This is How

Here’s a better answer than I wrote before for those of you who wondered how it’s possible to emotionally handle giving up a wonderful dog like Spice, after raising her for a year in preparation to train as a guide dog.  This is excerpted from a letter we recently received from the new owner of one of our graduates, a black lab named Camille.  The “GDB” he refers to is Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization Mary and I volunteer with.

“Hi folks,

Just wanted to let you both know of an interesting journey that Camille and I took last Saturday.

I had taken the subway in Toronto in the past but always with some one else.  I wanted to try taking it myself and I wondered if Camille would remember all the subway teaching.  I decided that I would take the challenge, and our son (Nathan) gave me the directions to get to his place… the subway line to take, where to change to the next subway, which station to get off…

Camille and I took the bus from Kingston to Toronto, a 2.5 hr ride, then made our way to the subway station.  I just gave Camille the directions that Nathan had given me and away we went.  I feel myself getting emotional as I write this. I just can’t believe that little girl Camille…what a dog!  I want to tell you that she didn’t forget one thing that she was taught… the thousands of people, the noise of the subway trains… and she is just as cool as can be. The subway train comes to a stop, and it is so noisy and there are so many people. I just bend down to her ear and with great enthusiasm say to Camille, “inside” and she leads me on the subway car as if we did it every day. “Find a chair”, and she takes me to a seat…  O! I so wanted to shout, “FREEDOM! This is my dog, and she is from GDB!”

I guess if I had to, I could have done that trip with the cane but it would have to be a life and death situation.  A doorway, a set of stairs, a counter… all can be so close, yet so far away when you can’t see it. The only time using a cane brought me to tears is when I ran into something. I just can’t describe the thrill of holding that harness handle.

Camille and I want to send you both a big thank you, and to let you know that you are so appreciated.”

That’s how we are able to give them up.  Others need them more.


Filed under animal communication, Emotions, Ethics and Morality

34 responses to “This is How

  1. Bless you, and your furry helpers, for the joy you bring to others.

  2. Great. Now I’ve got tears in my eyes. I’ll remember this, Mikey…

  3. Priceless. Thank you for sharing. This way, Spice, or any other dog you train gets to enrich your life AND someone else’s. Spread the love! Isn’t that what it all about?

  4. sb

    That’s amazing, and something to be SO incredibly proud of! You and your wife are so admirable for working to raise a dog that will one day be able to do this for someone. You’re giving them the gift of new life experiences, new confidence – that’s enormous!

  5. Not only are the puppies selfless, you are too.
    It may break your heart to see her go but in doing so she will be releasing for someone to a whole new world of experiences not open to them previously.
    …In doing so you give a blind person the light and bright gift of: love, hope and more fullness of life into their dark world.
    They, together will form a bond of love that will make it all worth it.
    This makes it worth it.
    (and yes, I’m shedding tears, as anyone who can feel the love would).
    HUGS…. THANK YOU and Mary for doing this amazing job of love.

    • Thank you for your heartfelt sentiment, KD. This process has also been therapeutic for my sense of loss about giving away my child, and has helped make it easier for me to cry. Unanticipated benefits from following correct actions.

  6. And this is exactly why I have grown to love you – you are one of the most selfless people I have had the privilege of “meeting”. Sending lots of love from across the ocean.

    • You helped me be much braver about sharing the “invisible” Mikey, so it was easy to love you too. I hope you will be publishing your book someday soon, unless you are busy planning a wedding or something. I check Twitter to make sure you’re okay. (xo)

  7. This is lovely, and you’re such an incredible person for choosing to spend your time with these dogs even though you have to let them go. I can’t imagine how it feels, but I hope things like this makes the heartbreak more bearable, I would never like to think of you heartbroken 🙂

    • It feels much better when they succeed in completing the training, and if they get career-changed we get first choice of whether to keep them as pets. I don’t mind heartbreak. It passes quickly, and I’m a better person for having been hurt. I learn a lot that way!

  8. sylv

    Man, that is so tough having to give those dogs up. And incredibly selfless! I’ve always found that the some of the strongest bonds are formed with animals and having to say goodbye to them is heart breaking.

  9. You should be passing out tissues with a post like this. Oh how wonderful. Like others, I’m humbled by your selflessness. And on top of that, I’m so proud and grateful for dogs like Camille and Spice, who truly live to serve. They are furry heroes.

  10. Cat

    I love your posts about the dogs. They always warm my heart. 🙂

  11. I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. I posted about it. Thanks.

  12. Heartwarming. I know I wouldn’t have the discipline to train a dog like this or the selflessness to then give her up.

  13. You have understood your true calling as guide dog caretaker, trainer, etc. It must be a great feeling to get that wonderful feedback from a guide dog owner.

    As a side note, I had a real estate agent, who had a blind home purchaser. Can you imagine: she had to accompany the client when walking the neighbourhood…where she was looking at a home to buy.

    So many things we take for granted with our vision.

  14. There’s a special place in heaven for people like you. I always thought that I wouldn’t be able part with those little guys, but your comment about others needing them more really drives it home.

  15. Pingback: How to Positively Heal with HOPE | *Positive Provocations*

  16. Wow. What a wonderful letter to receive. Giving sight to the blind – is there anything more rewarding/valuable? Thank you for sharing this.

    • Service is service, my son. You perform it however you can, and if one way doesn’t work, another way will always be available. There are more problems to work on than we have hours in which to work on them.

      (This compassionate, energetic young man has been writing about his volunteer experiences trying to provide HIV/AIDS information and assistance to abused, destitute women in Botswana. Reading about his work helped me rededicate toward mine:

  17. Margie

    Much like raising children, I think. You do your best, then turn them loose to become the beings they were meant to be.

    • True enough. I’m told we get to “keep” children for a somewhat longer period. Their training is more complex I guess. (No personal experience here.) Thanks for your observation, Margie.

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