By: Maddie Hall (2014 GDB Puppy Raising Scholarship Recipient for Outstanding Essay)
When Anthony first started living in my house, he was clearly terrified. And who could blame him? As a 7 year-old child in yet another foster home, he not only had to assimilate into our family, but he also had to switch schools for the third time in a year. That would be overwhelming for anyone. Although Anthony's a great kid and quickly became a lively part of the family, he struggled in school to keep up with the curriculum and make friends.
That began to change when one day my mom brought our then-current guide dog puppy, Blaine, with her to pick Anthony up from school. Anthony ran out of the classroom to say hello to Blaine, and within a couple of seconds, Anthony and Blaine were surrounded by a swarm of Anthony's dog-loving classmates. All the other kids wanted to talk to Anthony, ask him questions about “his” dog, or tell him about their pet dog at home. One of the kids even wanted to spend the night at our house so they could spend more time talking about dogs.
Anthony loved the attention. For the first time, he had found his place in the classroom. Being “the kid whose dog picks him up from school” was a way for him to connect to his classmates in a way that he hadn't been able to before. The impact that Blaine's presence had on Anthony's life was simple yet significant. Anthony felt more comfortable going to school and began to make new friends.
Blaine is now my pet dog and Anthony is back with his mom, but he still occasionally comes to visit. There continues to be a special bond between them. Blaine helped Anthony navigate through an awkward time and helped him become more confident.
Blaine taught me that sometimes all you have to do to help someone is to just be there for them. Blaine helped Anthony do better in school just by showing up. Raising guide dog puppies in general has taught me a lot about helping other people. When I started this adventure, I thought that being part of my local GDB puppy club would be a fun way to benefit others, but in reality, most of the benefit of my experience has been for me. Each of my dogs has impacted me and helped shape who I am. Eichler taught me how to be ready for anything, Blaine taught me how to be sensitive to others, and Nevada is currently teaching me patience.
Unfortunately, neither of my first two dogs made it as guide dogs and are now both pets. Eichler is living with a wonderful family, and Blaine is my pride and joy. Nevada is currently9 months old and is my last hope before college of raising a dog who becomes a guide. My goal when I started raising puppies was to have at least one of them become a guide. I knew the statistics and I knew that sometimes dogs have issues beyond my control, but that's all I wanted. It was difficult for me to watch my first two dogs get so far and then be career changed, but I have high hopes for Nevada. I now think of my first two tries not as failures, but as evidence that sometimes what I think should happen - like having all my dogs become guides - isn't what's meant to be. Eichler and Blaine are living great lives as pets and I believe they are both very happy with that job.
In the fall, I will be attending the University of Oregon as a pre-business administration major. I am thinking about an emphasis in marketing, but I'm not quite sure about that yet. My dreams for the future just get more blurry from there. I don't know what I want to do with my life except to be happy and do good. Wherever I end up though, I know that I want to keep supporting and raising guide dog puppies. My mom has even suggested that I try to get a job working for GDB when I graduate, and I think I would be very happy doing that. Guide Dogs for the Blind has had such a big impact on my life that I don't think I'll ever be able to stop giving back to the organization that has given me so much.