Well, I'm a little late, but December 20th this year was not only the PWAP Christmas party, but it was my three year puppy anniversary. *smile* On December 20, 2008 I received the black ball of pudginess and fur that was once Freya. I still remember the car ride up to GDB in San Rafael. It was the longest car ride in my whole life and we moved by car from Texas to California when I was five. But we eventually made it up to the campus and a black lab was placed in my arms. Mimi over at Ours for a Year Lifetime remembered how she felt so inexperienced when she realised that other raisers had brought toys and blankets and what not for their puppies to amuse themselves with on the ride home. I felt pretty inexperienced too when picking up Freya (in fact Freya and Cabana were born within a few days of each other), but not for the same reason. We had brought a crate and lined it with newspaper for easy clean up. We even brought a few toys so that the long car ride home wouldn't be too boring for the new little puppy. But the crate was too small for poor Freya, so she ended up on my lap the whole way home. I think I've come a long way from that day.
At the Christmas party I had someone ask me how many puppies I had raised. I pointed to Hilly and said "She's only my third." She then said that three puppies was a lot...though we were in a room where people were on their 30th, 16th, and 7th puppies so I didn't really feel like it was a lot and Freya is the only puppy I've raised for the full length of time, but still. I guess to those who haven't raised any three sounds like a pretty big number. Anyway, she asked me how each of my puppies compared to each other. I struggled with what to say and eventually settled on, "Freya was my smartest, Rocco was my cuddler, and Hilly is my clown. They each have their own personalities that I had to learn to deal with." It wasn't eloquent or anything, but I think she understood. But it's got me thinking about what each one of my puppies has taught me over their time with me.
1. Freya taught me to be patient and consistent. I've always been a patient person, but I'm also a perfectionist. The two don't mesh well when raising puppies. I want it done perfectly the first time, but who can expect a 9 week old puppy to sit perfectly? She taught me that perfection is only worth having if you work hard towards it. And she definitely taught me to be consistent in my training. I couldn't let her get away with anything when she was a little puppy because she would take that as an excuse to be bad all the time. She was my first "trouble child" and she probably wouldn't have gotten past puppy in training if I hadn't learned to be consistent.
2. Rocco taught me to move slowly. Freya was "go, go, go" all the time and was ready for anything that came her way. She could have flown at 9 weeks and have been perfectly fine. She was just that kind of dog. Rocco, while still a trouble child, was a lot more mellow (though still hyper for a male) and wanted to take things at a lazy pace. He was ready for most things, but there were a few things that I learned should wait until the puppy is at least 6 months old. He also taught me how to deal with loud mouths as, if you might remember, I didn't get any sleep for the first 3 months Rocco was with me due to his poor crate behaviour.
3. Hilly taught me that some dogs just shouldn't be Guide Dogs. Of course I already knew that not all dogs could be Guides. I had seen dogs in my group be career changed before and knew that it just wasn't their thing. But Hilly really taught it to me. Now that she's career changed I'm noticing it more and more because she doesn't have to be perfect. She's a sniffer and take opportunistic sniffs of the ground if I'm not paying attention (not Guide Dog material), she doesn't like being left alone so she gets into things (definitely not Guide Dog material), she hops (which isn't all that bad but she can't control it), and she is distracted by everything around her. I don't know if I had gotten her sooner if it would have changed anything, but I'm definitely glad I didn't try and convince Jim to take her back into training. They would have started to wonder if Jim was in a right state of mind. I mean, she hackles at stalling cars not because she's afraid of them but because the noise gets her excited. She just shouldn't be a Guide and that's not something I truly realised before Hilly. I think it's because she could be a Guide...but she just shouldn't be one.
Anyway, I know this was a long post, but I've been reflecting on what Guide Dogs has taught me and what being a puppy raiser really means to me. I've decided to ask for a puppy back in Scotland. I do want to puppy sit once before I do, so we'll see what happens. But I think I'm ready to juggle university and puppy. I'll keep you updated.