We got news today on Yakira. She will not be reissued as a guide dog. I’m sad about that. We wanted to have them look for another service organization for her but her official paper works says she was dropped for scavenging instead of the puddle issue she was returned for. They are doubtful that another organization will take a risk with the scavenging history. I don’t understand the scavenging because she has great house manners, so it might be stress at being back in the kennels. We will probably never know. We could bring her home and keep her or place her with someone. Guide Dogs for the Blind will also place her with someone on the long waiting list for career changed dogs. I never dreamed that of all the puppies we raised this would be Yakira’s path in life. This is the downside of being a puppy raiser.
This morning a beloved dog named Clifford passed away. He was raised in hopes that he would grow up to be a guide dog but when he went back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for training they discovered he had cataracts. Though a miraculous series of events Clifford was adopted by my sister’s family. From the first day Clifford brought so much happiness and peace to their household. He instinctively knew just what to do. Clifford had the right mix of fun-loving and being laid back.
Shortly after his fourth birthday Clifford developed an autoimmune disorder that attached first his joints and then his blood and other organs. Despite treatment, his platelets were so low that his body just gave out. Though Clifford’s time was short his impact was huge. He will be sorely missed by not only his family but the many others he crossed paths with along the way.
We got word this week that Yakira is being spayed and will start training to be a guide dog when she has recovered. So, while I’m a little sad that she isn’t going to be a momma dog and we won’t be raising one of her puppies, I’m excited to have weekly update on the phase report. I know she could make a wonderful guide dog, as long as that is what she wants. Here is hoping that we have another graduation to go to in Oregon, probably around the first part of the year.
This week has been one of lasts. The last walk around the neighborhood with Yakira. The last puppy class. The last time to the local grocery store. The last time to work with Bill. The last time to go to church. Last sleepover. Last time having a lunch date with Bill.Then there are all the lasts that I didn’t realize were lasts when we did them. She has been so many places with us over the last year. Tomorrow marks one year since we first saw Yakira.
Sometimes I get very sentimental and a bit sad but at the same time I’m excited to see what Yakira’s future will bring. We are having a farewell party for her on Sunday evening. Then we put her on the truck early Monday morning. This is all part of the puppy raising process. The good and the bad. So proud of the dog she has grown up to be. But also seeing her weaknesses and hoping that the change of environment and stress of this transition doesn’t bring out those weaknesses and make them a deal breaker. But also knowing that if they do, then being a breeder or a guide dog isn’t what is best for her future. So that is the last of the sappy stuff about Yakira being recalled to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
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.
So what is it actually like to live with and use a guide dog? So for this weeks post in honor of National Service Dog Month I’ll try to answer that question. But since I have no personal experience I found a couple of videos produced by Guide Dogs for the Blind that give some ideas of what it is like.
I also found this podcast interview with Bea Hawkins, 93, on her eighth Guide Dog. Listen in to this delightful conversation with a truly charming lady who is thoroughly in love with her Guide Dog. (12 minutes.)
I’ve learned so much over the past few years of being a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind about what it is like to have a guide dog but I still only have a glimmer of what it is like. Age related Macular Degeneration runs in my family so I could go blind in my old age. I hope that I will have the courage to learn orientation and mobility skills so that I could have a guide dog. I love the freedom and independence that a guide dog brings to it handler. That is why I’m a puppy raiser. I didn’t know that when I started raising. Then it was about being able to take my dog to places that pets can’t go. I still love that but it is more about being making a difference in the world in a positive way. I still love being able to take these puppies into all kinds of places. I also love getting to know each dog and enjoying their amazing personalities. But the real payback is the impact these dogs have on people’s lives.