Itzl is 9 years old today. We've been partners for 8 of those years.
For any other dog, this would mean he's at the age where he would be considering retirement. The average length of time a dog is an active service dog is 8 years.
Fortunately for Itzl, he's a Hearing, or Signal, Dog. That means the wear and tear on him from being a service dog is minimal. As a Chihuahua, he can expect to be an active service dog for at least another 5 - 8 years, perhaps longer. The average lifespan of a Chihuahua is 14-19 years and it's not uncommon for them to live into their 20's if they are well cared for.
Itzl is very well-cared for.
From the time we rescued him as a 4 ounce puppy:
he's been well-cared-for
When he began his training as a service dog, he was in that awkward teen phase, where he'd lost his puppy fuzz and hadn't yet gotten his pretty long-haired coat in (it generally takes about 4 years for a long-haired Chihuahua to get its full coat).
But now, he's a dog confident of his abilities and sure of his place in the world:
On my desk at work, all quiet today as almost everyone is gone for furlough. The first of the month and Fridays are the biggest days for absenteeism due to furloughs.
Usually, Itzl celebrates his birthday at MedFair
And we may do something for him then, too.
Today, he gets some buffalo roast (his favorite!) with sweet potatoes and asparagus (with a squeeze of lemon juice, just the way he likes it!), decorated up to look like a birthday cake. Not that he particularly cares, as long as it's buffalo, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.
As far as he's concerned, today is just another day, where he alerts to sounds (the train, three sirens, and an angry mockingbird so far).
I must have gotten too close to the nest
Itzl has been a remarkable dog for the past 9 years, and I hope he will remain as remarkable for the next 9 years.