Monday, October 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Keith gets the call

Sparkle's Seeing Eye puppy pal Keith departs for guide dog training in Morristown, N.J.

Keith gets the call

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Keith pauses for the traditional farewell picture before heading back for harness training. He will work first with a Seeing Eye trainer before he is matched with his new owner and embarks on a career of noble service.

It was truly a bittersweet moment for puppy-raiser friend Robin Brelsford when Keith the golden retriever hopped into the Seeing Eye minivan the other day for the trip up to Morristown, N.J., where he will learn all the ins and outs of being an amazing guide dog.

You may remember Keith from some of my posts: The one where he's squeezing his body through a puppy gate and the one where he's licking a cow's face come to mind! He's a sweetheart and a real character, and Sparkle's playmate at the puppy meetings and on club outings. A gorgeous, happy golden retriever through and through. 

This moment will come sooner than I realize for Sparkle, too. It always seems like we'll have months and months left with our pups, but that year-and-a-half of puppy raising just flies by. Sparkle will turn 1 year old on Jan. 27, so we still have a few busy months to go! I expect we'll be waving her goodbye in early summer.

Robin, who has raised many more pups than Betsy and I have, describes it best in her own words. Here is a message she sent me along with the picture of Keith:

Keith was excited to go so I suppose I did my job well. I keep telling myself he isn't "gone" he's just off to new adventures that don't include me. This is his destiny and my role in it is complete. He'll always be in my heart and he tore out a good chunk when he left, but it was his to take and I hope it contributes to his becoming a great guide. Sigh! Never gets any easier! 

Robin tells me she just didn't have it in her to walk Keith to the van, but some sympathetic fellow puppy-raisers were on hand to do that.

Keith stands to make a life-altering difference for someone, giving the gift of independence and mobility. And he'll do it purely out of love for his new owner. Thinking of all that is what is making me a little teary right now.

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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