Most of the things that I miss from home are little things that I will come back to in the next year. I miss my job as a camp counselor, I miss working at a ski resort, I miss various foods. I miss the community that I have in Utah, one major component is my puppy raising club.
I am a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind, an organization that provides fully trained service dogs to people who are blind or visually imparied at no cost. My role entails picking up an eight week old puppy and raising them up to be a well socialized, respectful listener ready to take on the world. This puppy lives with me for a little over a year, going wherever I go. Grocery shopping, high school, swim practice, library, yep they do it all. And then, some 14 months later the dreaded day we have been working so hard to reach comes: Recall Day (the goodbye). It’s a day we are proud of, because not every dog makes it into their formal training, but it’s also the day our puppy becomes somebody else’s dog. It is heart wrenching to watch them drive away, with the thought too clear in your head that you may never see them again. Yet, I keep doing it, and I’m not going to stop (new puppy coming April 2020!)
Jasper was recalled into his formal training in the beginning of August. Every Thursday since then I have had the opportunity to see how he is progressing in his formal training. There are eight phases, and a dog must complete all eight phases before they are qualified to be matched with a blind handler. Jasper completed all eight phases, and last Monday I got the call we all dream of…”Jasper is in class!” This means that Jasper has been matched with his future blind handler and will be graduating as their guide dog in two weeks. Each guide dog team goes through an intensive two week training with their guide dog to learn how to effectively work together. As his puppy raiser, I was invited to his graduation ceremony, but…..I’m in Ecuador.
Even though I knew that if Jasper graduated I wouldn’t be able to go, and after accepting my spot in Global Citizen Year last November I have had plenty of time to emotionally prepare to miss graduation, I still was devastated to RSVP no. Fortunately, I have a strong support network and several friends were able to go on my behalf and send me photos, and I have been in contact with Jasper’s new handler. He is her independence and her confidence, and that’s the most important part of the puppy raising process.
Missing the little things is one thing, I know I’ll come back to them. But missing the big things is more substantial.
Go get ‘em Jasper!