Andy’s Album #9: Snapshots of an Aspiring Guide Dog

Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers September 9, 2016 14:09

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, raised Andy from age 10 weeks to 18 months old.  He is the 16th puppy she raised for the nonprofit program. Read about his earlier training adventures in Readers’ Journal.


Andy’s ready to head out for further guide dog training


Andy relaxes on his last day of accompanying Jean to Area 12 Agency on Aging

Andy’s Album

Date: Sept. 9, 2016

Age: 18 months

Saying goodbye: “Andy has successfully completed his training with me and has been called up to the ‘big leagues’. On August 20 my dad and I brought Andy to the Guide Dogs for the Blind facility in San Rafael where he will receive further training. We checked him in to his kennel and they gave him a toy. He was busy sniffing and smelling, and going outside in his run. He’d keep checking in with us, but he was confused.

“We got there around dinner time and I thought we’d leave when they fed him so that he’d be distracted. They brought his food and my dad and I walked outside, but my dad stopped at the end of the kennel to talk with the guy who checked us in. So I’m waiting while Dad’s talking. I stood for several minutes; that was too long. Andy was confused; he looked at me like he was saying, What are you doing? I’m supposed to go with you.

“It’s always bittersweet when you take a dog back because they’ve been part of your daily life. Andy’s a sweet guy. Each one of the pups that I raised was so different. You form such a bond with each one: I trust him and he trusts me. It’s a partnership. Each one has his own little sparkle.”


Time for a belly rub


The look of love

What’s next for Andy: “Andy’s going through check-ups right now, working his way through the physicals. They’re going to put a doggie partner in the kennel with Andy; he’ll be in heaven with that! They’ll go through the process together.

“It could take a couple of months for Andy to go through all the levels of further training. He’ll work with a professional trainer and learn about all the advanced training including obstacles, hazards, dangers and gait training. At the end of all that, if he’s successful, he will be matched with his person that will live on campus with him. His person will then work with Andy and the trainer to see if they can become a team.

“He’s smart and he’s very food motivated. When we’d do the ‘go to bed’ exercise, he’d see me get the mat out and he knew it was a food game; he’d get so excited. When they teach him obstacles and hazards he’ll be so dialed in because it’ll be a food game.

“It may take some dogs longer to master certain skills. They’re evaluated for how they respond to training: Do they need more time to learn that skill or are they stressed? It’s an incredible stress on the dog and it’s too much for some of them.

“I’m anxious to see what Andy chooses. You give the dogs the tools to be successful. They’re raised with so much love and they’ve never had a bad experience, but it’s up to him to make the decision on what he’ll do or not do. He’s so devoted. His obedience work was really nice. He’ll be a good guide dog.”

What’s next for Jean: “I’ll be picking up a new puppy on September 11. It’ll be a male yellow Lab whose name starts with a ‘V’. I’ll find out his name when I pick him up.

“He’ll come to work with me the next day. My coworkers have been asking, ‘When are you going to get a new puppy?’ They miss that therapeutic calm from having Andy around; it’s so soothing to have a dog available to pet or to walk. He loved everybody. Every day he’d go around and greet everyone, then come lie down and say, My work is done.


Andy greets a fan…FAN staffer Lisa Mayers

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 September 9, 2016 14:09
Write a comment

1 Comment

  1. marilyn September 10, 10:32

    Such a beautiful, encouraging story! Thank you for sharing this important story of the kindness, courage, training and sacrifice it takes to provide a helper/guide dog and friend to a person needing this service! What a blessing.

View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*