Up at three-thirty a.m. for a fire call, home at five. Couldn’t sleep. Dawn is my favorite time of day, and there’s much to ponder.
The elephant in the room inside my head is the intensity of disappointment that comes with what happened last Thursday: Mayzie, aka Amazing Grace, my beautiful German shepherd dog, tested, and failed, and was released from the training program of our SAR unit. After two and a half years and 250+ training trails, she will not move forward, will never be “mission ready,” will no longer get to go to work.
The decision is apt, hard though it is. Mayzie is a very good SAR dog — but not great. Not reliable enough to be able to go out in the rain at 2 a.m. to find a missing toddler. That’s what our dogs need to be able and ready to go do. I understand and respect the need for that level of capability.
But that doesn’t ease the gut-wrench of trying, of working really, really hard to make us the best team she and I could be to earn the chance to reach that magical status where she could help someone in distress for real. Even though I agree that it’s the right decision for Mayzie, the passage from eligible to sidelined is a damned wretched trip, filled with sadness.
So, my readers, this is the news: Mayzie is retired.
On the scale of world events that are increasingly horrific by the day (Orlando, Nice, who-knows-where today), my disappointment is a small thing. But it is big to me, and it will be honored, and then let go. It’ll take time. My friends and family and SAR colleagues are there for me. Although such a personal disappointment as this feels immense to me (and to others central to it), it’s a big universe, and we each play only a bit part in our brief time here on this planet. This will pass.
The trick is the transition, because I’ll still be going to K9 trainings, working with other teams to build their capabilities. I am not going to quit because Team Mayzie has gone quiet. There is a larger team here, and dogs coming along who have great promise. I love the role of flanker — I loved it before I got Mayzie, and even considered not even getting a K9 for awhile, until she came along. I am a member of a team which can benefit from eyes honed to watch canine search behaviors, assist handlers to recognize those subtle communications that can spell the difference between finding that toddler out in the night rain, or not. Being an asset to a team isn’t only about getting your own way; it’s about getting the team to be its best, and I know I can help do that. Will do that. Have to do that.
Meanwhile, Mayzie can be my friend, that soul who is always happy to see me, who loves me without judgment or accusation that maybe I should have done better at helping her learn the craft of searching. Having her in my life is saying a lot, actually. She doesn’t know she “failed.” She doesn’t know that fun game we’ve done for 2-1/2 years is over. She’s fine, and will continue to be the canine love of my life. We’ll be ok, once the sting of all this fades.