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Thursday, July 21, 2011


The topic for the 4th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC), hosted by Kali on her blog Brilliant Mind Broken Body is THE DIFFERENCE.

At first, I was tempted to just include posts I wrote in the past about the differences between the three puppies I've raised for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  (Here are links to them, if you are interested.  FLD Mike vs Rosie, Three Puppy Rookie, and Puppies Three/Pictures.)  Comparing puppies is inevitable, and there are ALWAYS differences.

Nope.  I wanted to focus on something "different."

So I considered submitting a post I wrote last November about how exercise can calm a crazy, energized puppy.  (Again, if you are interested, here is a link:  What a Difference a Walk Makes!)

But I keep coming back to the differences I am living as a result of our move from the city to the country.  Many of these differences are obvious.

  • City =  LOUD, CONSTANT BACKGROUND NOISE that I really didn't notice until after we moved away and came back for a visit.
  • Country = So quiet I can hear a chipmunk rustle in the leaves beneath my window and the mournful cry of a loon in the distance.

  • Country = Last week I heard my sister miss the turn to our road a half a mile away when she drove up with her girls for our family "camp out."

  • City =  Even with room-darkening shades in our townhouse bedroom, the outside glowed a frame around the window.
  • Country = Except when the moon is full, it doesn't matter if the shades are up or down at night, and I can see the entire Milky Way.

  • City = It is a HUSTLE, BUSTLE, TEEMING dance with the rest of the population.
  • Country = We'll get around to it.  Eventually.

Other differences are not so obvious, especially as it relates to things that my Future Leader Dog puppy must experience.

Future Leader Dog puppies must be "sound."  They can startle at a sudden noise, but they need to be confident enough to quickly recover and stay on task.
  • Taking my puppy for a walk in the city naturally exposes him to many sudden noises:  semi-trucks downshifting, police, ambulance, or fire engine sirens, beeping horns, barking dogs behind fences.
  • On a walk down our country road we can hear one car approach from two hills away.  The sudden honk of a goose overhead, or the screech of an eagle may draw my puppy's attention, but he is seldom startled.

Future Leader Dog puppies must be comfortable working near heavy traffic and remain calm waiting at a crosswalk at a busy intersection.
  • In the city, I could step out our front door with my puppy and encounter heavy traffic in any direction, for as long as we could walk.
  • To expose my puppy to traffic here in the county, I must drive over 20 miles to a town with more than one traffic light.  And the nearest sidewalks are 7 miles away.

Future Leader Dog puppies must not be distracted by, or fearful of strangers.
  • City streets are full of diversity, reflected by skin color, clothing styles, age, and attitudes.
  • In the country, strangers are few, and perhaps not quite so diverse.

When we first moved to the country, I was anxious that FLD Gus would not get enough exposure to things like traffic and strangers.  A fellow puppy-raiser (who lives in northwest Michigan) reminded me that Gus needs ALL kinds of experiences, and that blind people live in rural areas, too.

Of course, she is right.

FLD Gus started his life in the city, and now is familiar with the country, too.  He has taken it all in stride.

Our next puppy's home base will be here, in the country, where things ARE different.  Knowing this, I will do what I can to assure that puppy #4 is just as well-rounded.

I think I am much less anxious.

Do you think my country environment might have something to do with it?

A recent sunset at our country home.


  1. Great post! When I was being matched with my guide dog, the trainer insisted that she would find me a dog who is happy to work in the city, town and country. At the time, I was almost finished college in a city and didn't know if I would remain there, move somewhere busier or move home to our small town, and to the home my parents live in in the country.
    By the time O.J came, I was living at home again, so he had to be familiar with narrow country roads, and be able to walk by the beach without getting very excited and wanting to go and play and swim all the time. We are a 20 minute walk from the town, so he has the best of both worlds!
    Thankfully he is the perfect dog for what I need, and although we rarely spend time in busy cities, they don't freak O.J out completely.
    Keep up the great work, training your well-rounded confident puppies :)

  2. Jen, I'm glad that O.J is your perfect match. Perhaps Gus will be matched with a handler like you! And thanks for your vote of confidence!

  3. I always had an inkling you raised well rounded puppies and this post is a testament to that. You are very aware of what your puppies need to be successful and I think that makes the "difference." If you had just moved to the country, completely unaware that Gus needed city work as well, that could have been detrimental to his career, but you didn't and as your friend said, these dogs go to people with different lifestyles. The first time I went to LDB, two of my fellow handlers lived miles outside of the city limits and walked along highways and dirt roads to get into town.
    This post was great. :) Living in the country sounds so enjoyable too. :)

  4. Thanks so much, Jess! FLD Gus returns to Leader Dogs at the end of next month, and I'll be bringing home a new little bundle of fur. I'm looking forward to the challenge again and will be sure to expose the new pup to as many different things as I can. I will, after all, still have to take trips to the city. And yes, living in the country is great!

  5. Your post raises some interesting points. I'm raising a puppy now who (God willing) will become my service dog in training when he is old enough. We live in the suburbs of Chicago, but often get into the big city, so hopefully will get lots of experiences. I guess we need some quiet country roads as well!

  6. Sarah--thanks for reading and best wishes for you and your puppy! When we lived in the city, our puppies got "country" experiences when we took long weekends to my brother's cabin in the north country. Now it's the other way around.