Like the saying goes, all good things must come to an end,or so that is how my family feels as we process the letter we received from Guide Dogs of America last week. Yes, the long dreaded recall letter came advising us it is time to give up our beautiful boy so he can finally learn to wear a harness and guide a sight-impaired individual.
Recco still has the most difficult part of his training to accomplish. He will be assigned to a California State Licensed Guide Dog Instructor and spend the next five to six months learning how to navigate a blind person through the dangers of everyday life. Two of the most difficult transitions he will need to master are intelligent disobedience and becoming responsible for his new partner safety.
Only about 50% of the dogs that begin their journey to become guide dogs will successfully complete their final harness training. Once Recco passes his physical and temperament testing the stressful part of his training is just beginning. We have done a tremendous amount of groundwork so that Recco will hopefully not encounter frightening situations he has never seen. What is difficult to prepare him for is making the change from following the direction of us, his puppy raisers, to taking charge when necessary and NOT following the direction of a blind partner if safety is at risk.
He will be required to learn the œstraight line concept and only vary from a given direction to avoid an obstacle, coming back to the straight line again after the danger has been passed. He will learn to stop at all curbs as well as the œbumpy wheelchair ramps you now see at most intersections. He will learn to look up and identify possible dangerous situations from tree branches, overhangs and building fixtures that he could easily go under but not a blind partner. He will learn to back his partner up when danger crosses the path and will learn to stand his ground when asked to go forward in a dangerous situation. In essence, he will learn to be responsible for the œtransport of the team from one location to another and he will need to take this job seriously.
I hope in six months we will be invited to see Recco graduate with his new partner and give you another update on how all this training went. We would love to have a photo of Recco proudly wearing the harness and finally becoming the true gift of sight.
Recco has been an easy dog to raise; fun, loving, intelligent (most of the time) and a breeze to train in basic obedience and general manners. We could not have asked for a better dog. Our job is done and we will send Recco off with an ocean of tears and the hope he will be successful and make a world of difference for someone who needs him. Goodbye our little œReckster , we love you and will miss you! Hello Fayme, an eight-week-old German Shepherd to start the cycle over again ¦Oh Boy, what have I gotten us into now?