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Applauding the Puppy-raisers on Zoe’s Seventh Birthday

April 23, 2014

Applauding the Puppy-raisers on Zoe’s Seventh Birthday

 

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Can you imagine cuddling, nurturing, and training a puppy for approximately one year and then handing over the maturing dog to a guide dog school and eventually to a person who is blind or visually impaired? Throughout the United States, many individuals, couples, and families take on such an endeavor each year. What a remarkable commitment these special volunteers make! The gifts of patience, time, understanding, and generosity are daily presents that garner years of thanks for the puppy-raisers of guide dogs.

 

Although I never had the opportunity to meet or thank my first guide dog’s puppy-raiser, policies at Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan) changed so that by the time I received my second guide dog in 1998 and my third Leader Dog in 2009, I knew the names to thank for raising Heather and Zoe. I think I will forever wonder about the wonderful people or person who raised my golden retriever Keller: I hope that they know what their grand gift began and continues in my life. The gifts of these puppy-raisers have made so much possible for me in a significantly happier way.

 

Since I received Heather sixteen years ago on Tax Day, my yellow lab and her puppy-raisers have been on my mind throughout this month of April. Heather was in the middle of quite a number of pups raised over a span of years by Nancy and Jeffry of Michigan. On one of my book shelves, I still have a framed photo of Heather when she was a puppy, as well as a photo of Heather with the pet dog of Nancy and Jeffry. I was so very pleased to exchange letters with this couple and receive these two photos from them. Like Keller and Zoe, Heather had a loving temperament, very good basic obedience, and impeccable house manners—a tribute to the puppy-raisers.

 

In July of 2012, shortly after the June wedding of my younger nephew and his bride, my current Leader Dog Zoe and I went to the campus of Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo) to meet Zoe’s puppy-raiser Lisa. After exchanging e-mails and a couple of telephone calls, I was excited to meet Zoe’s puppy-raiser to thank her in person. In addition to my excitement, I tried to be prepared for my guide dog’s reaction to seeing Lisa again. As my sister, Zoe, and I entered the student center on the WMU campus, I waited for Zoe to react to spotting a member of her prior family; however, we greeted Lisa while my black lab/golden retriever continued her typical good and solid behavior. Then, Lisa asked if she could pet Zoe; of course, I knew that this was an important exception to the rule about not petting a working dog. As soon as Lisa petted Zoe, the old familiarity blossomed: suddenly, Zoe rolled over onto her back so that Lisa could rub the tummy of her former puppy—just as Lisa had done a couple of years before. After this special exchange of affection, my guide dog returned to her usual position (at my left side) and behaved impressively for the remainder of the visit on that hot and sunny July day.

 

Since Lisa had never had the opportunity to see the fruits of her efforts, she enjoyed walking behind Zoe and me as we worked our way around an area of the campus. Although Zoe had never before been at WMU (where I had earned my second master’s degree and worked with my first Leader Dog), my third Leader Dog gave her puppy-raiser a very good demonstration of what a working guide dog can do so well. I was so proud of Zoe and so grateful for the chance to thank Lisa in person for the magnificent gift which she and her family so unselfishly gave to me—a complete stranger.

 

Later, my sister took a photograph of Lisa, Zoe, and me: this picture is also displayed on one of my book shelves as a recognition of my daily thanks to all the puppy-raisers. After we enjoyed lunch, a nice visit, and another short walk—Lisa had to say “good-bye” to Zoe again. I hope that saying farewell to Zoe this second time was a bit easier for Lisa than the first time when she and her wonderful family had to say “good-bye” to Zoe. I sincerely hope that the puppy-raisers of Keller, Heather, and Zoe know how much I have loved, cared for, and cherished my three Leader Dogs. Additionally, I hope these puppy-raisers realize that I have worked my three guide dogs as they were destined to guide. My job, I have always thought, was and is to maintain the high level of training which was given to my Leader Dogs by their puppy-raisers and their professional trainers at Leader Dog School. Maintaining the training is an obligation and dedication; giving my love to these dogs is among the greatest joys of my life.

 

As Zoe and I happily celebrate her seventh birthday on this April 23, we—with deepest gratitude and forever thanks—applaud these special puppy-raisers and all other puppy-raisers who have helped to make Leader Dogs possible for the past 75 years.

 

Happy Birthday, Zoe!

 

Alice

 

April 23, 2014, Wednesday

 

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6 Comments
  1. Well done Alice. A truly fitting showing of thanks. I could feel the tremendous emotion in your words. Great post. dp http://www.dplyons.wordpress.com

  2. Happy Birthday, Zoe! You and Alice along with Heather and Keller are cherished members of our family.
    With much love and best wishes, Mary

  3. Carole permalink

    We celebrate the puppy-raisers, Leader Dog, and the puppy graduates for the gifts that they have bestowed through the years!
    Happy 7th Birthday, Zoe, from the Morgan family! You are a beauty!

    • Zoe sends a sunny “Thank you” to her Florida relatives. Guess who will be wearing bows on her harness today! We wish we could share a piece of pupcake with Bebe Angelina. A & Z

  4. I’m sure it’s just as hard for the puppy raisers who become attached to the dogs and have to give them up. I’m glad Zoe’s owner had a chance to see how well the dog is doing two years after she gave her up.

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