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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.
Photo by Megan Minkiewicz.