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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.
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).
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.
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:
- Snoopy (my dog’s name is Linus)
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:
After Stetson career changed and became our forever dog we enrolled him in K9 Nosework classes. Stetson had two joys in his life:
- Sleeping on our bed
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
Rest In Peace, Stetson
Dec 21st, 2006 – Jun 23rd, 2019