Guide Dog Puppy-in-Training’s “Teenage Rebellion”

And loving up first graders
By Megan Minkiewicz, June 2011

Caleb has officially reached the halfway-point of his puppy-raising year; today he’s 9 months old! We took another plane ride this month; in fact, we took a few. Caleb even bravely managed an early morning flight, which sets back mealtime by an hour—a lifetime to a Labrador.

I left the Alex in charge for a week, while I rode my bike 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles as a participant in AIDS LifeCycle, a fundraising event support the programs of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and when I returned there was a dog where Caleb should have been. He had filled out and looked more like an adult; he had developed this wide ribcage and must have grown an inch in my absence.

Also, while I was gone, someone forgot what his day job was, no doubt a result of being home alone with the “easy” parent. A day after returning, I was working in my office with Caleb and after it was too quiet for a little too long I turned around to find him on his bed with a pack of Post It notes in his mouth. He was just holding them gingerly, not chewing on them but appearing not to know what to do or how he ended up with them in his mouth. He’s never picked up anything other than his own toys so I’ll chalk it up to teenage rebellion.

Speaking of kids, one of Caleb’s earliest socializations was a visit to the first grade classroom of another puppy raiser Mrs. M, who has graciously allowed all my pups to visit her class. Since he’s been visiting on a regular basis, we made a special trip back to say goodbye to the kids and give them a chance to ask me some questions about Caleb before summer break. Quite a list of questions had been compiled in anticipation. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Why does he wear a jacket?”
  • “How does Caleb know when to cross the street?”
  • “How come Caleb never had accidents or goes to the bathroom at school?”
  • “Does Caleb get to play with other dogs?”

In turn, I asked the students what they liked most about having Caleb in class. The responses were hands down some of the best ever. First graders are awesome!

  • “He’s the best pillow and his ears are soft,”
  • “He’s funny and makes us happier.”
  • “I read to him and it helps me be a better reader.”
  • “He loves on us.”
  • “Class is cleaner because he’s here.”

While the learning experience for Caleb is phenomenal, it’s clear his impact on the students has been tremendous. I received a note from Mrs. M after one of Caleb’s visits describing the incident of Caleb and the new kid.

“When a new student arrived scared and unsure, he was greeted by Caleb’s wagging body and bright happy smile. Immediately, he relaxed and melted into Caleb’s fur, petting him and loving him up so carefully. It was an amazing way to get him to open up, tell me about his dog and what he likes about them. I think having Caleb there yesterday made a huge difference in the life of one little guy with a lot of baggage. School was warm, wiggly and happy! Caleb was there for him whenever he needed to be loved up.”

I certainly will not be the first person to tout the power of the pooch when it comes to the human emotion spectrum. But you can’t tell me it’s not there!

Now that summer has finally arrived in Central Oregon, we are looking forward to being outside, and we’re cleaning up the canoe, kayaks and paddleboards in anticipation. Caleb is going to learn all about water sports. Stay tuned.

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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