Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts: On Raising (and Saying Goodbye) to Guide Dog Puppies

In August of 2011, my sweet basset hound passed away unexpectedly at the veterinarian's office.  Suddenly, I found myself dog-free for the first time in 19 years.  This would just not do.
On the other hand, we weren't quite ready to get another dog.  We could see the empty nest on the not-so-distant horizon; taking on a 10+ year commitment while freedom appeared nearly imminent caused us to hesitate a bit.  (Now, I'm pretty sure "we" could be talked into another pooch, but I really think that big decisions need to be completely agreed upon, and actually the idea of being able to just spontaneously take a weekend trip--for example--with no advance planning required sounded pretty good to me.)

A few weeks after Lucy's death, as I sat in a classroom at BYU's Education Week, a woman walked into class, accompanied by a guide dog puppy in training.  After class, I stopped her and asked her some questions about what being a puppy raiser entailed.  She explained that she raised the puppy from about 9 weeks old to about 16 months old, and that as soon as she finished raising one, she got another one.  She told me to visit the website, www.guidedogs.com if I wanted information on how to become a puppy raiser.

Well, this appealed to me quite a bit.  I had always been interested in helping those who have various challenges; as a teen, I volunteered at Camp Easter Seal, and I worked as a substitute aide at the state School for the Blind.  I could be involved in a charitable work, and enjoy having a puppy in the house all at the same time.  We could take our puppy-raising year by year, without having to make a decade-long commitment.  Perfect. 

When I returned from Education Week, I talked to John about the guide dog puppy idea, and he agreed and supported (yet again) another of my not-so-ordinary notions.  He's really a great man. 

I visited the website, got the contact information for my local group, and called the leader.  She explained how the local club operated, and invited me to the next meeting.  The group welcomed me, and after a month or so, I got to start puppy-sitting Nicki.  Not too many weeks later, we officially became puppy raisers for Reno:

Reno at 9 weeks. He's always been a big boy.

Well, Reno is now almost 16 months old.  We received word last week that he will be headed back to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus next week for his formal training.  We will meet the puppy truck once again, but this time we will be sending a dog at the same time we pick up a puppy. 
 
Probably one of the most common comments I get from people is, "I could never do what you're doing; I just would get too attached." It's not that I don't get attached.  Reno will definitely be missed; he's a great dog, wonderful in public and around people of all ages, and very affectionate at home.  Rather, I compare Reno returning to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus to my kids returning to college.  Sad for me, yes, but how exciting for them!  Off to new adventures, and being prepared to make a difference in the world. 
 
When Reno graduates and is placed with his new partner, we will be invited to the graduation ceremony.  We can exchange information with his partner, and if he/she wants, we can keep in touch.  Reno will (figuratively) open doors for his owner, and truly will be ready to climb any mountain.
 

 
 Thanks for puppies and Guide Dogs for the Blind.


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4 comments:

  1. God bless you for participating in this program.

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  2. You have such a big heart to raise Reno. Thank you. I am sure every blind person out there thanks you. You are making the world a better place. May God bless you and your family.

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  3. This is why God made everyone different. There is no way I could do this, not because of the attachment, but because I am not a fan of raising puppies. Sounds like the perfect program for you to be involved.

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  4. So wonderful you did this great favour for the future owner, to give Reno such a good start in life, raising him and being able to let him go to the next fase of his future job.
    RESPECT!!
    Good luck with sending him on and good luck with the new pup.
    Big hug.

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!