It’s that time of year again when people reflect on the year that has passed and new aspirations and goals are made for the upcoming new year. Matt and I are no different and we are doing this for ourselves and for Growing Up Guide Pup.
Next month is our 10 year anniversary of the creation of Growing Up Guide Pup, and what a wild ride the last 10 years has been. We have helped raised 11 puppies, Ricki, Chanel, Pilaf, Spring, Gabrielle, Patrick, Arturo, Penny, Oscar, Scarlett, and Pixie. We had four of them graduate, one become a K9 officer, five career changed, and one is still training. We included our followers on the discovery, treatment, and loss of our personal dog (our third puppy Eli who was career changed from Guide Dogs for the Blind) to cancer. We raised for three different organizations and our current puppy on our own. We fostered a litter of three orphan puppies and donated them to Brigadoon Service Dogs. We whelped a litter of nine poodle puppies and helped prepare them for going into puppy raisers homes. We were accepted in web series festivals around the world and won many awards as well. We shared our excitement, challenges, triumphs, disappointments, and heartbreaks for the whole world to see.
When Matt and I first started this journey we had no idea of what would come or where the journey would take us. We started from an idea to take my love of puppy raising and combining Matt’s love of filmmaker and the result was a video blog that became our non-profit organization.
Every week we put out a new episode documenting what we were going through as a guide dog puppy raiser and sharing the experience with the public on YouTube. Everyone got to watch our puppy Ricki grow up as we navigated the challenges and accomplishments from the day we got her until the day she was returned.
The response was more than I anticipated. Sure I thought people would enjoy watching a cute puppy grow up, but I was not expecting to make an impact like we did. After a few short months we started getting messages from people that because of watching our videos they decided to raise a guide dog puppy. Other messages were from people who were on the fence about getting a guide dog, but after watching how one was raised it helped them decide that a guide dog might be for them. The response from people watching us raise Ricki was so positive that it fueled us to do it again with the next puppy.
It was very clear that we had built a following and that we were making an impact and after our second season of the web series we decided to take what we had built to the next level and create a non profit organization.
We learned how to file the paperwork needed, recruited some well respected friends to form a board of directors and decided on a mission statement, to educate the public on service dog etiquette, law, and puppy raising. I will admit that we were not exactly sure what we were doing, but we were learning as we grew and we were making an impact. We built a website, and rebuilt it a few times, built up a brand on a few social media sites, did some talks with the community, created a service dog quiz for public events to help educate people in a fun way, created other education materials to hand out to the public, and continued to create videos while enhancing the quality and information.
When we got to season 3 of the web series we decided to change things up and incorporate a different vibe and learning as we worked with Guide Dogs of the Desert. We showcased more people other than Matt, myself, and Patrick the puppy we were raising. We had one episode focused on puppy raisers and interviewed them and it turned out amazing. We also did an episode where we interviewed people with invisible disabilities. That was a game changer for us, we learned just as much as our viewers and made us realize that we could educate people on much more than just raising a guide dog puppy. There were many other types of service dogs that a lot of people had no idea existed. There were other organizations that we could talk about and introduced that owner trainers could also produce amazing service dogs. There were many other topics and issues that we could help shed light on.
Things didn’t go as we had planned during season 3 of our web series and we considered not continuing. We did take a few months to regroup and decided that we would continue, but it took us awhile to figure what new direction we should go. During the last few years others have also decided to do projects similar to ours. While we are happy that those projects have been successful we still see a lot of areas that need to be addressed. Some things have evolved in a positive way and some things have evolved in a negative way. We want to continue to educate and implement solutions that address evolving issues regarding service dogs.
Respected people in the service dog community have been introduced to our new concepts and they are giving us great input. Things are at the very early development phase. We have been interviewing service dog volunteers, organization executives, service dog users, and service dog raisers to get their feedback on what we are creating. So far we are getting great feedback and people seem excited about what we are working on. I can’t wait to share more as things develop.
Probably the biggest gift for me from the last ten years is the relationships that I have made. Because we created the web series and non profit I have been introduced to people I probably never would have crossed paths with. The friendships are very real. The things I have learned from other people have been amazing. The respect I have for other people in the service dog community has greatly increased. This is something that I won’t ever forget.
Matt and I are not experts on everything that we are trying to introduce, teach and accomplish. Our audience has been brought along on the ride of a lifetime as we continue to learn and share what we are experiencing. This is a concept that we can’t wait to continue. There is so much more for us to learn and therefore; so much more for us to share. The last ten years has been a life changing experience for us and I can’t wait to show everyone what we are going to accomplish in the next ten years. For our New Years Resolution we are asking our supporters to donate by clicking here to get to our donation page. Thank you for your support!