Friday, April 9, 2010

Considering what getting a successor dog means

Although my service dog, Laurel, is in her prime and working well for me, my service dog trainer, Sue Alexander, and I have been talking about the possibility of getting a puppy sooner rather than later. With the alerting, Laurel is working more each day than I would like her to. Also, she has some environmental and food allergies. Although none of them are severe, she has enough of them to make me concerned. Last May, we started her on allergy shots and because they hadn't kicked in yet, we weren't able to go out much last July and August. If the allergies continue to bother her or get worse, I would have to consider retiring her. 
Also, I'm trying to increase my odds that my next service dog will also do the alerts - I'm confident that I can teach the blood sugar one but not the others. So my best hope might be that Laurel could teach the next dog the two alerts she began naturally. 
Coincidentally, over the past several months I have heard about a number of service dogs who died or had to be retired suddenly while still quite young which has caused me to consider what my life would be like if I was suddenly without a service dog again. 
However, despite all these compelling reasons to consider getting a puppy, thinking about getting my next service dog has felt very negative. If I start thinking about that, then I end up thinking about Laurel's retirement and eventual death. 
Even though I haven't been enthusiastic about getting a potential successor any time soon, because I am a fairly deliberate, organized type person who recognizes the importance of doing research ahead of time, I have been researching and talking to a variety of breeders for a couple years again. Prior to getting Laurel, I developed a set of forms and questionnaires geared towards determining what kind of training would work best, what kind of dog, what age etc. Although I had used them five years ago in deciding to get a Lab puppy to train myself, I redid them and again, came to the same conclusion.    
I just spoke with a local Lab breeder, Donna Reece, who I've known for about three years now. I see her dogs and puppies around in classes and at trials and have always been very impressed with them. She has been breeding for about 30 years now and as a full-time breeder, has multiple litters a year. I mentioned to her that even though I know I should start looking for a puppy so that I can wait for the right one, Laurel will be able to help teach it and to take some of the burden off her, I was still struggling with having it feel negative because it meant Laurel's retirement and eventual death. She gave me the most wonderful response, which was that I shouldn't look at it that way, but rather look at this as a two-dog job now and the puppy becoming Laurel's partner first 
I'm sure other people have tried to help me feel getting a puppy was a positive thing but the way Donna said it just clicked and I am now looking forward to the puppy search. Donna is expecting two litters this month and one or two in May so I should have some puppies to look at by early June!

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