In today’s blog Donna Shepherd gives some insights into being a Guide Dog Puppy Walker.
I’ve always had rescue dogs and when we moved house, with one cat, I assumed that looking for a dog to join our family would follow. My husband, however, had other ideas and reeled out all the negatives of dog ownership. You know, the boring stuff, vet’s fees, food expenses plus the worry about where they go when you have ‘dog free’ days out and holidays.
By this time, I’d added to our cat collection – Tinks and Merlin had joined us, but the children and I were desperate for a dog so I started to look at other options. Volunteering for Guide Dogs seemed to tick all the boxes. We not only got a dog, but all of the worries that hubby had were dispelled. The food and vet’s bills are taken care of, the dog could accompany us on most days out and would be boarded with other puppy walkers while we were away. Job done!
With hindsight, what I hadn’t really considered was that after a year someone would come to the house, taking the dog away, forever.
Most people ask how I can stand to give them up after they’ve spent a year as part of the family. It’s a tough one and I won’t pretend that it is easy, but I learnt a valuable lesson with our first puppy, PJ. After he left, I shed many tears, and decided that if I was going to be able to be a puppy walker I needed to keep some sort of emotional distance.
Amazingly, I managed to keep my promise and kept in mind that Vinny, our second puppy, was simply not ours. He was a wonderful lad, bright, eager to please and always ready to learn something new. His date to go into training was confirmed as the 14th March 2016 and while I did initially panic, it was evident that he was ready for new challenges. Having learnt from PJ’s departure, I didn’t want the agony to be repeated and so with this in mind I contacted Mark, my supervisor to request a cross-over so that the family would have a new pup to focus on. Usually, I am told, the new pup arrives about two weeks before the older one leaves, giving everyone a chance to settle into a new routine.
On Monday, 1st February, Mark called to say that he had a new pup for me, and that if I wanted him he would bring him over on Thursday. This would mean that I would have both dogs for the best part of six weeks. Taking a deep breath, I accepted and Milo has joined our family.
Thursday dawned and after a long walk, Vinny and I met my parents at Dobbies for a late breakfast. As always, Vinny ensured that we visited the small animals before we went to the café. He loved to sniff round the cages before ‘dragging’ me to the treat section where he selected a couple of treats and chose a new toy for the puppy. He then happily trotted to the tills before we went to the restaurant.
Once seated, Vinny knew that a rawhide chew would be magically produced from my handbag and he settled down to munch away, leaving his humans to talk and put the world to rights.
I’ve learned a lot from Vinny. He was a bigger dog than PJ, more confident and very strong-willed. He was an intricate part of my life for a year and I still miss his smiley face. He was my daily companion for walks, at my side for the weekly shop and accompanied me on days out with friends and family. On a more personal level, Vinny was with me for my final year at university; a friend throughout the year and a comfort in times of stress. There is nothing in the world that compared to the feel of the thick fur on his warm neck.
I am immensely proud of the very handsome, intelligent dog that Vinny became and I look forward to following his progress as he starts the next chapter of his life.
I’ll tell you all about new-puppy, Milo next time.