I must confess…this post was more difficult to write than I expected. It has taken me a little while to decide what I wanted to say.  This past year was one I felt blessed to be a part of.  I learned so much about guide dogs and the CNIB training program they  would eventually join.  I learned how a handler’s life can change with a guide dog.  I learned how important it was to take the job seriously and  felt proud to raise a guide dog puppy,  If I did my job correctly, Keller would go on to an intense training program and ultimately be someone’s eyes.  She would provide independence and confidence to someone who was blind.  

Making that decision to take on a guide dog puppy meant making a 12-15 month commitmet to raise your pup in a loving and safe home while providing  boundaries and instilling confidence. The easy part was accepting an adorable little puppy! But the tricky part was following strict rules and guidelines that taught your pup manners and good behaviour.  These are not just regular dogs so teaching them bad habits could set them up for failure later. So, in a nutshell being a puppy raiser was like this:

• Fantastic – you had a beautiful little puppy to play with, to nurture, to watch grow and all the vet and food bills were paid for. You can’t beat that!

• Time Consuming – puppies are not easy…they’re cute but a lot of work! They are up early, they have to be house broken, they nip for months and have to be taught to be well behaved (kind of like raising kids)You have toys to buy, and vet appointments, and commands to teach. They chew on things..and that won’t always be their toys. But it is time well spent when you have a well behaved pup at the end of the year.

• CNIB commitment – You must attend puppy classes. These are lots of fun and you get to meet all the other puppy raisers and guide dog pups. You will have regular home visits to make sure all is going well. This is very helpful to discuss any issues or concerns you might have with your puppy.

• Special Permission – You should be able to take your puppy with you everywhere! Once they put that yellow jacket on, they are pretty much cleared to go into any store, restaurant, cottage, public space. I never was turned away because I had Keller. I took my cleanup kit everywhere and was responsible for any accidents she might have had (and she did have a few)

• Heart Breaking – this is the part that stops most people I think. If I was asked ANYTHING over this past year, it was “How are you going to give her up?”. Well it wasn’t easy but we knew it was coming. Because we went into the relationship knowing what would happen, there was a slight difference in our attachment. I constantly reminded myself Keller did not belong to me. That didn’t make it any easier  when the time came to say good bye, but you held on to the thought that someone needed her more.  These are very smart dogs and would provide an invaluable service to someone who was blind. Keller will be life changing for someone. That’s how you let your puppy go.

Would I do it again???? In a heart beat!  I tried to sum it up in this poem.


You came to us only 8 weeks old,
You’d travelled across the world.
You were born to have a special job,
A Guide Dog you would be.

You were a normal pup in all the ways,
You’d run and play then sleep.
You couldn’t even climb the stairs,
But a Guide Dog you would be.

Your yellow jacket said it all,
“Future Guide Dog” here.
It hung so low on your tiny frame,
A Guide Dog you would be.

It was our job to teach you things,
And show you lots of love.
To take you places, into crowds,
A Guide Dog you would be.

You were so smart, and learned so fast,
You were special in so many ways.
But loving and loyal you also were,
A Guide Dog you would be.

The months were passing way too quick,
You were now a full grown pup,
Your jacket was much bigger now,
Soon, a Guide Dog you would be.

The time had come to say good bye,
I gathered all your toys.
You did not know what was to come,
But a Guide Dog you would be.

My heart it broke as you walked away,
to that special yellow van.
It matched your yellow jacket,
It said a Guide Dog you would be.

I hope that you will be the best,
To be that person’s eyes.
To keep them safe, show them the way,
A Guide Dog you would be.

But to your family you started with,
You are always in our hearts.
We hope you will be loved the same
As their Guide Dog you will be.