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?


Amanda said...

I'm so sorry that Alfie didn't make it. He seems like a wonderful dog, and I'm glad that you are bringing your boy home. I hope you keep us updated on Alfie's adjustment to pet life. :)

Ally and Eclipse said...

I'm so sorry, it's always so shocking to hear the puppy you love and put so much into has bit someone. I watched Eclipse try and bite someone when he was in training and it was absolutely awful. I'm happy he gets to come home to your family even though you're in a tough spot right now. Hug him hard when he gets home, sounds like you all need it!

Shelly :) said...

I'm sorry to hear about Alfie being dropped. :( I know Alfie (and you and your family) will love being home. I can't wait to read what is in store for Alfie!

The Rhoton Family said...

To be very frank... I don't know how you guys were strong enough to let him go! I don't think I could. Maybe this is God's way of telling you that you belong together. You're so right, it is sad he didn't make it through, but YOU get to keep that sweet fur ball!!! :) My heart is smiling for both you and Alfie!

Camilla and Darwin said...

Sorry to hear about Alfie being dropped from the program, it must be hard for both of you. I am happy to hear he is going to live with you though, I'm sure Alfie will be so excited to be home with you! Through this blog I've seen him grow up and I have no doubt that he is an amazing, loving dog. And smart too! :-)

Rudy - The dog with a blog said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Alfie; I know it's so hard finding out that news.
With having 2 dogs "let go" from the program due to severe allergies issues (1 did go into Search & Rescue though) I truly know how you feel, it's not an easy thing - that's for sure. And it makes it even harder when you aren't able to adopt them back.
I am glad to hear that you will be getting Alfie back, and I'm looking forward to some posts with recent pictures of him - I know he will make a great pet for you guys, and I wish you all the best!
Thanks so much for the update,

Rudy's Raiser

Becky said...

Wow. What a journey. Glad Alphi is coming home.

Amy said...

Aw, I'm sorry Alphi didn't make it as a service dog, but that is wonderful news he gets to come back home with you! Just think of all the service type tricks you could teach him and he could still have a semi-service dog career! I love dogs too, feel free to visit my blog at some time :)

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

Wow, what a tumult of emotions! I felt them all with you as I read your post. Shocked, sad, disappointed, but ultimately happy. I'm so excited that you will be getting Alfie back, for keeps! I wouldn't be too concerned about the bite--you never saw that behavior before, and I think it was Alfie's way of saying he didn't want to being a working dog without YOU!

With his smarts and your heart, I'm sure you'll find ways to benefit many people in the future. All that training and ability certainly won't go to waste!

Hugs to you and your family, Beth!

L^2 said...

*hugs* So sorry to hear it didn't work out for Alfie to be a guide dog, but I'm very happy to hear your wonderful, adorable boy is coming home to you.

Erin and Co. said...

I"m soo sorry to hear this, I totally understand your feelings though my first dog didn't bite he did growl at us when he didn't want to do what we were asking and he was dropped like the proverbial hot potato.
It was completely devastating to me. Buttt I'm SOOO happy they allowed you to adopted him as a pet!!!! Hoping we get to hear more about his adventures with you guys! :)

Christine said...

It is so sad to hear that Alfie was dropped from the program, but what a wonderful outcome in the end. I am sure this is an emotional roller coaster, but in the end - I believe he will be so happy to be with you and your family. Can't wait to see the "Coming Home" photos!
Christine & Shelby (a Dixie's Dood)

Alphini's Puppy Raiser said...

You all are so encouraging! What a journey it's been, and I appreciate the kind words and support!

Ruby's Raiser said...

Hi Beth, what an emotional post and thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us. I have no doubt that Alph is exactly where he was meant to be, happy at home with you and your family! Here's to a long and happy life together, full of love, lots of head pats and tummy rubs, and chasing cartons and cartons of rubber balls! :)