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A Career Change for Caleb
A transition for our family
Caleb enjoys the benefits of a career change: squeaky toys and the couch.

Well, I really did not anticipate I’d be using the words career change; in fact, I delayed writing this post just to avoid it. I take it very hard when one of my dogs is dropped; I feel for a second that I failed as a guide dog puppy raiser. For 13 months Caleb and I have been a team and to an outsider we look like we know what we’re doing. But truth be told, Caleb made the decision he does not want to be a working guide dog. Not all dogs are up to the task, and clearly Caleb has a different agenda and that’s okay too.

Over the last few months we have been working on and have made great improvements in his dog distractions; however, his nemesis continues to be small dogs. He just finds them too interesting and he wants to play with them. I get it: dogs are social animals and who doesn’t want to visit with every friendly face they meet? Caleb has not failed in my eyes; he’s made a conscious career decision.

No doubt, we have really enjoyed raising Caleb. He fit well into our lifestyle, enjoys all sorts of adventure and loves to snuggle—the most important quality of all. But we are not keeping him as a pet. I am just not there yet and I don’t know that I will ever be. I fall in love with every dog I meet and I think it would be amazing to have a ranch full of senior dogs that I could spoil into their golden years, but the loss of Noah still hurts too much to consider having a pet dog. I suppose that’s what makes me a good candidate to raise guide dog puppies: I can give up a puppy even after a year together.

Don’t get me wrong; there have already been lots of tears over the anticipated good-byes. I adore Caleb, and he’ll always hold a very special place in my heart. He proved to be such an accommodating and easygoing companion on road trips, vacations and business travel that I will really miss him tagging along. But he is going to be a very happy camper in his new digs, and for the next few days we are assisting in Caleb’s transition to being a pet.

He’s sleeping on the couch next to me now, a novel experience he’s grown very used to in just 48 hours. He is enjoying a whole new world of previously off-limits toys and treats! On the flip side, he’s no longer going to be available as my movie date and I had to go grocery shopping alone today. But if the trade-off is sleeping on the couch, I know what gets Caleb’s vote.

We have the great fortune of a long list of family and friends waiting to adopt a career-change dog and among them was a perfect family for Caleb. He will be living a lifestyle very similar to the one he’s grown up in and we will be able to visit him as often as possible.

The opportunity to share Caleb’s story with a new legion of fans has been wonderful and rewarding. For the first time in six puppies, I actually have a record of our time together and I thank The Bark for giving me that. Perhaps out of this someone will raise a guide dog puppy, become a breeder dog custodian, adopt a career-change dog, or visit one of the Guide Dogs for the Blind campuses and/or choose to support their work. While I will not have the opportunity to share with you stories of Caleb’s progress through formal training or his partnering with a vision-impaired person, there is always the next puppy in training! On January 27, we’ll meet our next puppy and begin all over again.

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Megan Minkiewicz has raised six puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Over the next year and a half, she'll write about her adventures as a volunteer puppy raiser for The Bark blog. She lives in Bend, Ore., with her husband Alex, a Quarter Horse named Chip, and a one-eyed goldfish named Flobie and Caleb. guidedogs.com

Photo by Megan Minkiewicz.

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Submitted by Alexis E. GirlR... | January 19 2012 |

Gosh, I empathize with you. We had our first GDA dog dropped at just nine months. He wasn't up for the challenge of working and was very easily distracted. Now, as turn in day approaches for our second dog, I have to keep telling everyone, "yes, I will miss him and no, we won't keep him if he doesn't pass." Chin up! Your dog will have an excellent life because of the work you put in!

Submitted by Donna | February 22 2012 |

Understand completely your feelings. The third pup I raised for a local guide dog school was career changed to K9. He was the toughest pup I raised and put so much into him. But just like all people are not cut out to be doctors, all dogs are not cut out to be guide dogs. I was suddenly thrust into senior retired guide dog care when my working dogs started being retired. That will teach me not to raise pup after pup! Smile! Good luck with your next pup!

Submitted by Terri | February 22 2012 |

Megan,
We too had our puppy, Lily dropped at her 9 month evaluation.
There were so many emotions that go along with it. We were sad and very disapointed to be dropped. Lily, our black lab, and family followed all the guidelines. We felt we were doing everything by the book. We loved being in the program and felt sad to no longer be part of the group. We have decided not to raise another dog at this time. Lily is our pet now and totally spoiled rotten! Sleeping in my daughter's bed which was never allowed before. The hard part is leaving her home now, whenever we go too. I just tell her, shouldn't have failed and you could go too!
She is an amazing dog with so much love to give! We decided to make
her a therapy dog! She has a great time visiting the elderly, and the library for the kids to read to her. I have realized now that
Lily just wasn't cut out for the guide dog program. Being a pet and giving love is what she does best! Be proud of all your accomplishments and know your time with Caleb was well spent. He will make someone a wonderful pet and certainly be happy in his new life! Good Luck to you and your future puppies Terri

Submitted by Anonymous | February 22 2012 |

I'm not sure how all you puppy raisers manage to give up such wonderful dogs. I am on my 6th guide and they are all amazing. Although Caleb's story is tough, thank you for noticing now. Last year I worked a very wonderful dog whom I love dearly but guiding was not to be her life's work, she could either be obedient or guide but not both at the same time. The struggle was stressing her out and she was career changed and is now a therapy dog with her puppy raiser. Thanks again for putting so much love, time and energy into these wonderful dogs.

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