Future Guide Dog’s “Family Reunions”

Caleb reunites with his littermates
By Megan Minkiewicz, August 2011

Once a year Guide Dogs for the Blind hosts their annual “Fun Day” at each campus, an annual recognition event for puppy raising volunteers to thank them for everything they do. It’s the biggest event of the year. The day provides raisers from the various territories with the opportunity to learn about new training techniques, changes in the breeding program, new community placement options and, of course, to meet littermates and other raisers.

Three of Caleb’s seven siblings were attended—Cleveland, Carol and Clinton—all are yellow and being raised in the Portland area. We were able to spend some time chatting with the other raisers and comparing notes on our pups. Turns out, there are definitely some shared traits. All of them have the same “hook” move: When playing, they’ll wrap a front paw around you and hang on. They are all cuddly, love to play and are generally mellow personalities. However, when it comes to appearances they are all over the map. Cleveland is significantly bigger with a wavy long Golden Retriever coat, Carol is very petite and Caleb was commended as the cutest, and I have to say I agree!

It’s hard to say if they recognize each other as sibling since in general they show the same level of enthusiasm for all dogs. But it was fun to see some of his littermates and learn how they have been progressing through their training. To date, all eight are still in program and none have been career changed.

We also had a few visitors this month. My mum spends part of the summer in Bend and along with her comes her Black Labrador, Hobson, who is a community placement from Guide Dogs. Community placements are essentially ambassadors. They are paired with active community members, educators and others who help spread the word about Guide Dogs for the Blind.

My mum lives in a retirement community in Arizona where she and Hobson do outreach work on behalf of Guide Dogs for the Blind. They speak to Veterans organizations, vision-loss support groups and social clubs about the services and options available for the visually impaired. Hobson is a wonderful companion for my mum as well as perfect representative for Guide Dogs. When visiting, he also provides some welcome instruction and mentorship for Caleb. Caleb has learned to respect his elders, a bit, and that just because there is another dog around does not mean we are opening a wrestling camp in our living room!

Add to this mix four of my siblings and their families including kids ranging in ages from 2 to 16 and we had a really different vibe for Caleb to experience. This was again invaluable socialization and training for him, on any given day there were at least five additional people in our house, kid’s toys all over the place, and mealtimes were crazy. With our house as the hub of activity, Caleb got a dose of what I grew up in. Lots of people, food, noise, activity and kids running around, he handled it all very well but needed a few long naps in between.

While summer may be coming to a close, we are preparing for our long awaited vacation to Montana for some fly fishing, hiking and relaxing. Caleb is going with us to the lodge and we are looking forward to giving him even some more new experiences. Until next month, enjoy the rest of the summer!

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.

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