Andy’s Album #8: Snapshots of an Aspiring Guide Dog

Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers July 5, 2016 17:18

Friends and Neighbors Magazine is following Andy, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy, on his journey through the Guide Dogs for the Blind training program.  Jean Jones, one of three leaders of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties’ Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteer network, has been raising Andy since he was 10 weeks old.  He is the 16th puppy she has raised for the nonprofit program. Check back for updates on Andy’s progress. Read about his earlier training adventures in Readers’ Journal.

Andy plays chewbone keep-away with little Dino

Andy’s Album

Age: 16 months

Andy’s progress so far: “Andy’s improving and well behaved. He’s starting to mature. I was back in another section of the building where I work talking with a coworker, one who helps with walking Andy. She was ‘pretend crying’ as she was describing something to me. Andy came flying back to find out what was going on.

He did something similar when my three granddaughters, ages two, four and six, came for a sleepover. One of them was moaning or crying in her sleep, and he got up on the bed immediately to check on her and see what was wrong.

We attended the Elder Abuse Awareness conference last week and Andy did such a good job. A lady approached me and said, ‘He’s gonna make it!'”

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Dino with Jean outside the Area 12 office

Highlight: “Instead of keeping him in his crate under my desk while I’m working, I had been attaching his leash to the crate. Now I’m keeping his leash on but not attaching it to his crate. He curls up on a quilt under the desk and stays there. Once I forgot to take him with me to an hour-long staff meeting and when I came back, he was still there!

A couple of weeks ago I was walking up to the back of the office, juggling a bunch of stuff. While I was trying to find my key to open the door, I dropped Andy’s leash. One of my coworkers, who often takes Andy on walks, was coming up behind me while another coworker was coming from the the other direction. Andy gets a lot of love from people at work; he’s a free agent. Instead of running off to greet his friends, he stayed by me. He didn’t follow him impulse. It was very cute.”

What’s next for Andy: “Andy will be a mentor dog for Dino, a 10-week-old golden retriever puppy. Dino will stay with us for about a week. It’ll be fun to see the two of them together.”

What Andy’s future may hold: “I may have Andy for another month or two; he may be ‘called up to the big leagues’ by August. Guide Dogs for the Blind would send me a notice that Andy’s on the ‘recall list,’ meaning he would go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind’s headquarters in San Rafael for further evaluation and training.

Guide Dogs for the Blind would run a complete physical, including evaluations by specialists such as an orthopedist and an ophthalmologist in addition to their regular veterinary staff. The dogs have to be perfectly healthy before they can go forward with training. Then they would spend a week with a professional trainer to learn about obstacles, hazards and dangers, such as low tree branches and curbs.

DSC_7296 sharing

Andy teaches Dino about sharing

At any time a dog could be dropped from the program. My previous puppy had a tiny hip problem, so she was dropped. The standards are very high because the guide dogs have a huge responsibility. The dogs have to have the right temperament, too, and to be confident.

If a dog makes it through all the challenges, Guide Dogs for the Blind matches a person and dog based on their personalities, temperaments, size, and so on. They do a great job of matching people and dogs.

DSC_7357 so many teeth to bare

Fearsome duo at play


The blind person lives on campus for a couple of weeks to work with a trainer and see if they can form a bond with the dog. Then there’s a graduation ceremony, where puppy raisers like me get to see the dog again and meet the blind person.

The dogs usually go crazy when they see the puppy raisers. They come unglued; they’re like bucking broncos! With a previous puppy I raised, I spent some time with the dog and her new owner after the ceremony. The dog was so happy to see me, but when the blind person got up and walked across the room, the dog totally focused on her. The dog knew, ‘That’s my person and I’m keeping my eye on her.’

About 46 percent make it as guide dogs. It’s up to the dog; it’s what’s in that little dog’s heart. It takes a certain temperament to do it. You raise them with all the love you can give them then you have to let them go, like you do with your kids. It’s a long process and it’s up to the little guy or girl.

The dog ends up where it’s supposed to be, whether it’s a guide dog, a pet, a therapy dog or something else.”

About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Headquartered in San Rafael, Guide Dogs for the Blind is a national nonprofit that relies on a network of volunteer “puppy raisers” and trainers to prepare dogs for service to people with visual impairments.  To volunteer locally, contact Jean Jones, (209) 533-3620.  “We provide tons of support to volunteers,” says Jones.  “If you have an interest in dogs or just helping somebody, this is a win-win.”
To learn more, click here:  Guide Dogs for the Blind

Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers July 5, 2016 17:18
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