Friday, October 15, 2004

Things I Have Learned From Ohana

1. Toilet paper makes a delicious between-meal snack.

2. Humans are not the only ones who snore.

3. Male dogs are not the only ones who...ahem..."assert dominance."

4. Labrador is just another name for "landshark." You know those stories about great whites where somebody catches one and cuts it open to find things like license plates? Wouldn't surprise me a bit.

5. Rain is very exciting. Must bite rain! Rain must be conquered! WHY CAN'T I KILL IT?

6. If guide dog work is not in her future, Ohana would make an excellent drug-sniffing dog -- she seems very excited about my neighbor's apartment door every time we go into the hallway.

UPDATE 9/2005: Unfortunately, Ohana has been "career changed" (this is what GDA calls it when a dog is dropped from their program). She has a tumor behind her eye, which renders her ineligible for guide dog service. But while she may have a few medical challenges ahead of her, she's now headed for a life of leisure and TLC with a wonderful person from GDA's "I want to adopt a career change dog" waiting list.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Frequently Asked Questions about puppy raising:

Q. How long do you have these dogs?
A. About 16 months -- we get the pups at 8 weeks and keep them 'til they're about a year and a half.

Q. Where do the dogs come from?
A. GDA has its own breeding program, and they occasionally accept donated dogs from local breeders.

Q. What kinds of dogs are they?
A. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles, and some interesting crosses like Labradoodles (Lab/Poodle) and Goldadors (Lab/Golden).

Q. How do you train them?
A. We take our dogs through basic obedience training, train them to have good house manners, give them lots of exposure to people and animals and public places, and shower them with love.

Q. You can take a dog anywhere?
A. Just about -- most people understand, once you politely educate them, that it's important to get the dog used to the kinds of environments his future master might encounter in the course of his daily life. Office buildings, grocery stores, busy streets, elevators, restaurants, crowds, schools, sporting events....

Q. Do the dogs go to work with you?
A. Absolutely! Blind people have jobs too, y'know.

Q. Do they ever get to just be dogs?
A. Oh, believe me -- when a puppy's not wearing his "Puppy in Training" jacket that signifies to him and everyone else that he's working, he can run and play and wrestle and snort and wiggle and have treats and act, for the most part, just like any other dog.

Q. What happens to the dogs who don't make it?
A. GDA calls these "career change" dogs. If a dog is dropped from the program, it might be offered to another kind of agency for different work that's more suited to the dog's temperament or habits. For example, if you just can't break a dog's habit of obsessively sniffing the ground whenever he's out for a walk, they might try to get him work as a search and rescue dog.

Q. And if that doesn't happen?
A. The puppy raiser gets first dibs! If the raiser can't or doesn't want to adopt the dog as a personal pet, the dog will be given to a wonderful family from the VERY long (six years at last count) "I Want to Adopt A GDA Dog" waiting list. Don't worry -- they all end up with excellent homes one way or another!

Q. How can you give them up? I could never do that.
A. Sure, it's difficult. But puppy raisers support each other emotionally, and we all know the meaning behind the mission: this is a gift we give to someone else, a gift that will change a life. You should come to a GDA graduation sometime. Then you'll understand exactly why we do this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Dog Blog Begins

Welcome to my new blog! My name is Jenny, and I'm a volunteer puppy raiser for a terrific organization called Guide Dogs of America, which is located here in Southern California.

I have been involved with GDA since the spring of 2003. My employment situation at that time was such that I could not raise a puppy for the full 18-month commitment, so I have simply been a regular attender of group meetings and events, and an occasional "relief sitter" for other puppy raisers.

But patience and perseverance do triumph. My new bosses are very supportive and excited about their new "employee," and I am now officially on the waiting list to receive the puppy who will accompany me to the office and (hopefully?) learn to behave like a gentleman in public. I intend to chronicle the joys and frustrations of the entire process farts and all. While I am still waiting for the arrival of my official charge, I'll share with you a few of my puppysitting experiences and other relevant concerns.

Whether you're a regular reader, an avid commenter, or just passing through, I hope you enjoy your time here. Bookmark me if you'd like to keep track of my journey with the four-legged beasties who will hopefully someday become guide dogs -- beloved companions to and instruments of greater independence for people with visual impairment.