Category Archives: GDApupLennox

Lennox is a black Labrador puppy, born at SA Guide-dogs for the blind on 9 April 2013.
We got to choose his name – his litter was allocated the letter “L” – and he has 7 siblings, 3 brothers and 4 sisters. His mommy’s name is Jelly and his daddy’s name is Manny.
He is now in training at GDA to be a Guide 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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Our Lennox Has Graduated As A Guide Dog!

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This Sunday past, we got to attend the graduation ceremony for newly qualified Guide Dogs Tank, Legend, Jemma and

~DRUMROLL PLEASE~

LENNOX!!!

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The puppy raisers don’t normally get to attend their puppy’s graduation ceremony, but our Lennox’s new owner couldn’t make it to the demo-slash-meet-n-greet which was done the day before, so we got to go to the graduation ceremony instead.
It was held under a big tree at the Gladys Evans Training Centre and after a couple of short talks – Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Joel spoke about the training of Guide Dogs and Dackley spoke about the work done by the College of Orientation and Mobility – there were thank you certificates handed out to some sponsors who were in attendance.

Lennox was SO good during the ceremony, even after he spotted us in among the guests! And he looked SO grown up!

Then there was a symbolic handing over of the harness and a beautiful embroidered blanket for each dog from Porsche.

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a specially embroidered blanket for each dog from Porsche

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handing over the harness

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Lennox did not want to leave his new blanket alone! It was like he knew it was for him!

Then we got to meet Lennox’s new owner and he gave us a beautiful framed photograph of the two of them with Lennox wearing his harness.

Lennox was so excited to see us! He jumped up and planted both his feet on my shoulders and licked my neck and face before I pushed him off again!
His new owner is a developer so he and my Glugster had a nice chat. Lennox is his second Guide Dog and his wife also has a Guide Dog so Lennox has a great partner and an excellent example! And he loves his new owner! It was so sweet to see them together!

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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

Lennox Has Started His Guide Dog Training

Today is Lennox’s “intake day”.
“Intake day” is the day the guide dog puppies are returned to SAGA to start their formal training with a professional Guide Dog Mobility Instructor.
I got Lennox’s intake day email on the 4th, a few days before his first birthday. I only cried a little… but I had a big lump in my throat all day.

Lennox is starting his training with his brothers Legend and Lenny, and a yellow Lab named Strauss, and they have been allocated to GDMI Joel. We will get an email from Joel at the end of every month to let us know how our boy is doing.

We took some pictures with us and our boy in the morning…

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Then it was off to SAGA…

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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 .

Lennox is One Year Old!

We finally got back to the vet for a weigh-in! He weighs 28,3kg and he’s just over 57cm tall.

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This was our last weekly weigh-in at the vet… Last Friday I got the email all puppy walkers dread – Lennox’s intake date.
The “intake date” is the date that your puppy needs to be back at the training centre to start their advanced training, and next Monday April 14th is the date.
We have less than a week left with our sweet boy. Lennox, Legend and Lenny have the same intake date and they have been allocated to Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Joel. We will get a monthly email from our puppy’s trainer to let us know how he’s doing, and then we’ll see him again when he’s ready to qualify with his new owner.

And today the 2013 “L” litter puppies – Lennox, Legend, Lenny, Lotus, Libby, London, Lola and Lucy – are a whole one year old!

loves to carry the food bowls around

loves to carry the food bowls around

fast asleep with his head under the bed

fast asleep with his head under the bed, as usual

home after a week at kennels!

home after a week at kennels!

snoozing in the sunshine

snoozing in the sunshine

such a good boy in the car

such a good boy in the car

snuggling with housemate Penny

snuggling with housemate Penny

watching the early morning activities at the little mall we frequent

watching the early morning activities at the little mall we frequent

waiting outside the Pick n Pay early in the morning

waiting outside the Pick n Pay early in the morning

Apart from a few school visits (Reddam House & Crossroads) and the SAGA Fun Festival, Lennox and I have made our usual shopping trips and car rides.
He also had a bad bout of kennel cough which he has thankfully gotten over, and he spent a week in SAGA’s kennels to ensure that the routine and people are not completely new to him when he starts his training – reducing any stress he may experience.

His training continues to go well, and apart from distraction issues with children and dogs (not aggression) we think he’s ready for his training.

We are going to miss him something fierce…

Stay tuned for regular updates!

SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
Follow the #SAGApupLennox hashtag on Twitter or find the Raising Lennox page on Facebook.

A Visit To Crossroads School With Lennox

Crossroads School does a lot of fundraising for SAGA every year, and SAGA tries to ensure they have a couple of visits with puppies a year.
As Lennox still gets very excited when he’s around children, the school visits are an important part of his learning curve.
Sitting quietly and calmly and ignoring the children as they speak to him and touch him is the aim of the exercise.

Mobbed!  Sitting quietly and calmly and ignoring the children as they speak to him and touch him is the aim of the exercise.

Mobbed! Sitting quietly and calmly and ignoring the children as they speak to him and touch him is the aim of the exercise.

Lennox in his jacket, waiting for the break bell so we could join the grade 0s on the playground.

Lennox in his jacket, waiting for the break bell so we could join the grade 0s on the playground.

Mobbed!  Sitting quietly and calmly and ignoring the children as they speak to him and touch him is the aim of the exercise.

Mobbed!
Sitting quietly and calmly and ignoring the children as they speak to him and touch him is the aim of the exercise.

The kids loved Lennox's "high five" trick!

The kids loved Lennox’s “high five” trick!

Puppy Ulundi was the youngest pup in attendance at the school visit.

Puppy Ulundi was the youngest pup in attendance at the school visit.

Stay tuned for regular updates!

SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
Follow the #SAGApupLennox hashtag on Twitter or find the Raising Lennox page on Facebook.

A Day At The Annual SAGA Fun Festival With Lennox

Today at SA Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind, Lennox took part in a puppy race, a puppy fancy dress (as a rocker), and the puppy walker demonstration!
I really thought we stood a chance in the Fancy Dress competition as he looked really cool and we were dressed as a pair… but we were disappointed.

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The day was absolutely wonderful! There was a brief rain storm at about 11:30, and then it was blazing hot all day! Perfect!
Lennox got a nip on his nose from a grumpy Guide Dog O’Reilly, who doesn’t like puppies in his face, but its not serious and we’ll be doctoring it with Bactroban until its healed.
My darling husband also got some really cool pictures of Lennox and I together too!

 

Stay tuned for regular updates!

SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
Follow the #SAGApupLennox hashtag on Twitter or find the Raising Lennox page on Facebook.

A Visit To Reddam House With Lennox

Lennox and I visited the stage4 learners at Reddam House this morning, and came home with a boot FULL of food, blankets, toys and treats for the SA Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind!
It was a wonderful visit and Lennox got loads of attention and cuddles.
Thank you very much to teachers Colleen and Tanya for having us visit your stage 4 learners.

Stay tuned for regular updates!

SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
Follow the #SAGApupLennox hashtag on Twitter or find the Raising Lennox page on Facebook.

Lennox Is Forty Eight Weeks Old

Shoowee… I am really trying not to think about the fact that Lennox will be a year old in just FOUR WEEKS!!

We still haven’t been able to get to the vet to do our weekly weigh-in thanks to this crazy rain! It hasn’t let up in almost 3 weeks and apart from horrendous potholes everywhere, there are very few functioning traffic lights, which means everyone forgets the rules of the road!

Our SAGA Puppy Development Supervisor is coming on Thursday again to see how Lennox’s walk on leash is going. It has improved (you may remember we had to work on getting him to walk neatly on my left again after I gave him a longer leash to get over his dog distraction) and he does it perfectly for the PDS and for the trainers at SAGA… But we haven’t been able to walk as often as we should be… Holding thumbs it continues to go well.
And when she leaves she’s taking him with her, to spend a week in kennels as the puppies do during their first year.
This week long stay- which has to include a weekend- is so that the puppies get used to the sights, sounds, smells and routines at kennels so that when they go in to start their formal training with the professional guide dog instructors, they do not get overly stressed.

Last Sunday we spent the day at Hobby-X at the SAGA stand with Lennox. They had a couple of items they were selling raffle tickets for, and we handed out loads of flyers for the SAGA Fun Festival at the end of March.
Lennox was really well behaved, although we had a couple of incidents where he wanted to run and play with the other puppies in attendance.

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Lennox and I outside Hobby-X

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Lennox doing a fabulous SIT-STAY outside Hobby-X

Stay tuned for regular updates!

SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
Follow the #SAGApupLennox hashtag on Twitter or find the Raising Lennox page on Facebook.

Lennox Is Forty Seven Weeks Old

Shoowee… I am really trying not to think about the fact that Lennox will be a year old in just FIVE WEEKS!! I cannot believe how quickly time has passed!!

We still haven’t been able to get to the vet to do a weigh-in thanks to car trouble and rain and traffic and and and… Its very frustrating ‘coz I love seeing how our puppies grow.
Lennox is now eating 1 cup of Bob Martin dry puppy food in the morning, and 2 cups at night. He’ll get the same amounts of adult food when he goes back to SAGA for training, so he’s getting used to his future routine already.
He’s also stopped growing and he’s the perfect shape for a grown up Lab.
And he’s 57,5cm tall at the shoulder.

We have been working on Lennox’s SIT-STAY and DOWN-STAY training. He has to SIT or DOWN where I tell him to, and then STAY as I walk away until I call him over. He has to stay even if I am talking to the other dogs or doing something else, so now I make him SIT-STAY or DOWN-STAY and either walk away – repeating the STAAAY with a raised open palm as I do so – or stand next to him and throw toys for the other dogs, crooning to them and offering them cookies.
He’s getting better and better at it, but when there are treats on offer or I a, cuddling one of the other dogs he battles to stay put.
😀

We had security guards trying to chase us out of a couple of shops this week.
I have to work really hard not to get angry with them, especially of its a shop we already have an arrangement with and visit frequently. The owners and managers of the establishments are quite happy to allow access once you speak to them – which I try to do in advance – but the security guards can be a nightmare.
I keep reminding myself though that SAGA’s reputation is on the line whenever we’re out in public, and that when he’s wearing his jacket we’re representing them.

With all the rain we’ve been having this week, house training has been a bit of a problem with Penny, our adopted 8 month old LabX, but Lennox will wait until he can get outside, as does his “big brother” yellow Lab Riddick. And luckily Labs don’t really mind getting wet so they’re happy to go into the garden for busies if its still raining lightly.

Our SAGA Puppy Development Supervisor is coming next Thursday again to see how Lennox’s walk on leash is going. It has improved (you may remember we had to work on getting him to walk neatly on my left again after I gave him a longer leash to get over his dog distraction). He does it perfectly for the PDS and for the trainers at SAGA… 😛

I think I am going to miss Lennox’s wagging tail more than anything else when he leaves… I swear it has a magical power and it makes me smile every time!
He wags it so hard when he’s pleased with himself that his whole bum waggles from side to side! Its as if he’s taken his training not to bark when he’s excited and turned into tail wagging instead. He still wags his tail furiously while he eats, and he wags it even faster if you talk to him or say his name.
His happy face and bouncy-run when I say he can come to me after a DOWN-STAY or a SIT-STAY is just too sweet for words.

Hells bells these puppies really do creep deep into one’s heart don’t they…

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Lennox and Penny

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Lennox still likes to sleep with his head under the bed

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Lennox in the queue with me at Makro.
Please note there’s no tension on his leash – I am pleased as punch with how well he behaves in shops!
He does battle not to sniff the floor in the butchery though…

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asleep under the table at the Wimpy

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Lennox and I waiting in Jaded Ink for my son to get his lip piercing done

Stay tuned for regular updates!

SAGApupDonate

You can find SA Guide-dogs for the Blind on Facebook and on Twitter.
Follow the #SAGApupLennox hashtag on Twitter or find the Raising Lennox page on Facebook.

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.