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Friday, November 4, 2011

Guster Buster

In a gleeful mood visiting family downstate for Halloween, ironically on "issue day" (see note below) at Leader Dogs for the Blind, I received the dreaded call.

"I'm so sorry to tell you," the Leader Dog employee said, "but Gus was career-changed today."

No matter what they tell you, it is never enough information. Questions abound, you just can't believe it. MY puppy???  He was GREAT!  What happened?

You second-guess yourself.  Where did I go wrong in raising him?  Should I have done something different?  Did I take him into the woods too much?  What more could I have done to switch on the working-gene in this dog?

You can't help but think back and try to identify a clue that this was coming.  Those times he hesitated getting out of the van and then when he did he bolted to the end of his leash.  Maybe it wasn't that he was trying to avoid my bag banging against his head, maybe he didn't really want to get that working vest on and come with me into the grocery store/bank/library/restaurant...

You can go crazy thinking about it.  You can despair for the puppy you are raising now.  All your effort, all the hope.  For naught.

You second-guess the training protocol at Leader Dogs.  But you have to trust that this organization, in the business of training guide dogs since 1939, knows what it is doing; that the trainers understand the dogs and do their best to bring them along; that they've used all their tools in their training-box.  That they gave him every opportunity.

In the end, the dog decides.  It's like the rest doesn't even matter.

Two months into his formal training at Leader Dogs for the Blind, Gus decided that a job as a guide dog wasn't for him.

The official reason?  Gus "lacked responsibility" and his "body sensitivity was too high."  Simply put, he shied away from the harness and didn't want to work.



Gus found his old bed, but he almost doesn't fit in it anymore. What do you suppose he is thinking?
Gus can hardly keep his eyes open after several hikes through our woods this day. On our first walk, on the way back, he suddenly grabbed up a HUGE tree limb, breaking it in two between two standing trees, and merrily dragged it back to the house. FLD Scout assisted--with the tree limb, and the nap. She is very happy to have a playmate now.
Waiting for the "OK" at breakfast, FLD Scout and Gus share his old mat, while Gypsy sits closest to the food dishes.

"Issue day" is the day each month that the blind and visually impaired "students" in class at Leader Dogs for the Blind first meet their new four-legged-furry partner.


  1. Aw :(
    I'm so sorry Gus didn't make it. Suppose its better he was career changed now than being matched with somebody and then realising a year later that it wasn't going to work.
    Will you keep him forever now? That would be great! I missed hearing Gussy stories! :)

  2. Yes, Jen, it IS better to have them get career-changed earlier rather than later. Andy wants to keep him, but says he'll leave it up to me. We'll see!

  3. Sorry Gus didn't make it Patti....but it sure sounds like he likes being a "take a walk in the woods" kinda dog! :-)

  4. Yep, just this morning "Forest Gus" indicated that he needed to go out. Turns out he wanted to take a quick tour around the perimeter of our property. Scout and I were happy to oblige.

  5. Aww sad but happy you are keeping him forever! :)

  6. Thanks, Erin, it kinda' looks that way!

  7. Oh :(
    So sorry to hear about Gus, but as you said, they are the ones who decide in the end. Don't second guess yourself. *hug*

  8. Thanks for the *hug* Jess (and Glacier!). I've been getting plenty of kisses from Gus these past few days. Think he's glad to be "home."

  9. Sorry to hear about Gus being career changed, but glad to see he's back with you.

  10. Thanks, L^2. He seems to be digging it too!

  11. Good advice there: don't second-guess yourself. Just enjoy the ride!

  12. Found your site via Scott`s photo challenge. Then followed your link about Gus. It is a wonderful thing you do, preparing these dogs for such meaningful work. Enjoy Gus. It was his choice -- not something you did or didn`t do.

    Sybil in Nova Scotia

  13. Hi Sybil! Thanks for the encouragement. Gus is certainly a joy to have home with us! (And the raising part is just plain fun.)