Saturday was our seventeenth wedding anniversary. We had a nice Mexican dinner at a place on Highway 19, and turned in early. We both knew our gift would arrive Sunday. Sunday was the day we picked up our second (potential) guide dog puppy. Puppy number one is still at the re-education camp, working on her “issues”. Our first superdog was too autonomous to be a guide dog, though she is still incredibly smart, strong, and full of useful potential. The joke I tell myself is that she went there to learn something she never was. The training center is in Boring, Oregon.
I was so excited I woke up hours before the sun. This time the routine was different. Last time Mary went to Seattle to meet a plane arriving with two VIP littermates. This time we rode to Tacoma with our main mentor-trainer to meet the puppy truck. Puppies graduating from socialization training (1 year) and career-changed dogs were to be picked up, and new, untrained pups were arriving. The truck has built-in kennels large enough for the puppies to travel together in pairs. Like all but a few members of the organization, the truck drivers are volunteers. Most of the money goes directly toward maintenance of the dogs.
We had been told our puppy would be a female yellow lab from an “S” litter. Every dog in the network gets a unique name for as long as they are in service, or connected to the group in any way. Because there are around 800 dogs in the network, and dogs can work as long as eight years, naming becomes imaginative. One of the adolescent dogs I met was Coltrane, like the great jazz musician.
Our puppy’s name, Spice, was announced by the driver, the assembled raisers and trainers ooo-ed and aah-ed, and the dog was handed into the arms of her temporary guardian. She’s more compact than the last puppy, more round and muscley. She’s energetic, strong and intelligent, but I can already see a gentler, more compliant temperament. She wants to be within reach of us at every moment, and though she licks, she does not put her mouth around everything, as the last one tried to do.
Spice eats well, sits with minimal prompting, and eliminates on concrete easily and properly. There are advantages and obstacles with every dog. The downsides to this one so far are that she’s very vocal if left alone, and she doesn’t want to go into a crate by herself yet. She will fall asleep between our legs, but when placed in the kennel she howls and cries. Last night she alternated between falling asleep for an hour at a time, then waking up and whining loudly and insistently. By 4:15am I was too sleep-deprived to tell the difference between her needing to go out and eliminate, and just demanding contact. Spice was relocated to the guest room with my wife, who wore earplugs and closed the door so I could catch a few hours sleep.