As some of you know, Bode, my 6th guide dog is now retired. I will be going to Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Michigan, from February 18 to March 9, 2018, to train with my 7th guide dog. For more information about Leader Dogs for the Blind, check them out at http://www.leaderdog.org.
Retirement and training with a successor guide dog are processes full of emotional ups and downs – reflecting on past dogs; grieving for the loss of the current dog/human working partnership; celebrating the successes of the current dog bond; anticipation and excitement for the next dog – so many mixed feelings, and so much to work through as this new adventure begins.
This week leading up to training is full of reflections. I am the sentimental type, and I tend to find kindred emotions (on guide dog stuff) in song lyrics and in the writings of others.
Preparing to train with dog number 7 makes me reflect on all the wonderful dogs I have had. I was bitten by the guide dog lifestyle in July of 1983 as soon as I picked up the harness with my first dog. From then on, I was hooked, and using a guide dog became my chosen method of mobility. I owe so much to that first dog, because he was the one who so drastically changed my life.
EVERY dog has been incredibly special, and each one has taught me so much. I have no doubt that the next dog will also teach me things and bring me gifts I can’t imagine.
A paws-up tribute to:
- Eli – July 1983; male black lab.
- Kyte – May 1987; male yellow lab.
- Piccolo – May 1995; male black lab.
- Stetson – August 2001; male yellow lab.
- Jack Pot – January 2010; male black lab.
- Bode – July 2011; male yellow lab.
I’ve also had two dogs who were switched out during training for various reasons: Coco, a female German shepherd, and Terry, a male lab/golden cross.
I don’t do photos or videos, but I do have a small collection of guide dog music. Yes, there is such a thing! There is a great song called “Your First Dog” from the album GUIDE DOGS FIRST HAND by Veronica Elsea (available on Spotify). It talks about the exhilarating and powerful life-changing experience of a first dog. But, for me, each dog is equally special, and the magic never ends. Every time I pick up the harness with a new dog, the same magic is there. It never gets old!