GUS, MIKE, ROSIE
It is impossible not to compare. Three puppies. Among the ranks of veteran puppy-raisers for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I am still a rookie. Yet...I can't help but compare them.
FLD Gus, my third Future Leader Dog puppy, suffers an unfair disadvantage following so closely after FLD Mike, my second Future Leader Dog puppy. Sometimes I am taken aback by how much attention Gus needs, and how much time I spend exercising his mind and body just so that he doesn't get into trouble. Gus's energy reminds me of my first Future Leader Dog puppy, need-to-please-always-ready-to-go Rosie.
FLD Gus is simply a typical puppy, but I've been spoiled by his predecessor, FLD Mike, a laid-back sweetheart who pondered things and like to watch TV. A long walk relaxed him for two days; he was more often than not content to hang out at my feet and take a snooze. If I paused while walking through a store, Mike was quick to slide to the floor until I moved on.
FLD Gus is "scary" smart. On Tuesday, I brought out a "mat" and spent a few minutes showing him that if he goes to the mat, treats will suddenly appear. On Wednesday, I found Gus frequenting the mat on his own accord; I made sure to have a ready supply of food morsels to toss his way. Today (Thursday) when I said, Gus, mat, he strutted to the mat, turned, sat, and looked at me as if to say, "Got it!"
FLD Gus is also determined. To take a walk I must convince him he wants to go, otherwise he balks. A long walk may tire him out for a few hours, but a short nap refills his tank. I must always be prepared to give him something to occupy his mind. Today was his first foray to the Partridge Creek Mall and I walked backwards as much as I walked forwards with him. Everything was a temptation. At a mirror in the store, Parisian, Gus found his voice and argued with his reflection to play. On a positive note, he did successfully alert me to "park" in two different stores!
A NEW GUIDE DOG
The other day I read L^2's blog post, "First vs. Second" on her blog, "Dog's Eye View" about her comparisons between her first guide dog, recently retired Willow (a Leader Dogs for the Blind graduate), and her brand new guide dog, Jack, with whom she is currently training at Guide Dogs of America.
Volunteer puppy-raisers get our puppies by the luck-of-the-draw. We can request a particular breed and/or sex of puppy, if we're willing to wait until what we want is available. But the distribution of puppies to raisers is otherwise arbitrary.
Visually impaired handlers get their guide dogs through a complicated matching process. Life-styles, mobility, paces, and personalities of both handlers and dogs are taken into consideration to maximize the success of the working team.
When I reflect on L^2 as she begins her bond with Jack, I think about the adjustments I make as a puppy raiser when I welcome an unknown puppy into our home. My term with each Future Leader Dog puppy is short--less than 11 months. L^2 worked with Willow for almost eight years! As she admits, it's a difficult transition; it will take time for her and Jack to click into as strong a team as she was with Willow.
L^2, FLD Gus and I wish you and Jack a quick bonding and a long, rewarding relationship.
And Gus, I promise to raise you as best I can, and to stop comparing you to FLD Mike. You are your own puppy--and I like that about you!
|FLD Gus says, "What?!"|