Written by Amie Chapman

broken heart graphic - "How puppy raising almost broke me"

Raising guide dog puppies has been a lifestyle choice for a little over 15 years now, and I absolutely love being a puppy raiser. Each puppy I raised I fell in love with—how can you not? Many of them broke my heart, but it always healed with the help of the next puppy and the new friends I made with the placement of each puppy. I became accustomed to the process of falling in love, the heart breaking, the heart healing, and starting all over again. Going through the process so many times, I never thought that my heart would break and have a hard time recovering. But it did happen, and it caught me very off guard. I am usually an emotionally strong person, but I am still having a hard time dealing with my emotions.

This is a very personal blog, and because of this it is a long one and I apologize for that. There is a good chance that I may ruffle some feathers or make some people upset by sharing my feeling and thoughts. That is the last thing that I ever wanted to do. But hopefully by opening up and sharing it will help close this chapter in my life and I can move on.

Matt and I have gone back and forth about the right way to update people on what happened with Patrick. It has been extremely stressful for both of us because we take what we do very seriously. We have chosen to share our experiences of being puppy raisers for the world to see and with that comes a big responsibility of being good role models and being good representatives of whatever organization we are raising for. Hopefully after people read this, they will have a better understanding of why we have taken so long to finish our episodes with Patrick and why we have struggled with how much we wanted to share and how to go about it. So here goes.

With each puppy I raise, I know going in that they are not meant to be my forever dog when they grow up, and I’m okay with that. I have to be. My sole job is to prepare that puppy to be a service dog for someone who needs it. I raised 14 puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) before I decided to try raising for another organization. The full circumstances of this decision I haven’t made public, mainly because it is complicated. Yes, raising for another organization was a great opportunity and I got a chance to raise a German Shepherd, something I have always wanted to do. But the other reason was that Matt and I wanted to continue documenting our journey with our web series, Growing Up Guide Pup.

After filming two seasons with puppies from GDB, the executives there decided that we were no longer allowed to film their puppies. I can’t really go into details about this decision. I really didn’t want to say anything about this publicly. I was really worried that some of our more active supporters would be upset, even angry, with GDB about their decision. Negativity towards the organization or bad blood between us was the last thing I wanted.

Matt and I were forced to decide between staying with an organization that we were comfortable with and had had great puppy raising experiences with, and ending what we had started with Growing Up Guide Pup, or moving on to a different organization and continuing to move forward with our web series and creating our non-profit organization. We had received so much great feedback from guide dog users and puppy raisers from all different organizations. We get lots of messages from people saying that they decided to puppy raise or even get a guide dog because they saw our web series. This is not only rewarding for us, but very powerful to hear that we have had that type of influence on people. We felt like we had a purpose and really wanted to continue, so we made the hard decision to leave GDB.

Changing organizations was hard, but also exciting and a little nerve wracking at the same time. I was very excited to raise a different breed and learn new things, but nervous to move outside my comfort zone and do it without my usual support group of other puppy raisers, leaders, and my amazing field representative. I give them so much credit for making me the puppy raiser that I am today. I was also very nervous that we would lose the support of the GDB puppy raising community because we changed organizations. Would they still follow and support us in our journey? In a way I felt like I was abandoning my family. I do feel like we lost some people, but we gained more from other organizations.

We received a very warm welcome when we started working with Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD) and we were very excited to work with them. The first part of our puppy raising journey with them was great and I was really happy, but the ending didn’t really go as we expected. We thought that we were all on the same page, but somehow our multiple discussions about how important it was for us to be able to track Patrick’s progress from beginning to end were pushed aside and the communication wasn’t what we had hoped for.

During my time raising for GDB, I was always given great feedback about how my puppies were doing and kept aware of anything that might change with their status of becoming a guide. GDD’s way of communicating with me was very different and I had a very hard time adjusting to that. This was a big reason why we chose not to raise another puppy for them when we turned Patrick in for breeder evaluations/formal training.

Not taking another puppy to raise from GDD was surprisingly stressful for me. We were asked the day we turned Patrick in if we wanted to take another puppy—there were multiple puppies in the kennel needing raisers—but we wanted to set up a time to talk and work out some concerns and kinks that we had. But that talk was never set up or brought up again. I kept seeing emails come through and posts on social media about how they were desperately in need of raisers. I felt very guilty and selfish about not helping them in their time of need. We were perfectly capable of taking on another puppy, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Their way of doing things just wasn’t a match for us as raisers. They had been absolutely wonderful about letting us film Patrick and a really good fit for the show during the time that Patrick was with us, but not so much for us as individual raisers and our needs emotionally. As important as our show is to us, it isn’t everything. We need to be happy and comfortable with what we are doing.

Two months after we turned Patrick in, we requested an update on him, We wanted an update we could share on social media because we were getting asked almost daily about how he was doing. We had asked if we would be able to get updates on Patrick while he was in formal training and we were told that it shouldn’t be a problem, but this too seemed to be forgotten.

We were told that he was being pulled for breeding pending final health evaluations. I was both very surprised and troubled by this. He was amazing physically, but had issues mentally. We had been very honest that Patrick struggled with a dog reactivity issue, but weren’t fully honest with how severe it was at times. We got enough negative feedback from viewers and readers about him being dog reactive that I felt compelled to protect GDD from any negativity we were bringing on by sharing our experiences with Patrick.

We spent a lot of time working with him on this issue. We had never raised a puppy with this type of issue before and there was a fair amount of trial and error in how we handled it, and what worked best for us and Patrick. He was consistently very inconsistent about when he was reactive. Some days, he did really well around other dogs, and other days it was a struggle for him and us. Even the day before we turned him in, he barked at two separate dogs at the airport and two more dogs that we came across at Universal Studios. In my world, this was absolutely unacceptable for a service dog, or a behavior that could potentially be passed down to future service dogs. I had always felt deep down that there was no way he could become a guide dog because of this, but that was not for me to decide.

Dog behavior has been a big interest of mine and whenever I go to veterinary conferences I will usually try to squeeze in a couple of lectures on behavior. My gut feeling was that Patrick’s dog reactivity was a part of who he is and that was why he struggled to control it, not because I failed as a raiser. However, for a very long time I blamed myself for his behavior (and still do a little bit), thinking that maybe I just wasn’t a good enough raiser to work him past his issue or that I didn’t raise him correctly, didn’t do enough to work through it and perhaps even contributed to the issue. But because we had documented our time with Patrick, I was able to see that this issue was there when we brought him home as a 10-week-old puppy and I did the best I could with what was given to me.

“I worried that if Patrick was bred and his puppies inherited his issue, future raisers would have the same stressful experience I did and those puppies would also have the same stress that Patrick experienced.”

Patrick is an amazing dog and had all the qualities a person would look for in a service dog. First, he loved to work and was always ready to go. He was super smart and learned quickly. He had a lot of energy, but was very good about settling quietly and being patient while out in public. Physically, he is a beautiful dog, a really nice size and build. For these reasons, I can see why they would want to carry on these traits. But in my opinion I would not want to risk reproducing to the reactivity issue.

As his raiser it was very difficult to handle. I was always hyper-vigilant about watching for other dogs so I could be prepared to deal with Patrick if they appeared. I started being stressed out about it, and Patrick was also visibly stressed about it too. He tried so hard to keep his cool at times, but failed. He would get frustrated with all the corrections needed to try and keep him under control as well, but this was how I was instructed to handle it. I worried that if Patrick was bred and his puppies inherited his issue, future raisers would have the same stressful experience I did and those puppies would also have the same stress that Patrick experienced.

I did express my concerns about breeding Patrick to a few people at GDD, but they didn’t seem to share my concerns. I was a little frustrated about how my concerns were received, but what do I know? They have been breeding dogs for a very long time now and I have never bred a dog in my life. I just had to accept that we had a difference of opinion and as a raiser I have absolutely no say in the decision making of the puppy I raised.

Once again, we had a major dilemma. The people following Patrick’s journey were anxiously waiting for an update, but we just couldn’t share that Patrick was pulled for breeding. I was really hoping that they would see what I saw and change their mind. Because I was open about his dog issue, I was very worried that other people would question the decision like I did, but in a public forum.

Once again we didn’t say anything publicly. I didn’t want Growing Up Guide Pup to cause anyone to think negatively about the organization, or for the organization to think that they received bad feedback because they let us film Patrick. The last thing I wanted was for our reputation to be tarnished, and for other organizations to think that we, as GUGP, caused people to think badly of the organizations that we raise for. After all, if we hadn’t shared Patrick’s dog issue, there would be no one questioning whether or not Patrick should be used for breeding. We were in a very tough spot: we could upset our followers by not saying anything, or upset the organization by bringing them bad PR.

I was told that GDD was over 90% positive that they were going to make Patrick a breeder. I was just starting to come to terms with this when we got a phone call from the head of their breeding department saying that Patrick was no longer part of their program. This was not the news we were expecting to hear. I thought maybe when I saw their number pop up on my phone that they had decided against breeding him and were putting him back into training. We were not told anything about why this decision was made.

With every other puppy we have raised that was released from GDB, we were told exactly why that decision was made. When we were told that Patrick was going into another line of work, I wasn’t surprised, but I was curious to know what would be next for him. When we had our house check by one of their trainers before we got Patrick, we were told that the majority of the dogs in their program that don’t make it as guides go on to do other things. I completely understood this and I was fine with Patrick doing other things if that was what was best for him. After all, that is what is most important to me: that the decisions made for the puppies I raise are made in their best interest. But nothing was said about what they thought was best for Patrick, just that he was released and going into another line of work.

More news that I was not prepared to hear was that we wouldn’t know where he went or what type of work he would be doing. The person or organization he was sent to wanted to remain anonymous. This was very difficult to handle. We had never been made aware of this as a possibility, not before we got Patrick, during his raising, or after his turn-in. If this was explained to us in the meetings we had with GDD before we brought Patrick into our lives, I might not have made the decision to raise for them. I was not mentally prepared for this at all. I feel like he is lost. He could be anywhere now.

I know where every other puppy I have raised has ended up. Some of those dogs I still have a relationship with and get to see at times, and some I have not seen since I turned them in for formal training. I am at peace with this because I know exactly who they ended up with and what they are doing. I have closure.

“People say that what I do as a puppy raiser is a very selfless act, but I don’t do it just to give back. I get so much in return for doing it.”

With Patrick, I have no closure, and I am still struggling to move on in my life. I feel like we have let down everyone who followed us with him. We brought many people along on our journey and they too fell in love with him, just like us. They too want to know what happened with him. Without closure, we have failed as story tellers. Frankly, we are not only hurt by this but embarrassed as well—we should have done better. We should have had some sort of contract in place to guarantee that we had closure to our story, but we were just too trusting.

I have fostered so many animals over the last 18 years that I have lost count. I have loved each and every one of them, and have cried tears of sadness when each one of them have left our home and moved on from my care. But I know that because I let them go, a spot in my home opened up for the next animal in need. As far as the puppies in training go, I am just a stepping stone for them. Yes, my heart breaks when they leave, but I know that they are destined for someone else and my heart heals quickly once I know what happens with them and have that closure.

My heart is still very broken after Patrick leaving us, and at this point I’m not sure it will ever fully heal. I struggled with what happened so much that I was considering giving up being a puppy raiser. I just couldn’t go through it again. When we first got the news, I struggled to focus at work, struggled to sleep. I was a mess and just felt lost.

People say that what I do as a puppy raiser is a very selfless act, but I don’t do it just to give back. I get so much in return for doing it. I get to have a new puppy in my life almost every year—yes, I have a puppy addiction and this is the healthiest way to feed it. I love that I have made and continue to make so many great connections with other people. And nothing can take the place of the way that I feel when I see the bond between a puppy I have raised and their forever person, whether as a service dog or as a beloved pet. The fact that I helped create that relationship makes my heart whole. Sharing stories with the people who have my dogs is and will always be one one the biggest rewards of puppy raising for me.

With Patrick, for the first time ever I feel like I have lost a puppy. He has just disappeared to me. There is no happy ending, no seeing that bond between him and whoever he ended up with, no potential of a new relationship, and no shared stories to be told. For the first time ever, I was asking, “Why am I doing this to myself?” For the first time ever, I didn’t want to raise again. I had lost a part of who I was and just felt broken.

I thought long and hard about this, and forced myself to try and move on and raise again. I decided to go back to GDB and ask to raise an older transfer dog, a short-term commitment to test the waters again. Because I had always had a good experience and closure with the puppies I raised for them, it seemed like the best idea for me. We understood that this new puppy could not be filmed or be part of any GUGP project. That wasn’t important to me at the time. This puppy had a bigger purpose than to be followed closely on social media. This puppy was to help me decide if I still had it in me to be a puppy raiser.

Raising for GDB again was like going home for a visit after you move out of the house. Cozy and familiar, but not quite the same as when you lived there before you moved out. I was warmly welcomed back by everyone and I was very happy to be back and have the support of the puppy raising group. I am forever grateful for the support I received, but for some reason (the fault of no one but me) I still felt like I didn’t fully belong anymore.

Arturo was a very sweet, goofy, lovable black Lab placed with us for a few months, and it was a huge help having him. I feel like Arturo was a “rebound” dog, just like when you have a bad breakup and you need a rebound guy to help you move on. Arturo was a very helpful stepping stone and I will always be thankful for having the opportunity to be part of his life. He was a really good dog and I made sure he got lots of love and attention, but I do admit that I had my guard up and didn’t let myself fall in love with him like previous puppies.

As much as I wanted Arturo to help make me whole again, he didn’t. To my surprise, it was three abandoned puppies that helped me move on. Bernard, Bianca, and Penny changed my life for the better. I couldn’t help but fall madly in love with them. Their loving personalities and their innocence forced me to let my guard down and I started feeling like myself again. I feel like they were meant to come into my life when they did. Being pulled away from their mother and abandoned at three weeks of age, they needed me. But it took me a few weeks to realize how much I needed them. They distracted me from my heartache and depression caused by losing Patrick and they gave me a new focus. They had so much love to give and such great temperaments that I had felt compelled to see if I could help turn them into service dogs. At the time, I was very unsure if I could actually pull this off, but I was determined to try.

“Every event in life is a lesson, and I have learned a lot over the last year.”

I was not in a hurry to let the puppies go, especially because my heart was still in such a fragile state. But once I found Brigadoon Service Dogs, I started to get excited about the future for the puppies. Matt and I were warmly welcomed when we dropped the puppies off with them and we both felt very comfortable with handing over our beloved puppies to them. We weren’t planning on raising again just yet, but when we saw that the organization was in need of raisers and we were given the opportunity to pick one of the puppies to raise, we had a very hard time saying no. Sometimes opportunities come into your life when you aren’t fully ready for them, but they are right for you.

Penny has been my puppy angel, and working with her and Brigadoon has been helping me more than I can say. I am slowly healing and feeling more and more like myself again. I am not as lost as I once was. After raising our first puppy, I have always felt that I was meant to be a puppy raiser. Penny has shown me that it is still a big part of who I am. A new puppy cannot replace another; it simply takes a different piece of the heart and makes the heart bigger. I will be forever thankful to these three puppies and Brigadoon for showing me that it is okay to love and let go again.

Every event in life is a lesson, and I have learned a lot over the last year. I have learned that thing I love doing the most, can also hurt me the most. I wanted to share my experience not to make people decide against puppy raising for fear of getting hurt, but to help others realize the importance of choosing an organization to raise for that is right for them. Every organization is different and so are people. Just because GDD wasn’t a fit for me, doesn’t mean that they are not a good organization to raise for. I have met many raisers that have had great experiences raising for them. Same goes for GDB—I have always had great experiences raising for them but I know some raisers that didn’t necessarily have that same good experience. Everyone is different and will experience things differently.

I still want to promote puppy raising and encourage others to do it, even though I have been through some tough times. It is still a very rewarding experience and I hope that I haven’t discouraged anyone from doing it. The best advice I can give after everything that I have been through is to make sure the organization you raise for fits your needs and ideals.

Think about it and ask the questions about what is important to you before you bring home a puppy. This may be different for each person. For some it may be about the type of training methods the organization uses, what the organization helps pay for, whether you can have a relationship with the recipient of your puppy, if you must attend puppy meetings, and so on. These are just some questions to think about.

For myself, I now understand that the most important thing for me is to know where my puppy ends up. This is now a new goal of mine: to figure out a way to help people find the right organization for them to raise for. I would love to see new puppy raisers finding an organization that fits their beliefs and needs, and having such a great experience raising a puppy that they want to do it over and over again. There are so many organizations in need of puppy raisers that there is a good match out there for everyone who is interested.

As for me, I think that I may forever be scarred by losing Patrick, I still have days when I really struggle with not knowing what really happened with him. On the outside, most won’t ever really see how much I have really been affected by this, but it is always there. I try to put on a brave smile for people when I’m around them but the tears still come when I’m alone and thoughts of Patrick pop into my head. Where is he? Is he okay? Does he have a comfy bed to sleep in at night? Is someone playing frisbee with him? Is he happy? Does he feel loved? Some days I feel like a big baby for feeling this way and I just need to get over it. Other days I think that I’m really not asking for much to know the answers to these questions.

Hopefully this has shed some light on why it has taken so long to finish Patrick’s episodes and reveal what we know about Patrick. It has been very hard to go through this with so many people following and knowing that we let those people down. I am hoping that sharing my feelings in this blog will not only help with my healing process and also help others make choices that will prevent them from ever repeating my experience.

10 thoughts on “How Puppy Raising Almost Broke Me

  1. I raised for GDA and GDD then my daughter raised for Canine Companions for Indrpendence. They are the most amazing group of people with headquarters in Oceanside and Northern California. We are raising our third dog for them and love every minute of it. I know where our dogs are and we are very close to one of the families. If you are looking for an amazing raising experience look them up. We are raising our 10th dog now.

  2. My heart goes out to you Amie. Having raised for 17 years, I’ve had some similar experiences. Some of the time, the adopter did not want to get in touch. And the school was not willing to give out their contact information. I have raised for 4 different organizations, the longest being GDB. Currently I am on my 6th pup for GEB. Since we are so far from the school, the experience is a bit different than local raisers but I’ve been very happy. I’ve heard at least briefly from every adopter and handler of my pups. One is an explosives detection dog and if I email the handler, he immediately responds with stories and photos. At some point you may hear. One of my dogs was released and adopted in 2002. I got an email from her adoptive family just two months ago, saying she had died in 2015 and was the best dog they ever had. They wanted to know where they could get another wonderful dog just like her. There was a piece of the puzzle I could put in! I hope your heart heals and somehow, you learn about Patrick.

  3. Fear of having an experience just like yours is why my daughter and I ultimately chose GDB. After giving our hearts to a puppy for a year, we wanted to be a recipient of continued communication from either the organization or their eventual partner. We heard some pretty sad stories about being cut off from that communication, about being ‘just’ the puppy raiser and having no further contact. While we are not currently raising, we have contact with both our boys partners and that is extremely fulfilling. My heart goes out to you, Amie.

  4. I’ve followed your episodes and I totally feel for you.. so hard not having closure .. thank you for sharing your story .. in many ways I’ve had a similar experience. I admire you for getting ‘back in the saddle’ .. the work you do is very important. ❤️GUGP

  5. Raising for 15 years and being an Area Coordinator, this is one of the hardest conversations to begin. According to the HIPPA laws there is always a chance the receipent may decide they want no information shared with the puppy raiser. This usually happens with our PTSDdogs. It’s HARD! You have to find the right fit, including support from the network. Keep trying as long as you get inner peace.

  6. I have raised 6 Guide/Service puppies for an organization in Kansas. KSDS Inc. – Washington Kansas. They are a smaller organization – lot like the big boys – but that is what I like about them. They are nationally certified.

    It is like one big family. I only wish I lived closer. I am in Omaha NE. They have puppy raisers across the US but local puppy raiser groups closer to their organization.

    We took Key our 6th puppy back three weeks ago. Attended Fall Graduation – 9 teams graduated – then after the graduation lunch turned in Key. Two litters were called back. Your heart breaks every time you turn them in. We are waiting to make sure Key graduates before we take on another puppy. Our 5th puppy was released for car sickness and is now our forever puppy. If for some reason Key is released we have requested to get her back.

    I have blogged about my last two puppies. Our paper did a story on Key and me at the airport that was picked up by the AP wire and published across the US and overseas. We were on the local news three times and in the paper another two times. Helping spread the word about what these wonderful puppies and how they change the lives of their forever partners is a wonderful privilege for me. They also change the lives of everyone they meet along the way.

    Here is the link to my last blog – http://growingupkey.blogspot.com

    The last post was the hardest – Turn in Day. I hope to do my last post this spring or summer with key’s graduation. A reporter at the paper who writes books about animals was going to take Key’s blog and turn it into a book. Book sales would go to KSDS Inc. Was going to wait till after graduation. The sad part is she passed suddenly this summer.

    I have read your blog off and on as it has come in my facebook feed. Hope you have some time to read about Key and if you haven’t found the perfect match to puppy raise for check out KSDS Inc. There is a link to them on the web site.

  7. I’ve been following your posts for years now and I’m raising my own Service Dog for myself. These videos gave me hope that carried me into this present day and helped take me out of dark times of depression and despair.
    I loved following Patrick’s story, even though he wasn’t perfect, who is? I loved the ups and downs of your stories raising each dog and seeing the reunions.
    I fondly remember season 1 and remember when I cried at the end. Revisiting it at the start of this year also had the same effect. 🙂 I love what you do.

    I’m so sorry for the loss of contact.

    I’ve personally experienced the ‘Where are you right now? Are you ok? Have I failed you?” feeling over the years. It’s never unreasonable to be asking these questions or feel these feelings.

    I rescued a dog once. She came from a home where they abandoned her. Her name was Cleo and I’d never owned a dog before but wanted a dog all my life. It was my dream.
    I was about 15 and I couldn’t keep her but I knew I needed to rescue her from where she was. We took her to a (big name/popular) rescue and explained what had happened to her and that she needed to be ok. They took us into a room and we filled out forms. I cried so hard. I only knew her for a short time but my heart and soul was into this dog and I just wanted her to be ok.
    We left her there and it was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever done. Walking outside where I walked her before caused me to tear up and become depressed so I ended up avoiding those places for a while.
    We called many, MANY times to check up on her and ask how she was doing. They never had an answer for me. They said they would call back, but they didn’t.
    Fast forward some time and I found a post on social media after trying to find her on the website.
    They had bashed me publicly, personally (did not name though). They discredited what we had done for this poor dog. I was furious, upset, the pain all came back to me. We found out they blacklisted our names because we brought her there and it was ‘just a policy’.
    It really put me off of rescues and hurt me for a very long time. I was only 15, grew up wanting to be a vet and work with animals and I still to this day would go far far out of my way to help an animal in need because it is one of my purposes in life.

    I got to know from the post I read that she had found her home (I’ll never know who or where) but the person that has her will forever think I am a bad person, and that just doesn’t sit well with me and is something I can never change. I am only happy she is now safe and loved. The pain hasn’t disappeared though.

    Another story is where I took a dog into my home, the owner threatened to let the poor puppy out onto the streets and he lived in someone’s garden for months in cold and rain with no shelter and barely any food.
    I was called over by a friend who had seen this dog in danger and got the owner to agree to let him go vs put him on the streets so I went to help him.
    We gave him a name, I gave him shelter, I didn’t sleep for almost the entire time I had him because he didn’t know how to behave socially and was a handful. We trained, we replaced all the things he tried to chew, taught him manners and how to live in the house, got some weight on his poor thin body, bathed him, loved him. We contacted rescues but nobody would help us. Nowhere. Not even after we explained everything.
    The only option I had (and was told so by all rescues and everyone we contacted) was to turn him in as a stray. We don’t know where he went in his life. He went to a rescue and as he was turned in as a stray we were told we were not allowed to know what happened to him. I just know that I did my best and I did everything I could to give him the best chance in his life.
    His future owners will never know the name we gave him, his life before the rescue and the struggle. We will never know where he is and how he’s doing.
    Note: Over here there aren’t really any kill shelters so I found solace in that.

    I’m sorry, the feeling sucks.
    Writing about it is kind of like a therapy. Personally, nobody wanted to hear my stories because they couldn’t believe the charity of the first story could do such a thing so I hurt and I healed in silence. I still feel sick and depressed when I hear their name.
    I hope there is a way you find to feel better and better. I hope it gets better. It may never heal fully, but you know and he knows you tried and you’ll always love him.

  8. Really feel for you both and for Patrick I am in the uk and have followed him with you
    I am a puppy raiser for uk guide dogs ….. some of our volunteers have got together to try and have some kind of formal ‘ closure ‘ once our pups have qualified atm it is very much up to the gdo whether they choose to get in contact and if they don’t we are in the same position as you

  9. Hi, Amie. I have been a raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs for about six years. I followed your posts from the start and got many ideas and some confirmations that I was on the right track. In the early years, Southeastern did not have the kind of videos they have now and it was great to see you working with your pups. It is unfortunate that some matches of service dogs and other adopters of career-changed dogs do not want contact with us. It is disappointing, although not as disappointing as your experience with Patrick.

    Every city of any size has a program like Faithful Paws, here in Houston, that provides owners of well-trained dogs a way to give hospitals, elder care facilities, schools, etc. visits by owners and their pets an outlet for them and their pets to give back to their community through these visits. One idea might be to take in dogs (pups and adult) from shelters, train them to be obedient and well behaved for such visits and then, once you have molded them into happy, useful dogs, adopt them out to people who agree to join a Faithful Paws type of program and bring joy to those they visit. That way, you could film them to your heart’s content while they are on their journey. Just a thought.

    I think we all knew that Patrick would likely be career-changed. His behavior was in his genes. Certainly no reflection on you. There was a place for him, once you did your work, even if that place was as a pet for an appropriate family. Sounds like GDD wanted to hide the fact that he didn’t make it to a guide dog. Silly! Most don’t and that is no shame to anyone. It’s just part of the process.

    I know you and Matt will find a way to include all of your passions and skills in training and cinematography. We need you out there!


  10. So very sorry to hear about not knowing about Patrick. The word that comes to mind is “loss”. Recovery is a process and yours seems well in its way.

    Thank you for respectfully, intelligently and honestly sharing your experience. Because you did, important learning is right there, for Service Organizations to every single Animal Lover. The critical role puppy raisers play in the development of these unbelievable socially imperative dogs calls out for an elevated role within the Organizations, including thoughtful formal agreement about placement.

    Being reminded (hard) that life’s expectations can be dashed at any time, helps inform who we are and can make us wise in powerful ways. Thank you again and again for sharing Patrick with us.


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