Sunday, November 17, 2013

Six Months

My goodness does life move quickly - nearly six months since my last post. We are still here, still doing what we do.

In January we got a letter from Guide Dogs introducing us to Norton's new family. My mom read me the letter over the phone and we both cried from the relief of knowing that his new Mom is a Veterinarian - seriously, could Guide Dogs have found him a better home?!? In the months since, we've received pictures and stories of Norton and his new black lab career change brother Mulligan, and we just know he is in exactly the right spot. He has unfortunately shown some symptoms of his mystery illness, but his new family is seriously amazing and does what is right to see he gets better as soon as possible. I miss Norton's giant black blockhead but I hope to see him again soon!

Norton in his new home, with paws in the river!
Handsome Norton in his new home
In April, Niecy returned to Guide Dogs to begin her formal training - what started as a 3 week puppy sit turned into six months of much-needed time with Niecy. We only wished it could have been longer.

Niecy is always a good sport for everything.
Saxon and Niecy grew to love each other.
Niecy in Braille class, just before she returned for training.
 As summer rolled around, I started another master's degree program to work with people with visual impairments (yes, I'm now working on two of them). I spent all summer outside in the sun, practicing learning and teaching safe travel skills with a white cane, including crossing streets, riding busses, and walking through downtown LA while blindfolded. Each week of my school lessons seemed to correspond with that week of Niecy's guide dog training, according to the Guide Dogs' training schedule. It was fun to think of Niecy learning about the same things I was learning, and the anticipation of her graduation grew as I continued into my second quarter of my second master's degree program.

how I spent my summer - under blindfold!

It is almost selfish, I know, to send my pups off to the next phase of their life thinking of what - and who - they will bring back into my life, but it is something I look forward to every time a dog leaves my care. The circle of people I know, love, and care about grows each time someone receives one of my dogs. This is what I think about when people ask me how I can give up my puppies. A very selfish - but you have no idea what they give back to me.  In this regard, Niecy did not disappoint. Last month we were invited to Niecy's graduation ceremony in San Rafael, California to meet her new handler, Susan. Susan lost her last guide dog quite young, to cancer. I told her about the hole Norton left, and about losing Hero, and how Niecy did her best to fill in. Niecy has prepared for this role her whole life, and plays the part well. The graduation ceremony was lovely and meeting Susan was wonderful. I am excited to follow their adventures and count Susan as a friend.

Niecy portrait before she went back for training.

Sometime over the summer, I left the Los Angeles based puppy club I help found in 2001 and joined one in Orange County, California. While I miss the old puppy club members, the new puppy club is closer to where I live and overall, a much better fit when it comes to club leadership. I am thankful for the support of GDB's management in facilitating this change as smoothly as possible, and for introducing me to more amazing puppy raisers. The new puppy club uses positive reinforcement based training. While GDB is moving towards this methodology as a whole, the new club's leader is trained by the Karen Pryor Academy and our raisers benefit from her expertise. Prentice and I have been working hard to learn the new techniques - and Saxon is very happy to be our guinea pig, since their are treats involved. :)

Did somebody say treats? - Saxon

In August, we received a new guide dog puppy - Supreme, a male yellow lab. Supreme is a lovely, tiny, mellow little guy and we are really enjoying him. His name has grown on us, too. He is Guide Dogs' very first puppy named "Supreme" - I guess they were saving it for someone special! Supreme and Saxon share the same sire, Jenkins, but the two "S" dogs could not be more different in personality, size, fur color! Supreme is now five months old and cruising. We have high hopes for him as well.

Prentice and Supreme, fresh off the puppy truck!

Brothers! Tiny Supreme and Gigantic Saxon

When you're a puppy, everything's a pillow.


  1. Our local guide dog club has two yellow male pups, Sooner and Striker, who might be Supreme's littermates. I believe they came off the puppy truck in August.

    1. yes, they are brothers. :) I raised littermates with Donna, one of Striker's raisers, years ago, so it is nice to renew the connection!