Puppy On The Way (September 1999)

Weíve decided to join the puppy raiser program of the Leader Dogs for the Blind. Itís something Iíve always wanted to do. With help from my most capable and responsible daughter, Jennie (sweet sixteen on the 16th), we have signed up for either a golden retriever or a Labrador retriever. We will get our puppy from Leader Dogs in June, and train it for approximately one year. At the end of that time, we will return it to Leader Dogs and there it will attend special school in order to learn all it needs to know about guiding a blind person wherever they want to go. We figure it will be a lot like having a four-legged foreign exchange student who acts like a newborn, but with sharper teeth. We understand that just about the time the dog starts behaving, and weíve formed an incredibly loving bond, weíll have to give it back. (This is probably how they hook you for the next puppy.)

We attended our first Puppy Raisers Meeting at Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan about a month ago. This was our first hurdle. We know Jenís allergic to cats and we wanted to know if her poor nose would blow off with a dog around the house. Surprisingly, we met about 35 dogs all at once and she survived. Not a single sniffle. I have to tell you it was most impressive. That many dogs in one room and only one barked. They ranged in age from fur ball with paws to small horse, and with the exception of the lone barker, they were extremely well behaved. Next we filled out some papers and then came word that we were accepted in the program.

I would like to ask for your help. We donít know much about dogs. Steve grew up with dogs, but they were mostly outside dogs, not inside dogs. I grew up with a succession of cats starting with an alley cat named Baby George Mow. She was a girl cat who followed me everywhere until I made her a Halloween costume and forced her to go trick-or-treating with me in a baby carriage. She ran away never to return. Her various progeny survived, and were supplemented with other feline additions to the family over the years, all of whom were mentally unstable and admittedly tortured as I insisted on dressing them in doll clothes. When I learned to sew it was only to make outfits for the cats. One Siamese was forced to don a Superman outfit, complete with cape, hat, and tail cozy. While he wasnít able to leap tall buildings, he did get to the top of the bookcase where he chewed off my handiwork.

We also had Farfel, the cocker spaniel. That was a disaster. She was really a bladder with legs. Each and every time anyone entered the house she would get over-excited. Her tail would wag so quickly it must have short-circuited some inner plug somewhere and she would leak terribly. Thank goodness the back door opened into the laundry room which had a vinyl floor.

Jennie has only had gerbils, which are very hard to sew for. Oscar and Tinkerbell (both female, donít ask) were very intelligent, except for the time Tinkie crawled in one of those cardboard toilet paper tubes and got stuck---nose and whiskers emerging from one end, tail from the other. She looked like she was wearing a cardboard girdle. (We just peeled it off of her.) Oscar actually knew her name and would jump into Jenís hand. After they passed into the great gerbil beyond, we welcomed Pyramus and Thisbe into the fish tank. They are not quite as bright as their predecessors as they spend most of their time trying to dig through the glass and escape.

So, we need dog advice, and especially a good name. We donít know if it will be a girl dog or a boy dog, so weíre open to any and all suggestions, remembering that the dogís future owner will be using the dogís name in public. Weíve been given very specific instructions for training the dog but would especially like to hear from others who might have trained guide dogs before. (We got the dog. Her name is Daisy, and you can read about her on the PUPPY page.) (c) 1999 by Ami Simms.