This past weekend, I got to witness a friend of mine graduate with her 3rd guide dog, an adorable black lab named Figaro. This was also the first time I met my friend in person. You see, we connected through FaceBook as we are both alumni of Guide Dogs for the Blind and part of many of the guide dog related groups. The graduation was wonderful and as always brought out the emotions. It has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my experiences with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
I have come to call GDB my family. This is for many reasons. It took me a while to realize just how interconnected GDB is in my life from my beginnings as a puppy raiser and now as a guide dog user and ambassador for GDB. Each and every person who is involved with GDB is kind, devoted, and give themselves and their time to help GDB advance their mission. I have not met one person who wasn’t genuinely down to earth and that includes all of the puppy raisers, staff, trainers, and volunteers. There is a certain quality you must poses in order to give yourself so freely. GDB brings together like minded people who also happen to love dogs and serve others. Another amazing thing about GDB is the longevity of the organization and it’s supporters. GDB is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year! Wow, they have been serving blind and visually impaired individuals across North America for 75 years. It is not uncommon to hear that people have been volunteering with the organization for 10+ years or they are raising their 30th puppy. Once you are involved you are hooked!
Of these people that are most special are the puppy raisers. They give so much of their time to love, care for, and train these wonderfully adorable puppies until they are just becoming nice companions and then they give them back to Guide Dogs for formal training to do what they were destined to do, become a guide dog to help someone who is blind or visually impaired. I am forever grateful for the dedication that Nabisco’s puppy raisers gave to shaping him into the wonderful dog he is today. I know exactly what it is like because I raised 5 puppies for GDB. I used to hear all of the time, “I could never give them up” and yes, while this is difficult and you do get attached, my answer was always the same. I used to explain first off that you go into it knowing it is not your dog and that you aren’t going to keep it. It is totally different than getting a puppy, thinking you are going to keep it for life, and then giving it away. Second, when you get to see the difference that dog makes in the life of a person who is blind or visually impaired, there is no going back, it makes it all worth it. I remember Nabisco’s raisers told me that after they saw how much he helps me, they decided to raise another one!
I have gotten to experience both sides of the leash and it is the most magical thing in the whole entire world. To give and then receive.
Giving myself to Guide Dogs for the Blind through puppy raising and then receiving my very own guide dog was amazing!
Back to my discussion about my GDB family. You develop connections and networks and relationships with everyone you meet. I am so grateful that I have been able to stay in touch with my puppy’s blind partners and that I am still in touch with and building relationships with Nabisco’s raisers and so many other puppy raisers I have met through my public speaking with GDB. When you are involved with GDB, you have an instant connection and you share a common purpose. Some of my closest friends in high school were from the GDB puppy raising program. And just as each human connection means so much, each of my puppies hold a special place in my heart. Clint is still working for his parter at the young age of 11 years old. I hope Nabisco and I can have such a successful career together!
I am so grateful to have GDB in my life for the past 13 years. I will continue to support the mission of this amazing organization and do whatever I can to foster the relationships that I have built and will continue to build in the future.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is an amazing organization that has the welfare and success of each and every dog at the forefront of their work. They go above and beyond to help teams be successful including paying for veterinary expenses.
It is sometimes hard to describe in words just what this organization and it’s volunteers means to me. The best way to describe it is family. You can count on them for anything.
Thank you to all of those who support GDB!
PS. If you want to help support GDB, I encourage you to donate via their website or vote for Nabisco to be featured in their 2018 Calendar, by clicking here. By donating $1 per vote, Nabisco may be the next featured model.
Also, on a slightly unrelated note, but since I have not posted since his attack. I would like to report that Nabisco is doing fabulous! We worked through a bit of distraction, but he is working as well as ever. I am continuing to work through some anxiety, but am getting better with each positive dog interaction we have. And last, the attacking dogs were identified and I was able to report them to Animal Control and action was taken and we have seen a change in behavior as the dogs have not showed up at school again, that I have seen. All in all, a successful ending to a not so fun experience. Glad we are on the mend!