Okay, so technically it is not MY Future Leader Dog -- it's Will's -- but Will rents a room from me, so it is going to be living in my house. And I am going to help raise it. I could not be any more excited if it was my own!
A lot of people who read this blog aren't familiar with Leader's puppy raising program, so let me just explain a few things. First off, a Leader puppy is called a Future Leader Dog. Future Leader Dog is a proper noun and can go either before or after the puppy's actual name, as in, Future Leader Dog Juno or Juno Future Leader Dog. A lot of times it's abbreviated as FLD. So, when I refer to FLD Juno or Juno FLD, it will sound weird to non-Leader people, but it is perfectly normal over here.
Another thing that is different about Leader is that puppy raisers get to choose their puppy's name, without even being restricted to a certain letter of the alphabet. I think this is great! Most schools name the puppy themselves, and usually every puppy in the litter has to have a name starting with the same letter. Most of the times the schools pick okay names for the puppies, but not always. When I was in high school raising puppies for GDB, I got a puppy named Flume, which I thought was a horrible name; it sounds like Phlegm! And Flume had brothers named Free, Freeway, and Farmer, which were only marginally better. Still, that was just the way it was, and it never occurred to me that it might be okay to let puppy raisers name their own puppies. Because if puppy raisers could name their own puppies, what if they picked weird names? And wouldn't it be harder to know which dogs were related? And wouldn't you end up with dozens of dogs with the most popular names, and wouldn't that get confusing? Well, in practice, yes there are some weird names, but I can't honestly say that I've heard weirder names at Leader than some that were picked by the schools. (In addition to Flume, some of the names of dogs I've had in my strings at Guiding Eyes and Seeing Eye were Walmart, Nardo, Spats, and Savior; is it possible to come up with more questionable guide dog names than these? I think not. And a lot of GDB names in the past just sounded to me as if they came from a syllable-generating program on the computer that just matched up random syllables, like Pelmore and Denson and other names like that.) It's not hard to know which dogs are related; all you have to do is look them up on the computer. And yes there are dozens of Daisys (Daisies?) and Baileys and Shadows and Angels, but that is why they have dog identification numbers. I think it is great to let puppy raisers choose their own names. After all, they're the ones that have to say the name several thousand times over the year they have the puppy, so we might as well let them pick one that rolls off the tongue easily. And if someone wants to theme-name puppies for twenty years, or give every puppy the same name for twenty years, well, go for it, if you ask me! (Although I always did enjoy the guessing game. It was like, you're getting a male black Lab whose name starts with D -- GO!)
Anyway, if I were the one picking the name it would, of course, be Tucson. But I am not going to raise a puppy for at least another year. Therefore, I am not picking the name. I think Will has picked one but he wants to wait till he sees the puppy to make it official, so I cannot say what the name will be quite yet. Puppy comes home tomorrow, though, so expect cute puppy pictures very soon!
I can't wait to be involved in puppy raising again. Everyone knows that that's where I started out, and I enjoy pretty much everything about raising a puppy. It's been almost two years since I got Duncan, but I am confident that my puppy-raising abilities are still solid. It felt like I had a new puppy every year when I was in Tucson. I felt like one of those barefoot-and-pregnant women who just gets used to doing everything with a baby on her hip, and whose ability to pay attention to what the baby is doing is always on, 24-7. I don't have any illusions about how much work a new puppy requires, or how disruptive it is to your daily life and usual routine. But there is so much joy in shaping a new life! You get to be there for all of the puppy's new experiences, and make sure they are good ones that will make it into a good dog. I let my own dogs get away with all kinds of stuff -- sleeping on furniture, jumping on me, pulling on leash, eating people food -- but when a guide dog puppy is in the house, everyone has to toe the line. I love my guide dog puppies but never lose sight of the fact that they are bred to be working dogs, and as such, must have working dog manners, so rules are enforced with them from Day One.
Deep breath... back into puppy raising mode in 3...2...1...