Summer is fabulous. It’s a time for swimming, sports, walking in the late evening, and sitting outside on the porch listening to the night insects and crickets as they sing their good night songs. And, summer is also a wonderful time to go on a family vacation. My family and I love going on vacations together, and one of our favorite places to go is Branson, Missouri. If we cannot think of anywhere else to go, we all agree that Branson has the things we love. These things usually include go-carts, fun Southern Gospel Shows, and one of the best water parks to attend. Because my family and I have gone to Branson for many years, both Errol and Joba have had the privilege of attending family vacations with me. Now I will remind you that I never had both dogs on a trip at the same time. Errol was gone before I got Joba. I just wanted to clarify that so as you are reading this, you do not get confused and think I was using two guide dogs at the same time. Even though my guide dogs are strictly my dogs, we all consider them a member of the family. Taking this into consideration, my dogs usually go everywhere with us. However, they usually do not go to the waterpark, mostly because I wouldn’t have a place to leave either of them. One of us would have had to stay with my guide dog, and that just takes away from the family part of it. We wouldn’t be able to go all together on the huge family slide that is our Branson tradition. I don’t think my dogs would have been too happy riding those slides. Actually, I’m not even sure they would forgive me, and dogs are very forgiving. Anyway, aside from the waterpark, both dogs have gone everywhere else with us, and they have enjoyed it. I feel that having my guide dog with me on vacation can allow me to walk independently, following my family through bustling shops, sidewalks, and theaters. Being able to have them with me is a privilege.
Another one of our favorite things to do is go to a little ice cream shop to eat huge, delicious chocolate ice cream cones. One night, Dad had given me and my sister ice cream cones, and Mom and Dad went in to get something. So, it was just me, my sister, and Errol. Errol, of course, was looking up at me with puppy eyes because he wanted ice cream. Just then, an older couple approached us, and we began a conversation about my dog. Well, I wasn’t paying attention, and my ice cream was melting everywhere because, for one thing, we were sitting outside in the warm, evening summer air. Needless to say, when we finally finished talking about how wonderful labs are, my mom and dad came outside, looked at me, and laughed. I had ice cream covering my lips and nose, and it was continuing to drip down. To this day, I claim it is not my fault. I was distracted.
One thing I always seem to notice is the wonderful way both of my dogs worked so well in unfamiliar territories. They would always pay attention, assisting me in getting from point a to point b. Not only were they fabulous travelers, but both of them did really well in the long car ride. Of course, we would have to stop so my guide dog could relieve himself and walk around a bit, but they usually slept most of the trip. One particular time, we were heading to Pennsylvania for my cousin’s wedding. We had the idea to let Errol have one of his toys to chew on. This toy was a rubber ball. We had Errol in the way back on his bed, so I threw the ball back there for him. Later, when we looked, half of the ball was gone. The next few days while we were in Pennsylvania, Errol threw up that ball. It wasn’t very pleasant. So, note to self, don’t let your guide dog chew nonstop on a rubber ball. Unpleasant consequences will most likely occur.
But what about Joba? Did we have any funny moments with him? So far, there are not any that come to mind. However, the first summer I had him home, we traveled back to Pennsylvania to see my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Joba was still a new dog, so I was worried that the trip might stress him out. We had a wonderful bond, but our partnership was not as strong then as it is now. This is basically because a partnership like this can take a long time to completely develop. I was thinking about this as we were getting ready to go, but like Errol, he was very good at traveling. After spending a few days with my aunt and uncle, we went to New Jersey to spend a couple days on the beach of Ocean City. Now this was a new experience. The last time I had been at the ocean was when I was 15, and I didn’t have my dog yet. I wondered if Joba would like the beach. This is one of the best memories I have, walking through the sand, Joba sort of hopping along, trying to figure out how to guide me. Once in a while, we could hear a slight, vocal protest coming from Joba. You must know that Joba does not like to get his feet dirty. However, when we went back the next day, Joba seemed excited to be on the beach. The only downside to having him there was that our whole family couldn’t go into the water together because I couldn’t just leave Joba alone. Usually when we go to the ocean, we all go out into the water and jump the waves. As we heard the wave come crashing in, we would prepare ourselves and then jump as it flooded over our feet and began to rise above our heads depending on the size of the wave, lifting our heads so as not to get sand and salt water in our eyes and mouth. Don’t know if you’ve ever tasted ocean salt water, but it’s not very pleasant to swallow. Anyway, because we had the dog, we couldn’t all go out together. Sometimes, two of us would go out into the water, and the other two would stay with the dog. Either way, we had fun, and Joba enjoyed basking in the sun. I’m not sure what he would have done in the water, but I guess I’m not really familiar enough with the ocean to bring him out in the water with us. We weren’t always out there very deep, but Joba, even though he is supposed to be a water dog, hates water.
As my sister and I get older and both of us are either beginning careers or finishing school, it is becoming harder to plan these fun family vacations. I sure hope we will be able to travel somewhere some time again. It would be fun to see what memories we might make altogether, me, my family, and my guide dog. Family vacations are the best, aren’t they?