Waiting for Emmy
A guide-dog puppy raiser reflects on the pride and bittersweet pain of relinquishing her heart dog.
In the fall of 2006, I received my first guide-dog puppy, a wrinkly female yellow Labrador Retriever named Emmy. My roommate had raised her dad, and we couldn’t have been more excited to raise a puppy who we helped name and who reminded of us of her dad, Simon.
I knew raising a future guide dog would take a lot of time and patience and there would be a lot for me to learn. I didn’t know that it would change my life.
Emmy was an amazing puppy – I can’t say that about every puppy! She was beautiful, sweet, cuddly, funny and the most loyal dog I ever had. She became my best pal and slept on the floor next to me almost every night (OK, I occasionally woke up with a furry foot warmer). Emmy became the center of my world and had a following everywhere she went. Throughout her training she was an excellent guide-dog ambassador and learned everything like a pro. She was simply perfect.
In May 2007, Emmy returned to Guide Dogs for the Blind for formal training. I realized how close Emmy and I had become and how the quick 20-minute drive to the Guide Dog campus would feel like hours on the drive home. Dropping Emmy off that day, I left a large piece of my heart at Guide Dogs for the Blind. For the next six months, I went to bed every night wishing my phone would ring to say that Emmy couldn’t complete her training and was coming home. I truly believed she belonged with me.
In October 2007, we got word that Emmy excelled in her training, and my dream of her coming home looked less realistic. The following month I heard the words I had been praying I would never hear: "Emmy is in class to graduate.” To say I felt heartbroken would be putting it mildly.
How could a dog I put so much work into live with someone else? Who could possibly need Emmy more than I did? Who else would tattoo her name on their foot?
That following week, all my questions were answered when I spoke with Emmy’s new partner, Tim, who is from Missouri and is legally blind due to multiple sclerosis. Tim had fallen in love with Emmy in the few weeks they had been together, and after our short conversation, I knew that Tim needed Emmy, and that’s why she wouldn’t be coming home.
Meeting Tim will forever be one of the hardest days of my life. My heart was breaking over a dog I had become so attached to. However, seeing her with Tim made me realize what all of our hard work was for and changed my heartbreak into a feeling of pride. Many of our friends and family came to see Emmy that day. Everyone knew how special she was to me and what a hard day it would be. However, I made it through the day because of Tim. He loved her as much as I did, and I knew she was going where she was meant to be.
Emmy will forever be my "heart dog,” and Tim will always be a part of my family. Tim and Emmy have an unbreakable bond, and nothing in my life will ever compare to raising Emmy and seeing her bond with Tim.
We have raised 12 dogs since Emmy, all special in their own way. One (Emmy’s half sister) came home to stay, and I am thankful every day that she chose to stay with us. Raising guide dogs isn’t just about potty training, following protocol and socializing puppies. It’s a life changing and heartbreaking job, but Emmy and Tim serve as my daily reminder that my heartache is nothing compared to the relationship these dogs form with their person.
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