Hank is back. The second Seeing Eye puppy my family raised went back to the Seeing Eye for his training on January 22, but unfortunately, he had a physical issue that prevented him from advancing in the program.
And now he’s back! When he didn’t make it into the program, the Seeing Eye asked if we wanted him back and we barely hesitated before saying yes. Hank’s perfectly healthy from a family dog perspective and he is — without a doubt — one of the best dogs we’ve ever had. Taking him back was a no brainer; we only hesitated long enough for the family to agree that yes, we wanted to bring him home.
Hank returning home means we now have two family dogs: Indiana, our eight-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, and Hank, who’s an 18-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever cross. They’re both small for Labs, weighing in around 55 pounds each, so we have space for them plus a Seeing Eye puppy. If they were both 85 lb. Labs, I don’t think we’d be able to swing it.
For Hank, the hardest part of being back is not working; he’s used to going everywhere with us, and when he was at the Seeing Eye he spent several weeks in training learning the harness. He’s always been happy to be “just a dog” when he wasn’t working, but the idea of retirement isn’t one he’s grokked just yet. To help ease him in we’re playing a ton of “fetch” and taking him on occasional forays to the coffee shop. Our community — both on College Hill and at the college where I work — is excited that Hank’s back and perhaps even more excited that they get to pet him on a regular basis (something they couldn’t do when he was working). The extra attention helps, though perhaps it’s helping a bit too much as Hank’s now over-eager to meet people. He even committed the ultimate sin of jumping on someone who came to our house (unacceptable for Seeing Eye and family dogs).
And, of course, there’s the whole puppy raising job. Indiana likes to play the role of the Old Man who grumbles a lot at the pups. That’s useful for teaching puppies about pecking order, but not so great for keeping them entertained. Hank is happy to play with the puppy but isn’t above putting him in his place if he gets out of line. It makes him a good intermediary, and while it’s not quite the same as being a working dog, it should keep him busy.
Our plan is to continue to raise Seeing Eye pups. We’re in the process of raising Bob, a six-month-old male German Shepherd who revels in his Shepherd quirkiness (he loves stealing socks and wash clothes from the clean laundry baskets and steadfastly refuses to learn the “down” command) After Bob we’re thinking of raising another Lab or Lab/Golden cross, but we’ve got another eight months before we need to seriously think about that. For now, we’re focusing on helping Hank adjust to the real world, training Bob, and making sure that Indiana can take those well-deserved, puppy-free naps.