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Remembering Two Special Days in June

June 7, 2017


Remembering Two Special Days in June and Two Extraordinary Leader Dogs


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



“You are getting a female Black Lab, and her name is Willow,” announced Christie, my guide dog/mobility instructor (GDMI), one year ago this morning, at about 9:07 (Eastern Time).


“Oh, how pretty!” I responded with tears of joy squeezing my vocal cords.


“It’s very pretty, and she’s just as pretty as her name,” my–our–trainer continued.




Fortunately, I audio-recorded this awesome moment so that I can cherish this happy time of being given my fourth Leader Dog and so that I can more exactly share the exciting moment with you.


Before Christie left my dorm room at Leader Dog School to get Willow, the instructor added:  “I love that name; and it fits her because she’s graceful and gentle and beautiful like a willow tree.  Okay, I’ll go get her and be right back.”


After having endured the seemingly terribly long period of waiting for my fourth Leader Dog–March 16, 2016 to June 7, 2016–I could quite easily wait a few more minutes.


My heart had been so broken when my Zoe, my third Leader Dog, passed away extremely suddenly and unexpectedly on the sixteenth of March; however, all of those broken pieces of my heart fluttered happily in anticipation  of finally meeting my fourth guide dog.  When Christie returned to my room and told me to call “my dog,” I was so excited that I forgot to re-activate the audio-recorder.  Despite my not recalling the exact words that transpired, I know that I did call Willow and my fourth Leader Dog came to me like a long-lost friend–or one mighty happy dog of two-and-a-half years.  Thus, with much love and gratitude, I began a new chapter in my life with intelligent, devoted, delightful, and endearing dogs.


As those early days, first weeks, and twelve months have passed with our getting to know each other and learning to work together, I still miss my practically perfect Zoe.  Yesterday, Willow and I marked the anniversary of my receiving Zoe on June 6, 2009, by walking 54 blocks.


Some coincidences of life are especially intriguing:  I think of my grandfather clock, my gift to my parents on their 40th wedding anniversary.  I love this family heirloom; but shortly before Zoe’s passing, the grandfather clock stopped working.  I could not re-start the melodious clock.  With Zoe’s passing, my going to Michigan for training with Willow at Leader Dogs for the Blind, my writing and having published my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season to honor Zoe’s memory, and a variety of other happenings–I never called about having the clock repaired until recently.  Then, I realized that the appointment for the visit of the clock repairman was to be June 6–Zoe’s special day.  Tom T. said that all of the workings of the clock were in very good shape; he thought the only problem was that the timing mechanism was off and was preventing the pendulum from working.  After over a year of no chimes, no marking of each hour–my grandfather clock began ticking and chiming again yesterday–I think, to mark the anniversary of my receiving Zoe.  Late last night, I realized that Willow was hearing the clock for the first time:  she did not mind the quarter hour reminders of passing time.  Together, Willow and I are moving forward.


Through the saddest of times and the happiest of times, with or without a working grandfather clock, time does pass.  The passing time does not make me less grateful, but ever more grateful to Leader Dogs for the Blind (Rochester, Michigan), all the trainers and support staff, as well as those who generously donate to Leader Dogs for the Blind for making possible my four amazing Leader Dogs:  Keller, a Golden Retriever (March 21, 1990); Heather, a Yellow Lab (April 15, 1998); Zoe, a Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix (June 6, 2009); and Willow, a British Black Lab (June 7, 2016).  (While I know that many readers know the names of my guide dogs, their breeds, and the years when they came into my life, I repeat this information for new readers of Wordwalk and for myself as a litany of love for my Leader Dogs.)  Daily, I highly respect and am enormously grateful for all that my guide dogs have made possible and continue to make possible in my life.


Oh, what a beautiful day this has been in Milwaukee to celebrate this milestone with long walks with my precious Willow!  55 glorious blocks of independent walking for us today!


Wishing you many summer blessings and a happy June,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


June 7, 2017, Wednesday


POST-SCRIPT:  I am still trying to learn and fine-tune all the aspects of the new speech software which I am using.  While I have learned much, I know I have much more to comprehend and put into practice.



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  1. Dear Alice. Such a fitting tribute to the paws that have graced your life. This post really reached out and grabbed hold of me, and I thank you for that and wish you and Lady Willow many, many blocks of glorious travel together. Best always, dp

    Sent from my wicked smart Windows 10 machine

    • Deon–Many thanks for letting me know how you felt about this post. I am always glad to have a comment from you added to one of my posts.

      I hope that many of my WORDWALK readers will check out your blog where you have been posting journal entries from when you were first experiencing sight loss; the link to Deon’s blog is:

      Take care–Alice

  2. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    The tribute to your precious Leader Dogs Illustrates so beautifully how much you treasure them and the valuable guidance they have given you through the years. I think that if those four brilliant dogs could write a tribute to their skilled and loving companion, they certainly would! Your meticulous care in always providing a healthy diet, proper exercise, valuable experiences, comfortable beds, playful toys, and, of course, loads of love, praise, and affection is worthy of recognition.
    Love and Blessings to all,

    • Mary–Well, what can I say? Only an older sister could write such a comment–especially a sister who will soon be celebrating a birthday which ends with a zero.

      Thanks always–Alice and Willow

  3. Alice, your meeting Willow for the first time moved me almost to tears. When you mentioned your grandfather clock stopping before Zoe died, it reminded me of the song “My Grandfather’s Clock,” in which the clock stopped the day the grandfather passed. I hope you, Willow, and your clock have many happy, healthy years together.

    • Abbie–Thanks for your very nice comment. I will check out the song which you mentioned.

      Take care–Alice

  4. That’s a good idea, Alice. You might be able to find it on YouTube.

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