Graduation Day – Yakira

Yakira at Diane’s feet

We left Friday morning for Yakira’s graduation, after dropping Dune off at my friend’s for puppy sitting. The roads were great but the trip was long. I’m always ready to be there after about an hour or two of driving. It really is a pretty drive but 12 hours is a long time in the car. Zodiac is an excellent traveler and was very patient and willing to get back in the car even when we could tell he was tired of it. We finally got to Gresham and settled into our hotel for the night.

Mount Hood

On Saturday, we woke up to blue skies. I was so excited. I’ve been to Oregon for 3 other graduations and never had a glimpse of Mount Hood. But this time it was perfectly clear. We drove around the area a bit before graduations trying to get a photo. We got to Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Boring, Oregon campus a little early so we could take Zodiac on the “Oregon Trail” that goes through the natural vegetation on the back edge of campus, before he had to go in a kennel in the kennel kitchen. You can’t have a puppy in training with you while you are presenting the dog you raised during graduation. He loved the walk but wasn’t so happy about going into the kennel.

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video of seeing Yakira for the first time since October

Finally the time came for us to see Yakira and meet her new partner. It was kind of funny because Yakira was a little slow in figuring out who we were. But once she realized she was a happy girl. Bill was holding her leash and she started doing some crazy labby loops and got away from him and looped off to say hi to one of the other pups in class. Yakira looked great and very happy. Her handler, Diane, is a great match and we enjoyed getting to know her. She still has her retired guide, Betty Jo so Yakira has a buddy to hang out with at home. It was so nice to just hang out with Yakira and her partner and get lots of puppy loves. I was hoping that Yakira would move somewhere warm and her new home is in southern California so that is perfect for her.

Yakira giving Bill a kiss

We got a chance to meet Yakira’s sister Yumi’s raisers at graduation. She said that Yakira is just like Yumi except she is black instead of yellow. I also got to meet another of the graduates who I know from a guide dog user/puppy raiser email group I’m on. Her partner, Tyra is Yakira’s half-sister.

Yakira looking up at Diane

After graduation I got Zodiac from the kennel kitchen and we took him and Yakira out to the paddock behind the dorms and let them romp for a few minutes to get reacquainted and then went out to eat afterwards with Diane and Yakira. GDB has made another great match for our girl. She is going to love her new home in southern California and her new life as a guide dog. Yakira was not Diane’s original match on dog day. But it soon became clear that this first dog just wasn’t going to be a good match for Diane’s career. She recently got her masters and will be working with disable college students to make sure they have the accommodation they need for their disability. This first dog will make someone a wonderful partner but she just didn’t settle quickly enough after interruptions for Diane’s job situation. The trainers brought Diane two new dogs to try and she choose Yakira.

Yakira & Zodiac under the table at dinner

The hardest part was decided it was time to take Yakira and Diane back to the dorms. There is this moment after you drop them off when the puppy you raised realizes that you aren’t staying. You can see them processing it in their minds. It isn’t that they don’t want to go with their handler. They are happy to do that. I think they would like it if we could be around too. Even more than the formal graduation ceremony, that is the moment, for me, when they truly move on to their new life. It was a great day but very exhausting.

On Sunday morning we went back to campus to pick up a career change dog named Pauletta. Pauletta has arthritis in her lower back and so her puppy raisers are adopting her. She was recalled a few weeks ago for breeder evals but the arthritis changes everything. They were trying to figure out how to get her to Denver. She wasn’t cleared for air travel after her spay but it was fine for her to travel by car. So we brought her home with us and they got up super early Monday morning to pick her up and then headed right back home. It was fun to watch that reunion. Pauletta will be certified as a Therapy Dog and do great things with her life even though she won’t be a guide dog. GDB is so full of wonderful people. It was nice to be able to do something to help Pauletta get home to her family faster. Below is the video I shot of Pauletta seeing one of her puppy raisers for the first time since she went back to Guide Dogs for the Blind. You can hear Zodiac barking in the background, unhappy not to be part of the reunion.

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Pauletta watching out our front door