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Wrangler’s Canine Friends

Guiding Eyes dogs Hamlin and Oliver pose with a Gatorade cooler at the 36th Annual Golf ClassicPeople frequently ask why Wrangler doesn’t get to play with the dogs that visit the Today Show set, such as Westminster winner Miss. P.  Like most dogs, Wrangler loves a good play date and can romp around with the best of them. However, as a future guide dog, Wrangler has to learn how to play and greet dogs politely, and needs to be able to discern when it is time to play versus when it is necessary to ignore a dog distraction.

Wrangler has many doggy friends, of both the future guide dog and pet variety. Not only does Wrangler live with three other dogs in his home, but he also has many friends he gets to see regularly outside his home. One such friend is a little French bulldog named Lulu. Lulu is no ordinary little girl, as she works as a distraction dog to help teach dogs in formal guide dog training that when they are working they need to ignore other dogs and stay focused.

For now, Lulu and Wrangler get together for play dates when they aren’t busy. Lulu is a great friend for Wrangler to have because she is a small dog and she looks much different from the many Labradors he sees on a regular basis. It is essential that Wrangler is familiar with many different types of dogs, as he will likely have to pass and ignore a multitude of dogs during his career as a guide.

Another way Wrangler interacts with dogs is through doing “puppy outings” with his fellow future guide dogs.  By going on socialization outings with other future guide dogs, both pups benefit from working and focusing around each other in new environments. For instance, sometimes Wrangler and his friend Lucky, a one-year-old yellow lab, walk around the mall or go to stores together. One time they even met the Easter bunny and had their picture taken with him!

This particular situation gave Lucky and Wrangler the chance to practice patience as they posed for a picture with the distraction of each other and a giant bunny. No one can predict what Lucky and Wrangler could come across in their future careers, and all of these experiences prepare them for what lies ahead.

Sometimes work and play can even be used to enhance each other. When Wrangler’s siblings, Woodrow and Webster, came to visit him at the show for National Siblings Day, all three pups were naturally excited to see one another. In order to help them get some of their enthusiasm and energy out, the three were allowed to have playtime before the segment.

While it is imperative that Wrangler gets the chance to work and play with other dogs, it is paramount that he maintain “proper manners” in both situations.  During playtime it is important that Wrangler learn to play politely with other dogs, which means sharing a toy and refraining from being too mouthy or playing “keep away” games. Wrangler plays with dogs that already have good manners and will be able to teach him how to be polite at playgroup.

Consequently, Wrangler is not allowed to play with dogs I am unfamiliar with or unsure of how they will react to him. Hence, there will be no future play dates with Miss. P or any of the other dogs who happen to grace Studio 1A. However, these dogs offer Wrangler the chance to practice his dog distraction, learning to focus even when there is a furry guest in the Orange Room.

by volunteer puppy raiser and Guiding Eyes staff member Saxon Eastman