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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Introducing: JESS, Guest Blogger!

Fellow blogger Jess and I might have unknowingly passed each other in the halls of the Polk Residence at Leader Dogs for the Blind last April.  I was visiting with LD Mike's new handler, Eric (see my post from April 20, "REACTIONS") while Jess and her 2nd Leader Dog, Glacier, were attending a "12-day retraining excursion" (to quote Jess).

Jess and I met in the virtual world of Internet blogging!  (Catch up on Jess's blog:  At a Glacial Pace.)  As time progresses, both of us are amazed at how small our world is--one of the members of our UP Puppy Group (Frank) works with Jess's uncle in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.  And FLD Gus is LD Glacier's half-brother!  (They share the same father, Sy.)

When Jess commented on my "HELP WANTED" post last week, I asked her to write a "guest" blog for me.  I thought that perhaps her story, in HER voice, would inspire readers to consider raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  Jim Platzer's talk last year at Puppy Days did just that to me; well, he inspired me to KEEP raising puppies!  (See my post from August 5, 2010.)

'Nuff said from me.  Get out your handerchiefs....
.......heeeeeerrrrreeee's JESS!

There are two people in this world who will probably never realize just how much they have impacted my life. They are both strangers and I have never even talked to them in person or over the phone. They live far away from me and our paths have never and probably will never cross. Their influence has touched my life so intimately and I don't even know what their voices sound like, what they look like, where they live, their hobbies, their likes or dislikes, their interests.

And yet, a part of me is closely linked to them. These two people have changed my life forever and they will never know just how truly grateful I am to them.

"Because she's stubborn and always hungry-just like you."

This is what my first Leader Dogs for the Blind trainer told me when I asked him why he had matched me with a 53 pound, Black Labrador named Jetta. He wasn't kidding when he said she was stubborn, but it was this hard headedness, her confidence and zest for life that bonded us in such a way that words cannot describe.

She was my companion, friend, eyes and safety net for six wonderful and action packed years. She guided me around the world-literally-and made being a blind, independent person much easier. I was never good at staying in one place and Jetta made my dreams more of a reality. She accompanied me to swimming training camps and competitions all over Canada and the United States and in Belgium and Greece; just to name a few places.

She never ceased to amaze me.

Once we were in an airport and she guided me back to my suitcase when I exited a bathroom. If my bag was moved in the change room, nine times out of ten Jetta could take me to it. We went to the Grand Canyon together; clamored through ancient Greek ruins; went whale watching in Vancouver British Columbia; and she pulled me out of the way of a semi-truck that almost ran us over on my university campus.

It was through my experiences with Jetta I learned that life must be lived and it is  much easier with a four legged set of eyes jauntily trotting by your side.

When Jetta retired herself in August of 2008, I spent a month without a guide dog.  It was a strange feeling and I recall refusing to attend some outings because I was not comfortable traveling without a guide dog. 

I always knew, from the first time I picked up the harness handle, that I would not go back to using a White Cane. Guide dog travel was more of my style, but it was this time that I spent guide dogless that I realized just how much of an impact little Jetta had had on my life.

On September 24th of 2008 the next life altering being came bounding into my room at Leader Dogs for the Blind and planted his gigantic paws on my chest. He covered my face in kisses and danced in tight circles about my knees.

His name was Glacier and he was a 75 pound, Yellow Labrador who thought the world was his chew toy. He also thought putting his harness on and taking me places was even better than pulling toilet paper off the roll in my room.

Glacier was and still is a huge contrast to little Miss Jetta. Jetta was/is reserved and had an independent streak, whereas, Glacier is a big goof who just wants to please you. He's fit perfectly into my life and although we've run into a few hiccups along the road, our bond as a working team is stronger than ever.

In fact, it is with this big Yellow Fellow at my side, I have the confidence and courage to move from my comfortable home in the United States to Scotland where I don't know any of the laws, streets or customs. We are moving to the bustling city of Edinburgh and there is no doubt in my mind that if Glacier and I weren't a strong working team, I would not be embarking on such a huge adventure.

Both of these dogs have come into my life and changed it for the better. They have taught me about loyalty, love and commitment.

Jetta didn't leave me standing alone in the parking lot with the semi-truck backing up at me: she dragged me into the lawn and planted her paws, refusing to move until the truck had stopped. She didn't say,"too bad for you. I'm saving my own furry behind."

Glacier never lets me go out the front door without him. He insists on thrusting his head into his harness with vigor and this small act lets me know that I do not have to travel, physically and metaphorically, alone.

And even though these two have impacted my life so much, I know their faces, voices, interests, likes and dislikes. I know where they live and their hobbies.  I am grateful for both Glacier and Jetta, but there are two other people who have made our relationships possible.

It is to these two people I say thank you. It is to these two people that I know I could never explain just what they have done for me.

When these two people made the decision to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I really don't think they knew just exactly what they were providing.

They couldn't have known that their dogs would be world travelers. There is no way they would know that their puppies would grow up and pull a person out of the way of oncoming traffic.

They couldn't have known the magnitude of the gift they had given by dedicating a year of their lives to raising a little fluff ball into a full fledged working dog. They couldn't have known all that.

I don't know if they even know it now, but if they don't, I want them to know that my life is better because of their efforts. I am safe because they decided to raise a puppy and give it back to Leader Dogs for the Blind. They have given me the greatest gift of all, independence, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Even when Glacier retires and I get a new working dog, I will never forget what his puppy raiser did for me. I don't forget Jetta or her puppy raisers.

I know taking on a puppy and raising it to be a future Leader dog can be intimidating. I know the thought of having to give it back is excruciating. I can understand the hesitation people may feel when considering taking on such a large responsibility, but please know that if you do decide to do this incredible thing that there are not words to express the gratitude that the future handler will feel.

Without puppy raisers there aren't potential guide dogs, without potential guide dogs there aren't guide dogs and without guide dogs there isn't independence, confidence and quality of life for those of us who choose to work with guide dogs.

Thank you, Jess, for a wonderful post!  I hope that someone, somewhere will read this and decide to take on the "incredible" challenge of raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  At the very least, your words inspire those of us already raising a special puppy.

If you are inspired by Jess to consider raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, please apply HERE, or call  888-777-5332 for more information.



  1. Jo Whitman here. Well, Patti and Jess. I know you warned me but I nearly choked on my meatloaf sandwich reading this and here I sit in yet another puddle of tears over the puppy I returned to Leader dog two months ago. Every day we DON'T hear from Leader Dog we are happy as that's another day closer to the ultimate goal of changing someone's life like Jess's was changed. And there are times I'd like to just get in the car and make that (incredibly long boring) drive back to LD to get "my" dog. I light a candle for Kira at church every week and have been praying for her future partner since the day we picked her up. Glacier sounds JUST like Kira, stubborn, confident and full of life. I hope those traits that drove me crazy serve her well. Thanks, Jess for sharing your inspiring story. And as always, thanks to you Patti. I don't even know you but you were a huge support to me through this journey!

  2. Jeez Jo, now you've got me choking on my lunch and wiping away tears. Believe me when I say I know EXACTLY how you feel about your Kira. And believe Jess when she expresses her heartfelt thanks for your gift of selflessness. Our paws are crossed for your Kira, and for YOU too! Hugs!

  3. When I wrote this post, know that I was teary too: I cried again when I just reread it. :) It's hard to express via written media just how important this is and how grateful I am.
    Patty: Thank you so much for giving me a place to post this. It is something that should have been written a long time ago. And thank you for raising your puppies. *hug*
    Joe: She will make someone more than happy. I hope that if she is placed, whoever gets her will stay in contact with you so you can see first hand just how amazing your gift really is. *hug*
    PS: Patty, I had a thought-LDB gives us the opportunity to meet our puppy raisers. During that time, why aren't we allowed to show them how we work together? Wouldn't it have more of an impact to actually see your puppy working?

  4. Jes, that was so brilliantly written as usual. I can relate to every word, and can never thank puppy raisers enough. I was lucky enough to have met OJs when I travelled to their home two and a half years ago. It was an emotional experience for dog and humans, and I wasn't prepared for this part at all. I'm so glad I met them, and that they sometimes read my blog, and have just a small idea of how much of a difference they made to my life.

    Patti I'm glad you asked Jes to write this. She wrote a guest post on my blog this week too. That's crazy that you both could have met back in April.

  5. Amazing posts like these give me the energy and patience and determination on my tough days as a puppy raiser. As my Moxie nears his twelve month eval this post is pushing me outside to work twice as hard to get him to the finish line!

  6. Jess, again, you are welcome, but I know that I speak for other puppy-raisers (such as GirlRural), your story is one thing that keeps us going! As far as seeing our puppies work with their handlers, it would be wonderful. It was enough for me to observe Eric interact with LD Mike and appreciate that Mike was "past" me.

    Jen, I'm glad you got to meet OJ's raisers and that they can read your blog. It really makes a difference for us.

    GirlRural, best wishes for you and Moxie! We'll keep our paws crossed for you. :)

  7. This is really an old post, so you may not see my comment. I raised Jess's first dog Jetta. Jetta gave me a run for my money and then spent her working life running all over the world with Jess.It is weird Patti that we have this point of contact, but I supposed that if you're associated with Leader long enough, path's intersect. Your Mike went to Spain with my Abby a couple of years ago.

    1. Oh my goodness anonymous! Yes, the Leader Dog family keeps us connected...congrats on your Abby.

      I'm so glad that you got to read this post and see what a difference Jetta made in Jess's life. I'm sure that Jess would be thrilled if you contacted her via her blog at: Thank you for raising her and your other puppies! Perhaps we'll meet in person one day...