Pet Tips 'n' Tales©
- Paying it Forward -
Marsha and Pat are raising puppies and are wonderful examples of Paying it Forward! They are dedicated to raising Guide Dogs for the Blind. Their selfless volunteering, along with Shimmer's dedication to serve a human, are priceless gifts that change lives.
"If you want others to be happy,
If you want to be happy,
~ Dalai Lama ~
A life changing moment can start innocently enough. When you wake in the morning, you have no idea that your life is about to change - and so is someone else's.
"Our daughter, Heather, works at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Boring Oregon (outside of Gresham, a suburb of Portland) as a Kennel Technician," explains Marsha. "She takes care of a kennel of 40 dogs while they are there receiving their final training. There are 3 such kennels, so there are lots of dogs.
She invited us to a graduation ceremony where blind people receive their guide dogs, presented to them by the puppy's raiser.
Graduations are open to the public and are extremely emotional. The gratefulness a blind person feels for this dog, who is going to change their lives, is hard for those of us with sight to understand. The ceremony hooked me and I decided to become a puppy raiser. I wanted to feel the joy that this gift created for others.
Puppies are from Guide Dogs' San Rafael, California campus where they are bred. At 8-12 weeks old, they are transferred to their raiser. The raiser is responsible for teaching them basic obedience, basic commands, and socializing the puppy by taking them everywhere they go. The best part is we are responsible for giving them lots of love.
Shimmer was our first puppy; we received her at 10 weeks, returned her to the school at 16 months, and she was 22 months when presented to her blind recipient.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has an excellent training and placement program. They take applicants from around the country, make home visits, and get a detailed profile of that person so they can match them with a dog that will be a perfect match.
Puppy raisers receive training in weekly meetings, and we read a training manual. Puppies need lots of love and there is plenty of support available through the local club leader and Area Field Rep. Alma, Shimmer's recipient, has been blind since birth. Alma attended a 2 week training session in Boring where she and Shimmer learned to work together.
It's amazing the things that Alma reports about Shimmer. When Shimmer left us, she was a puppy, and it is hard to imagine that she is disciplined enough to be responsible for someone's life.
We went into the program knowing this service was for someone else. Letting Shimmer go was easier for me than it was for my husband. I love her, of course, but what she is doing for Alma is so much more important than us having a nice pet.
To keep the dogs focused on their training, the puppy raisers are not allowed to see them during training, so the next time we saw Shimmer was at graduation, 6 months later.
We had wondered if Shimmer would remember us; 6 months seemed like a long time for a dog to remember.
We were in a large reception area with other families waiting for our dogs and their new partners to arrive. They entered one at a time, the dog in harness, leading their new partner.
Every single dog immediately recognized their families. Shimmer started wiggling as soon as she saw us, knowing she couldn't break and run but the excitement was almost more than she could bear.
As soon as Alma released Shimmer, she was on us in a very "un-guide dog like" manner jumping, sniffing, licking.
She knocked Pat over with her exuberance. It was rewarding that she really did remember us.
The trainer told us that once a dog is retired from guide work, which is about 8-10 years, if their partner decides not to keep them as a pet, the puppy raiser has the option of getting that dog back as a pet. The dog will remember their former family after all those years!
We are now raising another puppy, Kenwood, who is going into the K9 Buddy Program, which provides companion dogs for blind children," said Marsha.
This week's story is the tip of Shimmer's tale. The end of the tale is next week's Tips 'n' Tales. http://www.angelscribe.com/tnt_110110b.html
"What this world needs
is a new kind of army
- the army of the kind."
- Cleveland Amory -
"Kindness is the language
which the deaf can hear
and the blind can see."
- Mark Twain -
- Volunteer, apply or donate towards a Guide Dog. Guide Dogs for The Blind receives no government funding. 1-800-295-4050 www.GuideDogs.com
Mary Ellen & Miss Wings
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