The 5th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ABDC) is hosted this quarter by Cindy Otty on her blog, Gentle Wit.
The topic is ACHIEVMENT. This post is my submission.
To learn more about the ABDC and find links to all past Carnivals, check out Sharon Wachsler's post about it on her blog, After Gadget. Sharon got this Carnival rolling over a year ago!
A PUPPY-RAISER'S ACHIEVEMENT
What can I achieve as a volunteer puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind?
The obvious end-result goal is to raise a puppy that graduates from Leader Dogs and is partnered with a handler. But how can I realistically take credit for that? It is the dog's achievement, not mine.
I did not achieve this with my first puppy, Rosie. Rosie made her way through four phases of progressively challenging training levels. She had a "fast" working pace, and when it came time to be paired with a handler, a suitable person could not be found. Not the first time when Rosie was ready. Not the second. Not the third. By then, Rosie had had it--enough was enough and she made the decision to be career-changed.
Did I fail as a puppy-raiser?
ACHIEVEMENT, according to the dictionary, means succeeding in doing something that takes effort. With effort, I was successful in raising a well-behaved, socialized puppy that went through the Leader Dog training program.
But why did that not feel like an achievement? Rosie did not graduate.
And yet. It is impossible for a puppy-raiser to achieve the goal of raising a puppy that will DEFINITELY become a working guide dog. Too many factors can influence that outcome--the dog's core personality and potential; medical issues; the ability of the dog to handle kennel stress while living through the training; the experience of the training team that works with the dog; and even the person at the end-game, anxious to be paired with the dog.
It is a miracle. Really. That suitable teams end up working in the world, that dogs can be trained to assist blind and visually impaired people gain enhanced mobility and independence.
Perhaps I should reevaluate the goal. Instead of raising a puppy to "become a Leader Dog," what if I set my goal to raise a puppy that is READY TO TAKE ON THE NEXT STEP, training at Leader Dogs for the Blind?
But what does "being ready" really mean?
Leader Dogs for the Blind describes three traits that are important in a working guide dog.
(To read more about these traits, visit my post from March 11, 2011, or Leader Dogs' on-line puppy-raiser application.)
Raising a puppy that exhibits these traits is an achievable goal.
Goal setting, however, is a tricky-thing--achieving one goal often leads to setting another, higher goal. Istn't it just as important (and no small achievement), to raise a puppy that is housebroken, socialized, and able to perform basic obedience commands?
Where does it end?
Fortunately, Leader Dogs for the Blind is establishing "in-for-training" standards to define what "being ready" really means. A work-in-progress, these standards attempt to pinpoint self-control behaviors, obedience skills, and behavioral traits that, if achieved, will prepare a puppy to succeed at the next level.
These standards, then, will be the goal I will shoot for with my puppy. Attaining these standards will be my achievement.
After that, it's up to the puppy.
|Hear that, Scout? (FLD Scout, peaking around my leg at a hockey game at Lake Superior State Univserity.)|