Meet, Ethan, Oliver’s dog guide:


He came into our life pretty much as we were told: we waited in our room in nervous anticipation, there was a knock, we opened the door, and there he was, a lanky, cuddly (yes, I am the kind of guy who uses the word “cuddly” now), super-smart Standard Poodle. Cream, technically, but given his close-cropped cut, a pinky-white when you see him.

Yesterday was taken up exclusively with getting-to-know-each-other activities. We learned how to give commands – including, given his eventual duties with Oliver, the need to “stay” at every door opening and at the top of every staircase and wait until “forward” – and how much and how often to feed him and give him water, and how he should behave when he’s “on duty” (wearing his vest) and “off duty” (at home). And we got to experience the joys of hanging out in the central peeing facility (yes, there is a central peeing facility).

We even got to experience our first bout of “actually, no, you can’t pet him” when my brother Mike, bless him for being the first, dropped Catherine off after her brief sojourn into Burlington to see Oliver and my family.

That, “no, you can’t pet him” (or play with him, or let him sniff your hand, or pat him on the head, or give him commands, or give him treats, or, well, anything) will, I think, be the hardest part of life with Ethan. He is, fundamentally, a working dog: his job is to be an important part of Oliver’s life, a sort of emotional prosthetic device. Catherine and I are his handlers, Oliver is his client, so to speak, and the rest of you, well, you don’t factor into the equation.

On one level this is really a shame, as he really is — you’ll have to take my word for it — a super-affectionate “let me nuzzle my snout into your armpit” dog. And he’s allowed to nuzzle his snout into my armpit because when he’s off duty an inside our house, he’s still, after all, a dog. But this arrangement is the only way that he can be effective with Oliver: if he’s forming bonds with y’all, this isn’t going to work as it’s supposed to.  So, in advance, sorry.

Today is my last day here in Oakville – I’m back to Burlington tonight to pick up Oliver and head into the city tomorrow for our quick vacation. I didn’t anticipate that I would regret this decision. Not the decision to rejoin Oliver, but the one to leave Ethan. Who ever thought I would actually like him. Miss him, even.

Wonders, it seems, will never cease.