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Welcoming Willow

June 29, 2016


Welcoming Willow, My Fourth Leader Dog


By Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Willow, an adorable and extremely calm Black Labrador Retriever, came snuggling into my life on June 7, Tuesday, at 9:15 a.m.  After an hour of becoming acquainted, the Leader Dog and I trained together at Leader Dog School in Rochester, Michigan, through June 24.  We had many wonderful experiences and met interesting classmates and superb trainers at Leader Dog School, which I like to refer to as “the maker of little miracles.”  Can you begin to imagine how extraordinarily happy I am to have my fourth Leader Dog who gives me a return of independence and warm companionship?


While I have numerous tales to tell about Willow and my first month together, I will save most of our stories for upcoming Wordwalk blog posts.  Even the calendar demonstrates how I am stepping forward with my new Leader Dog as I honor Willow’s predecessors from whom I learned so much:  I received my beloved Zoe on June 6, 2009; I received Willow on June 7, 2016.  Although I was prepared for a Leader Dog who would be quite different from my practically perfect Zoe, I quickly realized that Willow was amazingly like my Zoe in an unbelievable amount of ways.  On the second day Willow and I were working together, my trainer told me the name of the person who trained Willow–the same person who trained my Zoe!


Of course, the major difference that I immediately noticed is that Willow is significantly shorter than my previous three Leader Dogs:  becoming accustomed to her shorter stature (approximately 20 inches at the withers) took me about one week.  At 52.6 pounds, my fourth Leader Dog weighs the least of my guide dogs.  Even though Willow has the larger head of a lab, her legs are unusually short; and she has small paws for a lab.  Since Willow does not particularly like wet grass, I dubbed her “Princess Paws.”  Like Zoe, my fourth Leader Dog has a beautiful black coat of hair.  Like most labs, Willow has expressive eyes and a sweet face.


Quite a tail-wagger, Willow walked right into her harness this morning for our first walk of the day.  She seems to really enjoy working as a guide dog, but takes her work quite seriously.  Her already awesome guide work has given me a growing trust in her.  Nevertheless, my little Lab relishes the praise which I frequently give her.  Also, when the time comes to put aside her work duties, Willow loves to play with her toys.  Since she is due for some playtime, I will close this post with an invitation to you to continue to read Wordwalk each upcoming Wednesday for more tales about Willow.


            My most sincere, heartfelt, and forever THANKS to all who make possible the amazing Leader Dogs–especially my Keller, Heather, Zoe, and Willow!



Enjoy the upcoming Fourth of July Weekend!

Alice and Willow


June 29, 2016, Wednesday



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  1. Welcome to the family, Willow! I look forward to amazing stories and fabulous tales of your new life and adventures. Hoping to be able to play with you one day! Congratulations, Alice, and enjoy the return of freedom and companionship with another beautiful girl!

  2. HI Alice,

    It sounds like you and Willow are settling in nicely at home. I look forward to reading about all of your adventures.


  3. Fran Rayce permalink

    I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to meet the lovely Willow and to witness the beginning of a trusting relationship. I know you have many years of companionship, care, and independence to look forward to. I’m looking forward to reading all about this new life adventure.

  4. Holly Pape permalink

    Alice I couldn’t be happier for you and Willow too. As I do for time to time I cried while reading this posting. I look forward to hearing about the many great adventures you and Willow will share together.

  5. Dorothy-Clare Jacobs permalink

    I am very excited to finally read about your new Leader Dog, Willow! I know that you must be very happy to be home and to once again have your independence. It must have been more difficult for you to get around without Zoe. I can imagine that you are excited about showing Willow around Milwaukee, and introducing her to your friends and the people you routinely see.

    It will be 3 years ago in September that I rescued a tan Chihuahua named Willow. She is just as loving, and sweet as you say your Willow is. Her dark brown eyes are also very expressive and when she is happy, she smiles. Sometimes, when she wags her tail, it moves so fast that it looks like a fan blade–you can barely see it.

    Willow came from a nationwide rescue group that transports the dogs to their new “forever home.” Willow came to me from Dayton OH where a farmer found her in his barn. It was January and very cold, and he thought he had a raccoon in the barn. He set a “live trap” and baited it with cat food. In the morning, instead of a big fat raccoon, he had a barely 3 pound Willow. (she now weighs about 8#) It took 9 months in a foster home before she was adoptable, and I was blessed to be the one to be chosen to her “forever Mom.”

    Welcome Willow, take good care of our Alice.


  6. Sue McKendry permalink

    Oh my! What a day brightener to find out that you and Willow are home in Milwaukee. She sounds wonderful, and I’m so happy that she is everything you want in a partner. It will be fun to read of your adventures as you and she explore her new neighborhood. Everyone familiar with black labs seem to love them for their intelligence and calm dispositions. And since she had the same trainer as Zoe, it sounds like a perfect match in every way. Like all of your leader dogs, Willow is a very lucky dog to have such a considerate and loving human.

  7. Hats off to you both Alice. May your travels together bring you an adventurous smile.
    Stellar post my dear, as usual.

  8. Willow is wonderful, Alice! I am so happy the two of you are together.
    With all my love and best wishes for years of happiness ahead,

  9. Alice, I’m so glad you found a great match in Willow. How amazing that she’s almost exactly like Zoe. I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures with her.

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