Where are they now: Leaders dogs of the past
"Mom, can I raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind?" I could not have imagined where that question posed by my daughter Laura would lead. It was 1998, and she was a junior in high school. Laura was active in the 4-H Dog project and had discu...
"Mom, can I raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind?"
I could not have imagined where that question posed by my daughter Laura would lead. It was 1998, and she was a junior in high school. Laura was active in the 4-H Dog project and had discussed raising a puppy as a 4-H project with the local county extension agent. When I agreed to her request, I had no way of knowing how much the puppy-raising program would add to our family's lives.
Deuce was the puppy that Laura raised; a handsome male German Shepherd Dog (GSD). He set the standard pretty high for those that would follow. Deuce arrived the summer before Laura's senior year. Come fall Deuce had permission to attend classes one day each week with Laura at the senior high and one day each week with Jessi at the middle school. He made history when he attended the spring Prom with Laura and Jon, and again when he accompanied her down the aisle to receive "their" high school diploma.
When Deuce graduated from Leader Dogs the following year, he was placed with Janice of Billings, Montana. He was Janice's second guide dog. Janice contacted us by phone and letter. Although we did not get to meet Janice or watch them work together, we did receive numerous photos of and updates on the team.
According to the reports from Janice, Deuce had an excellent work ethic and served well. We learned from Leader Dogs that he passed away the spring of 2010. Last word was that Janice had applied for another dog guide.
Jessi was so intrigued by Laura's success with Deuce, that she applied for and received a puppy to raise also; a beautiful yellow Labrador that Jess named Kally. Kally had genuine drooping puppy dog eyes and with her sweet disposition wormed her way into many places that "absolutely, positively did not allow dogs in and never would."
Kally went on to serve for 6.5 years with Debra in Michigan. When Kally retired from guide dog work, Debra could not keep her and we got the dog back. After enjoying her company for a few weeks, Kally went on to live in the Backus, MN area and work in a preschool. Kally died in August of 2009 from cancer.
By this time I was hopelessly hooked on the puppy-raising program and received Traeh during the summer of 2001. Although she was a yellow Lab, Traeh's likeness to Kally ended there. Traeh was more active, adventuresome and had an astounding understanding of human spoken language.
By the time she was a year old, she had mastered six locations in town that she would take me to just by command. We could step outside the police department and I would say "We're going to the court house, find the court house. Without another word or cue of direction, Traeh would guide me to the front doors of that building.
Traeh served with Rita in Spain for three and a half years, about half the service life of 6-8 years anticipated from these dogs. I learned that dogs serving in inner cities, particularly in foreign countries with different traffic patterns from here in the USA, often retire earlier. Traeh still lives in Spain and is I am sure, fluent in Spanish.
Copper was puppy number four. A gorgeous GSD, he was our gentle giant, weighing in at 102 pounds at eleven months of age. Copper was the pup that when a parakeet landed on the floor in front of his nose, chose to gobble up the bird; gone, totally out of site. Jessi was handling the dog at the time and immediately told Copper "Drop it, spit it out." Obedient as always, Copper released the bird unharmed.
Copper impressed the staff at Leader Dog with his good looks, health, quiet disposition and great work ethic. He was pulled for their breeding program. Although Copper never served as a guide dog, he fathered close to sixty puppies. Many are serving as guide dogs, two of his daughters were chosen as breeders and one son went on to become a Michigan State Police K-9.
My family has become friends with Copper's host family and we get to visit Copper nearly every time we return to Michigan.
Andrew was our fifth puppy, our third GSD male. He was a most classically marked Shepherd with a huge energy drive and great confidence. Andy turned heads everywhere we went. He was also the most challenging puppy we have raised so far.
Extremely intelligent, Andrew routinely learned new skills on the first demonstration, would perform near flawlessly on the second attempt, and then would balk at performing the exercise on the third command. He was already bored and eager to move on to the next challenge. Folks may remember Andy sitting in the bleachers at Lakers high school basketball games and loudly "coaching" as he followed the ball from one end of the court to the other.
Andy graduated and was matched with Hector, a gentleman from Chile, South America. Leader Dog trainers stated that when Hector arrived on campus he was very active, always looking for new things to learn and do. Andy was matched with Hector; they were off and working. The trainers stated it was the perfect match.
Maddox was puppy number six, a puppy we specifically waited for as he was from the first litter that Copper sired. He was also a near carbon copy of his father. Although they had not met at the time Maddox came home with us, the personality traits and daily routines of the two were genetic duplicates. Maddox was the perfect example of the importance of selective breeding to pass on the desired characteristics.
Maddox went on to serve first Dave and following Dave's untimely death, Tammy, both in the state of Florida. Tammy, her husband Chuck and Maddox visited us here in Minnesota during this past summer. What an awesome treat to see Maddox again, meet his family and watch him work. That visit repaid us many times over for raising the pups.
JD Hoot was our first black Lab and was lucky number seven. Hoot was by far the most independent of the pups; she basked in the attention she received and would happily trot off with whoever held her leash.
Hoot also stubbornly refused to acknowledge the Leader Dog edict that puppies are not allowed on furniture. Hoot claimed a chair in my office that anytime I left, she would crawl into.
The day we returned Hoot to Leader Dogs, she wanted nothing to do with hugs or goodbyes. I handed her leash to trainer Rich and she trotted off without a backward glance, clearly on her way to bigger and better things. Hoot had an unsuccessful match in Iowa and went on to serve with Aranzazu in Spain. At last report Hoot was still actively guiding.
There are seven more pups whose status reports will have to wait until next week. Please remember to contact the Detroit Lakes City Pound 218-847-4100 when looking for a new pet.
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