August 13th, 2021
3 min read

Lila’s Exhilarating Pet Life as a Retired Guide Dog

A retired guide dog can become a wonderful, well-mannered pet that can bring a smile to any family. Lila, a female black Lab, is a 6 year old retired guide dog who is enjoying an active and fun lifestyle with Jamie and her family.

Lila sitting down wearing her harness. Handler's hand is on her shoulder.

Jamie is a qualified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Oregon Campus, and first met Lila during her first year of apprenticeship. Jamie’s first impression of Lila during her formal training was that “she was so sweet and really engaged in training; She was a dog that was always waiting for the next command.” Especially in the community run area at GDB campus, Lila was very easy to recall and manage and good with humans. Her trainable and loving nature made her one of the dogs that were particularly memorable to Jamie even after years of working with countless dogs. In addition, Jamie remembers getting numerous comments from Lila’s past handler: “He [Lila’s handler] always had positive things to say. He said ‘Lila was the most special girl in his life’ which was very heartwarming, and he adored her.”

So, when Lila was retired at the age of four, Jamie decided to adopt her as a forever pet. As a pet, Lila keeps busy with numerous activities. Arguably her most favorite is Flyball, a team dog sport where dogs run over hurdles and retrieve balls in relay style. “We got started because we have a very experienced flyball coach and she is a master instructor at GDB, and she started her own team locally,” says Jamie. Jamie’s other career change dogs were already experienced at Flyball, so Lila followed in their footsteps only a few months after being adopted. Surprisingly, Lila was not a natural retriever, so her retrieving and fetching skills are a trained behavior.

Lila also enjoys hiking in nature, but loves to roam freely in the field space available for GDB employees. “She likes to be off leash and run around on grass; so we like to fetch, we have tunnels, raised platforms, and of course, do Flyball training.” Jamie refers to Lila as the “campus vacuum cleaner” because she also likes to walk through campus and clean up the kibble on the ground used for guide dog training during the day. “I am really fortunate to have a workplace that has kennel space and an open area for personal dogs. Obviously dogs in the program are first priority, but the inclusiveness for our lovely pets is wonderful” Jamie remarks. There is also potential for dogs to stay at staff desks that are regularly attended.

Jamie and Lila sitting facing each other and holding hands in a forest trail. Jamie is in her wedding dress.

Currently, Jamie runs an Instagram page (@retiredguidedoglilabean) that explores Lila’s adventures and to advocate for the blind and visually impaired community. Jamie is amazed how “Lila’s account has really become a wonderful platform for me to increase access and awareness to the world.” Lila’s title as a retired guide dog has made talking about social media access especially important for Jamie, but also an opportunity to promote how a guide dog can be another tool for navigation. “I never would have imagined that adopting Lila would also mean that I can do a variety of things to increase access, so I hope people follow it and learn to serve not just the hand holding the handle or the leash, but the entire person and their life.”

Jamie plans to continue staying active with Lila, and possibly introduce other activities such as scent detection, becoming a therapy dog, or participating in more “Camp GDB” events which introduce youth to the guide dog lifestyle. Go Lila!

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