Learning to Trust
You know how it is: trust is not something you just give away, it has to be earned.
It’s the same way when a blind person trains with a guide dog. You don’t simply meet the dog, grab the harness handle and instantly entrust your life and safety–no matter how charming and adorable the canine.
Learning to trust takes time, and a whole lot of practice. It takes walks at dawn and walks after dark. It takes dealing with sidewalk obstacles, areas without sidewalks, rainy weather, sunny weather, freezing weather, crowds of people, barking dogs and even an occasional squirrel.
Of course, when we started, Ari and I had the protective eyes of GDB trainers looking out for us. But eventually it was up to us, just my buddy Ari at the “wheel” and me as navigator.
After a month of supervision, we came home to Salem and started learning to trust each other in our neighborhood. We practiced walking to and from Temple Beth Sholom for services, learned our way around the sanctuary, the social hall, and the classrooms downstairs.
We became a pretty efficient team, Ari and me, but we weren’t perfect.
Street crossings were no problem, and Ari was spot on when it came to finding the mailbox on 12th street. But he was a dog after all, and a Lab at that. And Labs love food.
At GDB Ari passed every kind of test. He alerted me to low-hanging branches which might have smacked me in the face. He pulled me out of “danger “during a training exercise involving a reckless driver.
But he failed ham. Yes, when the trainer offered him a piece of ham which he was supposed to refuse because it came from a stranger, he grabbed it. He grabbed it with husto and delight.
Oh my, I just thought of something. Do you think he understood he was going home with a Jewish gal?
Well, be that as it may, I’ll never forget the Friday evening when he actually stood up–yes, on his hind feet, fully standing–as we all recited the blessings over the challah (bread) and wine.
“Down, Ari,” I whispered urgently.
He obliged me with his usual air of innocence, and settled sweetly at my feet. But he never lost his love for challah.
In fact, at one of his last Saturday morning services before retirement, he was standing beside me in the social hall when I realized something was going on. Ari was chewing.
“Lou,” I said to the 90-something year old man on Ari’s other side, “did you give Ari a piece of your challah?”
“Of course,” he replied.
If it had been anyone else, even on Ari’s last visit to TBS, I would have corrected them both–Lou more gently. It takes a community, after all, to keep a good working team good.
It takes a community, a lot of practice, and a whole lot of love and trust
Good thing Ari was such a master pupil!