Wednesday, December 17, 2014

But how can you give her up?

It's a vexing question that we puppy-raisers hear frequently on our outings.

But how can you give her up?

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This is Velma's graduation picture at the Seeing Eye. Sparkle, the pup we are currently raising, is from her first litter. We received Velma as a small pup to raise in the summer of 2008. Velma is the littermate of Venita, who was Mariea's previous guide dog.

Just about every time we go out in public with a Seeing Eye pup, someone asks (and often in an accusatory tone), "But how can you give her up?" The implication is that if we really loved our pup, we would not be able to part with her as she returns to the Seeing Eye for training.

Yes, it is extremely hard to give up a pup even though we know from the start that she is not our own dog, but one we are raising for the Seeing Eye. Here's an explanation, far better than any I could give on this blog. 

Let me introduce you to Mariea, a woman who lives and works in North Carolina. Right now, she is training with her fourth guide dog at the Seeing Eye. She is keeping a detailed running journal on her  blog My Fourth Guide Dog.  I can claim a "family" tie of sorts: Her previous dog, Venita, who developed a fear of riding on mass transit, is Sparkle's aunt. She was a littermate to Sparkle's mom, Velma, whom we raised. Velma and Venita subsequently attended some of the puppy meetings together, where they greatly enjoyed each other's company. I wish Mariea the greatest success with her new dog, Valiant! (He has already saved her from a reckless driver who blew a stoplight while they were trying to cross the street.)

Here is Mariea's blog introduction:

I’m writing this blog so that individuals who have never been to The Seeing Eye or who are interested in learning about what goes on when a person attends a guide dog school can have a firsthand view of what it’s like to train with a Seeing Eye dog. Each school does things a little different, so this is just on how The Seeing Eye does their training.

I will do my best to describe daily routines, a description of meals served and my feelings on how things are going or not going. I will only use first names and will do my best to keep any other student’s name or any other info out of this blog.

This is my second Seeing Eye dog, but my fourth guide dog. My previous dog, Venita, only worked for me a year. She developed riding fears that she was unable to overcome. I take public transportation and other means of transportation in my daily life and this was very stressful for her. She is now with a loving family in a town nearby. I am able to go visit her or they will bring her to see me. It’s a family of 4, a mother and 3 children. The oldest son is 21 and he or the mother is there most of the time, so Venita isn’t alone often. The two younger children gives Venita plenty of love and exercise. I’m happy with the decision I made and am looking forward to training with my new dog.

I go to class on Saturday October 1st and will receive my new guide on Monday October 3. I can be in class from 3 to 4 weeks. My instructor and I will discuss that issue once I’ve been working with the dog for about a week.

I hope this blog is informative and entertaining. If anyone has any questions or suggestions, feel free to ask or mention them.

George Carter
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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

George Carter
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