As usual, we’ve had another busy month of adventures, activities and … first graders. Caleb is fast asleep in my office as I type this but don’t let that image fool you; he’s clearly coming out of his shell and has discovered being a puppy can be FUN!
Most people assume Guide Dog  puppies are always working, which is sort of true. They are expected to maintain generally good house manners—no to running in the house and counter surfing; yes to listening, following directions and behaving with a level of self-control—not unlike those first graders (more on them in a second). But when we are home Caleb for the most part acts like a pet. He follows me from room to room and sleeps most of the time. We take breaks to play games of tug, work on his obedience skill, run around the backyard, walk to the mailbox and repeat.
Guide Dog puppies have a lot of routine to their days, however, it’s also important they are exposed to a number of people, places and things they might encounter as a working Guide Dog to help prepare them to deal with new and different situations calmly. This month was no exception for Caleb.
I travel frequently for work and Guide Dog puppies are not allowed to travel by plane until they’re 6 months old—even then it requires approval from Guide Dogs for the Blind. So for now Caleb stays home with my husband Alex when I travel. Alex works in healthcare, and a hospital can be a bit much for a young puppy so a few days a week Caleb has been attending first grade with one of the puppy raisers in our club.
This is a beneficial experience for Caleb and the children. They are all learning about self-control; the first graders are learning to ignore Caleb and Caleb is learning not to pick up paper off the floor! The kids are also learning about people with disabilities, service dogs and volunteering. It’s a win-win for everyone. Clearly, it takes a village to raise a Guide Dog puppy too.
In addition to my work travel, we had a few weekend road trips this month that afforded Caleb his first out-of-state adventures. Travel can be stressful for dogs so we try to ease the pups into being comfortable in different cars, relieving themselves in different places on various surfaces and staying in new places. With this in mind, we took a quick day trip to Washington that gave Caleb the opportunity to spend a few hours in the car and experience some new sights and smells.
The following weekend we made the trek to Boise, Idaho, to visit Alex’s parents and sister. Caleb had his first opportunity to stay in a hotel room, experience a bustling downtown area and visit some new and different places. Downtown Bend is relatively small and quiet so a visit to downtown Boise was a great introduction for Caleb to city streets, smells and noises. The happy-go-lucky swagger of his tail continues to reflect his easygoing personality and willingness to go with the flow.
My husband did not grow up with dogs and Caleb was the first puppy in training we’ve brought with us to visit his parents, everyone was impressed with how calm and well behaved Caleb was. Especially my father-in-law, who more than once was found camped out on the floor playing with Caleb.
We are clearly coming out of the baby puppy phase with Caleb as he’s tipping the scales at 40 pounds and has quite possibly lost every single one of his baby teeth. Now, we are ready for the next phase—“teenage puppy in all his glory.”
Photo: Alex Minkiewicz