Stetson Our First Guide Dog Puppy In Training

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Colby the human and Stetson the black lab puppy in training
At Union Station Outing with Stetson Guide Dog Puppy In Training

Stetson was my first guide dog puppy in training.

He was the reason I started this blog.

It’s been over a month since Stetson passed.

Yesterday, I was talking to my wife and she said our 2 year old daughter told her that she missed Stetsie. I nearly broke down and cried…I miss him too…

Guide Dog Puppy In Training

October 2006, I made the decision to commit the next 18 months to raising a Guide Dog puppy.

I sent applications to Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guide Dogs of the Desert, and Guide Dogs of America.

On February 9th, 2007, I made the two hour drive to Sylmar, California to the Guide Dogs of America campus and picked up my first Puppy In Training, Stetson!

Rewind a bit…

The day I found out I was going to raise a puppy I also decided I was going to create a blog chronicling his journey to become a guide dog.

It took about 6 months to finally get the blog up and running and on August 1st, 2007 I wrote my first blog post (Ha! it was a post about my other dog, Linus).

Stetson was one tough puppy to train. He didn’t like his crate, he was not the best when it came to potty training, and he was barked, whined, and cried most of his first month with us 🙁

The good news is without all Stetson’s early puppy problems we would not have published some of our most popular blog posts.

In fact I had a reader last week tell me she thinks she may have a “Stetson”. Here’s her exact quote:

“I think we have a Stetson. This is my fourth puppy and fifth dog. We got him three weeks ago at 9 weeks old…he still barks for 20-40 minutes before he settles down every time…” –M.B.

Stetson legacy will live on many years after his passing.

Me and Stetson, 8 week old black lab puppy in training
Picking up Stetson our first Guide Dog Puppy In Training

Good Boy, Stetson

By the time Stetson was 16 weeks old we thought he was the perfect puppy. He was a fast learner, obedient, attentive, and he stopped barking, crying, whining (we thought he lost his voice).

Stetson went with me everywhere. Some of our favorite outings:

  • Our first movie together: Eragon. I remember this because it made me realize action movies are probably not the best first movie for a puppy.
  • Metrolink train ride to Union Station with about 20 other guide dog puppies.
  • Disneyland with my brother, sister in law, and mother. We road Pirates of the Caribbean. After the waterfalls Stetson laid down and took a little siesta.
  • Walk trough Main Place Mall – Today we live about 5 minutes from this mall. I even wrote a blog post about the lovely pic I took of our group out front. I think it was also Stetson’s first glass elevator ride.
  • A day at the beach. Guide dog puppies aren’t allowed at dog beach. However, we were able to take him to the public beach. When Stetson first stepped on the sand he didn’t know what to make of it so he stuck his open mouth into it and thrashed his head. Luckily I had a bottle of water to wash the sand out of his mouth. 🙂

When Stetson turned 16 months he went back to Guide Dogs of America to begin his formal training.

Stetson went to Guide Dog college for 2 months and decide guide dogging wasn’t for him and came back home to live with me as a forever pet.

DID YOU KNOW: Stetson’s name was almost Sancho? When choosing puppy names at Guide Dogs of America they give you a letter (“S”) and then you give them a list of names starting with that letter. I found the old email with my list of “S” names:

  • Stetson
  • Snoopy (my dog’s name is Linus)
  • Simba
  • Satchmo
  • Sancho

I’m glad we went with Stetson.

Dog Sniffer Extraordinaire 

Look at this pic and tell me you can’t see the enthusiasm oozing from Stetson’s jowls:

Black Lab, Stetson at K9 Nosework training. Tongue hanging out!
Stetson at Sniffer Class. He loved K9 Nosework.

After Stetson career changed and became our forever dog we enrolled him in K9 Nosework classes. Stetson had two joys in his life:

  1. Sleeping on our bed
  2. Food

K9 Nosework became his 3rd joy. Besides meal time it was the only other time you saw extreme excitement from Steston.

We did Nosework training with Stetson for a couple years right up until Dublin’s graduation when we took a little hiatus. We returned to class about a year later. Unfortunately, the trainers were using a small office space rather than the large training facility at Wags and Wiggles. Nosework wasn’t the same at the new facility so we ended up quitting and working with Stetson on our own.

Up until the last few months Stetson had the same enthusiasm any time you told him: “FIND IT!”

Ferdinand the Bull A.K.A. Stetson

Black Dogs, Black and White, Lounge on our King Sized Bed
Stetson and Linie relaxing on the bed.

Most didn’t have to go through the growing pains of Stetson during his first couple months (just me and Linus).

When he was three years old a switch turned on (or maybe it turned off) and Stetson became the most calm and docile dog.

He was Ferdinand the Bull! He just wanted to walk around and sniff the flowers he didn’t like to run and loved to lounge around the house.

As a guide dog trainee he was never allowed on the bed. When he career changed and came home I finally let him on the bed and from that day forward our bed was his bed.

A Few More Of Our Favorite Memories

  • Stetson was an English Labrador Retriever and not an agile American Lab. That goes without saying. When he was about a year old he and Linus were racing to my parents house. They have a three steps up to their walkway. Our athletic dog, Linus gracefully jumped all three steps without hesitation. Stetson was right behind Linus and attempted the same maneuver without the same success. He face planted, skidding along the concrete, popped back up and followed Linus to the front gate. Poor Stetsie.
  • The first month with Stetson was like having a baby. He never slept more than 2 hours in a row. Yowzers! I thought he was going to kill me plus I was a single pet parent so no one to help me. Luckily after about a month he stopped barking in his crate and went silent. I seriously don’t really know what he sounds like when he barks because since he was about 12 weeks old I’ve only heard him bark a handful of times.
  • Disneyland! We had a great time at Disneyland with family. It was the last time I remember going to Disneyland without crowds. We went on a half dozen rides and Stetson was calm and patient everywhere we went.
  • Running on the golf course. At dusk I used to let Linus and Stetson race on the golf course. I would put them both in a sit-stay walk about fifty yards and release them. Stetson would never win the race. His favorite part was going back to smelling the bushes and flowers. 🙂
  • Stetson’s Kung Fu Kick! Stetson had a hind leg reflex. When his back paw got tickled he’d do a swift and hard kick. One day his foot got tickled and he caught my wife, Ali right in the chest. Painful yet unhurt (hilarious for me).
  • The Gas. Stetson had the best SBDs and I could even pass off a few of my own SBDs as Stetsons. 🙂
  • Speed Eater! In his early days he would have challenged the fastest eaters which spawned a series of blog posts about slow feeder dog bowls. One memory was of Stetson as a puppy. One day he suddenly stopped eating mid-gulp. He sat straight up and waited about 30 seconds for food to go past his throat to his belly. After 30 he went straight back to his crazy speed eating. Not a great memory, but he was also known to vomit after eating too fast.
  • Hand stand! Stetson loved his sniffing classes. Every one in class loved watching him because you always knew when he caught the scent. One time his reaction to catching the scent was so drastic he stopped the front part of his body so quickly his back legs came about a foot off the ground doing a hand stand with his front legs. Very impressive and everyone thought he was amazing!
  • His best buddy until a last year was our first puppy, Linus.
Two Black Dogs lying next to a Get Well Soon Card
Stetson and Linie Chilling in the backyard.

Stetson, The Family Dog

When Stetson was 4 years old he met my future wife, Allison. They were buddies right away and Ali would always say that Stetson loved her the most. Probably true because as a teacher, Ali spent all summer hanging out with Stetson watching their favorite TV shows together.

When Stetson was 11 years old he met his first human sibling, Emma. To this very day Emma still asks, “Where’s Stetsie?” Which breaks our hearts. Our reply is Stetsie is in the sky with Linus watching over us. Emma’s reply: “Oh yeah, Stetsie in the sky with Linie.”

Baby Emma and Stetson on the bed with torn up Tissue
Emma setting up Stetson…The Dog Did It!

When Stetson was 12 years old he met the twins, Maddie, and Kayla.

Stetson was always a good brother to his human sisters.

Mommy’s Letter To Stetson

Dear Stetson…

I love you so much. I am having a hard time writing this. I can’t believe you are gone. My heart still hurts, but I’m glad you aren’t in pain anymore.

I know daddy (Colby) raised you and I came into your life after you decided that working wasn’t your thing (I hear ya buddy), but I felt like you were MY buddy. We were definitely soulmates. My favorite was when you and I would hang out on the couch all day watching TV, eating snacks, and taking naps only getting up to “get busy” or get more snacks. I think daddy realized that we were BFFs when he noticed that we hadn’t moved from our spots on the couch from when he left for work till he came home. 🙂

You were not the best guard dog, but definitely the best snuggler. You were my heater in the winter…and the summer. I remember waking up on the edge of the bed and looking over to see you taking up three-quarters of the bed…knocked out snoring like a lumberjack. It was funny when you farted on daddy’s pillow and made his side of the bed all warm in the summer…we would laugh and laugh and laugh. It’s weird having so much space in the bed nowadays. Remember that time when daddy was sleeping and you kicked him in his man parts? I do…it was funny until the following night when I was sleeping and you sucker punched me in the chest. I still love you and miss trying to roll you over (unsuccessfully) so I can get some of the covers.

Mommy, Ali, and Black Lab Stetson lying on the bed
Stetsie and Mommy…Best Buddies.

I know you weren’t the biggest fan of Raven’s puppies, new puppies in training, or the human babies, but you were so patient. I can’t believe all the beatings you took…ear pulling, biting, getting pounced on, hair pulling, hitting…but you NEVER got mad. Maybe because Linus got mad at the puppies for you, but still you never got mad. You knew your safe spot was the bed or the couch and when you had enough you would just leave. I wish I was like you and could just walk away when things made angry. Although I swore you rolled your eyes every time we would walk in to the house with new puppies or new babies. Yeah I saw you.

Emma misses you. She asks where you went…we tell her you live in the sky with Linus. We take her outside to look up at the stars and she says good night to you. I hope you can hear her…she yells pretty loud some nights. Thank you Stetsie for letting the girls learn “nice nice” from you and for being so loving. I know you didn’t like the babies crawling around and on you and invading your space, but they loved you.

I still can’t believe you are gone…it doesn’t seem real to me. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when it was time to go to heaven. I hope you were able to see me on daddy’s phone when he Face Timed me at the vet’s office. I wanted to hug you and kiss you and give you something good to eat…I’m sorry. I talked to you later that night…did you hear me? I hope you’re eating good food up there. I know you aren’t running or playing in the water (I’ve never seen someone get so moody when wet), but I hope you found a comfy spot on the couch with a good view of the TV and a plate of hamburgers next to you.

Thank you for everything Stetson. I miss you everyday. I love you.

Mom


It’s been a tough few weeks for us. Losing a family member as wonderful as Stetson is not easy. He taught us so much in his 12 1/2 years with us.

I know he and Linus are having fun on the other side of the rainbow bridge.

We miss you Stesie.

Baby KK and black Lab Stetson holding hands/paws
Stetsie and KK holding hands/paws

Rest In Peace, Stetson
Dec 21st, 2006 – Jun 23rd, 2019

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37 Comments

  1. I remember the day that my friend and I went with Colby to pick up Stetson. It was a long ride there but after seeing Colby interact with Stetson and how well the two hit it off together, it was well worth the car ride. We saw an instant bond with those two.

    My husband and I were lucky to have been able to be around as Stetson grew up. We had plenty of opportunities to hang with him and even got to dog sit. That was the highlight of our times with Stetson. My niece who was 2 at the time, was staying with us and absolutely loved hanging with him. She loved watching him devour his food within seconds and loved taking him for walks. She would start out holding the leash and being in the lead but by the end of the walk, Stetson would be walking her. It was the cutest thing seeing Stetson take the lead, and my niece following behind holding the leash trying to keep up. It was also fun watching Stetson take over our bed and literally kicking my husband out of it.

    There are definitely more memories such as camping, parties, hockey games, etc. with Stetson. We miss him greatly!

    1. Thanks for sharing the great memories. I remember when you took care of Stetson he was having bad skin allergies on his paws and was licking them a lot so much so he left huge puddle marks on your comforter and we thought he pee’d the bed. Hopefully we figured out soon enough that it was just him licking his paws that it didn’t worry you guys too much. Thanks again for sharing. We miss Stetson everyday.

  2. What a moving tribute. I have very moist eyes now.

    I found your blog when we got our Labrador puppy. I learned so much from you, and you helped ease our way into raising a Lab puppy who is now the best dog in the world. Reading about losing Stetson makes it clear how short our precious time is with these wonderful souls.

    Rest easy dear Stetson.

    1. Hi Marilyn, thank you for sharing your memory and of how you found our blog. Yes, our time with our dogs is short. I feel lucky to have spent over 12 years with Stetson. All the best to you.

    1. I was just about to type the same thing.

      Such a wonderful tribute for a beautiful dog, and I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss. RIP. Thank you for sharing these memories with us.

      Have a wonderful day!

      /Nabil

  3. When we met Stetson he had already made a career change to help Colby raise and train guide and therapy dogs. But we do remember having a grand time playing and swimming at his pool, how many black labs can you count. Chasing a ball or toy in the pool and have a dozen labs going after the toy. Thank you Stetson, say hello to Mocha for us.

    1. We loved having all the dogs over for pool parties. Unfortunately, both Stetson and Linus weren’t water dogs. However, I think they enjoyed all their puppy pal friends playing in our swimming pool. Thanks for sharing your memories, Don.

  4. We loved dog sitting sweet Stetson. He was such a sweetheart and always was nice to Lakey. Lakey says she remembers that “he was always nice to me and cute.” Hope Stetson is playing his heart out over the rainbow bridge with Linus and Ralphie!

  5. So sorry to hear of Stetsons passing.
    I came across your blogs when looking for help with our new puppy Alfie. I loved reading about Linus and Stetson.They helped so much.our last dog Ozzy had lived to be 16 so it had been a while.!

    Alfie is two now . I treasure every day with him because I know that time will pass so quickly. I have wonderful memories of all our dogs and they too have a star in heaven. RIP Stetson

    1. It’s tough saying goodbye. We had Linus for 13 1/2 years and Stetson for 12 1/2 years. It’s never long enough. Thank you for sharing your memories of Stetson and Linus.

  6. You’ll Meet Me In The Light

    I know that you can’t see me,

    But trust me I’m right here.

    Although I’m up in Heaven,

    My love for you stays near.

    So often I see you crying,

    Many times you call my name.

    I want so much to lick your face,

    And ease some of your pain.

    I wish that I could make you see,

    That Heaven is in deed real.

    If you could see me run and play,

    How much better you would feel.

    But our loving God has promised me,

    That when the time is right,

    You’ll step into the darkness,

    And meet me in the light.

  7. While I never knew or met Stetson, I have known and know many dogs. It saddens me to hear of your loss, but dogdom is one of the universes constants. So I can relate to all your memories of your wonderful fur-friend/family member.

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