One of the questions I get asked the most (along with “do you plan to homeschool all the way through high school?” and “how did you get involved in surrogacy?”) is about how we got started raising guide dogs.
So here’s how that happened.
My kids, like pretty much all kids, had asked for a pet for years. YEARS. And for years and years I always said no. I really didn’t want to commit to the time and expense and mess, not to mention the basic fact that all pets die (well, not ALL pets die before you do, I suppose a parrot or a tortoise might outlive me, but you catch my drift). I didn’t want to have to face the issue of losing a pet and what better way to avoid it than not getting a pet in the first place?
(hey I never said my logic was sound)
We’d had a hamster once, he was cute and all but also a real pain in the butt. My kids were young and not so careful and they’d leave the cage door open and oh my lord the places we would find him (eating through the sheets in the linen closet, behind the drywall in the utility closet, inside the kitchen cabinet structure, etc.). His name was Augustus Caesar but he might as well have been named Houdini.
So I was a little gun shy to go the hamster route again and a lot gun shy to go with anything else.
And my kids kept asking and I kept saying no.
Until one day, I was correcting something in one of the kids’ language arts workbook and the reading was about pet rabbits. A rabbit, I thought, I could probably hack a pet rabbit! And I figured the kids would love a pet rabbit too.
So we told the kids that they might be able to get a pet.
But they had to work for it.
I asked them to research three different possible pets - realistic possible pets - and I told them a horse, snake, and a dog were off the table.
(Why was a dog off the table, you might ask? Because I didn’t like dogs. Not at all, not one bit. See, I’d grown up around badly mannered, untrained, unclean, big, barking dogs and I thought all dogs were like that - it was all I knew.)
Their task was to work as a team to choose which three pets to propose. Then each child had to write a proposal for one of the pets, complete with requirements for diet, space, exercise, vet care, cost, etc.
The kids handed them in (they proposed a cat, a rabbit and a ferret) and Doug and I took a week to think it over (but in reality we’d already decided it would be a rabbit) and then we took the kids out to dinner to give them our answer.
About a month later we adopted Theodore Roosevelt, otherwise known as Roose (pronounced Rosie) from the shelter.
It was a learning curve for us, young rabbits tend to be destructive and Roose was no exception. But we adapted and the kids did a great job of keeping him exercised and entertained to keep the bunny mayhem to a minimum. They were responsible for every aspect of his care except buying his food and litter. And Roosevelt was a fine rabbit.
So when three months later Winnie asked me about raising a service dog, I was (shockingly) open to the idea.
I’d just picked her up from a girl scout meeting at someone’s house and met their family pet, who was a dog from a service dog program, and who was very sweet. Not smelly, not rude, not barking.
In the car on the way home Winnie mentioned that families volunteer to raise these dogs for about a year, and the vet care is provided (because from experience she knew to cover the cost angle - clever girl!).
A year, I thought, I could do anything for a year…and that dog we’d just met was awfully sweet…so I told her I’d consider it.
And considered it I did, and fast. It just felt right to me for reasons I can’t really describe. I’d never wanted a dog of my own, and I still didn’t want a dog of my own, but I was open to the idea of hosting and training one for a short period of time.
That night I researched the service dog organizations with groups near us and I put in requests for information. I had a screening interview set up the next day. We started our volunteer training the following week and did a test puppy sit the following month.
And in August 2010 Henna arrived and everything changed.
Then Leila arrived, then Jammy, then Heaven, then Gideon, then Mercy, then Oak, then Eben.
Yeah, I can do anything for a year.