"Not My Dog": Tales from Puppy Raising

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why I love Twitter

You can't imagine how happy I was to read my email one morning and find out that Nettie is following me on Twitter.

I always said she was smart, and she's so smart, she can tweet. :-)

Rachel's pretty busy, but she tries to tweet now & then to let me know what's up. "Nettie" sent me Mother's Day wishes, for instance. I also hear about their doings via Facebook. Rachel went to China & Japan, but poor Nettie had to stay home -- too much red tape.

Isn't technology grand?

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm baaack .. with a happy face this time!


Wow. A lot's been going on. My livelihood has been up in the air for 14 months now, and forgive me, but it's starting to wear on me. However, if I get laid off, I'm on the phone ASAP to the GEB RM to get a pup to raise.

Anyway ...

In the "Gone, but not forgotten" category:

Bob took Andrew to the pediatric dentist on Thursday; as they cleaned Andrew's teeth, he admired the hygienist's photos of her Labs. They chatted, he mentioned we raise for GEB, and she asked if we go to Edgewood Animal Clinic. We do -- so does she -- and that's where she'd seen Murphy & Nettie's graduation pictures.

Murphy, she told Bob, was "the most handsome Lab I've ever seen."

And I can't disagree.

More to come later ... I'm resolved to keep this going even without a pup. And my big consolation is that if I become involuntarily unemployed, I'm going to raise a pup again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Churlish, so very churlish

"Blind faith."

I picked up my issue of O Magazine right before bed, and found an article headlined "Blind Faith". It's written by a longtime GEB volunteer, who fosters a brood. She interviewed four of the people who got pups from her dog's (her phrase, not mine) A-litter, about their lives, about the "blind faith" they put in the dog each day.

I should be elated, but I'm sorry to say, that was not my first reaction. I am feeling churlish, purely churlish, and here's why.

So you foster a brood. Well, good for you. Good for the four people who got the A puppies.

The article talks about the pups being born, then jumps to their lives with their partners. And in between, almost as an afterthought:

"At eight weeks, they go to puppy raisers, volunteers who train them at home before giving them up for the important work they will learn to do."

Sure, that's a fair summary, but it missed a few points.

Volunteers who housebreak those 8-week-old puppies, sacrificing sleep to be outside late at night and out again at crack of dawn.

Volunteers who agonize and fret over these pups, worrying about their progress, probably almost as much as we do over human children.

Volunteers for whom training that pup becomes their hobby, what they do with large chunks of their free time.

Volunteers who love that pup fiercely, who believe in it with all their hearts, who do this knowing that it is not their dog and, if they do their job right, never will be.

Volunteers who, more often than not now, are doing this for more than a year.

Volunteers who watch the dog graduate with smiles and tears, who know (or come to learn) that they almost always will never hear of it again, and who accept (or come to accept) that this is the way it's going to be.

Reading the article for a second time, I see that the author mentions having been a puppy raiser, so I'm somewhat surprised she seemingly glossed over that process.

I'm sincerely not downplaying the role of raising a brood. It is commitment. It is work. It is important.

But, it is easier. While technically the dog belongs to GEB, it lives with you. When it retires, it often stays with you. You don't have that mental countdown looming, that seeming endless procession of 'lasts' as IFT day draws near.

I didn't feel those 'lasts' as keenly with Murphy. With Nettie, I cried in the car after our last trip together to Target, the scene of our highs (the Saturday before Christmas! Flawless! Unruffled!) and lows (the only time she ever pooped inside, and it was totally my fault.)

So yes, raising a brood is important, and don't get me wrong: GEB couldn't function without the people who do this work.

But you want to know what "blind faith" is?

Blind faith is talking to your 7-year-old about why Mom wants to raise another GEB pup, instead of getting one of those yellow lab pups advertised for sale on the flier at the vet's office. Blind faith is hoping with all your heart that you're not hurting him, as he says wistfully, "but I'd kind of like a forever dog this time."

Blind faith is figuring out how -- or if -- I can train another GEB pup, and do the job right, with a toddler in the house and an increasingly precarious job situation.

Blind faith is believing that I can kickstart myself again and try to be a more accepting person and get over my bad self in this fit of churlishness. Blind faith is that the next time around, I'll believe in my own self, the way I can believe in a pup, and silence that inner voice that tells me that no one really wants to read what I'd write about raising a dog that isn't mine. Blind faith is that it's ok to pour our my emotions tonight, raw as they may be at the moment.

Blind faith is still wanting to find a way, when there are so many reasons it would be easy not to.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Puppy raising pop culture

On "30 Rock" tonight, as Liz and Jenna discuss whether Liz's neighbor is too perfect for her. Liz thinks he might be: "He trains Seeing Eye dogs at home!"

My husband is preening as we speak.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A beautiful story

I came across this beautiful article online about the experience of a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as she retired her first guide and got her second.

It resonated with me -- both as a fellow journalist, and because both Murphy and Nettie were the second guides for Lance and Rachel, and I know it was a bittersweet time for them.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Still alive here!

It's really hard to blog about puppy raising when you aren't raising a puppy.

We did survive a key test: We puppy-sat for a weekend in December, and it went really well. Winston is a handsome 16-month-old boy who's going IFT in March. He is so calm and well-behaved, lovely house manners. He was wonderful with the kids, even though he's not normally around small ones. My husband was ready to steal him and not give him back to his raiser!

The weekend we had him, we even got snow -- about 18 inches over the course of the weekend. It was so much fun to be outside romping in the snow with a Lab again ... even if Winston managed to lose not one, but two toys in deep drifts! Ah, well, they'll turn up again.

Here's Winston and the kids.

So husband is now talking about next puppy around May .. we shall see. There's a lot up in the air right now, including my work situation. Hopefully we will have some answers by March.

I'm still staying involved in GEB; I do the Maine region website, and I may be mentoring a new raiser, if she decides to go ahead and get a pup.

Oh, my other thing to share: Cool Christmas present! My husband got me a red fleece vest with the GEB logo. Very warm and stylish, and very handy for working a pup!

My other plan for 2009 is to do a better job at keeping up with everyone else's blogs.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Maine GEB on TV here

The local TV station did a feature on puppy raising, focusing quite a bit on one of our raisers whose son is with his second guide dog from GEB. Unfortunately they got my friend Nina's name wrong, and I would have liked to have had them talk more about the socialization aspect of training -- I think it would have been good to educate the public about why we're bringing the pups into places, and how they ought to behave when they encounter us! Oh, well - there's my media criticism. :-)