SAINTS PRESERVE US
A Dog’s Calling
Sparky is a certified Emotional Support Animal (ESA). He is a mid-sized mutt, short haired, handsome, curious and alert. He took some time out of his busy day to speak with meGeoff. We’d arranged to meet in a dog park on the elevated and steep south shore bank of the
North Saskatchewan River.
The air was crisp with fall but the sky was a lovely and clear pale blue.
Sparky munched on bone-shaped biscuits as we chatted while meGeoff got legally baked for the first time ever.
meGeoff: Tell me how you first became involved in the ESA program.
Sparky: It’s a bit of a long story, a shaggy dog, if you will. Since I was whelped I dreamed of being a service dog. So when I became a pup I auditioned for the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind). That did not go well. There was an incident at a crosswalk involving a bus and a squirrel. Subsequently I was diagnosed with a touch of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I tried to be a drug-sniffer but I already had about a million scents catalogued in my head and anyway, cocaine made me crazy. In a good way, not! Bomb-sniffing was out of the question, as if.
Sparky: Well, the great thing about being an ESA is that absolutely zero training is involved. No qualifications required! Some human with a bit of paper framed on their office wall says you’re an ESA and then away you go. It’s a noble calling. You just need the right owner. It’s a bit like a lottery, I suppose. At the end of the day, you know, from 30,000 feet, I’m just a lucky dog.
meGeoff: Seems to me you’ve found a sense of fulfillment, given your life some meaning.
Sparky: I can go anywhere, man. I wish I’d been named Rex which means ‘king.’ Places other dogs can’t go: hotels, airplanes, grocery stores… To be honest, I find grocery stores particularly stressful.
meGeoff: How so?
Sparky: Well, it’s a bit like a pothead in a cannabis store. An analogy you’d understand – not that I’m judging because I don’t, I’m incapable - but c’mon, the meat aisle, the cereal aisle. The pet food aisle is a special form of hell. All that kibble…
meGeoff: How do you cope? How do you restrain yourself?
Sparky: I get help. I attend a support group once a week.
meGeoff: Excuse me?
Sparky: Hey, you try living with a depressed and anxious person every waking minute of every day. You’re always on call even as you worship them. My friend Walt the Cat, an ESA who’s never worked a full day in his life by the way, tears his fur out the few hours he’s actually awake, lazy tabby bastard that he is, but you get the picture. We’re all a little wired. Love sick, I guess you could say, a bit needy. But to make a long story short, caregivers need care. I can self-medicate, I mean I can lick my-
meGeoff: I get it.
Sparky: Hang on! Is that my owner over there standing at the edge?
meGeoff: Yeah, it’s a place we locals call ‘The End of the World.’
Sparky: What’s the drop?
meGeoff: About 20 metres.
Sparky: Damn! I better get going. ‘Put my Lassie voice on,’ as we say in the biz. Pardon the jargon but you know how it is with niche industries; you said when you first introduced yourself that you’d worked in advertising, didn’t you? Anyway, thanks for the Milk Bones. Nice chatting with you. Gotta run!
meGeoff: Godspeed, Sparky.
Sparky: Whoa, whoa! Wait a doggone minute. Did you see the way that squirrel just looked at me? Look at that smug, chirping little rodent. Bastard needs to be taught a lesson right here and right now. Hold my treat.
meGeoff: Uh… Mind if I have a bite?