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My Guide Dog Story

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Guest Post by: Linda Ladaga

My whole life, I’ve been a dog lover. My parents never let me have one though; they said dogs were too much work. So, when I went away to college, I knew that I had to have a dog. I also knew that I had no clue how to take care one.

So, I joined a program called the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. They taught me how to raise puppies that would become seeing eye dogs for those with vision impairments.

Phyllis An 8 Week Old Golden Retriever-Yellow Lab Puppy

Shortly after my training had ended, I received my very first 8-week-old puppy, Phyllis. No, I did not get to pick the name (although I do love The Office). Phyllis is a golden retriever-yellow lab mix and could not be any cuter. I fell in love with her instantly.

Guide Dog Story
Day 1 with Phyllis

I quickly found out that my parents had been lying to me my entire life – puppies are a lot of work, but that is the fun in raising them! The best part about Phyllis was that she was a certified service dog. That meant she had to wear her cute yellow “dog in training” vest and follow me to class, restaurants, sporting events, movie theaters, and more.

We attended monthly training programs together so that the program could monitor her progress. She was so smart, independent and strong. She had a will of her own. 15 months passed quickly and it was time for Phyllis to head to New York for her professional training. If she passed, it was off to live with someone who has vision impairments.

Guide Dog Story - Phyllis and Duke
Phyllis and her brother Duke, the day before heading up to NY (Phyllis on left, Duke on right)

Saying goodbye to Phyllis was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know how it would feel to give up a pup you love so much after 15 months together. It was heart wrenching, but I knew she was on her way to do the job she was born to do.

Ace An 8 Week Old Black Lab Puppy

Luckily, upon her goodbye, I was handed Ace, my new 8-week-old black lab puppy. It was difficult starting again from square one with Ace’s training, but I quickly fell madly in love with him. He was my buddy, my cuddler, my sweetheart.

Guide Dog Story - Ace
Day 1 with Ace

Eight months into my training with Ace, I received great news: Phyllis had graduated from her training and moved to Arizona with her new owner, an elderly woman who was blind. Before I knew it, it was time for Ace to head to New York as well. I waited months to hear about Ace’s progress and finally the news came: he had graduated the program as well and was placed with a woman in Michigan.

I couldn’t be more proud of my dogs for making it all the way through the guide dog program and leading the blind with their eyes and with their hearts. Today, I’m a still pen pal with Phyllis and Ace’s owners. They send me updates and pictures each month. I also have two dogs that are my very own: Kibo (a goofy, Shepherd mix) and Kenya (an 8-week-old puppy mix). The three of us live in Denver now, where I attend graduate school.

Helping The Guide Dog Foundation

Many of my friends have rescued dogs for the animal assisted therapy program here, and I often lend a hand with training and dog sitting in exchange for donations to the Guide Dog Foundation. Each time I help someone out, I know that those donations are making their way back to dogs like Phyllis and Ace, and the people whose lives they have changed forever.

If you’d like to join me in supporting this great cause, pledge an hour of your time in my ProBueno community. I’m helping with dog-related things, but you are free to offer anything from baking cookies to offering career advice. Every time someone needs your help, they will make a donation to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Beef Collagen Sticks - All of our pups love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Collagen Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. I’m getting a boy and he will be from the “P” litter!!! Time to start thinking about names. I am really liking the name Porter but wanna keep looking just in case I think of something way better

  2. Not sure of the litter letter yet. I have a list of all the names that have popped into my head, hoping that they will be open and right for the puppy. I am excited and am definitely looking forward to it! i will let you know when i get my puppy and what name i decide on 🙂

  3. Cool! What litter letters are going home on the 9th? Have you started thinking for names yet? I heard it’s going to be a large group of puppies going home on August 9th.

  4. Patience has paid off! My puppy is available on August 9th!!! Will either be a lab or a golden/lab.

  5. I’m in the SLO group. I live in Lompoc and right now im the only puppy raiser in my city through GDA. Gotta get my friends onboard for this! Thanks for getting back to me Colby!

  6. Hi Rayna,

    Congratulations! What GDA group are you in? We’re in the Orange County group.

    The time it takes to get a puppy varies. Sometimes they are looking for puppy raisers because they have too many puppies in the nursery while other times they have more puppy raisers then puppies available at the nursery making the wait a bit longer.

    When I got my first puppy from the day I sent in my application to the day I picked up my puppy was about 4 months.

    Your area leader will probably have a better idea of when puppies will be available.

    I’m excited for you! Picking up and raising a GDA puppy is a very rewarding experience and also a lot of fun. In the mean time get to know your fellow puppy raisers, ask questions, and find out who else lives near by in case you need a puppy sitter.

    Good luck with your new adventure!

  7. How long did it take before you actually got your puppy? I have completed the application and the home interview was almost exactly a month ago. I am learning patience as I am waiting for my puppy, I am so excited to meet him/her. I have not gotten a phone call yet.

  8. What a great experience! Thanks for sharing this story and for doing your part in training Phyllis. It must have been really hard to part with her. I wrote a similar article recently about therapy dogs and the great work they provide for their owners.

  9. This is a wonderful idea and great “out of the box” thinking for raising funds for a worthy cause. Thank you for sharing

  10. I agree! I’m thinking about setting up a similar site to raise some additional funds for some of the non-profit organizations we support.

  11. I agree! It is a very cool way to raise funds. I hope Linda gets lots of activity on her ProBueno account.

    Unfortunately, I’m not going to BlogPaws this year I just have too much on my plate right now. Hopefully I’ll make it to next years conference.

    By the way, I wanted to chat with you. Maybe we can get on a Google Hangout sometime after BlogPaws. You can tell me all about the wonderful things I missed out on 🙁 I hope all is well with you!

  12. I love that you have your friends donate to the Guide Dog Foundation in exchange for your help! Are you able to puppy raise still for the group even though you moved?

  13. That’s a pretty cool way to raise funds! It’s also pretty cool that her first two dogs made it all the way through!

    Are you coming to BlogPaws this year?

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