I’ve only dedicated one other post to puppy raisers and today I was thinking about them and decided to write another post about the group as a whole now that I have Jayden.
Yet again I’m kind of at a loss for words about how to start a post about these amazing people. These people who take a little bundle of fur and instantly love it. These people who shape our dogs into the amazing dogs we have, turning them into amazing companions, and then give them away. Give them away…after loving them so unconditionally and spending every waking moment with them, they give them away. Wow.
I think about all the things Jayden is subjected to. He has to live in a house with three cats. He doesn’t have a yard. He has to put up with B and me screaming at our games. He sleeps through thunder storms. He’s cool only working once a day because of this heat. Since he was exposed to malls when he was young, he doesn’t mind being stuck in them. He’s content to sleep at my feet or on the couch, but only in his designated spot. He lets me touch him all over, even his feet, so I can keep an eye on him. He deals with noisy traffic. He ignores other animals. Even lizards, which he didn’t grow up with. He ignores other people when they try and tell him what to do. He waits patiently for his food. He lays down patiently for two hours at the gym. He holds his bladder for insane amounts of time sometimes haha. He does his business when I ask him to so I know we’ll be ok when we leave.
These are all things his raiser taught him. Would he have been so patient if she hadn’t taken him with her to high school when he was just a young guy? Would he be ok with all the cheering in the apartment if she hadn’t taken him to softball games? Would he be so chill around the cats if he hadn’t grown up with one? Would he be so gentle wih children if he hadn’t been raised with them?
I’m so grateful he started doing all these things when he was so young. Just like humans, he soaked everything up during his young months. If he hadn’t learned to be patient while his raiser was in class, would he lay so calmly for me at the gym?
He never ever counter surfs. He never goes after the cat food. He predicts what I want with obedience so much that I have to constantly switch it up haha. He stays on his bed all night.
All that, all of it, was in his raising. He never knew any different.
Puppy raisers have the joy of having their dogs with them all the time. But they run into more barriers than we do as guide dog handlers. They get the questions like why do you need a service dog? They are the ones who are huge ambassadors for all service dogs. They answer all the tough questions. They do the fundraising. They sit at tables in Macy’s and educate the public. They help us before we even walk with their dog for the first time. All those people they educate are fewer people who will interrupt us when we’re working.
They have puppy meetings they must attend. They have to pass a screening and wait not so patiently to find out if they can raise. They wait with baited breath for the puppy truck to arrive. A year later, they wait to return their puppy to the truck and they may never see their dog again.
They do this all for no pay.
They adhere to strict rules set in place by whichever school they raise for. They do it all so we as people who are blind or visually impaired, can have a better quality of life. They don’t worry about the fact that we have a disability. They don’t think about whether we’re capable enough to love and care for their pup. They are simply amazing people.
To me, Jayden will always be his raiser’s dog. He’s mine for right now, but he will always be hers. That sweet girl who decided to raise puppy’s and received Jayden as her first charge, after proving that she was fit as a raiser. She loved him and made him the amazing dog he is today and he became my first guide dog. He will always be hers. In my heart, we’re sharing custody hehe.
We don’t communicate often. She’s on her second puppy now. She’s attending college now. I hope we always stay in touch, though. She never knew how much she would affect my life. A girl I spent two hours with at graduation, has completely changed my life by raising such an amazing dog.
I can’t speak enough words about puppy raisers. Each and every one of you are amazing. Whether you’re raising your first or you’re fifteenth, you are amazing. How can I ever thank you all for the amazing thing you are doing?
So on a day where you’re frustrated, or on the days approaching your dog’s recall, think about how grateful we are. We may not all say it enough, but I can’t think of another handler from a school who doesn’t love you just as much as I do.
Thank you, puppy raisers!
(I wonder how many times I wrote ‘amazing’ haha!)