"Hello, Goodbye, I Love You"
(The Story of Aloha, A Guide Dog for the Blind)

Chapter Nineteen

God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our
conscience and shouts in our pain.
�C.S. Lewis

The call came Friday afternoon. Diego answered the phone.
      �Hi Diego. This is Nancy. How are you today?� Diego�s heart sank. He knew what the call was about. He didn�t want to hear it.
      �Fine, thanks,� he managed to get out.
      �Guide Dogs thinks Aloha is ready to be returned to campus. You�ve done an amazing job with her, and now it�s their turn to work with her. Can you take her out there next Saturday
afternoon?� Nancy asked gently.
      �I think so. Will Jeremy take Alma too?� he replied.
      �Yes, Diego. I�ve just spoken to him. Perhaps you can bring them together.�
      He felt dizzy and went to sit on his bed. He thought it felt like a movie, not his life. He picked up the leash and called to his dog.
      Diego was walking Aloha through the thick pine trees in the woods she loved, but he felt no peace. His parents had suggested that he take her there for a long walk, hoping that the quiet beauty of the forest would raise his spirits. It wasn�t working. Finally, he crouched down and gave her a kiss.
      Amig�ita, will you always remember me?� he asked her, his voice raw with pain. �Next week you�ll leave me and become a star and make me so proud. But I�m having a real hard time letting you go.�
      Suddenly Diego felt overwhelmed with sadness. He knelt over her back and circled her chest with his arms, letting the tears run down his face onto her soft fur until he could cry no more. Aloha turned her head around to watch him, licking his tears and offering her paw as if to coax him into a new game.
Diego understood now what a broken heart felt like. In the woods, surrounded by his raw grief, another realization slowly came to him. Love was the basis of all their training! Her love for him was the reason she sacrificed her instincts and obeyed him. He now understood that Aloha loved him too!
      After a while, Diego stood up and took the leash.
      �Aloha, let�s go home.� He gently kissed her nose. They set off at a fast pace, running the last few blocks. Aloha was happy with the exercise. Diego felt tired and drained.
      Clara met them at the door. �Diego, Mam� wants us to wash up for supper. We�re going to the baseball game and we have to hurry,� she explained softly as she noticed his swollen eyes.
      He gave her a weak smile and she took Aloha�s leash from his hand. �I�ll feed her,� she offered. Diego accepted gratefully, knowing that tonight would be the last baseball game Aloha would share with them. Unless, he thought�unless shegets dropped from the program and I get her back!
      He wondered why he kept considering that option. Aloha would be an excellent guide dog and he knew she would move quickly through the training stages. But try as hard as he could, the idea that she might not graduate played again and again through his mind like a song.
      The family was quiet and solemn during supper. Each one of them accepted the air of sadness that clouded their spirits. Finally, Ernesto suggested that it was time to leave for the
      Aloha accompanied them, sitting happily at Diego�s feet. Soon after they arrived at the stadium, Diego found Jeremy and Alma and sat with them. Somehow, that made it easier to face the reality of the next few days. Both boys were reserved and sat with their heads in their hands, barely concentrating on the game. After the game, the two families made plans for the ride to Boring the following Saturday. Jeremy�s father would take both boys and their dogs. Clara watched them through serious eyes. She couldn�t keep the tears from falling. The other family members decided they would stay home. Diego didn�t blame them, and secretly wished he could be spared that final �goodbye� in front of the trainers.
      School was now in session and the boys took their dogs with them the following week. Their schoolmates gathered around them to wish the dogs well. Some of them put their arms around their friends� shoulders and offered them consolation and kind wishes.
      On Saturday morning, Jeremy�s father arrived to pick them up with both dogs� gear. They drove to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus as the wind blew and a shower of autumn leaves fell from the trees. Both boys spent their time in the car talking quietly to Alma and Aloha.
      There were other raisers saying goodbye to their dogs. Diego discovered that the adults were not embarrassed to show their emotions. They wept openly and hugged their dogs close to them. The trainers stood back respectfully and gave them all the time they needed. Diego and Jeremy had
talked about this and both boys agreed not to prolong the pain of the moment.
      Diego took Aloha to a corner of the lawn and sat down with her. �This is goodbye for now, my sweet girl,� he told her as he held her close. �I will pray for you and your success. I�m turning you over to the best trainers you could have. Now it�s up to you to make me proud.�
      Aloha turned her liquid chocolate brown eyes toward his and held his gaze. Diego knew that she understood.
      �Aloha, I�ll be checking up on you. And I�ll come back to your graduation,� he promised her. �Goodbye, Aloha.Don�t forget me. I love you.�
      The trainer led her away and Diego walked back toward the car. He could not look back to watch her leave. He didn�t see her turn her head as she heard him walk away. He didn�t see her wrinkle her nose and send him one last sweet smile.

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