This time, I had a spy on the inside. Unintentionally, of course. Far be it from me to work around the rules. (April Fools!)
Sometime after I received the email from Leader Dogs for the Blind letting me know that the puppy I raised was issued to a blind or visually impaired client, a Facebook message popped up in my browser. It was from someone I know who was attending a two-week "brush-up" with her Leader Dog at the same time that Dutch was in class with his new person.
This person was very discreet. I learned nothing about Dutch's person, except perhaps that the person was English-speaking. My insider said that when Dutch was being his usual friendly self with the Leader Dogs bus driver, his person had said, "Dutch, you're not driving! Sit. Good boy."
Sometime later, an email arrived with a jpeg attachment. Now I knew more. In the photo Dutch was sitting and looking intently up at his person.
Still, even knowing this much, waiting in the lobby of the Polk Residence at Leader Dogs on visitation night with a crowd of other puppy-raisers was still nerve wracking. What would Dutch do when he saw me? I had to not react and just ignore him. How would his person treat him? What would this stranger think of me?
The first team was announced. I can't even remember the name of the dog that was brought down the hall with its person. The trainer who walked with the team repeated the dog's name, looking for the puppy raiser to identify him or herself. Someone from across the lobby by the elevator said, "Here!" The team found the raiser. I strained to see; the dog was wearing a harness! (At past visitations the dogs were on leash and not in harness.)
I quickly forgot about the group that was now working their way through the crowd and into the conference room to chat. "Where are you?" the second trainer beckoned. I raced over to where I could see down the hallway.
|A Leader Dog trainer escorts LD Dutch and his person.|
It was Dutch, walking on a leash on the left side of a woman wearing sunglasses. Her right hand was holding the left arm of the trainer. Dutch wore a harness like the first dog.
"Here," I called.
The trainer introduced me to Gail, who couldn't wait to ask, "How did Dutch get his name?" I blubbered that my husband named him. "Do you like it?" I asked. I searched the crowd for Andy. He and my niece Elaina were still back by the door. I motioned him to come so he could explain how he came up with Dutch's name.
"I'm from Pennsylvania," Gail said. "It's perfect!"
Poor Gail struggled with Dutch as he strained to sniff my legs. "When he heard your voice he really pulled," she said.
|LD Dutch checks me out.|
When Gail encouraged me to say hello, I knelt down to greet him. I am a little embarrassed to say that the golden boy went berserk. "I just don't want him to hurt you," Gail said as she admonished Dutch for his enthusiasm. "It's okay, I've got his collar," I said, grappling to keep the fur ball's four feet on the floor.
Eventually Gail and Dutch, Andy and I and Elaina made it into the conference room. Mr. Dutch was just as I remembered him. From the way he was so exuberant, I'd guess that I was just as he remembered me, too.
|LD Dutch knows who has the treats.|
|While we talked, Gail's hand seldom strayed away from Dutch.|
|The Nylabone I brought for Dutch helped him settle while we visited with Gail.|
Our short hour ticked away and it was time to say good-bye. Again. Gail took hold of the harness and told Dutch, "Find the door." Dutch was all business as he led her straight away.
Other handlers took the arms of trainers to be escorted back to their rooms. Not Gail. She gave Dutch a command which I could not hear and off they went with no hesitation. As we watched them go, Dutch suddenly looked back. Gail said, "Leave it." He turned back around and did his job, tail wagging.
|LD Dutch and his handler Gail walk away as one.|
Dutch will live in the country with Gail and her husband along with 24 chickens, a 10-year-old dog, and two cats. Dutch sent postcards from Leader Dogs to Gail's six grandchildren, who are very anxious to meet him.
Gail told us of a park she enjoys walking to, but said she has never made it there safely using her cane. She either runs into things or falls. Gail said she is excited to have LD Dutch guide her the 2.5 miles to the park when she gets home.
LD Dutch is Gail's first guide dog!