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This afternoon Caleb and I returned home from a five-day trip to San Francisco, where I learned two of his littermates had been career-changed. Since only about 50 percent of puppies in training make it as working guide dogs this is not unheard of, but after another successful travel experience with my stoic little dude it stung just a little. Luckily, Caleb remains on track. We have yet to encounter a situation he cannot handle. He is a willing participant in whatever activity we are headed for. Tail wagging and feet prancing, he’s very good at showcasing those Golden Retriever traits.
We spent a few days in San Francisco, which is a great experience for this little country bumpkin. Caleb has become such a seasoned traveler I believe he absolutely knows exactly what’s going on when I begin to pack my bag and his food. Thinking back to the little chuck of puppy I picked up last winter, I am very proud of how far Caleb has come. Watching him navigate slipping under the seats on a plane and traversing through San Francisco Airport is really amazing. He’s ready to face whatever path he chooses. He is confident and smart and loves to please, I think he’ll make a wonderful guide dog and partner for someone.
From San Fran, we made our way to Napa for a few nights to visit some friends and attend the Guide Dogs for the Blind  Canine Heroes Wine Gala. Guide Dogs for the Blind supports and funds the veterinary care for all program dogs for the duration of their careers. The funding will support everything from urgent-care treatments and life-threatening conditions, to annual exams including vaccinations and lab work.
The evening included amazing wine and food from local restaurants, a silent auction, a spirited live auction and lots of dogs! Caleb was more than willing to pose for photos and work the crowd. I managed to win the raffle drawing for 13 magnums of wine but most importantly nearly $500,000 was raised to ensure Guide Dogs for the Blind can provide the best veterinary care to their clients free of charge.
Even with all the excitement and Caleb’s successes, I think we’ve reached the point I should address the white elephant that’s been in the background of this series since the start, the reality of giving Caleb up, which is only growing closer with each passing day. I am hoping we’ll have him for another 3 to 4 months but we are starting to prepare for his recall, knowing it’s only a matter of time.
He’s the first puppy we’ve had who didn’t meet Noah, my yellow Lab companion of nearly 14 years. I think this worked in his favor as we refer to him as our clean slate pup. Our previous guide dog puppy-in-training, Arden, was with us when Noah passed away and the entire year was hard for all of us. I still miss my Noah every day but my heart aches less.
Caleb is with us—and more specifically, me—all the time; I am his person. He will go anywhere and do anything for me. Over the last year, we’ve built an amazing bond and trust that we’ll always have no matter what his future holds. He may go weeks, months or years without seeing me but his reaction will be the same and the reunions will be joyful no matter how long we’ve been apart.
I honestly don’t think any of my pups spend their days pining for me. All of them are with their soul mates and where they are meant to be. I am the awesome aunt who brings special presents and treats. From day one, I remind myself eventually we’ll have to say goodbye but as recent as last night I find myself tearing up at the prospect. It never gets easier, in fact, sometimes I think it gets harder with each dog.
Photo by Megan Minkiewicz.