In my last blog I introduced myself as Vice President of Finance and mentioned our department’s commitment to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Since that time we’ve taken on a new dog, Lincoln, a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix who is now over four-months old. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child” or in our case, “it takes an office to raise a guide dog,” for we have been taking turns handling and teaching this hard-working pup.
Guide Dogs places puppies into raiser homes at eight-weeks old and recalls them for formal training a year and half later. The organization breeds all of their own dogs, ensuring that they have the best temperament for their jobs. It’s amazing how calm these puppies are! Lincoln is what they call a cross breed; in fact Guide Dogs has been cross breed
ing Labradors and Golden Retrievers for some time to achieve the specific qualities best suited for guide dog service. Lincoln’s dad Medford is 75% Golden Retriever and 25% Labrador, while his mom is a 50/50 mix. We figure that makes him two-thirds retriever. Lincoln is part of the Monterey County Guide Dog Club. You can find more pictures of him and his peers here.
As a puppy raiser, the biggest goal is to rear a well-behaved dog with good manners. That means sleeping in a crate, no getting up on the furniture, never getting human food, relieving on command, limited toy choices (no consumable chew toys, no throwing balls—we wouldn’t want a ball fetish!), and the knowledge of basic commands (Come, Sit, Down, Kennel, Bed, etc.).
The most frequent question I get asked is how can you give him up? The answer is that it’s a bit like getting a child ready for college—you let them go with a lot of mixed emotions! The best reward is when your charge becomes a real working guide dog. There is a graduation ceremony where we raisers get to meet the visually impaired person who has been matched to our dog. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience knowing that although we will miss the dog, they are bringing so much freedom to another person’s life.
But until then, Lincoln will go to work with me every day and hang out with the Markon staff. Everyone really loves having him there—in fact, he’s become what we call the office therapy dog.