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Recently returned from serving the people of Honduras for 3 years

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"The Rest of the Story . . . "

We have had many experiences over the last six years with an organization called Guide Dogs for the Blind. Kelsie made up her mind when she was 12 years old that she wanted to be a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs. Her older brother Dustin introduced her to the organization when he observed one of his school mates bringing a "Guide Dog" puppy to his high school classes and Dustin knew it was an idea that Kelsie would immediately fall in LOVE with.

Kelsie did lots of research online at their website Guide Dogs for the Blind and decided that yes, she really needed to get involved in this volunteer humanitarian activity, and decided to learn to raise a guide dog puppy herself. Kelsie knew it would be quite a battle trying to persuade her Dad that this was a worthwhile endeavor. She did all her homework and came up with solutions to ALL the problems she knew he would present as obstacles. Somehow she managed to persuade him to let her participate in the organization and she began going to classes to learn to train the dogs.

They have a youth group in our area with great leaders. At any given time there are about 10-15 guide dog puppies being raised in Utah County. And so began our many wonderful, and some not so wonderful experiences with raising cute, wiggly, sweet and frequently naughty Labrador puppies. The way it works is the puppy raiser, after attending 6 months of weekly training classes, receives an 8-10 week old puppy, bred and owned by the organization. They come to you on a 'puppy truck', almost as adorable as the puppies themselves. The volunteer puppy raiser commits to spending 15-45 hours a week on training the puppy, providing socialization, taking the puppy to classes, planning outings, grooming, feeding, walking, potty training and loving the puppy. The loving part comes easily. They are so adorable!

The training, walking and potty training is much harder and requires a great deal of discipline and donated time by the puppy raiser. When the puppies are 14-16 months old, after approximately one year in the home of the puppy raiser, they go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind on the not so cute anymore (since in reality it's now taking the puppies away instead of bringing them) puppy truck. This, of course is so difficult for these young kids as they give up these much loved puppies that they have trained and worked so hard with. But they are inspired youth, and do it willingly, hoping to give the opportunity for increased sight to someone less fortunate than themselves. I so admire each one of these young people for their time and sacrifice.

Kelsie's first Guide Dog puppy was Cardinal, and he has since graduated from the program and is living with his visually impaired partner in Santa Ana, California. We've been able to keep in touch with him by email for the last couple years. He is actually quite famous! You can see a video of Cardinal and his partner, Frank Frand, here and also here. They are both active in fund raising for Guide Dogs with a program called Tee-off For Dogs!

Her second guide dog puppy, Conan went back to Guide dogs on the puppy truck in November of 2007. The first of December we got a call from them saying that he didn't pass their stringent physical exam. An ex ray of his elbows revealed a mild amount of elbow dysplasia which disqualified him from being a "working" dog. They have a cute, fancy name for the puppies that don't graduate from the program; "career changed" dogs. So we have a "career changed" guide dog back home with us again.

Kelsie currently is involved in lots of activities as a senior in High School and is unable to raise another guide dog puppy. So we kind of miss the puppy cuddling, but not necessarily all the extra time and energy right now. But it is a wonderful organization that does so much good for visually impaired people - increasing their quality of life, and making it possible for many of them to have opportunities and experiences they would never have otherwise.

Why do I share all of this today? Well, interestingly enough, I ran across this interesting piece of information on the Guide Dogs blog, "No Bones About it". Surely everyone heard about the miraculous landing of the US Airways A320 in the Hudson River this past Thursday . . . Who would have guessed that the pilot, turned hero, was a fellow Guide Dogs puppy raiser? In addition to saving the lives of all 155 people aboard the aircraft, he continually donates his time and energy and has raised several puppies for Guide Dogs and donated much effort to the cause of the visually impaired. Yep, Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, famous pilot, now hero, heartily receives our commendation for a job well done!

To borrow a popular phrase . . .
AND now YOU know the REST of the STORY!

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Carolyn said...

Wow, so cool and interesting! I have a little boy with autism and am currently researching service dogs. So nice to stumble upon your post.

Especially when I just came to thank you for your comment on my blog!

I love 'meeting' people who think like me too!!!

Plus, another strange coincidence. I want to be a Labor and Delivery nurse someday.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

Joy For Your Journey said...

What a wonderful story! It is very inspiring. It sounds like your daughter has your heart. Thanks for sharing this.

Also, I love the background on your blog and your picture. Very cute.

newlyweds said...

What a great story and your daughter is an amazing person. I teared up seeing how happy her first guide dog made that man. Thanks for sharing!

Heather @ Not a DIY Life said...

I raised a puppy for Leader Dogs when I was in 4-H (a bazillion years ago). It was such a great experience!! Memories to last a lifetime!

Thanks for sharing!

Katie said...

What a wonderful story! I'd love to feature this on Blissful Pets at blissfullydomestic.com Please let me know if that is something you'd be interested in. katie@blissfullydomestic.com

Kevin Beckstrom said...

We had a couple of boys who wanted to stop by and see your dogs (and get some training tips!) when we went past the Alpine exit last week...but we were all dressed up and on our way to their big brother's wedding. Maybe next time!

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