Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How can I give them back:

My father’s voice echoes in my head, “someday that dog is going to make a difference in someone’s life.”

A young girl and a beautiful German Shepherd frequently walked past our house. She was a member of the local 4-H and was raising this Shepherd for The Seeing Eye. I remember thinking, Wow, how cool it that! After checking around and gaining more information, I asked, my parents, for permission to become involved in the project. “You would never be able to give the dog back,” was my dad’s responds. Besides we already had a dog, a collie that put Lassie to shame. We (my parents) didn’t need another dog. I parked the puppy raising idea in a far place in my mind.

Years later when I married and moved from home, I again inquired about the puppy raising program. However, since both my husband and I were working we decide it best to adopt an older dog from the shelter. We realized we wouldn’t have the time to invest in a puppy, only to give it away. We adopted the most wonderful 6 year old yellow lab. When our sons were born she happily became second and third fiddle to them. She never complained about having to be “the patient” as they played doctor or “the ghost” when they were the Ghostbusters.

When she past, I again thought about the puppy raising project but all I heard was my dad’s voice echoing around my head, “You could never give the dog back.” My sons were young, and I didn’t want them to have to give a puppy back. I again decided the time wasn’t right. I put the thought back in the place I had reserved for it, back in my mind and again decided on a yellow lab, this time a puppy.

Unfortunately, she was past at 5 years of age. By this time my youngest son was 11 and my older son, 12; I found the right time had finally come. I made a phone call and several weeks later I was presented with a fuzzy, wiggly, little Golden Retriever pup. He was my constant companion, because of this, I often found myself explaining the program. “Yes, I will have him for 16 to 18 months. Then he will go back to The Seeing Eye for his formal training.” What I heard over and over, “I could never do that. How can you just give him back?”

His recall time came and I can honestly say, it was very difficult to let him go, but he was never ours. We had raised him for someone else. He had made a change in my life and now it was time for him to make a difference in someone else life. My boys and I spent the day out of the house trying to keep ourselves busy, but thoughts of him were never far away. Several days later, we received our second Seeing Eye puppy, a female black lab.

13 years and 12 puppies later, the most frequently asked question is, “how can you give him/her back?” I try to explain that this puppy really isn’t mine and I am only fostering him/her, to which I often hear, “I could never do that.” I think to myself, sure you could. This respond has lead me to believe that perhaps I have not answered “the question” properly.

Every dog guide school has different views in regards to the raiser and the recipient of the puppy/dog guide. Many schools invite the raiser to the graduation and during the ceremony have the raiser hand over the leash and dog to their new partner. The Seeing Eye is one of the few schools which believe this should be an anonymous gift. Therefore, I have not met any of the recipients of “my” puppies. I have met many dog guide teams and have heard many wonderful stories about this amazing partnership.

After starting LW’s blog , I was blessed to have “met” a dog guide team. They reside over at Dog’s Eye View. Recently L^2 was asked what her favorite memory with her dog guide is.

“How can I give them back?” I believe if you read L^2’s answer, I’ll see how I can “give them back.”


kjpweb said...

Hard as it might be - I guess the knowledge that these dogs will eventually be someones companion, who really needs them - is the reason to make it work! Great work that you do! Kudos!
Cheers, Klaus

Ivanhoe said...

You have such a big heart! I think what helps (besides helping a person in need) is that shortly after you let one go, there is another one for you to "raise".

Mercedes said...

I know it is hard but understanding what you do helps I am sure. One day I would like to have my own little animal rescue at my house...or maybe foster dogs for an animal shelter. I just gotta own my own place with a huge fenced yard-lol!

Debbie @ Three Weddings said...

Maybe this isn't as hard for me to understand since I am not a dog person, but I think what you do is beautiful. I never thought about the seeing eye dog before they were trained. You provide a special gift. In many ways, it is no different than raising our own children and sending them out to the world. True, we stay in touch with our children. I am grateful to you and all the other people out there doing this. Your story made me cry. You are helping those with special challenges in a caring and selfless way and for that, I thank you.

L^2 said...

I think it takes a special person to give this gift that you continue to give, because as you said, a lot of people just don’t understand how you could give them back. Thank you so much for sharing your story. And, of course, thank you for taking on this job.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post!

I'm so glad that we've "meet" because I'm learning a lot from you!