Friday, December 9, 2011

A Precious Gift

boy hugging yellow Lab
by Kathy Hinz

When our son Travis (11) was 8 years old he wanted to do a community service project. We started looking into projects that the family could do together. We knew there was a Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raising group in the area and contacted the leaders. Within the first month, Travis and I knew we wanted to become involved with such a wonderful group of people. We encouraged the rest of the family to join with us (Shawn, then 10, and my husband, Steve). Before we knew it we were happily raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. We each have our own ‘puppy jobs’ and it has really given the four of us a lot of extra family time together.

Last Spring we had the opportunity to meet a puppy who made a huge difference in our lives. We worked with a transfer puppy named Vicky. She was small, gentle and kind. Immediately Vicky blended into our household. She would take long naps, lie and watch the family, and always, always at the drop of a hat, be ready for action. Vicky was so well behaved on outings that our boys would proudly strut around stores working her. Once, Travis was working Vicky at Fred Meyers, and when the two of them returned, a woman was following them. She told me that she just had to find the mom who was with Travis and Vicky. She went on to tell me how impressed she was that Travis was so responsible and how incredibly impressed she was with Vicky. She spent several minutes explaining everything that Vicky and Travis had done one aisle over. It was the highlight of our day.

We worked hard to make Vicky into a potential guide dog but, unfortunately, she was fearful of riding on public transportation. Our Field Representative from GDB, Pat Cook, worked with us to increase Vicky's comfort on buses using GDB Food Protocol techniques. Many afternoons were spent riding the local bus route where Vicky became well known to regular riders. Although she improved, she never became comfortable with the noise and movement of the vehicle.

Toward the end of Vicky’s stay with our family, Pat asked us if Vicky would make a good K9 Buddy – we slowly, quietly said “Yes.” You see, the whole family had bonded with Vicky so heavily, that we couldn’t imagine her living with anyone else. However, we wanted her to have a positive influence in a sight impaired child’s life.

The time came for Vicky to be placed as a K9 Buddy, and as proud as we were of Vicky, we were sad that she would be moving on. When the time came for Vicky to leave, we repeatedly told Pat that Vicky was always welcome to return to our home. We wanted her new family to adore her and for the placement to be successful. We sent her new family pictures of Vicky and a long letter all about her. We put our e-mail address all over everything we could find so that if the new family wanted, they could contact us.

One evening, a new name popped up on our e-mail. Jennifer, Vicky’s new mom, had written. Our family was just sitting down for dinner and we all stopped eating and became riveted as I read the e-mail out loud. It was clear within the first two sentences that Vicky had joined a loving, caring family. Vicky went to live with an 8 year old named Luc. Since losing his vision the year before, Luc had night terrors on a regular basis. The day Vicky entered their family, the night terrors stopped. Vicky had provided just what Luc needed. Our favorite picture is of Luc and Vicky in a warm embrace. Both look happy and at ease with one another. Vicky’s new life includes hiking, caving, swimming, playing with Luc and his little brother Gabe and lots of cuddle time!

I was crying so much reading Jennifer’s letter that I needed to take several breaks. As I finished the letter, both Shawn and Travis looked me and said, “We did the right thing.” Even though it was difficult to say good-bye to Vicky, the joy that entered our hearts when we read the e-mail and saw the pictures made the whole experience a highpoint of our year.


  1. I agree with Reddunappy and I was touched about the story.

  2. So heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I still wonder if our puppy raisers realize what a tremendous impact they have on all of us, no matter whether their dog makes it as a guide dog or is transferred to a wonderful program like K-9 buddies. I'm grateful to the raisers every day, and stories like these just reaffirm the reasons why they're such special people.

  4. Having a career change dog, agree that the puppy raisers do a great job and are the back bone of GDB.

  5. That's a great story. Thanks for sharing. We had the pleasure of raising Vicky's litter mate Vyanna. She is now a guide to a wonderful woman in Thousand Oaks, CA. The first puppy we raised, Jicama, is also a K9 buddy. Although it is very hard to give these wonderful puppies back, it is such a blessing to see the positive work they do. We are now raising our 3rd puppy and hope that she can also be of some assistance to someone who needs her.

  6. Vicky would have been a great pet, but you allowed her to go beyond that to meet the destiny for which she was bring happiness, companionship and love to Luc.

    Bless you and every puppy raiser.

  7. We had the pleasure of raising Vickie's litter mate Vyanna. She is a guide to a wonderful young woman in Thousand Oaks, CA. So its nice to know what our litter mates are doing. The first puppy we raised, Jicama, is a K9 buddy also. Hearing that our career changed dogs are also doing such a great service is super! Thanks for sharing.

  8. We had Vicky in our home for about 5 months, and she went from a shy and hesitant pup to a more confident and outgoing dog who was ready to go at all times. We treated her no differently than we did my wifes working guide, which we believe helped her overcome some of her fears. Vick was the 2nd pup we raised (we are now on #3; the first went to be with his person a year ago) and we have had a great time "giving back" a little by raising pups for other blind users, since we now know both sides of the guide dog world.

  9. I'm grateful to the raisers every day for such gift, and stories like these reasons why they're such special people.