Category Archives: GDApupAnnie

Beautiful puppy-in-training Annie stayed with us for a few weeks while her parents were out of the country on a holiday. She is so sweet and lovable and she has grown into a beautiful dog.

Ever Wondered What Its Like Raising A Guide Dog Puppy?

It’s a lot like having a toddler in your house.

I would say its like having a baby in the house, but babies aren’t really mobile… 😛

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Once you find out you’re on the list for a puppy, you can hardly wait for the email giving you the date you can go and fetch her (or him 😀 ).
You start racking your brain for possible names and buying toys, a new collar, name tags, bowls, and bedding for when your baby arrives home. Once you fetch your puppy, you get to pick her up and cuddle her, and carry her to the car, and you make the most of it ‘coz it won’t easily happen again – these puppies are not to be carried and coddled.

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For the first week, she sleeps a lot, often collapsing into a nap in the middle of a game! Then there’s the mad dash when your puppy wakes at 1am… and 2am and 4am and 5am… Get her outside for a piddle and back into her bed- in the dark- without too much of a disruption to your sleep or the rest of the household, praying that it won’t be long before she sleeps through.

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Then she’ll start getting more active.
You will spend a lot of time asking your puppy what she – or he – has in her mouth, and then telling her to spit it out (leave it), or to bring it to you.
And if she does manage to get out of your sight, you spend a lot of time checking to see why your puppy has suddenly gone quiet… and then cleaning up whatever her newest mess is.

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You’ll check to make sure your puppy bag is properly packed – lunch, clean up products, treats, water, and toys – and then you kick yourself when you get to your destination and you’ve left something behind. Or you’ve left the whole bag behind!
And since your puppy goes where you go, you try to plan your trips around your puppy’s nap times and meals, hoping you timed it right and she won’t need to pee (busy) until you get home again!
The morning run to get your husband off to work on time is extra challenging as you try to get your puppy fed and out for a pee while packing a lunchbox, and then getting your puppy into the car without freaking her out and putting her off car travel.
And you follow up every invitation with a request for your puppy to accompany you.

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You spend a lot of time worrying about whether your puppy is eating enough, and how her tummy is doing.
If she doesn’t want to eat its a concern. If it looks like she’s too tubby that’s a problem too. Her food is carefully measured and weighed and you keep trying to balance training treats with what she’s eaten!

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You also spend a lot of time wanting to throttle people who touch and talk to your puppy without asking you if they may do so, and asking people to please not pick your puppy up.

And you aren’t just handed a puppy and told: “See you in a year!”
Your puppy’s progress is monitored throughout her time with you. There’s puppy classes, home visits, outings to nursery schools and malls, PR visits to expos and shows, progress reports for the development supervisors and sponsors…
Make no mistake – its a full time project, and not to be taken on lightly.
When these puppies are awake, they are learning, and if they’re not with you, they’re not learning the right way. Their learning is essential as these pups will one day be Guide Dogs to the visually impaired or Service Dogs for the physically disabled. That means they have to be pretty much bomb-proof as well as obedient.

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When your puppy turns one, you send them off to “varsity” by giving them back to SA Guide-dogs for their formal training, and a few months later you will meet their new owner when they graduate and start working in the career you spent so many hours preparing them for.

Then if you’re brave, and lucky, you get to do it all again!

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I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Blog About Little Annie!

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Annie is  Guide Dog puppy-in-training.
Born at SA Guide-dogs in June, she was too young at 11 weeks to have a kennel stay, so while her puppy raiser parents were on holiday in Namibia she came to stay with us.

Her mommy dropped her off with her own bed and all her own toys so it wouldn’t be too strange, and the almost three weeks just flew by!

She’s one super smart little bundle of precious let me tell you! It was good fun to have a little puppy in the house again for a few weeks, and she had a busy time too! She went with us to the GDA stands at the Getaway and Hobby-X shows, and she spent the day at a golf fundraiser with me and she was immensely popular wherever she went! She had puppy class to attend as well and the one puppy class included a visit to a nursery school.

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We also had several shopping trips to PnP, Makro, Kadies (for baking supplies), and we visited coffee shops, pet shops, and the vet for a weekly weigh-in. She also had an interesting experience when she watched a couple of men come and remove a swarm of bees from our garden.

She learned to ignore the cats (she doesn’t live with any) and she had to learn a little humility in a house with lots of older and bigger dogs.

Her mommy missed her lots and Annie was very glad to see her “big brother” when he came to take her home again.

She is a darling and we have no doubt she’s going to make an excellent Guide Dog one day.

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You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter
Check out my Facebook page: Its a Pup’s Life

A Weekend with Wendel

Service-Dog-to-be Wendel’s training is going really well, and at the moment he is doing all the Service Dog demos for visitors to the Gladys Evans Training Centre. And he remains immensely popular among visitors and staff alike, though apparently he has a thing for chewing through his leashes!
When I fetched Wendel on Friday afternoon, I asked if his weight was still good and they said he was indeed a little tubby again and had to go back on a diet. Apparently some dogs have a tendency to gain weight and Wendel is one of them – even with daily exercise.

On Friday evening he and little puppy-in-training Annie had a cuddly snooze on the kitchen floor towel while I finished a cake I was working on. He’s very good with the puppies.

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All four of the dogs – GDA’s Wendel and Annie and our Riddick and Lennox – had a wonderful weekend together!

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On Friday afternoon, Wendel and Annie both had an interesting experience and both handled it really well. A swarm of bees moved into the disused fountain-slash-water-feature outside our bedroom windows, and we had people come and remove them for us. The two men were walking around the garden in the big white beekeeper suits and using a vacuum to suck up the bees into a box, and it was very strange for the puppies. Annie didn’t bat an eyelid and after Wendel had barked a couple of times he listened to me telling him to “leave it” and settled down.

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On Sunday morning we spent a few hours at the  SA Guide-dogs stand at Hobby-X with Wendel and Annie. It was unbelievably busy and I didn’t have a chance to take any photos, but Wendel was a superstar. He handled the crowds and the cuddles like a pro!

On Monday morning, I was packing a lunchbox for my husband and brushing my teeth and such, and put the dogs out after they’d had their breakfast. It couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes but when I called them inside so we could leave Wendel, Annie and Penny (most likely the instigator) were covered in mud!
By the time I dropped him off at GDA he was a little cleaner, but he definitely needed a bath!

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SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
I also have a Facebook page called Its a Pup’s Life .

What Does It Mean To Be A Guide Dog Puppy Walker?

For a year or so you have a 5:30am wake-up call; digging; chewing; that divine puppy smell; puppy cuddles; tail wagging; 2am toilet runs- even in the rain; and a bundle of lovable fluff that is deceptively smart.

Many years ago, there was a woman with a guide dog living in the block of flats my son and I lived in. Chatting to her briefly one day when she was out with her dog, she mentioned how the pups are raised by volunteer families, and it piqued my interest- but I was working full time and puppy raising wasn’t an option.

When I started working from home in 2010, I asked my husband if he would be open to raising a puppy for SAGA, and he said yes.
The following year we applied to SAGA, and a couple of months later they sent a Puppy Development Supervisor to visit us at home and meet us and our dogs and check out the house.
Once we were approved we went onto the waiting list for our puppy, and on December 22nd 2011 I went to fetch Volt, our first guide dog puppy.
I signed our contract at SAGA’s Puppy Block- after we battled for weeks to come up with a name that started with a U or a V (the letter allocated to his litter)- and after an instructional briefing I left with an adorable puppy, an ID tag, two bags of food, and a 67 page manual.

We had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into!

It’s a lot like having a new baby in the house, except that your puppy comes with a text book!
If you have any idea how cool it is to have an obedient dog, you’ll know how much work goes into training your dog to ‘sit’ or ‘shake’. Now triple that workload and add to it that you will be supervised to make sure your dog is trained properly, with positive reinforcement! And puppies are a handful, no matter the breed.
When your puppy is awake, it is learning. Not only is there a set of verbal commands (sit, stay, down, off, leave it, come, wait, forward and stand), there’s all kinds of behavioural conditioning they need to learn as well, and this doesn’t always have a command.
As a guide-dog-in-training, your puppy is not allowed to chase balls, bark or whine. He has to wait till he’s told he may eat. He has to be comfortable travelling in a car and must be able to go ‘potty’ on command. He has to be comfortable in any setting – from shopping malls to nursery schools. He has to learn to walk calmly and quietly on a lead, on your left hand side. He has to be taught to WALK (not run) up and down all kinds of staircases. He has to learn not to jump up on people, he may not beg, and he must be taught that noises like thunder and fireworks are nothing to fear. They are with you all the time, they go everywhere with you as much as possible.
And the SAGA PDSs are always on hand to ensure the pups are progressing and you have help if you need it.

And its not just about puppies, you have to be able to deal with people too.
You have to remember that you are unofficially representing SAGA when you are out with your puppy. You have to get permission for your puppy to accompany you to places that dogs may not be allowed. Security guards can be a nightmare, and while some people will call out to your puppy when you’re out together, others scream and jump out of your way as if your puppy is foaming at the mouth!
And people will ask you questions. The same questions over and over again. The most common one being “…isn’t it hard to give them up?”

Yes, it is hard – but you’re not giving them up, you’re giving them back.
There’s no pomp or ceremony, its kept low key and quiet.
You get given your dog’s intake date, you bring your puppy in and you say goodbye.
Hopefully you’ve done all you were supposed to do and your puppy can start its training as a guide dog with the proper basics already learned.
Your dog’s trainer will keep you up to date with your dog’s progress during its guide dog training, but except to meet your puppy’s new owner when they are ready to graduate and start working together, there is a likelihood you won’t see your puppy again.

Its a year or so of very mixed feelings… you want your puppy to do well and take on its life’s purpose with confidence- but at the same time you love your puppy and you devote a lot of time and attention to it, and you miss your puppy terribly when its gone.

Witnessing your “baby”, fully trained and walking in his harness with his new owner is a moment filled with so much pride and excitement you are almost fit to burst.
You have to hide behind trees and cars on the other side of the street so that your puppy- and he is still a puppy at that stage- doesn’t see you and get distracted from his new job!

But seeing your puppy doing what he was bred and trained to do makes everything worthwhile.

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Our second guide dog puppy, Lennox, is almost 11 months old so our time with him is almost up. Our first guide dog puppy, Volt, is working as a guide dog in the Cape, and the two weekend “boarders” we worked with have also qualified – Kenzo as a guide dog in the Cape and Rhody as a service dog in KZN.

We are immensely proud of our puppies, and we plan to raise guide dog puppies for many years to come.