By Dana Pardee
Sherwood is one of those dogs that everyone should have the pleasure of meeting at least once in their lifetime. He is cute, energetic, smart, loyal, eager to please, and has the ability to make anyone smile. I believe he is the whole Guide Dog package.
When I welcomed Sherwood as my third Guide Dog puppy in training (co-raised with my friend, Becky), I was two months away from graduating high school. Even at 9 weeks, Sherwood had the ability to attend a crowded high school for four hours a day. Not only was he able to handle going to class, but soon enough he kept up with my busy schedule going from school to swim practice and even to work. At sixteen weeks old, Sherwood walked by my side at my graduation.
Immediately after graduation, I left Sherwood for a six weeks to be a counselor at Camp Bloomfield, a camp for blind children in Malibu, Calif., but it wasn't long before Sherwood was able to join me. Even at 5 months, Sherwood made an exceptional representative for GDB. He lived in cabins with ten or more girls, and went to activities daily such as horse back riding, archery, wall climbing and swimming. He also participated in sessions with our Guide Dog Activity Leader, during which the children groomed and handled him, as well as went through training sessions with him.
At the end of the summer, Sherwood and I took another big step in life together: we moved out on our own and started college. At 6 months of age, Sherwood was the only Guide Dog in training (or service dog in general) on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. From the very beginning, everyone who met Sherwood was extremely impressed at how well-behaved he was. He attended classes with me daily, spent endless hours in the library, went on long walks around campus, attended sporting events, and even went to work with me at the University book store. He and I were even featured in the local community magazine; it took no time at all for Sherwood to become a well-known figure around campus.
At this time, Sherwood also learned to work with a third raiser. Becky and I have a great co-raising relationship, but the university schedule was sometimes a little much for Sherwood. So my best friend Caitlinstarted to attend weekly meetings with me and essentially became Sherwood’s “third mom.” He transitioned effortlessly between the three of us and he listened to each of us with equal attentiveness.
At the end of the first year of university, Sherwood and I were once again able to go to work at Camp Bloomfield. The campers and families who returned from the year before were amazed to see how Sherwood had grown, both physically and mentally, and how well he had progressed in his training. Sherwood spent one of his last months of training at Camp Bloomfield and it truly shows in the way he has become such an amazing dog to both raise and to simply be around.
Sherwood was a joy to raise. He truly captured my heart, which melted every time I looked into his golden eyes. All that he experienced and all the things in which he succeeded have made him one of the best dogs I have ever come across. I am proud to say I helped raise him for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Sherwood graduated as a working guide in December of 2008 with his partner Ron Wyatt of Fayetteville, Ark. Becky and I presented Sherwood to Ron at the formal graduation ceremony. The goofy little pup was no longer there; instead, a serious, working dog was in his place. His attentiveness to Ron was indescribable.
When it was time for the ceremony to begin, it was our time to have a bit of last bonding with Sherwood before saying goodbye. That was by far one of the hardest parts of the day. We lay on the floor together and cuddled just as we had done his entire life. I knew that this could potentially be the last time that I would ever be able to hug and kiss him so I took full advantage of it. Right before walking out onto the stage, I gave Sherwood a kiss and whispered in his ear, “Let’s go be a Guide Dog.”
After we presented Sherwood and the graduation ceremony was over, the true magic of the day began. We decided that a nice walk on campus was much needed, so Ron, Becky, and I left the dormitory and set out across campus. It was the first time that I was actually able to see Ron and Sherwood working together. I don’t think anything I have ever experienced in my life has touched me so much. Ron walked with confidence and with a smile on his face. Sherwood navigated him through stairs, across campus, past other working teams, and through the busy gift shop. I watched in awe at how well they worked together and especially at how good of a Guide Dog Sherwood had become. Ron told us that with Sherwood, he was no longer blind - he was as independent and as normal as anyone else. And after seeing Sherwood and Ron work together, I could not agree more. With that, Sherwood was no longer my dog. He is Ron’s dog. He is Sherwood the Guide Dog.