Friday, December 23, 2011
by Kim Harney
In the fall of 2006, my roommate and I received my first baby Guide Dog Puppy -- a wrinkly, female, yellow Lab named, Emmy. My roommate had raised Emmy's dad. We could not have been more excited to raise a puppy that we got to help name and would remind of us of her dad, Simon.
I knew raising a Guide Dog puppy was going to take up a lot of time, a lot of patience and there would be many protocols for me to learn. What I didn’t know is that it would change my life.
Emmy was an amazing puppy (I can’t say that about every puppy!) She was beautiful, sweet, cuddly, funny and the most loyal dog I had ever had. She became my best pal and slept on the floor next to me most every night (Ok, we won’t tell anyone that I occasionally woke up with a furry foot warmer.) Emmy became the center of my world and had a following everywhere she went. Throughout her training she was an excellent ambassador for GDB and learned everything we threw at her like a pro. She was simply perfect.
In May of 2007, the day came when Emmy would go back to GDB for her formal training. It was then I realized how close we'd become. The 20-minute drive to the GDB campus seemed remarkably quick compared to the drive home, which I will always remember, felt like hours. In addition to dropping Emmy off that day, I left a large piece of my heart at GDB. For the next six months, I would go to bed every night wishing my phone would ring to say that Emmy was coming home --I truly believed she belonged with me and would come home.
In October of 2007, we got word that Emmy was excelling in her training and my dream of her coming home was beginning to look less realistic. Thanksgiving of that year, I heard the words I had been praying I would never hear:“Emmy is in class to graduate.” To say I was heartbroken would be putting it mildly.
How could a dog I put so much work into be going to live with someone else? Who could possibly need Emmy more than I did? Who else would tattoo her name on their own foot?
That following week, I got the answer to all of my questions when I spoke with Emmy’s new partner, Tim. Tim is from Missouri and is legally blind due to multiple sclerosis. Tim had fallen in love with Emmy in the short few weeks they had been together, and before our short conversation was over, I knew that Tim needed Emmy and that is why she would not be coming home to me.
Despite knowing how much Tim needed her, I knew that meeting Tim would forever be one of the hardest days of my life. My heart was breaking over a dog that I had become so attached to and never believed would leave me. Actually seeing her beside Tim made me realize what our hard work was all about. My feeling of heartbreak suddenly changed into a feeling of pride.
Many of our friends and family came with me to see Emmy graduate that day. Everyone knew how special she was to me and what a hard day it would be for me. I made it through the day because of Tim. I knew he loved her as much as I did and she was going where she was meant to be.
Emmy will forever be my “heart dog” and Tim will always be a part of my family. Tim and Emmy have an unbreakable bond and nothing in my life will ever compare to raising Emmy and seeing her bond with Tim.
We have raised 12 dogs since Emmy. Each are special in their own way. One, Emmy’s half-sister, came home to stay, and I am thankful every day that she chose to stay with us.
Raising Guide Dogs isn’t just about potty training, following protocol and socializing puppies. It’s a life changing and heartbreaking job. But Emmy and Tim serve as my daily reminder that my heartache is nothing compared to the life changing relationship these dogs form with their partners.