July 31st, 2021
3 min read

Graduation: The Ultimate Goal of Puppy Raising

Hannah sitting next to Portugal, her black Lab puppy in training.

The ultimate goal of raising a guide dog puppy is seeing your puppy become a guide. All the time and hard work becomes absolutely worth it when seeing the puppy you raised graduate with their handler, and the feeling is amazing. Hannah Pettit has had the opportunity to attend two graduations, and they have become two of the most memorable experiences she has ever had so far.

Hannah began puppy raising in 2017 after discovering a puppy club in her city, and since then has raised four puppies named Jacinto, Malia, Portugal, and Rocher. Her first two puppies, Jacinto and Malia, successfully graduated as guides (Jacinto in 2018 and Malia in 2019). Jacinto was a “pretty easy puppy to raise” and was a great first puppy for Hannah. He was recall ready from an early age except for a small relieving issue that was resolved at 8 months of age. “I was confident that we would have a recall date for Jacinto when we had our last eval, and we did!” Hannah recalls. On the other hand, Malia was a bit more challenging, but nonetheless was a fast learner and eventually matured into a well-behaved puppy. She was often praised by their CFR, and Hannah was also certain she would be recalled.

Jacinto's graduation photo. Jacinto is a male black Lab guide dog with his handler Dane (left) and Hannah (right) sitting beside him.

Leaving Jacinto and Malia for formal training was definitely a sad goodbye for Hannah. On an Instagram post the day Malia was dropped off, she described how she “left a giant piece of my [her] heart in San Rafael. If you would have asked me several months ago if I would miss her as much as I do I would have laughed.” But a few months later, hearing that Jacinto and Malia would become a guide after successfully completing their phase training (which meant Hannah would see them one more time) made Hannah ecstatic and proud.

Malia's graduation photo. Malia is a female Golden Retriever guide dog with her handler (left) and Hannah (right) sitting beside her.

At Jacinto and Malia’s graduations, Hannah was greeted with a warm hug by her puppies when reuniting with them. She had a chance to interact and take photos with their handlers, who were extremely thankful for a wonderful guide dog that would change their lives forever. Jacinto and Malia’s handlers are now Hannah’s best friends, and frequently keep in touch to provide updates and photos of the dogs and show appreciation of their hard work. For Hannah, “the hardest part of graduation other than saying goodbye again, were the speeches. It was a little bit of a struggle to put into words the experience of raising Jacinto and Malia and how life changing they truly are.” Watching the two dogs work and see how much they enjoy guiding is an extremely proud moment for Hannah.

In addition to graduations, another reason why Hannah enjoys puppy raising is because it helps relieve her social anxiety. Puppies are looked after by the raiser twenty-four-seven, and they became a best friend that comforted Hannah through everything. Plus, puppy raising has allowed Hannah to meet so many service-minded individuals and friends. “Hopefully my future involves becoming a [guide dog] instructor, and I can’t wait to train the dogs that change lives and to learn everything I can!” says Hannah.

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