Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Open Letter to Puppy Raisers

By GDB Graduate Laurel Wheeler

GDB Graduate Laurel Wheeler and Guide Dog Stockard, a yellow female Labrador Retriever

Dear Puppy Raisers,

I wrote a letter to my Guide Dog’s puppy raisers describing how much Stockard has impacted my life. The change in my life has been incredible and I tried sharing my feelings of gratitude with them. I realize many of my fellow Guide Dog users share the same feelings and thoughts I do regarding the sacrifices you have made to raise and prepare our wonderful dogs for us so I wanted to share part of this letter with you.

Many things have changed for me since I came home with my Guide Dog. Before training with her I used a cane. I was able to travel independently, but I couldn't totally relax and enjoy going places because I always had to pay attention to what I encountered with the cane. I also had to watch carefully to make sure I didn't run into anything. I could never relax and enjoy the process of getting from point A to point B. It was always stressful, and as you can imagine, I didn't go many places because of it.

Working with my Guide Dog means I have total freedom now. I have the freedom to enjoy the process of going places. I don't need to worry anymore about obstacles in my way because Stockard takes me right around them. I don't have to worry about people on foot or bicyclists because she moves me out of the way. I can even take leisure walks now because I don't feel stressed about going out anymore.

Stockard has also given me much more freedom and confidence in public. When I used a cane and was in public or in large crowds, it was awkward for me because I felt invisible. I didn't really know what was going on around me and nobody even noticed me.

Now, as soon as people notice me, they don't say "blind girl with a cane, oh my goodness!" They say something like "Oh! Look at the dog! Wow!" or "Wow! I love your dog! Tell me about her!" Stockard is a conversation starter and I'm able to get assistance, or feel part of the group. I don't feel invisible anymore. It's nice to be noticed for your dog first and not your disability.

Stockard has not only impacted my physical well-being, but also my emotional well-being. She has become my best friend. I'm never lonely anymore because of her. She's always by my side, working for me, playing with me and loving me. Having her at my side 24-7 truly makes me happy inside. I haven't always had many friends, or been very involved with my peers. Stockard has helped me go many more places and make many more friends. Words will never describe how much she has affected every aspect of my life.

I don't think we can ever totally express in words our gratitude to you for raising such amazing animals. You put so much work into raising our dogs and helping them get ready for their lives with us. You did a great job and we couldn't possibly ask for better dogs. By raising them, loving them, socializing them, giving them everything you could and then giving them up, you have changed our lives. We can never totally thank you for all you have done. It's truly amazing.

Laurel and Stockard


  1. You are Welcome!
    You are the reason we got involved with this wonderful program. It is trully a labor of love!

  2. Every time I see a working guide and their partner I am amazed at the bond. When I raise a puppy I never think anyone could love him more than me, but you take my love and add it to yours.
    Thanks for giving them the life they were destined to have.

  3. No matter now many times we hear what guide dogs mean to their new partners, it always brings tears to my eyes. It reminds me each time why I raiser puppies for GDB. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all the raisers. Its for you we raise these wonderful bundles of fur.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thanks to all. I need to share back that they, our puppies in training change our lives also. In many of the same ways your Stockard has for you. The joy they bring, the fun, the confidence, and friendships we gain. The list is endless. So being part of this huge family of GDB on whatever end, is always something more than special. Wishing you & Stockard many happy tailwagging days ahead Laurel ~sj

  5. I'm a brood bitch holder so I watch the pups coming into the world, helpless, with their eyes and ears shut and over 6 weeks, with love and care (and a lot of mopping the floor!), I watch them transform before my eyes as they grow from tiny babies into pups.

    I remember every one of the 30 pups I've watched coming into the world. I remember who fought with who, who barked the most (especially the ones who bark in the night), who gobbled up the food and who was painfully slow, who ate the daffodils in the garden and who was gentle and sweet.

    Each pup makes a difference to my life in the short time they are with us. It's wonderful to see that they really make a difference to you too.

    Enjoy the partnership with Stockard and thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thank you for writing this letter. It really brought a lump to my throat. As a first time puppy walker, I know it will be hard to give up my little girl. However, reading this has made such a difference and I know that as hard as it will be for me, it will be all worth while knowing what a difference she will be making to someone's life. Thank you.

  8. It is hard to achieve the bonding with pets, but once you succeed,it is a wonderful feeling that words cannot describe.

  9. Laurel,

    Thank you for your letter. It is wonderful to see the beautiful picture of you and your guide and to hear how he has changed your life.

    Our family has raised 5 guide dog pups. It is only the last, Dynasty, who will graduate this next weekend at the GDB Oregon campus and go to live with a graduate. The others were career changed for various reasons and although they have gone on to new homes, (one who now lives with us, some with friends of ours), we were very sad that they never were able to move on to be guides.

    We are delighted and so happy to get to experience the celebration of this match. We have been longing for this experience and for the chance to get to relate to Dyna's graduate as this pair moves into their new life. It truly is an amazing reward for puppyraising.

    The experience of puppy raising has been phenomenal for our family. Both of our children (who are now young adults) have had the chance to raise and say goodbye to their pups. Although hard, a phenomenal experience of what real LOVE is. This is definitely a win/win situation.

    Our third pup, Pilaf, is a fantastic dog. She could not go forward because she had a medical problem with her elbow joints that would not allow her to do the walking she'd be required to do as a guide. So, GDB did an amazing thing...they did surgery on both joints, absorbing the entire cost, had her begin her healing at the GDB campus, and then sent her home to us. She is now a Delta Society therapy dog in our school district and works 2 days a week at one of our sites. She brightens the day for each of the students who encounter her. And she is irreplaceable in our home as a member of our family. And although she definitely had what it took to be a guide personality wise, her body was not quite right.

    Guide Dogs for the Blind is an amazing organization, trusting us with their most precious cargo. I want to thank them for their fabulous work with breeding, the care they give, the teaching to their puppy raisers on how to handle dogs, and the amazing follow up they do to place dogs not only with those who need guides but also with the career change pups who need new homes.

    Mary Ann Rohrer

  10. That was very, very tuching.

  11. Laurel and Stockard - beautifully said!

  12. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts

  13. Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

  14. That is very well written. I myself am just in the processes of applying to guide dog schools. I can relate to you when you say you feel invisible with the cane no one can see you but at the same time they are staring at you because you are different. It gives me so much hope and joy to hear that with a dog you aren’t looked at in terms of the disability you have like you are with a cane but as a handler of a beautiful dog. By just reading your letter I know a dog is going to change my life for the better. Thank you for sharing, you have a beautiful dog by the way!

  15. What a wonderful thank you letter. What a blessing, a 4 legged blessing! I honestly don't know how the volunteers let their buddy go...it would break my heart. They are brave but realize the good they have done. God bless you and the volunteer puppy raisers!