Meet Keller. She is an 8 week old black labrador/golden retriever cross who has no idea how important she is nor the impact she will have on someone’s life. For the moment, she is an adorable ball of black fur who melts everyone’s heart as she cuddles into your arms or climbs up into your lap to drift off into puppy slumbers. She is a 16 lb clumsy puppy who tumbles when she runs too fast and has to make a few attempts to climb up a step.
I forgot how puppies have their own “puppy smell” just as distinctive as a newborn baby. I also forgot how they need to be taken out to pee in the middle of the night. And how they eat things! Like all babies, she must be watched at all times so she does not put things in her mouth that shouldn’t be there. But unlike human babies…she can run! So puppy proofing your house is an absolute must. But also like all babies…she is precious and cute and you melt when she stares at you with those big beautiful eyes.
But Keller is no ordinary puppy. There are big plans for this cute canine. She is destined to change someone’s life. Keller has the special designation of being a CNIB Guide Dog puppy that we are raising for the first 12-15 months of her special life. And special she is. The Guide Dog program is brand new to CNIB as they start their 100th year of service to those who suffer from blindness or only have partial sight. Read more about CNIB’s GUIDE DOG PROGRAM.
CNIB has carefully selected the highest quality line of golden and labrador retrievers. Keller is one of 4 puppies who arrived in Canada recently to join this new program. There will be more puppies arriving throughout the coming year. The goal of this program is to provide more options and availability to those who suffer from vision loss here in Canada. There are almost half a million blind or partially sighted people in Canada who would benefit from having a guide dog. But the supply of these specially trained canines are limited and people often have to go on a waiting list. Many people end up going the US to get their guide dogs, so this program would help this demand.
So our adventure begins with this new pup. We will have Keller for the next year which at that point she will leave us to go into very specialized training. We didn’t intend on being “puppy raisers” (our new title) as the thought of giving up a puppy after a year of attachment and hard work would knowingly break our hearts. We lost our identical looking black lab 6 months ago, and still feel that pain of loss. But it seems like this was just meant to be. We were contacted by friends who are “puppy raising” her brother Ulysses, to take her in temporarily while her “puppy raiser” home was found. But after one week….we were smitten! Of course we know what is going to happen in a year, but as we learn more about this program from K9 Training and Program Managers, Karen and Andrew Hanlon, we are in it for the good.
So I thought it would be fun to blog about Keller’s journey towards being a fully trained and certified CNIB Guide Dog. Follow along as I document her growth, her milestones and ultimately that teary good bye as Keller becomes a highly skilled and outstanding working dog providing her handler with years of independence and mobility in the outside world.