Written by Amie Chapman
If I had a dollar for every time I was asked, “How can you give them up?”
I would probably have a lot more money to spend on dog things. When you get the chance to see how someone’s life can be transformed because you could give that puppy up, you really just want to answer the people that ask you that question with, “How can you not?” I was recently lucky to have our 14th puppy Gabby and her partner Katie come and stay with us for a few days, this really reminded me of this very thing.
I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to visit with two of the other four puppies I have raised that went on to become guides. But all of those visits have only been for a few hours and even though I got a good idea of the bond these dogs now had with their partners, watching Gabby with Katie together for a couple of days really showed me why I put so much work into these amazing (and sometimes difficult) puppies. Gabby is also the first puppy to come and visit in the same house that she was raised in. It was really fun to watch her go through the house and remember her favorite places to be and games she liked to play. She was also very excited to see and play with Ricki and Ozzy again. I think they were just as excited to see her as well.
Gabby, like Patrick, wasn’t the easiest of puppies to raise at first, so it really is amazing seeing her now a year later working with Katie as a fluent pair. All the extra work and patience with Gabby really paid off. Even when I turned Gabby in for formal training, I wasn’t sure if she would make it as a guide, but I was very proud of the dog she had become. It was really up to her if she wanted to do the job or not. Well, after spending a few days with her and witnessing her working, I can say for sure that she loves her job and loves Katie even more.
“Katie is basically every puppy raiser’s dream as a partner for their puppy. She loves everything about Gabby, even her imperfections.”
I am always very nervous about who is matched with the puppies I have raised until I have a chance to meet them.
Every once in a while I hear horror stories of people who do not treat their guide dogs as well as they should. And even though all of the people who have received my puppies have all been wonderful people and great to their dogs I still get nervous … even though I know that those not-so-good people are rare.
Katie is basically every puppy raiser’s dream as a partner for their puppy.
She loves everything about Gabby, even her imperfections. She shares stories, photos, and videos with us all the time. And of course she shares her amazing blogs with everyone. She also wants to know everything about Gabby’s life while she was being raised by us. Ricki and Ozzy also quickly became very fond of Katie and spent a lot of time harassing her for attention. Ricki even chose to sleep in Katie’s room with her and Gabby; she is such a sweet girl.
During their visit I took Katie to some places where I did frequent training outings with Gabby.
We even were able to stop by a meeting with my old puppy club that Gabby was raised in. It was a great opportunity for the other raisers to see her as a working guide. I also stopped by my work with the dynamic duo, so some of my coworkers could see why I get a new puppy every year (aside from the fact that I have a puppy addiction—something they all know very well).
“Gabby was super excited to spend time with Matt and me, but it was very obvious that she knows that she belongs with Katie.”
One of the highlights for Katie and Gabby was a play date with Gabby’s favorite dog friend Andreas (a career-changed black Lab). They were so excited to see one another again and it was great to see the goofy Gabby come out while out of harness.
I thought the highlight for me would be just visiting with Gabby.
But it really turned out to be getting to know Katie better and seeing how bonded she and Gabby are. Gabby absolutely adores Katie and it shows in her work. Gabby was super excited to spend time with Matt and me, but it was very obvious that she knows that she belongs with Katie. Katie and Gabby showed off all of their skills as a team. I learned a lot over the few days they were visiting.
Even though I have been raising Guide Dog puppies for 14 years now, I haven’t really spent that much time with people who are visually impaired. Because of Growing Up Guide Pup, I now know many people with visual impairment but don’t really see them in person. Katie was very open about how she navigates the world and how much Gabby has changed her life. She showed us some of the technology she uses, including a bill reader for money and a phone app that reads text for her.
Katie and I both share a love for junk food so I thought it would be fun to take a trip to the Jelly Belly Factory.
I did take Gabby there as a puppy so it was really fun to go back and watch her as a mature guide navigating through the factory tour and visitor center. Going with Katie was a totally different experience than previous visits to the factory. I did my best to describe everything there to Katie. As we went through the factory tour I told Katie about the different machines we saw, the different stages of production the jelly beans were in, the different colors of beans, the things on the walls, and even the different pieces of jelly bean art. I did the same in the visitors center and of course we both left with candy.
I gained a new appreciation of being able to take in everything around us.
I also learned that I am really bad about saying what direction to go—I kept getting my right and left mixed up. I tried to be as helpful as possible and let Katie know which direction we were heading when we were out and about, but I’m sure I confused her on multiple occasions. I’m not perfect so that’s something for me to work on before our next visit.
Our visit with Katie and Gabby was amazing and I can’t wait to do it again. One of the best things that comes out of puppy raising is new friendships. I never knew that this would happen when I first started puppy raising. Over the years I have made some great friends, some fellow puppy raisers and some guide dog users. Growing Up Guide Pup has also brought a lot of new great friendships that I am thankful for.