[Editor’s note: Next month, Megan Minkiewicz brings home a new puppy, the sixth dog she and her husband will raise for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Over the next year and a half, she’ll write about her adventures in puppy-raising for The Bark blog.]
A lifetime ago, I met a yellow Labrador Retriever named Noah who forever changed my life. He was young and I was single, we made a good team. To say he stole my heart is an understatement, for nearly 14 years he was my shadow and constant companion. Noah chose a career path different than the one for which he was intended as a puppy-in-training for Guide Dogs for the Blind. He followed the career path I like to think he was meant for, to be mine. So began my induction into the folds of Guide Dogs for the Blind, raising puppies is my way of giving back to the organization that gave me my dog.
To date, my husband Alex and I have raised five puppies for Guide Dogs. Two female yellow Labs (Solstice and Lotus) and three male black Labs (Andera, Laker and Arden), I remember all of their birthdates, assigned tattoo numbers, nicknames and every quirk about them. Each was special and different and we learned something new from each of them. They were our dogs if just for a year and will forever remain part of our family. We have the good fortune of keeping in contact with our pups. They remember us no matter how long it’s been between reunions, the end result is Lab laps, licks and lots of love.
Our current puppy Arden is just about ready to return to Guide Dogs for his formal training, which means soon a new charge will join our family and have some big paws to fill. Arden has spent the last year as my sidekick; we practice basic obedience, good house manners and general socialization in any number of situations. Generally, where we go the puppy goes—restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, airplanes, grocery stores, trains and more—Arden’s done it all. He’s grown up to be a well-traveled, well-behaved and well-respected member of the community! Living in a small town, Arden is often recognized long before the person at the other end of the leash is even considered.
We volunteer as raisers and, like parenting, we are in it for the love. There are no guarantees. Each puppy comes with its own personality; our job to get them ready to choose their path. Whatever that path may be, it will be an adventure getting there.
We know little about our next puppy, although he will be another male, he may be a Labrador or a Labrador/Golden cross, black or yellow. It’s all unknown until we are handed that little tub of a puppy on December 17.
In the meantime, I am on the heartbreaking countdown to giving up Arden. It’s never easy, even though I know I will see him again—be it at his graduation or, if he’s a career change, back home as a pet. It’s like sending a child off to college. Will he get along with his roommate? Will the instructors like him? Will they know a Jolly Ball is his favorite toy and his favorite place to be scratched is the bridge of his nose? The reality is Arden will love formal training; there are friends, and games, and treats, and lots and lots of love. I will follow his progress through a weekly phase report as he climbs the ladder through ten phases of training—if he makes it that far!
So join me on this blogging adventure to follow the life and times of a Guide Dog puppy in training and I’ll keep you posted on Arden’s adventure too.