He’s a Golden Retriever/Labrador Retriever mix that my family and I are raising as part of the Seeing Eye’s Puppy Raising program. The Seeing Eye is a non-profit organization that breeds, raises, and trains puppies to serve as guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired.
We got Hank when he was just a wee pup — about 7 weeks old — and we’ll have him for about a year. During that time we’ll teach him basic obedience and socializing him; that includes bring him to work, taking him to area businesses, going to special events like baseball games, movies, and parades.
Hank’s a great puppy. He’s smart, laid-back, and eager to please; in short, everything you’d expect from a retriever (but without the destructive “must eat everything!” tendencies). He’s our second puppy that we’ve raised with the program; our first was Olaf, a male German Shepherd.
Raising Olaf was a fantastic experience for us. Our family dog, Indiana, is six years old and when we got him, our kids were too young (7 and 4) to take a significant role in training him. With Olaf, they were 12 and 9, and were integral to his training. They learned how to house break the puppy, how to teach him basic commands like “sit”, “down”, and “rest”, and how to talk with people about the puppy. That last bit was huge; it’s been tremendous seeing the kids really step up and enthusiastically explain to people the special nature of the puppy.
It was a lot of work, but we all felt it was worth it. So much so that we decided to do it again with Hank. Just like with our second kid, we’ve made adjustments with our second puppy. With Olaf we were more conservative; I didn’t take him to work with me until he’d passed basic obedience (known as being “vested”) when he was six months old. I’ve been taking Hank to work with me since we got him, first for an hour or two, now for a full day several times a week.
He’s been great – he enjoys working and is eager to join me in the office. He typically sleeps through most of my day, hanging out under my desk when I’m in my office or at my side when I’m in meetings. He can get a little rammy at the end of the day, but for the most part he’s been good.
We still have Indiana, our six-year-old yellow Labrador retriever. Indiana’s an important part of our puppy raising team; he teaches the puppies about the canine pecking order, and helps model good behavior. He’s also helpful for getting the puppy to do what we want him to do. For example, if the puppy’s balking at going for a walk, we’ll bring along Indiana and Hank will suddenly be very interested in going for a walk.
Indiana was tolerant of Olaf, but the German Shepherd played a lot rougher than Indy really liked. Hank though, is his buddy. They have similar dispositions and play style. They do a sort of slow-motion rumble in the morning, wrestling in our library while everyone’s getting ready for school and work.
If you’re interested in the puppy raising program, you can learn more at the Seeing Eye’s website.