Well, one special event was all it took to get hooked on puppy raising. Mary, my wife, and I attended Olivia’s graduation with Children’s Visual Companion Dog Harley at Quaker Steak and Lube on November 28, 2010. We asked how to become an official raiser and were granted the opportunity to say “yes” right on the spot.
The following Sunday we attended the “puppy party” at the Schultze’s house in
. While we were there, we met all nine of the little puppies born just six and a half weeks before. We also met Roxie, their mother, and Ripley, their father. Roxie is a beautiful female black Labrador Retriever while Ripley is a bigger-boned and handsome yellow lab. All of the puppies were black like their mother and had been born over a three hour period on, Wednesday, October 13. It was quite a sight to see all nine of them jumping and wiggling against their enclosure to reach us when we arrived. We surveyed the puppies for a while and played with a few of them separate from the others. We settled on two puppies, both female, as our favorites. All of the puppies had a different colored collar and our favorites were Little Miss Red and Little Miss Pink. There was a list of “A” names provided to us and we decided that whichever puppy we were going to train would carry the official Occupaws Guide Dog Association name “Abbey”. Cross Plains, WI
The following week we received an email from the Schultze’s and Little Miss Red would be our puppy and her name would be “Abbey”. So we were very excited. Abbey had been the smallest of the litter and seemed very docile to our untrained eyes. We were pleased to understand that her disposition was projected to be good and we made arrangements to bring her to our home on, Saturday, December 11, 2010.
As the week of anticipating Abbey’s arrival became shorter, the weather forecast for, Saturday, December 11, became bleaker. A major snowstorm was forecast for our area and we had some concern that we could have dangerous driving conditions ahead of us. So, I called and arranged to pick Abbey up and bring her home with her crate, food, medications, etc. on, Friday, December 10, in the late afternoon. I picked up my high school son, Adam, from school and he was very agreeable to go pick up the puppy right away. We headed to Cross Plains to bring home our Abbey.
When we arrived at the Schultze’s house there were six puppies left from the litter of nine and they all popped their little heads over the wall of their enclosure straining on their hind legs to see us. Abbey with her red collar was in the midst of all of them and it wasn’t long until we finished some paperwork, reviewed some questions and directions for her care and put her in our car for the ride home.
We started down the road with Abbey on the floor of the front right passenger seat. Adam and I soon realized, however, she didn’t want to stay on the floor of the car. Before getting on the highway, we pulled over by the side of the road and adjusted our cargo. Adam held Abbey in his lap in the backseat of the car all the way home.
Once arriving at our house she quickly learned the layout of our kitchen and checked out any area that smelled good or had something to lick or chew on. Our puppy raising adventure had officially begun.
Sleep deprivation can warp your senses enough that a new warm puppy in your house still feels like a blessing. Abbey would like our attention and consistency in everything. She has little consistency at all these first few days. Honestly, she typically sleeps, wakes, goes outside, plays, goes outside, eats, goes outside and then sleeps and the whole cycle starts over again. Most of the time she does all of these things in the same order, however, not always. Fortunately, we can control when she eats and nearly all the times she goes outside. She determines the rest. Of course, there are a few signals she gives us about what is about to happen. Some of those signals actually lead to what is going to happen and some do not. We prepare for all of the possible outcomes and accept what actually happens with a loving response.
I mentioned sleep deprivation. The other night I quietly checked on Abbey and decided I should return to bed. Ouch! Oh, yes, there is a barricade these days between the kitchen and the rest of the house. Stepping over the barricade isn’t habit for me yet? Abbey didn’t stir as I safely returned to my bed with no broken bones. I thought to myself if the barricade is new for me just imagine what the whole house is for Abbey. When puppies leave their birth home for the next stage of life it is a huge change for them. The next morning I gave her a few extra hugs just to make up for it.
As I write this, the clock in the living room is chiming to indicate the noon hour has arrived. Looking down at Abbey bathed in the noon day sun, she reminds me of a little black lamb with big Labrador Retriever ears. I guess you could say I am a little attached to her. I love it when I call her name from one end of the kitchen and she toddles quickly over to me with her ears flapping and little legs clipping along. I think anyone’s heart would jump an extra little beat of joy to see that happen.
When I walk Abbey late at night only the stars seem to be awake. We trod out to her place of doing “bizness” and there is an eerie stillness in the winter surrounding us. The skies have been very clear lately and thousands of stars shine down on us as we parade along our snow-packed and foot-worn path. Abbey seems to give the cold snow no concern and trudges off our path occasionally over-stepping snow that is as high or slightly higher than her chin. She bounds along, sniffs a bit, bites the snow lightly and completes her “bizness”. A few seconds later she’s bounding through the snow again as far as the leash will reach. Soon we head back to the door of the house and return to the warmth inside. I spend a bit of time with her, put her quietly in her crate and head to me bed wondering if I will miss these midnight walks when she doesn’t need them anymore.
Today Abbey and I spend the day together as usual. She took some pretty good naps and played. The best news is that last night we only went outside once and I nearly had to wake her up to go.
The kids were thrilled to meet her and sat on their rug squares in a bit circle as my daughter Allison formerly introduced each of them to Abbey. Many of the kids had to tell us how many dogs they had at home and a few of the kids were just plain scared to even touch Abbey. Everyone had a bunch of fun before lunch time came. Allison and I took Abbey home where she lounged for most of the afternoon dreaming about kindergarten children and their enthusiasm to meet a future guide dog prospect. It sounds unlikely but it seems that Abbey senses when she is on “display”, so to speak. She behaves very well and seems comfortable meeting a variety of people. She pays close attention to everything going on around her but it doesn’t seem to overwhelm her. We took the visit to kindergarten slow today. However, she seemed unshaken by the new experience. She loved sniffing the room all over after the kids left for lunch. A few of the teachers stopped in my wife’s classroom to eat lunch and observe our puppy sniffing and exploring a real kindergarten class. Abbey continues her puppy days and we keep taking her out, feeding her and watching her grow.