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Guide Dog-in-Training Works the Red Carpet
Caleb’s first fundraiser
Caleb, as cool as a real celebrity, during a Guide Dogs for the Blind wine gala.

Our little dude is growing up so fast; we’ve completely lost all semblance of a puppy around our house except during playtime. He’s come to be known by one of his many nicknames, “Little Goat,” as he loves to jump straight in the air and race around the track he’s created in the yard, kicking up his heels and burning off steam.

Caleb is almost eight months old now, which means he’s about halfway through his puppy year. My best estimate is he’ll be recalled for formal training sometime next winter. But for now we are continuing to work on obedience, manners and socializing, all of which Caleb excels at. I had a light travel month for work so Caleb and I are proud to report we’ve made it to the gym every morning for the last two weeks and have been able to do some more daily outings and routines. Now that we’ve built a strong foundation of training, we’ve started to challenge Caleb with more complex outings and socializations. This month was no exception. 

Twice a year, Guide Dogs for the Blind hosts annual wine gala fundraisers in Napa and Portland to raise funds for veterinary care. Guide Dogs for the Blind is unique from other schools in that it commits to the healthcare of working dogs for the lifetime of the dog, well beyond their guiding career. Everything from routine vet visits, cancer treatments, orthopedic surgeries, flea, tick and heartworm prevention to kibble—it is all free of charge to Guide Dog graduates. Knowing the dogs I raise will receive the best care for their lifetime is extremely important to me. We make a point to attend the events and contribute financially to support this cause, so Caleb went with us to Portland for the weekend.

Now remember, we live in the country, so visiting the city is a big change; there are more noises, more distractions and more smells! Since we made a weekend out of it Caleb also got to experience another hotel stay. His first hotel stay was quite controlled; we were in a ground floor room with easy access to an exit for potty breaks. This time we stayed in a downtown high-rise hotel, where leaving for a potty break involved walking down a hallway, riding in an elevator, crossing the lobby, out the door and around the corner. Luckily, all of the practice and consistency of teaching Caleb to relieve on command came in handy. He was perfect. Saturday we spent the day walking and shopping throughout Portland, a more urban ‘hood than Caleb’s used to so it proved to be a good training experience for him.

After an afternoon nap for Caleb and spa treatment for me, we headed over to the Portland Art Museum for the main event, Pinot and Pups. The evening consisted of a reception and silent auction followed by a sit-down dinner, keynote speakers and a live auction. This was Caleb’s first large event, and there was a lot going on from the moment we stepped out of the elevator. There were people, servers, working guide dogs, musicians, puppies-in-training and even some tiny little eight-week-old pups.

Those first few minutes were a little overwhelming for Caleb, so I took his cue and gave him some time to stand in one place and take it all in. Once settled, we spent some time navigating the silent auction tables, placing our bids and talking to attendees. As expected, the question I’m asked most often is how can I give up a puppy; don’t I get attached? Yes, I absolutely do. But to see what these dogs are capable of, I have to be capable of letting go.

Puppies are, of course, the highlight of the event, which was perfect for my little social butterfly. By the time we sat down for dinner, Caleb was more than ready for a nap and was asleep before the first course plates were set. After so much activity and stimulation, Caleb was more than happy to sleep in the next morning until almost 7 am!

All in all the experience proved to be a new one with a slew of new challenges for the little rock star to navigate. Up next on Caleb’s calendar: back-to-back weeks of airplane travel, plus the end of the school year party and interview with his first grade fans. Tune in next month.

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

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