Halle is the first puppy Greg and Jean have ever raised, and while the journey is rewarding, it’s full of twists and turns and unexpected learnings – for both the pup and humans. Greg and Jean share just what it is like when you start raising a puppy for Guide Dogs Queensland.
For some time my wife and I had considered the possibility of volunteering to be Puppy Raisers, and so last year we bit the bullet. After four training sessions with the fantastic Guide Dog Queensland puppy educators we were blessed with bringing home six-month old Halle to take her through the next stage of her learning.
We were pretty nervous as we drove home with Halle. She seemed pretty settled and curled up in the foot space on the passenger side at my wife’s feet without a care in the world. Halle was pretty excited when we got home and we let her spend some time sniffing around and exploring her new environment.
After half an hour of examining everywhere we took her outside for the ‘quick quicks’. Nothing. “Quick quicks” is the command Guide Dog pups are taught so they know when to toilet. These little things you wouldn’t think about, but of course it makes sense, a Guide Dog and their handler will find a routine of when and where is appropriate to toilet for the dog around the person’s schedule and routine.
We eventually said “good night” to her, popped her in her crate, and went upstairs where we would be sleeping. For the first hour or so everything was fine but just as we fell asleep, the woofing started! Not big woofs but in the quiet of the night she echoed through the house. Her sadness of being left alone in this new home.
We were advised several times by the educators that if this were to happen not to get up to her at the risk of this happening on a regular basis. So we lay awake most of the night desperately resisting the temptation to go down to her.
Early next morning we ventured downstairs wondering what we would be faced with. She put on her happy face as we greeted her and she became excited as we opened the crate door and let her out. She was so happy and wagged her tail and wiggled her bottom with great enthusiasm.
We were aware that we needed to get her outside for her “quick quicks”, but alas we were too slow and she bounded over to the corner of the room and did both a wee and a poo without any “quick quicks”! At that stage we looked at each other and wondered if we had done the right thing wanting to be Puppy Raisers.
Now six months on, we have no qualms about proclaiming it has been one of the most satisfying things we have done and we are amazed at how she has filled our lives with joy and laughter.
She is a beautiful pup and all who meet her say exactly that: ”What a beautiful pup you have, she is just gorgeous. How on earth are you going to be able to give her up?”
It will be difficult to give her up, but we came into this process wanting to help raise a Guide Dog that could go on to change the life of someone who is blind or has low vision. Knowing that we helped her on her journey will make it easier when it comes time to give Halle back to Guide Dogs for her formal training.
She is a beautifully natured pup, gentle, has so much energy and loves company. She is never more than a few metres from either of us.
My wife has been working from home upstairs for the past few weeks and generally I am downstairs with her (we have a gate at the bottom of the stairs so that we know where she is at all times).
If I take her upstairs with me she will refuse, by plonking herself at the top of the stairs, to return back down until she knows where we both will be. This can be hilarious as she will lie there and wag her tail knowing full well she is being a mischief!
She loves our two granddaughters who are dropped off to us each morning by their mum who then goes off to work. Halle can hear the garage door opening and gets so excited as she knows that very soon she will have two more people who love her. Later on she accompanies us to school where she is a popular visitor and always has a group of kids who want to line up for a “meet and greet”.
We help the children to understand that a Guide Dog puppy in training will be wearing a special orange coat that means they are learning and shouldn’t be distracted. When they are a fully qualified Guide Dog, they will wear a special harness and are working and can’t be distracted.
The children know they are very lucky to get the chance to pat a Guide Dog in training and they are some of her biggest supporters. Halle has a very large support crew cheering her on in her journey.
We do lots of walks with her – the first early before breakfast, and then late afternoon or early evening around the lake. In between and on the weekend there are visits to beaches, cafes (when they were open) and the shopping centre.
During the Christmas holidays we took her up to Hervey Bay (we live in North Lakes) for 10 days. She curled up in her usual foot space and just popped her head up now and again to see where we were. She was so well behaved the whole time, loved the many walks along the beaches and we think she enjoyed the break as much as we did.
She loves attention and always wants someone to play with her. If we try and ignore her she will either get up real close and stare at us with her big brown eyes or start licking our feet. She would play all day if she could and only when she has tired herself out does she plonk herself down and go to sleep (keeping one ear or eye open in case the person downstairs sneaks upstairs without her).
She loves to help. If we go either upstairs or downstairs with anything she will try and get a grip of something and ‘help’ by hanging on and walking in front of us. We try and have something handy to give her to carry in her mouth. She thinks she is so clever!
Toileting her can be quite a drama, especially in the evening. We have to take her across the road and use a grass area by Lake Eden. She gets so distracted by everything going on around her that she doesn’t always concentrate on the job at hand.
If she happens to start a squat but accidentally sits on a seed head she jumps up in the air and swings around and looks up as if to say “what is that?” I’m thinking “for goodness sake Halle, just concentrate on what you are meant to be doing”. We get there in the end….usually.
She has changed our lives. She is a lot of work and needs lots of attention and loving. We wouldn’t be without her and even though it will be sad to eventually have to say goodbye we know that someday she will change someone else’s life.
And, we will get another puppy to raise.