That could be an extremely discouraging thing to hear out in public, yet in this case it wasn't /grin/ We went to a little grocery store to pick up a get well card for a friend along with a stuffed pig /wink/ (she has the flu but not the swine flu, it's just fun to mess with her) along with a squirrel for them to always remember us in Oregon (they're traveling overseers in our religion so are with us for three years but we only see them every six months). While we were there I put Eclipse in a down-stay and made the leash long (it's a service dog style leather leash, it's 6+ feet long [gets longer as the leather gets worn in and stretched but has a clip on each end and two rings to make it different lengths, generally it's in half]) and stepped away to look at cards. One of the cashiers was talking with a couple customers about him while I "ignored" the conversation /grin/ They said he's a very cute puppy but you can tell he's definitely still a puppy due to his long legs. Although they don't look that long to me you can tell he's still a puppy because he's a midget /wink/ They also were trying to figure out if he was a guide dog in training or what and the checker educated the people about seizure alert/response dogs which was very nice to hear!
Eclipse is still Definitely a puppy /grin/ Sometimes he still chooses that he's not hungry, he's quite excitable, has times where he "forgets" a command, is still learning self-control around other dogs and isn't always in perfect position when we're out and about. There's not a problem with any of these things, he's just still a puppy /wink/
Onto other things.
I figured I should share the root of some of my apprehension about the swap. Many of you know the story of Iverson. I'll recount it here for those of you that don't. (Warning: it is quite long-winded, as am I!)
We first started attending GDB (Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc) puppy meetings locally when we were 15, May of 2004. In June I got Teddy (my pet sheltie) and we were informed of the rule that seems to only be in effect in the local club of all dogs must be 8 months older (or younger) in age than a PIT (puppy-in-training). Meaning we had to wait until the 8 months until Teddy turned 10 months to get a puppy. We attended meetings religiously /grin/ and puppy-sat many a puppy (including Finland, Patriot, Elmer, Beverly, Palance, Phantom, Igor, David, Pirate the poodle and some others) we read the manual what felt like 20 million times, we puppy proofed the house and re-puppy proofed the house. We trained Teddy and Cody (out other sheltie at the time) and were as involved with the club as we could be. February 5, 2005 Comet had her first litter. Comet was raised in the local club by a darling family and they would be getting one of her puppies. It was suggested that we request another one of the pups, so we had the request put in. We found out that a MYL (male yellow lab) would be arriving to us March 30, 2005 two weeks before his arrival. He wasn't coming up on the truck but rather it was a special delivery. They'd be arriving close to 9 p.m. with a representative for GDB on his trip north to Boring. Iverson arrived shortly after 9 p.m. along with his only sister, Iona. His father was Kentucky and we were all gung ho to raise him right! We had him only one night before he was dropped off with Lacey (yes, the one with the blog /wink/) to be puppy-sat while we went north for a religious event (same reason Eclipse and Eva were puppy-sat last month) and he showed us how much fun he would be then! He tanked on water (thank to Coreena) right before we left and peed on my lap in the car. All weekend he screamed like a bloodhound in his crate for poor Lacey. Despite that, though we were excited and ready to really begin our adventure as puppy raisers. Iverson proved to be a difficult pup but we handled him well. If he tried getting away with something he always had two sets of eyes on him and whoever wasn't handling him would tell who was so they could address it. He was on multiple protocols and was on 4 or 5 different foods due to the vast amount of poop he produced (he had on average 6+ BMs a day!). By four months he was in a head collar, by 6 a training collar. By five months we were Begging our PRA (called then, CFR now) to get a neuter request in for Ive. It wasn't for more than another month though and at that point it was partially put through due to Iona getting a torn ACL. All three boys were neutered at that point. Shortly after that Iverson started limping. He was taken in for a look-over and was needlessly taken x-rays of. It was determined his ACL was just fine, he just had pano (puppy growing pains). We went through periods of crate rest numerous times and if you've ever done that with a very High energy lab, you'll know the pain we went through /grin/ He also had chronic ear infections. He'd get an infection, be on meds for the 10 days and the next month get another ear infection. He was eventually put on meds for a month and would Still get an ear infection the following month. At one point they found a foxtail in his ear but the infections didn't stop. We managed though and got through. At 10 months he was put on the relieving protocol. He was allowed to relieve in One spot at home and One spot at Coreena's work. Walks were to be reduced to baby steps to discourage relieving on walks (a major reason for a cc).
Again, we got through. In February, just before Iverson's 1 year birthday Coreena moved out. I was left with Iverson to care for. While I took on Much of his training while she was still here, it was shocking to "lose" my twin sister and take on full responsibility for this life who would potentially become someone's eyes at the same time.
Together we got through. I worked with Iverson for 2 more months before being offered a position at the local free-range zoo, working with none other than the elephants. I could Not turn down that once in a lifetime opportunity, despite the fact it would mean I would have to have Iverson transferred. Iverson left with our leader the morning of March 25, 2006 to go to a leader meeting and be handed over to the leader of his new club. It was heartbreaking but I didn't cry, until he left that is. He spent four months in a club south to us with a raiser who was a couple years older than us, worked from home, lived on a farm and had 8! other dogs for Iverson to play with. The four months did a lot for Iverson, giving him time to mature and work with having his "willies" worn out of him before going on outings. He returned for formal training to San Rafael in August, 2006 and graduated February 3, 2007.
The trainers Loved him! Said he was too smart for his own good and that he got peanut butter slathered on nylabones just to keep his mind occupied during down times. He also, when first learning curbs learned that if he approached the curb he'd be given kibble. So he'd get to the curb, stop and look up expectantly at his trainer. Silly lab boy!
Now where my concerns come into play:
His finisher raiser completely discounted what we did with Iverson at graduation. She horded Iverson, holding him by his collar against her leg when his handler went back to his room to change for graduation. She also kept pulling him away from Coreena and I when he'd come say hi to us. Him being our only puppy at that point and thus only graduate it was extremely discouraging. She also said that she had him for more than six months and got him when he was 10 months rather than the fourteen months he actually was. We swore that day that if we could avoid it we would never again get a puppy and transfer him/her. We didn't want to have to share that accomplishment with someone who could basically ruin it for us.
When I was handed Eclipse I swore I'd raise him the entire through. In relation to other organizations, I'm not. Yet in this program, I have. I've had him his entire appointed time with me (sans two nights last month) with no transfers, no switches, nothing of the sort. We've had our ups and downs but many more ups than downs! With the people in our class, I'm generally comfortable with and wouldn't mind sharing an accomplishment with most of them... yet I'm still jaded, if you will, and have a bad taste in my mouth. If Eclipse fails it won't be placed solely on me, yet I'd still blame myself. If he succeeds, the success won't be based on me (other than Eclipse's natural talents) but rather on everyone, it's much more of a "village raising a puppy" than GDB was and I love it, but I won't be able to revel in the fact that I got him where he needed to be /grin/ Yet, I have. At six months he's where he should be and where I expect him to be.
See my dilemma? The swap is an amazing program that gives the dogs the best chances for them... yet still, I can't get Iverson's graduation out of my mind. I loved him first (make you wanna start singing?) yet I was treated like I loved him least, and, frankly, that hurt. I hadn't seen him for nearly a year, yet I said hi to him last. I feel like I was cheated out of part of the experience, and while JLAD is a different experience it's slightly scary!
I'm looking forward to growing and learning and moving on though!
Rant officially over now. Hopefully you understand a little more of my apprehension though, considering all I went through with Iverson.
But, we got through it and we'll get through it again /grin/
Ally & Alex w/ Eclipse, Teddy & Kira