Sunday, November 21, 2010

Southeastern Guide Dogs

It's been almost 2 weeks since Cindy Jae went off to college. Today Mr. at Home folded up the crate and we stored it and the baby (puppy) gates on a shelf in the garage. I found a few abandoned bones lying under the couch and tossed them in the trash. A few days ago, we painted the loft where tiny puppy claws had scratched the wall and a rough puppy tongue had licked the paint off. Slowly but surely the house is recovering from a year of having a labrador retriever puppy.

I find myself enjoying the mornings where an insistent whining isn't forcing me out of bed for an early walk in the rain. I also miss the excited greetings when I walk into a room, the cock of her head as she watches me in the kitchen, or the instant sit whenever she sees me with a treat. The cat is happy now that the big black bane of her existence is gone. She's wandering the whole house and even playing with her toys that had been all but banned while there was a dog who would eat them.

While I'm painting and sleeping in here, Cindy Jae is living in style at school. It's a long 10 hour drive down to Palmetto, FL, through small towns and past large horse ranches. Cindy Jae rode in the back of the van on a tie-down and spent the entire trip sleeping or gnawing through a large knuckle bone filled with peanut butter. She handled the trip amazingly well. We arrived at the hotel just before sunset and then made a mad dash for the beach. Dogs weren't allowed on the main beach, so she had to wait in the car for the few minutes we got to stay there. We did find a little stretch on the way back where she could get out and down to the water. In Cindy Jae's mind, beaches are for *running*! She raced back and forth, pulling us with her, and trying her best to get out into the water. We let her get out some energy then headed back to grab some dinner and get to sleep. We didn't have a crate, so she spent the night attached to the desk leg by a short leash and she settled right down and slept all night. She had never been so perfectly behaved.

The next morning, we packed everything back in the van and drove over to the guide dog school. It's a beautiful campus tucked into a quiet spot with only a few houses nearby. Lots of nice buildings housing offices and kennels, lots of walking paths with a tropical feel, statues, memorials, and people scattered about walking dogs.

It was match day for a new class (where the blind people are matched to a guide dog to begin their new partnership), so things were busy. We met some of the employees and volunteers and one of them arrived with a collar and leash and led Cindy Jae away to her new life.

Trust me that was one excited dog. There were people! Who were paying attention to her! There were smells! More dogs!! By now all of her brothers and sisters are there, most of whom were in our puppy group here so she knows them well. It'll probably be another 2 weeks before we here anything about her progress, but I don't doubt that she's loving her new home.

After we turned over Cindy Jae to the kennel person, we got a tour of the rest of the facility. We saw puppies that had been born just the night before and puppies that were 3 weeks old. Those puppies grow *a lot* in 3 weeks! In the main kennel, we saw a couple of dogs that had been in our puppy raiser group. They reported back to school in the spring and are almost done with their training at the school.

This is Duchess (black) and Rocky (yellow).

And this is their kennel. As you can see, it has indoor and outdoor areas, other dogs to socialize with, and lots of room to play.

Rebecca, who had raised Rocky, asked us to take Rocky for a walk for her, but he had just come in from a walk and was headed to get a bath. So all I got was a couple of pictures for her. We headed out to stand in line to walk another dog (they have volunteers come in throughout the day to walk the dogs around campus). The girl brought us a big yellow lab and announced, "This is Toby."

Hey! We know Toby, too! He's the brother of Rocky and Duchess, but he suffers from allergies and is currently being evaluated for a different career. We got one good picture while he pulled me all over the campus. He pulls like Cindy Jae does sometimes, but his extra 30 or so pounds makes a huge difference.

It was a wonderful experience seeing the guide dog school. It's huge and very professional. They do a great job of involving the community in helping to care for the large numbers of dogs there and I know they'll take excellent care of Cindy Jae.

When I returned home, I found a certificate, a pin, and a letter from President Obama himself awarding me The President's Call To Service Award. I feel so special.

1 comment:

Meagan said...

Hi Valerie!

You might remember me... I am a puppy raiser for SEGDI and my family and I met you at Downtown Disney!
I had a golden retriever named Ellie!

I found you via Allie who raised Toby. (the dog you walked while at SEGDI :)

Small world huh?

It's nice to see another homeschooling family raising pups!

I have a blog for Ellie