeys! Alice

  5. Paula Lumb permalink

    Thank you for your raw honesty. It opens up my own heart felt but long forgotten wounds of lost love of the most unselfish four-legged kind! You help us to remember, and honor, such pure devotion. How blessed we are to know of Zoe’s profound gifts to one who truly received them with such a depth of love and appreciation. I am, once again, moved to tears. No words can heal your pain. Prayers continue. Zoe will not be forgotten.

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