Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Day in the Life of… The Puppy Kennel

A yellow Lab puppy

Readers: This is part of a series of articles originally published in our Community Connections Newsletter. We are reprinting them here for your enjoyment. Click on the "A Day in the Life" label link to list the entire series (see Labels section, right hand side).

Hello again! Things are moving along rather quickly during my first few weeks after being born here at Guide Dogs. Wow, time flies when you’re having fun! When we were 6 weeks old, my littermates and I took our first visit to the vet clinic. The doctor there gave us a clean bill of health, and I even got a tattoo! I asked for a tattoo that said “I Love Mom,” but instead I got a boring combination of letters and numbers… my permanent identification.

My six littermates and I made the big move from the whelping kennel to our newest digs in the puppy kennel in a big gray tub on wheels. It was fun rolling down the kennel hallway seeing and hearing all the new sights and sounds. I didn’t know there were so many other dogs at this place! When we arrived in the puppy kennel, we were divided into two separate kennels, since there were so many of us. And we got our names! We all have names that begin with the letter “C”. It was weird sleeping in a new place for the first night, but each night after dinner we get clean, new bedding made of soft shredded paper, so we fall asleep rather quickly since it’s so cozy. That first day in puppy kennel was a long one, but we were all looking forward to the next day when we got to meet some new people called “puppy socializers”! 

A puppy playing with its momma

On our first day out with the puppy socializers, we had a surprise guest waiting for us: MOM! It was so cool to see her again. She played with us and made us feel comfortable in our new space. Since we were the new kids on the block, we played only with our litter-mates. The puppy socializing area is stocked with all kinds of awesome stuff: hard and soft toys, colorful play structures, and lots of banners and flags waving in the wind. So much to keep us interested and active in our new home! 

A puppy being held by a puppy socializer

And the puppy socializers – they might be the best people we’ve met yet! I’ve heard some of these volunteers have been puppy socializers for over 40 years – can you imagine? But they are fun to be with, that’s for sure. For our first time with them, they massaged our feet, ears and bodies (I think I fell asleep in someone’s arms because it was so relaxing!), as well as put little collars on us (they are so scratchy!). The socializers come pretty much every day (Monday through Saturday) – so we get lots of time being pampered!

The first week in puppy kennel flew by. When we turned 7 weeks old, we finally were able to join some of our neighbors in the big grass puppy play yard! It was there that we got to romp and play with lots of other puppies close to our age. In addition to all the play, the socializers take us on walks! Now that’s a lot of fun, but a bit confusing too! We get to explore this huge park-like place they call “campus,” where there are all sorts of new things to check out: different surfaces, stairways, and lots of interesting smells, noises and people. The confusing part is trying to figure out how to walk on a leash. At first I tried to go back-wards, then I just wanted to chew on it, and eventually I just sat down. But, those socializers are good! They helped me along and I finally got the hang of it. And every Thursday, the volunteers weigh us, clean our ears, brush our coat and refresh our clips (the shaved area in our coats that help to identify us).

George, the resident cat of the puppy kennel

In the puppy kennel, we also got to meet some other four-legged friends. Turns out, there is a resident cat named George, who we frequently visit. He is a funny looking thing, and he sounds a bit odd, but he doesn’t mind that we sniff him. We also get to play with some adult mentor dogs that come to visit. They help teach us puppy manners (I learned real quick that it’s not nice to bite on their tails!). It’s fun to have the older dogs hanging out with us to teach us the ropes. 

But, our time in puppy kennel is coming to a close. It’s just about time to leave this place that we’ve called home. Somewhere between 8 and 10 weeks old, we will be heading out on yet another new adventure: puppy raising homes! My littermates and I will all go our separate ways to live with volunteers in their homes. I’m headed for Colorado. I’ll be traveling on the Guide Dogs’ puppy truck with about 20 other pups bound for raiser homes in Colorado, Nevada, Utah and other parts of California. I think one of my sisters is going to Oregon or Washington and one brother is going to Arizona. We’ll stay with our raisers until we’re about 15-18 months old. There’s so many more new things for me to learn and places to see! Gotta go now and get my bath and pack my bags for the puppy truck trip tomorrow! 

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