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Thursday, January 13, 2011


Fellow-blogger Sharon, at "After / Gadget " started an Assistance Dog Blog Carnival last fall.  Sort of like a quarterly collection of blog postings about a specific theme, but somehow concerning assistance dogs.  

Follow this link to the FIRST Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, hosted by Sharon, the theme of which was an Assistance Dog "First."  (To read my contribution, click on My FIRST: Future Leader Dog Puppy.)

Coming up next week is the second "issue" of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, this time hosted by L^2 at "Dog's Eye View."  L^2 selected this quarter's theme, DECISIONS.

My submission follows:


Gypsy sprawled out on the daybed; FLD Mike curled up at my feet on the rug under the kitchen table.  I enjoyed a long drink of cold water.  Our 2 1/2 mile "slog" (can't really call it "jogging" I'm so slow) on the sandy dirt roads surrounding the Beary Wood Lodge tired all of us out.  And September still held plenty of summer.

Unexpectedly, the phone rang.  Cell-phone coverage at my brother's cabin is non-existent due to being surrounded by the Huron National Forest, so Andy had a phone-line with DSL Internet installed.  I forgot that before we lost "bars" on the drive up I programmed my cell to forward all calls to the cabin.

"Hello, Patti?"  It was Sandy, from Leader Dogs for the BlindYes.

"I wanted to give you a choice for next week."

FLD Mike was going back to Leader Dogs the next Monday to begin his "formal" guide-dog training.  A month earlier, Sandy wanted me to "overlap" and take another puppy before Mike returned, but our townhouse rules prohibit more than two "fur-bearing" animals.  Leader Dogs is desperate for puppy-raisers (hint, hint).  Instead I agreed to take my third puppy five days after returning Mike.

"I know we have next Saturday already scheduled for you, but we have a male puppy ready that you could take home the same day you bring Mike back," Sandy explained.  She went on to tell me what breed-stock this puppy came from, but as a fairly-rookie puppy-raiser, I wasn't familiar with his parents.  "Or, you can keep the Saturday appointment.  I just wanted to give you the choice."

I wasn't quite sure what Sandy was asking of me.  When you apply to raise a puppy, you can specify your preference for sex and/or breed; once a puppy becomes available, you schedule a pickup time that works for you.  Beyond this, the specific puppy you receive is totally random.  Did Sandy want me to take this returned puppy?  Was there an issue with him that she thought I could handle?

"There's nothing wrong with this puppy," she said.  "The family that took him realized they were in over their heads--they have small children and this was there very first puppy.  Ever."

Well, I thought as I stood up from the table and began pacing around the cabin, better to return him early, than risk future problems. 

I guess I would rather wait until Saturday, I said.  I think I need a few days to get over Mike.  After I returned my first Future Leader Dog puppy, Rosie, in July of 2009, I waited until November to get FLD Mike.  It IS a sad day when you bring your puppy back, and I didn't want to jump right in with a new, demanding bundle of fur.  Andy and I took our big bike ride to Green Bay, Wisconsin in August of 2009, and besides, if Rosie were to be career-changed, I wanted her back; I wanted to keep my options open.

"Oh, I understand that," said Sandy.  "Okay.  But.  There is something else you should know.  The yellow-lab puppy that's coming in for you is from a donated litter.  The breeder told us she is worried about him, something about him being too small or something.  We won't know for sure that we'll take him until we check him over."

If you don't, does that mean I'll have to wait longer for another puppy?  Or can you hold the returned one until Saturday?  I asked.  I had to admit that I wasn't excited about taking a couple-of-weeks-older puppy--they grow SO fast.

"If you want a yellow-lab, you'll have to wait.  But we do have another black lab male you could take Saturday, from Sy and Sienna's litter."  Another breed-stock pair I didn't know.  "I just wanted to give you a choice." 

I hesitated, paused in my pacing.  Okay.  Well, what will be the most helpful to you?  I still wondered if there was something else behind Sandy's call, but maybe she didn't want to come right out and say.

"Whatever YOU want," she said.  "I just wanted to give you the opportunity to decide." 

I started pacing again.  Why was this becoming so difficult for me?  I suppose it didn't really matter.  I agreed to raise a puppy and whatever helped Leader Dogs would be fine with me.  This wasn't so when I applied for Rosie and Mike.  I requested a female black lab the first time (and waited nine months before I receive her); I never owned a male dog.  Part of my reason to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs was to practice my own "dog" skills, so the second time I requested a male.  Of any breed.

I think it might have been my puppy-counselor who told me, "If you don't care what sex, you'll always get a male."  I guess most people want females!  This third time the sex of the puppy didn't matter to me, but my niece Natalie thought it would be neat if I raised a yellow lab.  So I requested a yellow lab.

At any rate, I was overwhelmed with all the options.  In the long run, it really didn't matter.  Whatever puppy I took home wasn't going to belong to ME.  In less than one year the puppy would return to Leader Dogs for the Blind to fulfill his destiny.  My role was just his beginning.

I decided to raise my first Future Leader Dog puppy to strengthen and test my own skills.  My decision to raise a second Future Leader Dog puppy came on the heels of a thoughtful sermon by  my brother, Reverend Jim.  (See my post from May 19, 2010.)  I HAD to raise a second puppy--because I COULD and someone needed me to.

At the annual "Puppy Days" at Leader Dogs for the Blind last July, Jim Platzer and his Leader Dog Maddy inspired me again.  (Read my post from August 5, 2010 to learn about "Maddy's letter.")  There was no way I could NOT raise another puppy after listening to Jim explain how Maddy changed his life.

Really, Sandy, it doesn't matter to me.  I'll do whatever helps you.

"It's your choice," Sandy replied.

We weren't getting anywhere!

Eventually, we decided that if Sandy couldn't find another raiser for the returned puppy, I would take him the Saturday after I returned Mike.  If she found him a home, I would hold out for the donated yellow lab puppy.  If Leader Dogs decided not to accept the yellow lab, I'd be happy with the black lab male from Sy and Sienna's litter.


I didn't know that making a decision like this could be so difficult!

Which puppy did I end up with?  Sy and Sienna's little black lab puppy, dubbed "Mr. Blue" by the host family of his mother, Sienna.  (The host family ties colored ribbons on the pups to tell them apart.)  Sandy found a raiser for the returned puppy, and the breeder never brought the little yellow lab to Leader Dogs.

Looks like my decision about any future puppies I raise will be easier--I'll just get male black labs!

FLD Gus, formally known as "Mr. Blue."


  1. Isn't it funny how things always just work out?

  2. Absolutely! Too bad we fret so much over them. :) Thanks for reading!

  3. Yay for getting the black lab!
    I've had more experience with males than female dogs, and if I had the choice I'd pick a male. Have no idea why, because its not that I prefer them or anything. I'll be happy enough if my next dog is a female, as long as its a good match for me it doesn't matter.

  4. Yes, it is the match, isn't it? Thanks for reading, Jen!

  5. Wow, that would be tough. I'm glad it all worked out in the end. :)
    Thank you so much for participating in the ADBC! I’m checking links now, so the big list should be up on my blog soon.

  6. Thanks L^2, looking forward to reading them!

  7. Thanks for that story. Both of my guides came from Leader Dog and it's cool to hear stories about the school you wentto. :)
    PS: Glacier's dad was Sigh too.

  8. Hi Jess! That's cool that Glacier and Gus are half-siblings! Thanks for reading. As a puppy-raiser, I like reading about handlers and their dogs!

  9. That sounded like MY conversation with Sandy! She gave me all kinds of options and I had to make the difficult decision....take a lab puppy (color and sex of my choice), take the little golden boy, or wait and take a chance on getting a puppy from a litter where I knew the mom. I ended up picking up the little golden boy the very next day. And he's wonderful. But I'd say that about ANY puppy I got. Gus is adorable!

  10. Great writing! I really felt like I was there, in your shoes. I love how you mixed in the dialogue and everything, and the scenery you evoked, fabulous! Thank you so much for being a puppy raiser, and for sharing that roller coaster with us. I really like this post. :)

  11. Laura, funny that your conversation with Sandy was so similar to mine! Is Kramer your little golden boy?

    Ro--thanks very much for your comments on my writing. One reason I started this blog was to discipline myself to write five days a week! As you know, it helps to get feedback, so I appreciate yours. As for being a puppy-raiser, you are welcome! It's a win-win for everyone!

  12. You guys do such an amazing job!

    I have a female golden lab/retriever. I'm glad that I got her cause i imagine a male would be more boysterus.

    Take care,

    Torie and guide dog Ushi

  13. Hi Torie! Thanks for reading. I always preferred females, too, for my pets, but after raising 2 Future Leader Dog MALE puppies, I'm not so sure I care about the sex anymore. Of course, Leader Dog puppies are extremely well-bred!

  14. Wow, what choices! I have had 2 male guides and am working my first female guide now. I still prefer males, simply because they are taller, which is easier on my arm and shoulder, but I didn't learn that until after partnering with my current girl. :-) I wouldn't give her up for the world now!

  15. Hi Kimberly! Thanks for reading, and your comment. Yes, both my male puppies have been bigger than the female. Does your harness come with different length handles? It's always interesting to learn about how handlers work with their guide dogs. Take care!