Our babies are growing up…” are words you often hear from moms…usually referring to their human children. But don’t be surprised if you hear a guide dog puppy foster parent mumble them. This is because we know that growing up means the time is getting closer to saying good bye to our fur babies…as they go onto their formal training as a highly specialized working dog. But also knowing the good bye won’t be easy.


These last few months were full of fun and adventure for Keller as we continued to prepare her for her formal guide dog training. The big milestone we passed was Keller’s birthday.  Do you remember when I posted this photo of 8 week old Keller with her brother Ulysses after the puppies first came to live with us?


2 lab pups standing up on log


Well I wanted to re-create the shot of the two pups at one year.  Surprisingly, it was just as crazy to try to get them to pose even after 10 months of teaching them commands! But you can see how gorgeous these dogs are.  They have grown into beautiful full grown labs who still steal our hearts with their antics and loving gestures.


yellow and black lab with paws up on log


Because it was a special day, we decided to let these litter mates play for the day together. The weather was nice for a change and we knew these two could play for hours.




Now that Keller is one year, we know she will be moving into her new guide dog training program very soon.  We still need to work on a few things with her. CNIB wanted Keller to have some exposure to horses, so we took Keller to a barn that my daughter Jaime works at. There were lots of horses for Keller to be around. It took a number of attempts before Keller would relax.  She let us know she wanted to leave by grabbing her leash to take her outside.  (She is so smart!!) Eventually she went nose to nose with retired police horse Lincoln.  He was very relaxed so Keller could get nice and close.
Anyone that knows our family, knows we don’t go long without taking in someone’s dog.  This could be for just a day or it could be for a week or two. Well much to Keller’s delight, we dog-sat a beautiful 5 year old golden doodle named Annie this past March. I was a little nervous to have her for two weeks with Keller and try to get work done with both dogs, but I was so pleasantly surprised! It was the best experience!  Annie was such a well trained and behaved dog that Keller  followed her everywhere. They were best of friends in no time and left me to do my work. These photos are adorable of the two of them sticking with each other.  Keller has such a loving spirit and is so affectionate that she enjoys everyone’s company…especially having a friend who also has to go outside to pee.
Keller, who finishes her meal in about 10 seconds, faithly waited every meal for Annie to slowly eat her food.  I guess this girl can always dream that maybe something might get dropped in the process. This was good practise for her “stay” command.

Taking in a guide dog puppy is a family affair.  Everyone has to take their turns taking Keller for walks, or even taking her out on some excursions. Here is my daughter Holly taking Keller on a little trip to some shops in Aurora while I prepare for Easter dinner.

As a puppy raiser we had to attend puppy classes throughout the year. These classes came to an end recently, again a sign we are getting closer to saying good bye. We finished off with a little party.  Nine of the guide dog puppies were there which was so much fun! We had a beautiful lunch and sadly had to say our good byes to all the other puppy raisers.  Here is a short video of puppy playtime.  (I apologize I turned my phone half way through videotaping). Their jackets are removed when the puppies are not in training, so they can relax and have some fun. It was also an exercise in testing your pup’s recall when playtime was over.

As the party continued, we enjoyed an amazing lunch while our guide dog pups were working at sitting quietly under the table.  This is an exercise that will be an important skill going forward.  Keller is normally quiet good at this when I am out with her, but when her brother Ulysses is anywhere close she tends to forget her training.  Uly and her waisted no time inching together to get nice and close.
Before we said our goodbyes, we took a  group portrait of the puppy raisers(and a few CNIB staff) and their much loved guide dog puppies.
As Keller’s intake date has been assigned, and the weeks are passing quickly, I try not to think about the toughest part of being a puppy raiser and why so many people say they could not do this.
NEXT:  Saying our good byes.