Celebrating Career Changed Pets
Becoming a guide dog is an extremely selective process where only the best puppies of the bunch are accepted. Not all puppies in training are able to be recalled to attend the “Harvard” of dogs. It’s unfortunate that many dogs can’t pursue the guide dog path, but they are still celebrated by the entire Guide Dogs for the Blind community for their hard work and training.
But how and why are dogs’ careers changed? Well, all puppies in the program go through the initial puppy raising stage. Their progress is frequently evaluated by their club leader and Community Field Representative (CFR), and are given every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, a variety of reasons, including physical, behavioral,and medical, can disqualify a puppy from continuing in the program. Even being recalled to the GDB campus for final stages of more demanding training does not guarantee a dog’s destiny as a guide dog. They must still go through several stages of training, and underperformance for any single skill can disqualify them from proceeding further.
Upon being career changed, some dogs will become candidates for alternative programs, a GDB ambassador, other approved non-profits, and even a wonderful (and well-trained) pet. A career changed pet can either be adopted by the puppy raiser (or close family member or friend), or must be matched with a qualified family that meets certain requirements and suits the personality of the dog. They must agree to maintain high standards, health, exercise, and overall commitment to and welfare of the dog.
Titan, the black Lab I raised, was recently career changed. We were excited to welcome him to our home as a forever pet. To celebrate this transition, dogs receive an orange career change bandana, seen proudly worn by Titan in the photo. At our local puppy club, raisers are recognized for their commitment by receiving from other club members gifts that begin with the first letter of the dog’s name, in our case “T”. In actuality, it is a chance to celebrate the contributions of everyone involved in raising him. It truly takes a village to raise these pups!! We received so much support, and will continue to work with the club and help raise other guide dogs in training.
These past few weeks have been very different for Titan. While we still train him to maintain his skills learned over the past year, he no longer wears his official green jacket nor can he train in locations that ban animals. Instead, his new life allows him to explore dog parks, meet and play with other dogs, and have a taste of previously “off limit” snacks like Puppuccino’s! Titan grew and progressed so much during his training and I am very proud that I raised such a wonderful dog.