Category Archives: JETHRO

Guide Dog Jethro

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:

Working Dog ButtWe saw him deal with escalators, people, another dog (huh?), all sorts of distractions and sights, sounds and smells. He looked confident and capable. Little man was totally a pro.

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!)

Jethro and his AmyAfter 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.

Guide Dog Jethro, handsome in his harness

Loss. Gain. News.

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.

Very Sad News

I wanted to make this announcement myself, because I know some of you are likely to hear of it elsewhere, and I want to prevent the scuttlebutt from getting around before the truth does. Please bear with me and read this entire post before you form any opinions.

Unfortunately, GDA has reversed the decision to allow us to finish Jethro’s puppy training in Pennsylvania. He will be re-homed upon our move in March.

Of course, I am heartbroken.

I appealed to the decision maker respectfully and to the best of my ability, but there is nothing further I can do. I will comply with the mandate and try to make the best of things as I enjoy the time I have left with Jethro. We will spend that time as we would have spent it before: training, obedience, puppy raiser meetings, house manners, outings for socialization and public exposure. There is still a goal ahead of us, and I will continue to pursue it with him even though I won’t be the one beside him when he achieves it.

There are no further details at this time, and I respectfully ask those of you connected with GDA to not let this become grist for the rumor mill. I absolutely do not want there to be any unpleasant ramifications for the puppy department staffers, whom I hold in high regard.

Regardless of my personal opinions about these circumstances, I still maintain that GDA runs an excellent program, both for their volunteers and their visually impaired constituents. The dogs are top-notch. The program staff is amazing. People benefit from the life-changing mission of the organization.

Jethro and I appreciate your friendship, encouragement and discretion.

You Can’t Stop Him…

…you can only hope to cone-tain him!

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Freaky, Freaky, FREAKY

Silly stuff happens to me all the time, but rarely is it something so well-timed as to be freaky.

I had just (JUST!) finished reading a Facebook status updated posted by Jeanie, one of Jethro’s littermates, that said, “All my molars fell out and new ones are already poking through, my human is trying to help but I am just too crabby to notice. I will try some tummy rubs and ice again tomorrow but today, it’s just not working.

I had literally (and I know how to use that word properly) just finished reading that, when I heard a click, like something very small had dropped onto the wood floor near the chair where I was sitting. I looked down, near where Jethro lay. He was also looking at what had made the sound.

IT WAS ONE OF HIS TEETH.

I am not making this up.

It does help to explain why he was extra cranky and complainy last night.

The Late, Late Show

Now showing at Labrador Rodeo Cinema: The Whiny Post-Op Patient. Playing at 1:30 AM, 2:15 AM, 4:00 AM and 5:30 AM.

I. Am. Tired.

Neuter is Cuter

The poor little man got “The Big Snip” today.

Apparently, Tuesday is spay & neuter time at GDA, which I’m guessing is because we have a veterinarian in residence on that day of the week. They did procedures on several dogs today. When I picked up Jethro at 3:30pm, the vet department head told me that my little fella was the last done, but the first up. She said she caught him out of the corner of her eye as he wandered out of the wake-up area and into the hallway, figuring it was time to go home.

She also said they’d poked gentle fun at him because he had such tiny…equipment. They called him “Lima Beans.” Oh, the indignity!

But the procedure really is easier on the dogs when they’re younger. And since he’s going to move with us in March, it made sense for the school to do it now.

He has some very neat “invisible sutures,” which is handy because they don’t require a re-check for removal. And his extra-long nose necessitated a larger e-collar (yes yes, the “cone of shame”). Meanwhile, I’m supposed to keep him from “running, jumping and playing” for 14 days, and I’m not supposed to take him for long walks, either. (I will need some stronger pain meds, then. Possibly for me). The boy will learn to love his crate and x-pen, that’s for sure! And I’ll have to do something to keep Instigator-Dog Truman busy (pain meds for everyone, I say!)….

A few days before the procedure, his Amy visited us and declared solemnly upon her departure, “Bye, Jethro. Next time I see you, you’ll no longer be a man.” Then she turned to me and said, “It’s like a reverse bar mitzvah.” And she thinks she’s not funny….

It is night one of post-op puppy with activity restriction. Wish us luck.