The One That Got Away

Hello Everyone ! It’s Keely here …

@RumpyDog is one of my newest furiends on Twitter and I am very honoured that he asked me to write a guest post for his blog all about Guide Dogs here in the UK. I thought our furiends might like to read it too:
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Firstly a little bit about me. I was born on 5th May 2005 at Guide Dogs breeding centre in Leamington Spa in the UK. I was destined to become a Guide Dog and for the first part of my training I was sent at 6 weeks to live with a volunteer puppy walker, I believe you call them puppy-raisers in the USA. Personally I think that is a better term as at such a young age we do very little actual walking.

Me as a cute puppy

Many people ask why Guide Dogs place puppies at such a young age as most breeders don’t place puppies until at least 8 weeks of age. The reason is that we are going to be more than pets, we will have a very important job to do and the experience of being in a safe domestic environment at such a young age will stand us in good stead later as we get used to everyday experiences, noises and sensations such as TV sounds, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, door bells, visitors and other family members.

Our puppy walkers are encouraged to take us out into the big scary noisy world as early and as often as possible, they carry us in the early weeks until our vaccination programme is complete. My ‘Mum’ took me with her wherever she went, on buses, trains, on car journeys into busy town centres and into shops, offices, cafes etc.

This is all in addition to the normal things that a young puppy has to learn such as being clean in the house, being sociable with other dogs, walking on a lead and the basic obedience commands such as Sit, Stay, Come etc. Potential Guide Dogs also have to learn to go to the toilet in a specific area before leaving home for a walk or trip out and to associate the sound of a whistle with being fed. The former skill obviously prevents us having “accidents” which would be hard for our visually impaired owners to deal with and the second means that we will always return to our owner’s whistle as we think it means food! A highlight of any Labrador’s day!

The aim of all this early training is to produce a well socialised and good mannered young dog with a calm unexcitable temperament that can then be trained by professional trainers to become a guide and companion to a visually impaired person. Don’t think it’s all work and no play though, we get lots of off lead training too and play which is very important to strengthen the bond with our owners.

I did quite well in my early training although I do have a very sensitive temperament. However, shortly before I was due to leave my Mum & go to Guide Dog school my vet discovered that I had a slight heart murmur. I was sent to a specialist for further heart checks and sadly Guide Dogs made the decision that I was unsuitable for further training. You will appreciate that visually impaired people develop a very close bond with their Guide Dog and it was felt that it would not be fair to a Guide Dog owner to have a dog who may not be able to work up to the expected age of around 8.

The happy outcome for me was that my puppy walking Mum got to adopt me permanently and I now help Mum with the other Guide Dog puppies that she raises. We have 3 more, Quella and Smartie who are now breeding bitches for Guide Dogs producing more lovely healthy potential Guide Dogs, and our last one Flora who was a daughter of Quella and is now out working as a Guide Dog. We are on the wait list for another pup and as Smartie is now pregnant we are hoping to have one of hers this October. We also often have other pups to stay with us whilst their puppy walkers are on holiday so I always have lots of furiends to play with.

Quella with Mum

Me with Smartie when she was a puppy

left: Flora as a puppy   right: Flora’s Graduation Photo

For further information about UK Guide Dogs please visit Guide Dogs UK . I am sure there are many similar service dog organisations in the USA.