How Puppy Raising Almost Broke Me – Part 1

Posted May 31, 2020 by growingupguidepup

For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: mobility dog, psychiatric service dog, veteran dog, medical alert dog, puppy.

Raising guide dog puppies has been a lifestyle choice for a little over 15 years now, and I absolutely love being a puppy raiser. Each puppy I raised I fell in love with—how can you not? Many of them broke my heart, but it always healed with the help of the next puppy and the new friends I made with the placement of each puppy. I became accustomed to the process of falling in love, the heart breaking, the heart healing, and starting all over again. Going through the process so many times, I never thought that my heart would break and have a hard time recovering. But it did happen, and it caught me very off guard. I am usually an emotionally strong person, but I am still having a hard time dealing with my emotions.
This is a very personal blog, and because of this it is a long one and I apologize for that. There is a good chance that I may ruffle some feathers or make some people upset by sharing my feeling and thoughts. That is the last thing that I ever wanted to do. But hopefully by opening up and sharing it will help close this chapter in my life and I can move on.
Matt and I have gone back and forth about the right way to update people on what happened with Patrick. It has been extremely stressful for both of us because we take what we do very seriously. We have chosen to share our experiences of being puppy raisers for the world to see and with that comes a big responsibility of being good role models and being good representatives of whatever organization we are raising for. Hopefully after people read this, they will have a better understanding of why we have taken so long to finish our episodes with Patrick and why we have struggled with how much we wanted to share and how to go about it. So here goes.
With each puppy I raise, I know going in that they are not meant to be my forever dog when they grow up, and I’m okay with that. I have to be. My sole job is to prepare that puppy to be a service dog for someone who needs it. I raised 14 puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) before I decided to try raising for another organization. The full circumstances of this decision I haven’t made public, mainly because it is complicated. Yes, raising for another organization was a great opportunity and I got a chance to raise a German Shepherd, something I have always wanted to do. But the other reason was that Matt and I wanted to continue documenting our journey with our web series, Growing Up Guide Pup.
After filming two seasons with puppies from GDB, the executives there decided that we were no longer allowed to film their puppies. I can’t really go into details about this decision. I really didn’t want to say anything about this publicly. I was really worried that some of our more active supporters would be upset, even angry, with GDB about their decision. Negativity towards the organization or bad blood between us was the last thing I wanted.
Matt and I were forced to decide between staying with an organization that we were comfortable with and had had great puppy raising experiences with, and ending what we had started with Growing Up Guide Pup, or moving on to a different organization and continuing to move forward with our web series and creating our non-profit organization. We had received so much great feedback from guide dog users and puppy raisers from all different organizations. We get lots of messages from people saying that they decided to puppy raise or even get a guide dog because they saw our web series. This is not only rewarding for us, but very powerful to hear that we have had that type of influence on people. We felt like we had a purpose and really wanted to continue, so we made the hard decision to leave GDB.
Changing organizations was hard, but also exciting and a little nerve wracking at the same time. I was very excited to raise a different breed and learn new things, but nervous to move outside my comfort zone and do it without my usual support group of other puppy raisers, leaders, and my amazing field representative. I give them so much credit for making me the puppy raiser that I am today. I was also very nervous that we would lose the support of the GDB puppy raising community because we changed organizations. Would they still follow and support us in our journey? In a way I felt like I was abandoning my family. I do feel like we lost some people, but we gained more from other organizations.
We received a very warm welcome when we started working with Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD) and we were very excited to work with them. The first part of our puppy raising journey with them was great and I was really happy, but the ending didn’t really go as we expected. We thought that we were all on the same page, but somehow our multiple discussions about how important it was for us to be able to track Patrick’s progress from beginning to end were pushed aside and the communication wasn’t what we had hoped for.
During my time raising for GDB, I was always given great feedback about how my puppies were doing and kept aware of anything that might change with their status of becoming a guide. GDD’s way of communicating with me was very different and I had a very hard time adjusting to that. This was a big reason why we chose not to raise another puppy for them when we turned Patrick in for breeder evaluations/formal training.
Not taking another puppy to raise from GDD was surprisingly stressful for me. We were asked the day we turned Patrick in if we wanted to take another puppy—there were multiple puppies in the kennel needing raisers—but we wanted to set up a time to talk and work out some concerns and kinks that we had. But that talk was never set up or brought up again. I kept seeing emails come through and posts on social media about how they were desperately in need of raisers. I felt very guilty and selfish about not helping them in their time of need. We were perfectly capable of taking on another puppy, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Their way of doing things just wasn’t a match for us as raisers. They had been absolutely wonderful about letting us film Patrick and a really good fit for the show during the time that Patrick was with us, but not so much for us as individual raisers and our needs emotionally. As important as our show is to us, it isn’t everything. We need to be happy and comfortable with what we are doing.
Two months after we turned Patrick in, we requested an update on him, We wanted an update we could share on social media because we were getting asked almost daily about how he was doing. We had asked if we would be able to get updates on Patrick while he was in formal training and we were told that it shouldn’t be a problem, but this too seemed to be forgotten.
We were told that he was being pulled for breeding pending final health evaluations. I was both very surprised and troubled by this. He was amazing physically, but had issues mentally. We had been very honest that Patrick struggled with a dog reactivity issue, but weren’t fully honest with how severe it was at times. We got enough negative feedback from viewers and readers about him being dog reactive that I felt compelled to protect GDD from any negativity we were bringing on by sharing our experiences with Patrick.
We spent a lot of time working with him on this issue. We had never raised a puppy with this type of issue before and there was a fair amount of trial and error in how we handled it, and what worked best for us and Patrick. He was consistently very inconsistent about when he was reactive. Some days, he did really well around other dogs, and other days it was a struggle for him and us. Even the day before we turned him in, he barked at two separate dogs at the airport and two more dogs that we came across at Universal Studios. In my world, this was absolutely unacceptable for a service dog, or a behavior that could potentially be passed down to future service dogs. I had always felt deep down that there was no way he could become a guide dog because of this, but that was not for me to decide.
Dog behavior has been a big interest of mine and whenever I go to veterinary conferences I will usually try to squeeze in a couple of lectures on behavior. My gut feeling was that Patrick’s dog reactivity was a part of who he is and that was why he struggled to control it, not because I failed as a raiser. However, for a very long time I blamed myself for his behavior (and still do a little bit), thinking that maybe I just wasn’t a good enough raiser to work him past his issue or that I didn’t raise him correctly, didn’t do enough to work through it and perhaps even contributed to the issue. But because we had documented our time with Patrick, I was able to see that this issue was there when we brought him home as a 10-week-old puppy and I did the best I could with what was given to me.
“I worried that if Patrick was bred and his puppies inherited his issue, future raisers would have the same stressful experience I did and those puppies would also have the same stress that Patrick experienced.”
Patrick is an amazing dog and had all the qualities a person would look for in a service dog. First, he loved to work and was always ready to go. He was super smart and learned quickly. He had a lot of energy, but was very good about settling quietly and being patient while out in public. Physically, he is a beautiful dog, a really nice size and build. For these reasons, I can see why they would want to carry on these traits. But in my opinion I would not want to risk reproducing to the reactivity issue.
As his raiser it was very difficult to handle. I was always hyper-vigilant about watching for other dogs so I could be prepared to deal with Patrick if they appeared. I started being stressed out about it, and Patrick was also visibly stressed about it too. He tried so hard to keep his cool at times, but failed. He would get frustrated with all the corrections needed to try and keep him under control as well, but this was how I was instructed to handle it. I worried that if Patrick was bred and his puppies inherited his issue, future raisers would have the same stressful experience I did and those puppies would also have the same stress that Patrick experienced.
I did express my concerns about breeding Patrick to a few people at GDD, but they didn’t seem to share my concerns. I was a little frustrated about how my concerns were received, but what do I know? They have been breeding dogs for a very long time now and I have never bred a dog in my life. I just had to accept that we had a difference of opinion and as a raiser I have absolutely no say in the decision making of the puppy I raised.
Once again, we had a major dilemma. The people following Patrick’s journey were anxiously waiting for an update, but we just couldn’t share that Patrick was pulled for breeding. I was really hoping that they would see what I saw and change their mind. Because I was open about his dog issue, I was very worried that other people would question the decision like I did, but in a public forum.
Once again we didn’t say anything publicly. I didn’t want Growing Up Guide Pup to cause anyone to think negatively about the organization, or for the organization to think that they received bad feedback because they let us film Patrick. The last thing I wanted was for our reputation to be tarnished, and for other organizations to think that we, as GUGP, caused people to think badly of the organizations that we raise for. After all, if we hadn’t shared Patrick’s dog issue, there would be no one questioning whether or not Patrick should be used for breeding. We were in a very tough spot: we could upset our followers by not saying anything, or upset the organization by bringing them bad PR.
I was told that GDD was over 90% positive that they were going to make Patrick a breeder. I was just starting to come to terms with this when we got a phone call from the head of their breeding department saying that Patrick was no longer part of their program. This was not the news we were expecting to hear. I thought maybe when I saw their number pop up on my phone that they had decided against breeding him and were putting him back into training. We were not told anything about why this decision was made.
For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: mobility dog, psychiatric service dog, veteran dog, medical alert dog, puppy.
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Issued By growingupguidepup
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Categories Business
Last Updated May 31, 2020