Saturday, February 19, 2011

Home to Stay

Yes...Alfie made it home!

Alfie wriggled and licked my face so hard he knocked my sunglasses off!

Doesn't he look happy?

Alfie was thrilled to see the girls again. 
He just leaned into them, snuffled, and wagged himself silly.

 Many, many thanks to Larry Gelvin and all those at GDTx who helped make Alfie's adoption possible.  We appreciate you ALL so much!  Alfie's a special boy and we're so happy to have him!!

At home in Missouri.

A couple of days into his new life with us, he seems to be relaxing and settling in well.  Our days usually start off with an hour's walk/jog through the surrounding neighborhoods, woods, country roads, and even a nearby cemetery.  He's still good about keeping a loose leash, which is nice, although we no longer stop for every overhanging branch and manhole cover in our path!  For the most part I am very thankful for his guide dog training and plan to keep it up.  There are several areas, however, that I've loosened up on -- much to Alfie's delight.  One of those is that now he's no longer working, I've started allowing him to greet people who want to pet him on our walks.  He loves this new attention and has been very well mannered about it.  This morning, we had a nice chat with an elderly gentlemen who wanted to pet him, as he'd just recently had to put his golden retriever to sleep.  Alfie seemed to know that he just needed some extra love and laid his head gently on the man's knee. Sweet... 

He has also discovered the formerly forbidden toy...RUBBER BALLS!  Guide dogs aren't allowed to play with them but in his new civilian life, Alfie has discovered that they're great for chewing and fetching! 

It's interesting that although we're in a new house in a new state, Alfie remembers all our little routines and seems to be picking up right where he left off.  For example -- when I put the kettle on for a cup of tea, he will come nudge me with his nose to alert me right before it boils.  I've always thought he just must not like the sound of the whistle, who knows?  Funny boy!

Alfie seems happy and relaxed, even at grooming time.  I pick him up, put him on the grooming table, and go to work...he just flops down and closes his eyes.  He's not asleep, just relaxed.  Nice, because there's a lot of fur on this dood!  The next pictures you see, he will be sporting a shorter haircut...

...For now, we're just glad to have him back!

Lovin' my new life!  Woof!

Monday, February 14, 2011


If all goes as planned we'll be bringing Alfie home this Thursday.  You can imagine the excitement around here!   And yes -- in response to the inquiries I've been getting -- I promise there will be pictures taken!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Today I will begin at the end, because it's a happy ending and we all love happy endings.

Alfie's coming home with us -- yes, this time, to stay!

Getting to the end can be the hard part, though, and I've had few harder days than when Larry called to give me The News:  Alfie would have to be released from the guide dog program.  The reason was unexpected, to say the least.  It turns out that in a freak incident, Alfie committed what I call the "unpardonable sin" of service dogs:  he bit his handler.  Unbelievable.  Since I wasn't there and am only hearing about this third-hand, I don't want to second-guess or discuss the circumstances; in any event, it happened.  Thankfully she wasn't seriously hurt -- the skin wasn't broken  -- but a dog who has bitten at all, under any circumstances, can't be a service dog.  It's pretty cut-and-dried.

To say I was shocked and upset -- well, that doesn't begin to describe how I felt!  I grabbed my coat and scarf and tore out into the cold with no clear idea other than an urge to somehow escape what I'd just heard.  Sick to my stomach, I found myself walking down a lonely country road, angry and sad and in pain all at once.  The frost-silvered hills, so hauntingly beautiful at any other time, seemed harsh and forbidding. One lone cow bawled mournfully under a bare oak, who knows why?  It seemed fitting, somehow.  I walked furiously, crying, until the road came to an end.  Sadly, I had to stop and turn toward home.


Where would Alfie's home be?  At the end of our call, Larry had asked me if I'd like to consider adopting him.  That goes without saying, I thought, yet I wasn't sure how we could manage it.  We've had what some would consider a string of bad luck lately:  first, the sale of our Austin house fell through; and although I've been working a few hours part time, Tim had so far succeeded only in finding temporary work.  I don't remember exactly what I said to Larry, but I tried my best to explain our situation honestly.  Then I just sort of ran out of words and had to hang up.  The timing of it all tortured me; had this happened just a few weeks later, I kept thinking, we'd be in more of a position to take Alfie.  As it was...well, I just didn't know.  I couldn't even think straight.  Seemed like all I could do was cry.

It wasn't until much later that I checked my email and saw a message from Larry. I read it slowly, and as I read, all of a sudden I realized:  this is what it means to have friends.  The staff at GDTx must've understood how I felt about Alfie:  they actually pulled together and donated all I'd need to get started. was even offering to drive Alfie up to us, an amazingly generous gesture!  I could scarcely believe it.  There really aren't enough words to express my gratitude!  I knew deep inside that I'd always regret it if I didn't adopt my buddy Alf. 

We originally planned to get Alfie last Thursday, but due to the severe winter weather, we've postponed til mid-February.  We can hardly wait.  We'll drive to Tulsa to meet Larry, and Alfie will start his new life with us!

 To answer the questions I've been getting:  Am I disappointed?  Yes, very.  Alfie is among the brightest and most eager dogs I've ever met, and I was looking forward to following his service career.  But to balance that I get to keep him, and who can tell what adventures we'll have together? 

Am I worried he'll bite again?  I did consider that; after all, I'm a mom and have my family to think of!  Was Alfie changed from the dog we'd known and loved?  The training staff assured me that he wouldn't be released to me as a pet if they felt there were any concern and, having discussed the incident fully with Larry, I'm inclined to agree. 

The truth is, these things happen.  It's part of the reality of the service dog world that many dogs will be career changed for various issues.  As a puppy raiser, of course, you never want to think of it happening with your puppy.  Yet it can, and does, and somehow you deal with it and go on. 

So...mixed feelings, definitely.  But one thing's for sure:  the happiness will outlast the disappointment

I think Alfie will be pretty happy too, don't you?