Great Expectations

Like most people, I’ve been spending a lot of time home lately. In order to procrastinate stay productive, I cleaned out some old files. Amidst tax returns from the early 2000s and some free postcards I apparently hoarded during college, I found a story I wrote in high school: a children’s book about the guide dog puppy I raised. So while it’s rather off-brand for a blog that mainly focuses on triathlon and travel, I figure we could all use a little break and puppy photos right now. I share with you:

Great Expectations: A Guide Dog Puppy Grows Up, by Katie Tobin and Bessie

Hi! My name is Bessie, and I am a Guide Dog Puppy. Right now, I am training to be a guide and friend for a person who is blind. Here is the story of my training.

I was born in San Rafael, California. It is near San Francisco. When I was three months old, I met my new owner, Katie Tobin. Katie will train me for one year, and then I will go back to San Rafael to train with my future blind owner. Then, I will live with my blind owner and help him or her get around. What a life! In this picture, Katie and I have just met for the very first weekly puppy meeting.

Katie was so glad to meet me! I am sure we will have a fun year together. To train me, Katie will teach me basic commands, such as “come” and “sit.” She will also take me to a puppy meeting each week, so I can see all my friends. The best part is that Katie will take me to stores and restaurants.

Because I will be a Guide Dog, I need to spend time with a lot of people in different places. To show I am a Guide Dog in training, I wear a special green jacket. When I wear this jacket, it means I am working. People should ask Katie if they can pet me; after I sit, Katie always lets people say hello.

I love to eat! Luckily, I get to eat three times a day, just like humans. Still, I only eat six cups of food a day, but I am hungry enough to eat a whole bag of food!

In my family, there are other animals. Katie and her family have another dog, named Happy. Because Happy is not a Guide dog Puppy, she does not get to go to all the fun places I can.

My family also has a cat named Claudette. I think she looks tasty!

I guess Claudette does not like me as much as I like her!

Sometimes, it is hard being a Guide Dog Puppy.

For example, I am not allowed to do some fun things, like lie on the couch and eat socks.

Being a Guide Dog Puppy is a lot of fun, but it can also be tiring. During my year with Katie, I went to a lot of fun places, such as on an airplane, to a school board meeting, and hiking.

Because I live in Santa Barbara, I can go hiking a lot. I love these long walks, especially if I can play in a creek! In case you are wondering, the black thing on my face is called a “halti.” It is not a muzzle (I would never bite), but a type of collar that makes it easier for me to guide a blind person. Still, I don’t like it very much.

This is Katie’s brother; his name is Brian. I like Brian, because he spends time with me on the hammock…

…and lets me wear his hockey clothes.

I was in a dog parade with my Guide Dog group. I am the fourth dog from the right. The dog to the left of me is my brother. His name is Barstow.

Sadly, my year with Katie is now over, and I must go back to San Rafael for more training with my blind owner. First, Katie made sure I was very clean.

And then I had to say good bye to my family.

It was a sad day.

Here I am with a friend from my puppy group, along with her owner. This dog is named Lottie, and we will travel together to San Rafael.

I will ride in this kennel to San Rafael. I hope I get there soon, and can stretch my legs. Soon, I will have new friends who will help me learn to be a Guide Dog. When I pass all my classes in Guide Dog school, Katie and her family will come watch me graduate. Katie can meet my new owner. Later, when I am too old to work as a Guide Dog, I can live again with Katie. I hope she will save a sock for me!

Well, that is my story so far. I hope you have learned something about the life of a Guide Dog Puppy. Now, when you see a dog like me, you will know that it is a special dog, with great expectations.

The End

About the Authors

Bessie is a golden retriever, and was born November 14, 1996. She has lived with Katie and her family since February 1997. Bessie’s hobbies include chasing the cat, eating socks, playing tug with Brian, and watching dogs on television. Her favorite color is purple, and her favorite food is dog food (which is all she has ever known).

Katie is a sixteen year old human. She has greatly enjoyed raising Bessie, and hopes this book educates others about the program. Her favorite activities are swimming, hiking, writing, and spending time with Bessie. Katie will be an exchange student to Finland and Switzerland next year.

Postscript (2020)

Bessie lasted all of a week at puppy college. Her intake veterinary exam revealed hip dysplasia, a common medical condition for golden retrievers. We had the option to get her back and we said yes without hesitation. While we were sad that she wouldn’t be serving a blind person, we were thrilled to be reunited and she was over-the-moon excited to finally be able to play with tennis balls. (She wasn’t allowed to play with balls during training, since that would be problematic if her future owner were a tennis or baseball fan.) Bessie lived a long and happy life, dying at age 16 on my birthday.

If you’d like to learn more about the guide dog training process, Hulu has a wonderful documentary on the topic. You can also learn more at the Guide Dogs for the Blind website.

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