You will no doubt remember the poignant guest post that Hava Hegenbarth wrote about her assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda. This second guest post by Hava demonstrates just how wide and varied her life experiences are –it’s about a puppy named Spinner she raised for Leader Dogs in Rochester, Michigan.
Well, done, Spinner
by Hava Hegenbarth
It’s hard (very hard!) to raise a pup from the time its seven weeks old to a year and then take it back and say goodbye. You invest a lot of time and love in that pup, but in some ways it’s like sending a child off to college. You know the pup has the potential to be so much more than just a pet.
I’m raising my sixth puppy for Leader Dogs now and feel I have a gut feeling about which ones have the “right stuff” — the ability to make it all the way through the rigorous training and graduate. That was the case with Spinner, pup #3.
Spinner was special. I just knew she would make it. I had visions of her breezing through the training, being matched with a blind partner and then proudly accompanying her new partner wherever he or she went. But then came the phone call. Spinner was not to be a guide dog. Leader Dogs wanted her for their breeding program instead. The Leader rep on the phone could tell I was upset. She told me I shouldn’t be disappointed. “You should be very proud. They only take the best to be breeders.”
According to Samantha Ziegenmeyer, Breeding program manager at Leader dogs, trainers help decide which dogs to use as breeders by reading the monthly reports we volunteers fill out about the pups we’re raising. Breeders are selected based on behavior and temperament. They are looking for dogs who are naturally relaxed in new environments, so, really, the dogs themselves help the experts at Leader Dogs decide by how they act when they arrive at the school for training. Breeding managers saw the same traits in Spinner that I did, but they saw them in a different way. They wanted a hundred more Spinners!
Extensive health screening makes sure that each dog entering the breeding program has sound hips and elbows. Potential breeders also get chest X-rays, heart and eye exams and screenings for genetic health concerns. At Leader, the dogs who are selected to become breeders live with host families, just like the pups do. A volunteer named Paula hosted Spinner’s mom Zyla, who recently retired as a breeder. Paula wanted to host another dog to carry on this important work, and she recognized Spinner as one of Zyla’s pups when Spinner returned for training. Paula put in a bid to host Spinner as a breeder, and she won the bid!
After a couple of initial breeding attempts, Spinner finally came through and produced eight future Leaders. Check out this video link to see Spinner and her eight gorgeous pups.
Eight potential future Leader dogs? Well done, Spinner. Good girl!