The human has been busy writing other things, so the dog blog has been sleeping. But we’re back now, and we promise to catch you up on all the latest fun very soon!
Category Archives: Good News
Everyone, meet Sonny. Sonny, everyone.
We are raising Sonny — male yellow Lab #4 — for Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (otherwise known here as GDF).
After a number of little speedbumps in the process, we are finally here at pick-up day…which, in our case, was more of a drop-off day. But more about that later. I have a puppy to snuggle!
October 19, 2012 — Thanks be to God (and to our Southwest Airlines miles), I was able to get a last-minute flight to California for next to nothing, so I could see Jethro before he made his trip to train with his new partner, in his new home in the Pacific Northwest.
It was the most amazing day. In fact, I dare say it was better than a public graduation in many respects. Don’t get me wrong; it’s terrific to be able to invite friends and family to the ceremony, to meet your pup’s new partner, to take in the whole thing. But this was an indescribably special experience. So indescribable, I’ll just have to…you know…try to describe it. (Bear with me, here. It’s what I do.)
Since my husband was out of town on unrelated business that weekend and couldn’t join us, I grabbed my best friend Amy (my former roommate, Jethro’s first babysitter, and known to all my dogs as “Your Amy”) and headed up to Sylmar to meet my other friends, who finished Jethro’s training when I moved. Sitting at the Denny’s restaurant and having mostly normal conversation, I think we all remarked at some point that this was so weird, and yet so easy. Absent was the gut-gurgling anxiety that usually accompanies a graduation. Absent were the questions about who your dog was matched with, whether or not the meeting will be awkward, whether or not they’re experienced handlers, whether they will love him like you love him. We had those answers. We know her. (Well, my friends know her. I had spoken with her on the phone at this point. We have yet to meet in person, though there is a plan in the works for that.)
So all that was left was the excitement of seeing Jethro.
We arrived at the school and met with the trainer who was working with Jethro and assigned to transport him for his in-home training. He had no idea that Jethro’s new partner had just retired my friends’ first dog, and when they told him, well…let’s just say I thought the pregnant woman was going to be the first one to get emotional, but I was wrong! Seriously, though, that’s one amazing thing about this kind of work: people invest themselves in it. Not just the puppy raisers. One silver lining in the cloud that is walking away from your dog on turn-in day? You know that these people — the trainers, the kennel techs, the medical team, the puppy department staff — they love your dog, too. They know what his purpose is. They get it…and they don’t seem to get jaded about it, no matter how long they’ve been there. I think it’s because every miracle is different.
Anyway, we piled into a car and followed the training van to a local shopping mall where the trainers usually take their students to practice during class. Jethro hadn’t seen us yet. We made our way down to an outdoor bench outside the parking structure and waited for Trainer 1 — working in blindfold — to walk through a set of doors with Jethro in harness, followed closely by Trainer 2.
We were a few minutes ahead of the trainers, who had stopped to relieve Jethro and work him through the building before getting to us. So we spent the time with our cameras out, looking expectantly at the doors, making sure my four-year-old goddaughter understood that we were NOT to call out Jethro’s name or go say hi to him when we saw him, and laughing about what passersby must have thought was going on. Finally, there they were!
He. Looked. Fantastic. My little man grew up and got himself a job!
I could hardly contain my awe as I watched him guide the blindfolded trainer, stop at the top of the stairs, guide him downstairs, stop at the curb, and do just what he was born to do. He was focused, and he was wagging happily along.
We followed at a safe distance — further away than necessary, actually, but long-legged Jethro apparently guides at a pretty good pace — and attempted to get photos as he worked his way through the mall. That resulted in a lot of dog butt pictures, like this one:
After Jethro had his showoff time– er, workout, we stopped near a restaurant and snapped more photos before enjoying lunch with the trainers.
What a terrific opportunity that was! It was a real treat to get to know the trainers a little better, talk with them about puppy raising and training a dog for guide work, and find out what it’s like to do their job. It was also great to hear them talk about why Jethro was matched with his partner, and what makes him such a good guide. He is, apparently, just a really solid dog. And one interesting thing they said was that he can handle “down time” really well. It’s true that most guides aren’t working/guiding/walking all day long. Jethro’s partner has a job, which means in addition to being comfortable with public transportation, he will be spending a significant amount of time chillin’ in the office. I know from experience that some dogs (*cough*TRUMAN*cough*) just don’t know how to relax, and I’m glad to know that it’s a valuable trait in a guide, and something Jethro does well. (As a side note, I’m also glad to hear that snuggling is a valuable guide dog trait, according to Jethro’s partner. I KNOW he’s good at that!)
After lunch, we walked back toward the parking structure and over to a patch of grass so we could spend a little time with Jethro out of harness, getting our own snuggle time with him before we headed back home. He greeted each of us with his typical tongue-out, wiggling-rhino-charge enthusiasm. I was happy to see he still considers himself a lap dog when he’s not otherwise engaged in his important career pursuits.
Incredible day, incredible dog. Incredible joy.
For those of you who know us only from the blog, we’re fine. Hurricane Sandy blew through yesterday and last night, and while we did have some lights flicker and some pretty scary-sounding winds and rain, the townhouse we’re renting stayed dry and intact and electrically powered.
Truman slept through much of it.
Anyway, we’re grateful to have come through this unscathed, and ask you to join us in praying for the many millions of people who are dealing with loss and destruction today. Please also remember the folks who are working so diligently to restore basic city services and to shelter, help, and comfort those in need.
Those of you who know me “in real life” know that it’s been a rough few years of transition for me and my family. I won’t go into detail; suffice it to say that there’s been a great deal of loss involved, different kinds, of varying significance. Along with some good things, of course — which sums up most of human experience, right? But change is hard for me, and as you can see by the dates of my last two entries from a YEAR ago, in which I made that grandiose “Hooray! I’m back!” statement, I’ve had trouble returning to blogging here and to writing in general, despite my deep desire to do so. It’s been a battle to work through some other losses in order to regain my momentum.
But some losses are planned. Beautiful losses that become gain for someone else.
I learned yesterday that my sweet, lovable, silly, cuddly, wookiee-noise-making, concerned-old-man-look-on-his-face Jethro is going to be a guide dog. I’m so proud of him! He worked hard. We worked hard. My friends who finished his puppy training worked hard.
Unfortunately, we don’t get a graduation ceremony. He’s going to be placed in-home with his new partner, who lives out of state, so Jethro will be leaving GDA in about a week and a half to make the journey to his new home. I am doing my best to arrange a flight to California in time to see him before he goes.
But here’s the kicker: Jethro’s new partner is not unfamiliar to me. While she and I have never met, she is an experienced guide dog handler whose last dog, recently retired, was also raised by my dear friends. They have a good relationship with her, and I know Jethro will be in excellent, loving hands, and I will hopefully hear about his many adventures to come. Once again, I praise God for putting my plans to shame with His better ones.
Congratulations to Guide Dog Jethro and his new partner! May you travel many miles and many years together with a bond of joy, a sense of adventure, and an unbreakable commitment to each other.
This pic was taken in May of 2011, just a few months after I moved to PA, when I returned to SoCal for a short visit and took him to UCLA for the day. The last time I saw him, at his turn-in last February, he looked huge to me — and he was only 18 months old! I hear he is absolutely enormous now. If I make it out to California in time to see him off, you can bet I will shower him with hugs and kisses and bellyrubs, and I will post photos here. Otherwise, this goodbye kiss will have to do.
I love you, good dog. Be good eyes.
For various reasons — including needing to pack up a house full of stuff mostly by myself, and also not wanting to have two months’ worth of California income tax to deal with next year after we move to Pennsylvania — I resigned from my job in December. Today was my last day.
It’s hard to believe I’m heading out and leaving my co-workers behind after five and a half years! But it’s a good thing. We’re off to new adventures.
There have been many dogs under this desk….
We’re moving to Pennsylvania.
As I write this, it’s not official-official that we’re going yet, but I just have this…something. “I have a feeling” is a silly notion to me in practice, and I imagine myself covered with a filmy, insincere, New-Agey residue just saying it. I guess it’s more of an inexplicable confidence based on circumstances that seem promising right now but could really go pear-shaped at any time. Or maybe it’s a coping strategy to prepare myself, in case it happens for real. Anyway, in a matter of weeks — or, who knows, even days — I’ll either be able to publish this post or delete it and laugh at myself. (UPDATE: Clearly, I published it, so…there’s your update.)
Wolf and I are on the cusp of a massive undertaking, a huge and momentous adventure: a job he was seemingly born to do. It’s all come about quite suddenly, as these things often tend to. Over the course of the last few months, this idea has grown from, “I just got a phone call from so-and-so who wants to fly me out for a meeting” to, “They want me there in November.” There was a lot in between, more than you might believe, and it all happened too fast and in too much convoluted detail to recount.
So we’re moving to Pennsylvania.
(And I am collecting money for the pool, the wager on how long it will take my parents to give me the old “Come get the rest of your crap out of our garage” line. Any takers? Hurry — the “less than 24 hours” slots are being snapped up quickly.)
Wolf will head out for a 120-day trial period on the job, with time to come back for holidays and the like, in early November. I’ll stay here (my job, my dogs, and a whole lot of packing to do…all that stuff is here). If all goes well, he will return in early March or so, and we will get our stuff together and make the move for real. Yes, it’s a “trial period,” but unless something catches fire in a big way, we have reasonable expectations that it will work out, so as of this moment, we’re full steam ahead. If something else happens along the way, we’ll change plans and deal with it as it comes.
Truman, of course, is our permanent dog and will be making the trek with us, but you may be wondering what will happen with Jethro. He will be coming with us as well! We’ve been granted permission to take him to PA with the understanding that we will be responsible for transporting him back here for his evaluations, turn-in, etc. It’s an unusual situation, and let me make the official disclaimer here that GDA owns Jethro, and this permission-to-move may be reconsidered at any time, for any reason, at their discretion. For now, I’m just grateful for the possibility. Moving across country will be stressful, and while a puppy in the midst of that will also bring its own chaos, I think I would be heartbroken to have to give the little guy back now. He’s a good dog; I’d like to raise him all the way to turn-in if I can, and hopefully see him graduate.
As for me, I’ve been a California girl my whole life. I was born in Southern California and I eventually spent more years living in Los Angeles than I did in Fresno, where I “grew up” (quotes apropos, depending on the day) in the intervening time. L.A. always felt like home to me even before I moved back here for college; I thought I’d die in this city (not soon, mind you, though the road rage might have eventually done me in by way of heart attack or life in prison for vehicular murder). If anyone would have asked, I might have said I was more likely to experience an organ transplant than a hometown transplant.
But there are mysteries aplenty in this life. God is full of them, love and marriage are full of them as well, and those three are the mightiest trump cards in the deck.
Holy crap. I’m moving to Pennsylvania.