Hazel was your typical puppy. I always jokingly referred to her as the "demon puppy" because she was much more nippy and intense than any other pup I had raised or met. However, that intensity served her well as a service dog. I remember at just 3-4 months old, we took her to a 4th of July parade as a socialization experience. They fired a cannon off 10 feet in front of us, she briefly startled, then was like "what was that? lets go investigate!!". That dog could bounce back from anything and was absolutely fearless.
She loved everything: Dogs, People, and most especially children. Although extremely energetic, she had an intuitive sense of how much energy a situation required. When with a dog, she'd put her whole heart into it. When with a child, she'd lay down completely still and let the kid hug her, touch her face, whatever. The only sign that she loved it was her furiously wagging tail that she just couldn't seem to make as gentle as the rest of her.
The greatest joy she had was in working. She loved being a service dog for the brief time she was able to work. Her first "official" outing as a service dog, after her many months of training, was to a movie. I was so nervous. We sat in the first row of seats, right where the rail is for the handicapped seating in front. She laid quietly under my feet, with her head propped up on the rail, watching the movie with me. She went everywhere with me after that. The first time we took her to church and everyone started singing, she started singing along!! I was quite surprised and embarrassed, because she had never done anything like that before. However, the people around her were entertained and very forgiving, and she learned to not sing the next week.
She was my PTSD service dog. Her main job was to sense dissociative fugues and panic attacks, and alert and respond to them. She was so proud of her alerting, pawing me on the leg with an excited look, "did I do good? Where's my treat?". She got so good at alerting, that she must have done it by scent after awhile instead of the body language cues I taught her to respond to. She could tell if something was wrong with me through two closed doors and a kennel and would bark until I came to let her out to take care of me.
Before Hazel, I was always uncertain. I could "wake up" after a black out two hours away from my house, with no idea of where I was. Hazel changed all of that. She alerted far enough in advance that the dissociation almost stopped completely. One of my most impressive memories of her was waking up, about to wander into a street, with her positioned protectively in front of me barking her head off and jumping up on my chest to stop me. I hadn't trained her to respond in that way, but thank goodness she did.
My husband, who was uncertain about even getting a dog, always said she was worth her weight in gold and he was right. She gave both me and him tremendous peace of mind. She helped me to grow as a trainer, and as a person. After losing her, I realize now how much I depended on her, but also how much better I am now than before having her. Teaching her to be a service dog helped me to grow along with her, better understanding myself and my condition, healing me without me even realizing it.
I always imagined that everyone in heaven can't be happy all the time. Maybe this is an unconventional view, but I just can't imagine pure happiness while waiting for my loved ones to cross over too. I think to myself now that maybe she is up there now, passing her time pawing the legs and licking the faces of those who are a bit sad as they wait for someone they love, trying to make them feel a bit better. Continuing to do the work she loved and was so dedicated to here.
The house is quieter and lonely now, but she left her mark. I will never forget the lessons Hazel taught me, or the unconditional love and service she gave.