My last dog Gia's puppy raisers are visiting us right now. It is so wonderful to have them here all of the way from Arizona. Puppy raisers are remarkable people. They voluntarily take puppies for the first year plus of their lives. They train them to be good in the house. They take them to all kinds of environments and expose them to as many things as they can. They love these dogs and spend lots of time with them helping to make them the wonderful well-behaved dogs they are. Then, they give them back to the guide dog school to train formally in guidework.
Without these wonderful people, guide dog programs would not operate.
My first puppy raising family I met at graduation in 1992 with my first guide dog Gwenny.
I actually did not meet Janis as she couldn't come. But, I met Michael who was then about 17 and his dad. Over the years though, it is Janis and I who have developed an e-mail friendship. We have never met but correspond regularly.
When Gwenny died suddenly of cancer while still working, the hardest thing I had to do was to tell them.
Janis said she felt like she had lost a child.
Then, I tentatively asked if they still wanted me to stay in touch since I didn't have their dog anymore. Their answer was a resounding yes. They wanted to know about my future dogs.
Janis lives in southern California.
When I got my next dog Margaret, I met Connie and Larry and one of their three kids.
Again, we stayed in touch regularly and still do. When I went back to the oregon campus of guide dogs for the blind,
to get Gia and then Tulia, Connie came and visited and took me out for lunch both times.
When Margaret had to retire, I called Connie and told her and offered Margaret to her.
She couldn't take her back and so I tried to keep her and then when I couldn't, I placed her with a friend.
Next, came Gia's wonderful raisers from Arizona.
Debbie and Scott and their daughter Jenny came.
And we've stayed in touch ever since on a very regular basis.
They came and visited several years ago and Gia went crazy to see them and be with them.
SShe would wander around the living room.
"I love you and I love you and I love you!"
She was in heaven.
They wanted to visit this summer partly to see Gia again.
After she died, I asked if they still wanted to come and their answer was a resounding yes. They wanted to meet Tulia.
And so, here they are.
And of course, Tulia loved them and I think they love Tulia.
When Gia retired, I told them that I would try to have her here.
If I couldn't, I would bring her to them in Arizona myself.
I wouldn't want her traveling under a plane or on a plane without me.
And when Tulia graduated, I met Karen and Eric and their two girls.
And once again, I've started another e-mail correspondence with a wonderful family.
For any guide dog users who don't stay in touch with raisers, it is of course your choice but can be a wonderful experience.
For any raisers who do not stay in touch with graduates, again it can be wonderful and each side can learn so much.
Last night we were talking about what the raisers teach our future guides and how they do it.
And what working guides do in certain situations.
I am so honoured to have all of these wonderful people in my life.
II love to hear about their puppies.
Debbie and Scott are on pup 14.
Karen and Eric are on pup three (Tulia was their first).
Thank you for all of the work and time you give the pups.
Thank you for giving them back so they can come to work with me.
I know you love them and always will.
I love them and always will.
So thank you for joining my ever growing guide dog family.
You are awesome.
If I weren't blind, I wouldn't have met all of you.