I think the hardest thing about having a guide dog is probably their retirement. The average guide dog works for about seven years, so most handlers have to go through this process several times in their lives. There are three basic reasons that a guide dog retires. The most common is age. Just like with people, dogs eventually get too old to do the work of a guide dog. For most dogs this is about 9 or 10 years old. Another reason for retiring a guide dog is health. Some dog develop health problems that make it difficult or impossible to work. The last reason is some dogs just decide they don’t want guide anymore and are ready for the more relaxed life of being a pet. This is sometime brought on by stress or a traumatic incident while working as a guide dog.
Whatever the reason for retiring a guide it is a difficult and painful process for the handler. Guide Dogs for the Blind has a blog set up for “remembering the people and dogs of Guide Dogs for the Blind.” Some of the most resent post include:
Marly: Gone But Not Forgotten (a tribute by Juliet Cody to her first guide dog)
One of the Greatest Guide Dog Retirement Jobs Ever! (the story of guide dog Leslie and the second career her family found for her when she had difficulty with retirement)
Mathew: The Dog with a Heart of Gold (this dog was retired early due to sever allergies)
Remembering Havarti (tender story of a very short career)
Thank You, Firestone (short poem)
I encourage you to take some time and read about the impact these amazing dogs have on the lives of those they come in contact with.