My name is Kim, I live in Portland, Oregon and am dog-mom to two female yellow labs and a male yellow lab. I keep busy dog sitting, dog walking, fostering dogs, raising guide dog puppies and blogging! You could say my life has gone to the dog…I recently finished raising my last puppy for Guide Dogs For the Blind and have so many stories about our experiences!
Being a volunteer guide dog puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind has been a staple in my house for the past 6 years. We’ve come to know the routine very well and are used to the highs and lows of welcoming a baby puppy into our home for anywhere from 3-15 months and then watching them go off on their next adventure.
Each puppy has a chance to be a working Guide dog, a breeder dog for the organization, a k-9 buddy for a child who is blind or a wonderful pet dog for someone. Each puppy comes with their own look, personality and challenges. However, getting a new puppy is always an exciting adventure and attempting to guess the name is how we pass the time while waiting for a new puppy!
Guide Dogs for the Blind breed Labradors and Golden retrievers (or crosses of the two breeds) at their campus in San Rafael, California. Each puppy is placed into a volunteer puppy raiser’s home when they are 8-12 weeks old and will return to campus at around 15 months of age. I have a serious soft spot for yellow labs, so 12 of the 14 puppies I have helped raise have been yellow! When the puppies are born the litter is assigned a letter and every puppy in the litter is named according to the letter. No puppy can have the same name as a dog currently in the program (a working guide dog, a breeder dog for the program or puppy in a volunteer home) so the names can be very… unique!
I have been very lucky to have gotten names such as Autumn, Emmy, Dinah, Marina...all girls with easy names and great personalities. We have also had some of those “unique” names as well...Claudine, Ogden, Zuni, also great dogs, but with names that took some getting used to and explaining in public.
A few puppies ago, we requested a male yellow lab and were told his name started with “D.” Brainstorming commenced and I had a list of some cool “D” dog names! Protocol is that raisers are not allowed to find out the name of the new puppy until we actually pick them up so we were anticipating puppy pick-up day! A few days prior to picking up our “D” yellow lab we got a phone call from an employee at Guide Dogs about something with our current puppy-we asked for a hint of our new puppy’s name. After a slight pause, my roommate said, “His name is what?!"
As I tried to wrap my head around this name, we had the next week to prepare for ‘DOUG’...Many things went through my head—“Who names a puppy DOUG!” “What can we call him?" “Who calls a dog in from the yard named DOUG!?” I hoped that Guide Dogs had been kidding, but alas, the day came to pick up our new puppy and the man handed us a 10 week old light yellow puppy—named DOUG!
Over the next year we would come to adore our puppy with the goofy name. We tried Dougie and Doug-Dog, but ultimately, Doug was simply Doug. Doug made friends everywhere we went and introductions always started with “This is Doug. We did not name him.” He made for many fun conversations and even more humorous household jokes. Something about calling a cute little puppy, Doug, just set him up to be the brunt of the joke and labeled “the big, dumb, lab.”
Doug returned for “formal training” at the Guide Dog campus in the spring of 2010 and after 6 long months we received the call that Doug would be graduating as a Guide Dog and moving to Idaho. We had a wonderful time raising Doug and I would have kept him as a pet had he not become a guide dog. In the end, his name seemed to fit him and he is a puppy we will never forget. He now lives with his blind partner and her human son, Dakota.
I am now looking forward to being able to name my next dog.
Kim Harney also blogs about Sidney, one of the many Labs residing in her home.