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My Life as a Puppy Raiser

by volunteer Nancy Teague

Guiding Eyes dog CapriI had been a career-crazed Manhattanite.  Burned out with my self-obsessed lifestyle, I threw it aside to move to the country, and volunteer my time to a very worthy cause – Guiding Eyes.

I began my first puppy raising experience about a year and a half ago.  I went through the three orientation classes, read all the assigned homework texts and took the exams.  Finally, I received the incredibly cute, lovable blond bundle of a puppy named Capri.

Even after moving to the country, I’d maintained my Manhattan night owl habits – bed at 1am and up at 8am.   Then I encountered Capri’s schedule; she crashed at 6:30pm after her third meal of the day, and was up at 5:13am every morning. I was tired all the time and felt my Manhattan career had been easy.

The daily training took quite a bit of time.  I had to teach my puppy to walk politely by my side with no pulling and to stay at pace with me.  Then there was class.  My region had raisers that had already worked with 5-10 dogs each; these people were SERIOUS about raising a successful guide dog!

And what did I get from it?  I now had an incredibly beautiful, intelligent dog that I was lucky enough share my home and life with. The first month I slept in my clothes for all the times I had to get up through the night.  I learned make-up, a good hair do, and even clothes that matched didn’t matter. Pee and poop in my perfectly decorated house didn’t matter.  All that really mattered to me was the Puppy’s advancement and welfare – the rest was small stuff.

I learned to respect the puppy’s intelligence – to wait for it to arrive at the place I wanted it to be, and to trust it would understand what I was trying to communicate. I slowed my pace down to the puppy’s speed from my intense Manhattan pace.  We were a tight team, working towards a wonderful future. I planned outings and training, and trained my neighbors with their dogs to respect my puppy’s role and future.

As the puppy grew, I learned to accommodate her strong personality and high energy, and planned my day to include everything she needed. She came to me for pets several times through the day, and hooked her leg on my forearm. I was in love. Many pets and kisses.

Then it was time to return her to Guiding Eyes. I had hoped I could keep this incredibly loveable, beautiful, awesome dog as a breeder, but she began guide dog training. My regional manager gently reminded me I’d raised her to be a guide dog; her path was not about me, but was her own journey.

Three months in, she was released from training. I chose to not take her back – one of the toughest decisions of my life.  She was a force to be reckoned with, too tough for my old dog or cat, and now I had a new puppy I was nurturing. My heart aches, but I regret nothing. I trained a superb, loving dog that unfortunately, wasn’t suited for being a guide dog, and wasn’t able to live with my current animals.

I learned so many lessons raising her, and have grown immensely as someone willing to sacrifice for the greater good. I miss her, and bless her on her next chapter with the lucky person who shares her life.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeds incredible dogs and supports their puppy raisers to learn amazing life lessons.  The best part?  Having the good fortune of spending some time with their puppies.