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November 3, 2021

A Cornucopia of Thanks to Puppy-raisers

November–A Month of Thanksgiving

Part 1.  A Cornucopia of Thanks to Puppy-raisers

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                While WORDWALK contains a variety of topics and genres, each month of November, I traditionally focus on gratitude.  For this first entry into my cornucopia of thanks, I am spotlighting my gratefulness for puppy-raisers  of Leader Dogs for the Blind and other guide dog schools, as well as for the puppy-raisers of my four Leader Dogs. 

                When a puppy is old enough to leave the mother dog and be placed with an individual, couple, or family who will raise the puppy as a “Future Leader Dog,” the puppy-raisers devote an enormous amount of time to nurturing the rapidly growing puppy for the next year or more.  Besides caring for the puppy and loving the potential guide dog, the puppy-raiser teaches the young dog very good house manners, provides ample socialization, and focuses on basic obedience training.  Puppy-raisers and their pups also participate in periodic functions and activities specifically designed for the maturing ”future guide dog.”  These special people share their lives, homes and feelings with these lovely, adorable  dogs, but always must keep in mind that the young dog will have to be returned to the guide dog school for additional professional training and hopefully successful placement with a guide-dog handler who is blind, visually impaired, or blind and hearing impaired.  Could you take on such a challenge to form such a special bond with an animal to give that heart-warming and highly intelligent dog to someone else?  I greatly admire and deeply thank the extraordinary individuals who have taken and will take this challenge.

                In the spring of 1990, when I trained with my first of four Leader Dogs, the school did not share the name of the puppy-raisers.  I always wish I had known who had raised by gorgeous Golden Retriever Keller whose littermate Cedar was placed with a student in the class before mine.  I will forever wish that someday I will be able to thank Keller’s puppy-raiser for giving me a wonderful first guide dog who so dramatically and positively changed my life. 

                When I was matched with my second Leader Dog on Tax Day of 1998, policies at the school had changed.  If both the puppy-raiser and guide-dog handler agreed, contact information could be shared.  Happily, I was able to maintain a correspondence (via hard-copy letter) with Mr. and Mrs. Sever who raised my Yellow Labrador Heather.  This remarkable couple raised seven or eight puppies for Leader Dog School.  How I appreciated the photos they sent me of Heather as a puppy!  I still display these puppy photos of Heather on one of my bookshelves.  Through our correspondence, I discovered why Heather was so attentive to my collection of music boxes:  Mrs. Sever also had a collection of music boxes.  Somehow, Heather must have associated the music of the music boxes with her beloved puppy-raisers.

                My extraordinary third Leader Dog Zoe, who came into my life in June of 2009, was superbly raised by Lisa Baird and her family:  my heart swells with thanks for this family who gave to me the first puppy whom they raised for Leader Dog School.  As soon as I think of what a precious dog they gave up for me to have, tears come to my eyes–and flow with the greatest of gratitude.  The icing on the cake was that Lisa and I were able to correspond via e-mail; then, the “cherry on top” was our being able to meet at the campus of Western Michigan University in July of 2012.  I am so glad to have a framed photo of the three of us together on that day when I could only try–in person–to thank Lisa for Zoe–one of the most magnificent gifts of my life.  Lisa was so pleased to be able to watch Leader Dog Zoe at work on the campus.  As usual, I was so extremely proud of Zoe and am sure that Lisa was also. 

                Of course, I am continually grateful to my current Leader Dog Willow’s puppy-raisers even though they chose not to meet me nor share contact information.  I respect their choice and only hope that they have read some of my blog posts about my British Black Labrador so that they know how very much I appreciate their impressive devotion and work as puppy-raisers because Willow is a truly outstanding Leader Dog.  They have every reason to be proud of Leader Dog Willow.  I still hope that someday I will be able to give them a more direct cornucopia of thanks for raising the puppy Willow who has been my cherished and beloved fourth Leader Dog since June 7, 2016.

                As an extra “paw-note” to this tale, I must also give a cornucopia of thanks to my former neighbors Linda and Charlie Britton who have raised five puppies for Leader Dog School.  Observing Linda impressively work with her Chelsea who became a Leader Dog was a very gratifying and memorable time of my life.  Leader Dog Willow and my being able to go on a few walks with Linda and “Future Leader Dog” Chelsea was a most unexpected, but remarkable time for Willow and me.  I can hardly believe that Willow and I had this opportunity. 

                Smiles and tail wags of thanks for all of the puppy-raisers!

Best wishes for a happy and healthy November!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

November 3, 2021, Wednesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. Thank you, Alice, for your very kind words on Puppy Raisers! What a wonderful and worthwhile mission it is for grateful folks like YOU!

    • Good morning, Linda–How wonderful to have your comment with this post!

      More thanks and good wishes to you, Charlie, and Ember!

      Best always–Alice and Leader Dog Willow

  2. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    I have had the honor of meeting three puppy-raisers, all of whom are very deserving of your beautifully written thank you message! Many thanks to you!

    • Good afternoon, Mary–Thanks for your comment on this blog post!

      Talk with you later–A & W

  3. Susan McKendry permalink

    It is such a nice idea to make your November blogs expressions of gratitude. It must be extremely difficult to surrender the puppies, but it is wonderful that there are folks taking on the puppy raising who make this sacrifice. It is also wonderful that you thank them.

    • Good afternoon, Sue–I am also thankful for the loyal readers of my
      WORDWALK blog–like you!

      Take care–Alice and Willow

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