Imagine you are in teachers’ college. You spent time in plenty of classrooms as a student, you’ve observed in classrooms through your training, but this is your first time in front of a full classroom of disrespectful, misbehaving junior high students. And not only is the class’s usual teacher there to evaluate you, the school principal has dropped by, and the school board superintendent is visiting the school and decides to visit to your class.
Keep this story in mind as I tell you about our inaugural PALS experience. Yesterday afternoon, Jelly and I packed our little bag with dog treats, toys, and a blanket, and took the train downtown. Jelly was so excited she began howling in the echoey station as we bought our ticket.
Dogs are welcome on public transit in our fair city. I’m assuming many fellow travellers wondered if Jelly was my therapy pet, possibly sensing my acute anxiety, when in fact she was my travel companion. After diligently licking the train platform clean, Jelly settled once we were on the train. We arrived at our destination absurdly early, loitered outside in the cold only briefly, and went in.
Jelly and I were attending a major event, the Art Market artisan craft fair, where our talented silversmith friend Simon displays his wares at a coveted booth every year. (You can check out his website here.) We were not there to shop, although I did spot some artisan dog treats; we were there to man-and-dog the PALS booth. My job was to inform people of all the good that PALS does, and Jelly’s to share her love far and wide.
Imagine anxious Annie, the newby, trying to ensure that Jelly and I are not booted out of PALS before we begin. There were several other experienced PALS participants there with their dogs (consider them the teachers and perhaps the odd principal). To top things off, the executive director of PALS (yes, the superintendent) was there keeping watch over her volunteers as she promoted the program.
We were acing it for most of our two-hour shift. Jelly accepted affection from people of all ages and sizes and colours, showing a particular fondness for the children. I daresay she was a hit. People even complimented her on her calm disposition. (Calm? Jelly? She jumped on our dining room table not so long ago. She off leashes regularly in the house. Are we talking about the same dog?)
Then Mother Superior (a.k.a. J.) and our dear Basset-loving friend showed up to drive us home–by that point I was practically sleepwalking–and Jelly started howling, as if she hadn’t seen her preferred mother for months. Her voice echoed through the grand atrium, causing many a neck to crane our way. I was sure Jelly had just made our first PALS outing our last. In fact, Jelly’s irrepressible joy enticed many shoppers over to meet the little dog with the big voice.
As Jelly lost all control, I sheepishly caught the eye of Ms. Grand Poobah, and saw that she too was smiling. Thank goodness she has a sense of humour. Maybe we’ll live to see another visit after all.