Friday, March 23, 2012

Puppy Raising Addiction Crosses the Ocean

Erin walking on to graduation stage to present black Lab Freya

by Erin Austin

May 2010 was a big month for me. On May 22, 2010, I graduated from high school; I hear that is suppose to be a big moment in your life. I suppose it was for me too, but my graduation was overshadowed by another event. Just a week later on May 29, 2010, my first Guide Dog puppy, Freya, graduated as a working Guide Dog. I don’t think anyone in my class understood that I was more excited for my dog’s graduation than my own. But that’s how it stood in my mind. I had worked extremely hard with Freya for the past 14 months.

September 2010 was another bit month for me. On September 13, 2010, I gave my second puppy, Rocco, over to his new raiser. It was really hard to give up “the boy”, but the transition was a little easier since he was transferred to another club, just an hour or two out of town. So, I only cried a little. Then, a week or two later, I got on a plane to begin my life as an adult -- well, a University student, anyway.

My transition from living at home to living at school was a little different from most. I didn’t go to school in the same state or even across country. When I got off that plane, almost 24 hours later, I was in my new home of Aberdeen, Scotland. Once in my dorm room, after a much appreciated shower, I set up what I came to call my puppy shelf. I had a stuffed black Lab working guide and a stuffed yellow Lab puppy in training, Freya’s graduation picture, a few hand drawn pictures of my dogs from a friend, and Rocco and Freya’s scrapbooks. Some people might call me obsessive, but for me, my puppy shelf was a reminder of where I came from. It was a way to help make a foreign country feel like home.

As my first year of University was spent in student accommodations, I had to spend the year without a puppy. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t have any fun without a puppy. I went wild, had fun, and actually slept-in past six in the morning. It was a little strange at first not having to wake up early to stumble out onto the cold grass and say, “Do your business!” through yawns. I enjoyed it, though. But I did always feel a little lonely without a leash in my left hand.

I now rent privately with a landlady who is more than willing to let me indulge in my addiction. I was thrilled when we found a flat that would allow me to have a guide dog puppy. In October, I became a “puppy boarder” for a school here in Scotland, to see how I would deal with classes, social life, and a puppy. I “finally decided” I was ready for a puppy of my own again. Then I “decided” I wasn’t quite ready. Then I was. Then I wasn’t.

I must have gone a little insane during one of those times where I was ready for a puppy. I talked to my puppy raising supervisor during the monthly puppy class about when the best time for me to get a puppy would be. We decided it would be the beginning of my spring break, March 23. So, hopefully, on March 23, 2012, I’ll not only be celebrating Hilly’s second birthday but also the arrival of guide dog puppy number four!

When I started going to meeting in June 2008 I never thought I would raise a puppy in Scotland, but I’m very excited to start my next puppy raising journey. And very happy that I get to indulge in my addiction again.

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