And we will do it all over again

Guiding Eyes volunteer puppy raiser Tara Schatz with yellow Labrador NachoThis week our family will say goodbye to our fourth guide dog puppy.  This will be no easy task, as Nacho has become part of the family over the past year and a half. Our family was charged with teaching Nacho the important skills he would need to one day be a guide dog, and of course, we learned right along with him. He easily took on the art of trying again and again to master a task without getting frustrated. I took notes when he showed me how quickly and easily it is to go from the steadfast patience of a working dog to the exuberance of a playful puppy. He showed us all that it isn’t hard to be ready for anything as long as there are naps in between.

Inevitably, we all get asked, “How can you let them go?” at one point or another.  My standard response has been, “it’s like sending your kid off to college; you just know when it’s time to give them their wings and watch them fly.”  Never mind that my kids are still years away from college. In my mind, there are many parallels between raising future guide dogs and raising children. We nurture them, feed them, show them what they need to do to make a go of it, and then send them off to face their destinies without us.  Do we get attached? Of course, but that’s not what its about. It’s about giving each dog the tools they need to be the best they can be and then letting them go.

Because life is full of learning to let go.  It can be joyful, empowering, trying, or tragic.  Our lives will always be encumbered with goodbyes. Some we will have been preparing a lifetime for, some will come suddenly and some may tear us apart. This is one goodbye that makes my heart swell almost to bursting with pride. Guiding Eyes puppies have taught me to feel pain so that someone else might feel joy, to give up a bond so that a stronger one might be formed and to shed tears so that another will have a chance at an independent life.

It never gets easier, saying goodbye. I guess we’re not looking for easy. We will vacuum up the dog fur, scrub out the kibble bowls, and put away the Nylabones. Time will pass. Nacho will move in and out of our thoughts as he makes his way through his next adventure. Then, one day in the not too distant future, another Guiding Eyes puppy will bounce into our lives.  And we will do it all over again.

by Tara Schatz, Guiding Eyes Volunteer Puppy Raiser