By Sarah R. Fowler
For the longest time, I had wanted a dog of my very own. My parents decided that I could raise a dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind as my very own dog for a year. I agreed, and shortly thereafter on September 5, 2008 a small male, yellow Lab was placed into my arms. His name was Tully. For a year I did everything for Tully; I bathed him, fed him, took him to Guide Dog meetings, and most of all, I loved him. He meant everything to me. On September 26, 2009 I gave Tully back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for advanced training. I shed a lot of tears over him and I longed to see him. Four months later Tully graduated as a Guide Dog with his partner, Mr. Bill Hoage. This is the story of Tully’s graduation.
It was Saturday January 16, 2010 and I was with my family at Guide Dogs for the Blind's California campus to see my dog, Tully, graduate as a Guide Dog to Mr. Bill Hoage.
I was excited and nervous at the same time. I hadn’t seen Tully for four months. Had Tully’s personality changed? Did he look different? I had a million questions running through my mind.
While my family and I were waiting, a staff member walked into the room and said, “Hi everybody, I’m Heather. I bet you’re all excited about seeing your dogs again. I’ll just take you over to the dorm where you’ll get to meet them.” She paused and looked around and then said, “Alright then, let’s go!”
Once everybody was seated in the dorm, the staff started bringing out the Guide Dogs and their partners. I was in another room because my group was larger. I could hear everybody laughing and crying as they saw their dogs again. But where was Tully?
After waiting a few minutes, I saw someone leading a man on the other side of a low wall. Then… I saw him. He was very much the same; a beautiful golden/brown color, with his bushy tail, long ears, and always the same twinkle in his eyes.
When Tully saw me he rushed at me and landed on my lap. He couldn’t stop wiggling. He was so happy to see me again. I looked at my beautiful golden boy. I was overwhelmed. I had waited so long for this day.
I got up and went over to Mr. Hoage and said, “Mr. Hoage, I’m Sarah.” Mr. Hoage pulled me to him and said, “Come here, you. Thank you for all that you did.” He then handed me an envelope. I went back over to Tully, sat down, and opened up the letter. It read:
“Thank you to the special girl for the great job you have done raising Tully.”
I started to get a lump in my throat as I read it.
After awhile of visiting and picture taking it was time to get ready for the graduation ceremony. Mr. Hoage was led off to the side of the stage, while I led Tully off to a side room with the other raisers and their dogs. At 1:30 the ceremony began, but I wasn’t listening. I was thinking, “Well Tully, this is it, boy. This is the end of the line for you and me, and it’s just the beginning for you and Mr. Hoage. Do me proud, Tully. Never let Mr. Hoage down. I love you.”
One by one, the raisers and the graduates walked up to the stage and both said a little something before they sat down. When it was about my turn I got up and walked to the edge of the stage to wait. Then I saw Mr. Hoage being led on stage as one of the staff said, “And next we have Bill Hoage receiving Tully, a male yellow Labrador retriever raised by Sarah Fowler.
I walked across the stage to Mr. Hoage where I placed Tully’s leash into his hands.
Mr. Hoage took the microphone that was handed to him and he said, “Thank you, Sarah.”
When Mr. Hoage finished, I took the microphone and then said: “Even as a young dog Tully seemed to know what his life was meant to be. I remember one time when Tully was about 7 months old. I was on a walk with my Guide Dog group and someone else was walking Tully for me. This person wasn’t watching where he was going and almost ran into a pole except that Tully pulled him out of the way before he hurt himself. I was very proud of Tully. To see Tully graduate today is very rewarding to me. Even though it is bittersweet, I have to say this is one of the proudest days of my life. I just want to end by thanking Guide Dogs for the Blind for giving me a wonderful dog to raise. I want to thank my Guide Dog leader for helping me to raise Tully. And last I want to thank my two wonderful parents for all the time and love they put into this to make it possible for me to have raised Tully. Thank you.”
At 2:24 p.m. the graduation came to a close.
My family and relatives came over and congratulated me and Mr. Hoage. I watched Mr. Hoage and Tully with tears in my eyes. I reached into my pockets and fingered Tully’s old dog tags.
A little while later Mr. Hoage’s brother announced that it was time to go. I said goodbye to Mr. Hoage and then I bent down and gave Tully a hug. As I watched Mr. Hoage and Tully walk away a couple of tears slid down my cheeks. I wiped them away and whispered, “Goodbye. I love you, Tully.”