SIDECAR #03 - April 2004
In the last few weeks, Max and I have been on television, in parades and featured in magazines around the country. Of course, all this new publicity has come with the added perks of extra attention from kids of all ages who stop by to meet us and spend a few minutes rubbing behind our ears. And there's nothing better than a good rub behind the ears to make me smile. Max, on the other hand, would prefer some food. That's his favorite thing in life, but between you and me, he could use a few more scratches behind the ear and a few less treats.
Recently, we were invited to ride in one of North Carolina largest parades: The NC Azalea Festival Parade held in Wilmington, North Carolina on April 3, 2004. So, we packed up our sidecars and had our owners drive us to Wilmington. If you've never been to Wilmington, it is on the southeastern corner of North Carolina, along the Cape Fear River and just minutes from the beach. The trip took us several hours, but all the cars that drove by entertained us by honking their horns, laughing and taking pictures of us riding down the highway. You'd think that they had never seen two dogs wearing goggles and riding in sidecars before. Well, I guess maybe they haven't. It is a little unusual, now that I think about it.
Well, anyway, we had been invited to be in this parade by one of our charity partners, Carolina Canines. Rick Hairston, the man who runs the organization, was a great guy and came by several times to make sure we were getting enough attention. But just when Max and I were beginning to act like celebrities, here come all these other dogs trying to steal the show. Well, the nerve of those dogs; that was my first thought. Then I spotted a cute female Golden Retriever and almost forgot my name, but I'll never forget hers.
Her name was Pumpkin and although she didn't ride up on a motorcycle, she was wearing a very stylish pair of goggles. She said she wore them in honor of Max and me joining them in the parade. Well, like any good dog, I puffed out my chest and began telling her just how famous I was. You know, trying to impress her. Isn't that what a dog is supposed to do, strut his stuff?
Max was perhaps the smarter dog on this day, having been very quiet while I was doing all this showing off in front of Pumpkin. And I think she was really falling for me. But I finally stopped my shenanigans and looked behind me when Max pointed in that direction. I noticed that there were now about twenty other dogs that had gathered to join us in the parade. They were all wearing these Carolina Canines' vests to signify that they were working Assistance Dogs, or dogs in training to become Assistance Dogs.
So, this one dog - Saint - says to me, "You have a pretty cool ride with that sidecar, but can you open and close doors for your owner." I looked at Pumpkin, who looked great in her goggles by the way, and then back at this dog and shook my head 'no'. "Hmm," he says. "Okay, well then, can you turn the lights on or off in your house?" Again I had to say 'no' and was really beginning to feel foolish for thinking I was something special. All these other dogs didn't boast or brag, yet they could open doors, turn on lights, pick things off the shelf at their local Wal-Mart and do fifty other things to help their owners. I was just a dog who looked good in his goggles and rode around in a sidecar. I felt like a real failure. Even Pumpkin, that stylish looking female Golden Retriever, could do more things than I could.
But about the time I was feeling as low as a dog can feel - and that's pretty low - Saint breaks into a grin and says, "Hey, I was just busting your chops. You and Max are actually our heroes, because you're out there riding in your sidecars to raise money so that we can get all this special training to help our owners. You're our voice to America." Then he extends a paw to shake my paw and I finally realize that these guys are some pretty special dogs.
These dogs had all been trained to help people with disabilities do things that they couldn't do by themselves. Saint helps his owner David pick things up and open or close doors because David doesn't have the full use of his hands. Gideon helps his owner Edmond get back into his wheelchair when he falls over. As I looked around I noticed that all of these dogs had special skills to help their owners; they were like superheroes wearing their Carolina Canines capes.
I have to say that I was pretty touched by how nice all these dogs were - especially Pumpkin for wearing her goggles in our honor. But one of my favorite memories is when young Matthew Smith came over and gave me hours of attention. Matthew helps his family raise puppies for Carolina Canines, taking care of the puppies until they go off to their advanced training when they are approximately 18-months old. He never said it, but I think he was thanking us for making this charity ride across America so that other people could have an Assistance Dog of their own.
And when we were leaving Wilmington after riding in the Azalea Festival Parade, Rick Hairston - the nice guy I mentioned earlier - let us keep our Carolina Canine capes, making us honorary members of their organization. It was a very proud moment.
Maybe it's not as important to brag about how good you are as it is to actually help others. Hmm, that sounds like something we should all learn.
Until next time, keep your nose-prints off the glass and stay cool in school.