Posts Tagged 'retired Seeing Eye dog'

Friends of Harper

Loyal blog readers know that my third Seeing Eye dog Harper was traumatized after being clipped by a car in Chicago traffic last year. When it became clear that this heroic Yellow Labrador couldn’t work any more, our friends Chris and Larry agreed to give him a home with them in Wheaton, a quiet Chicago suburb. I’m sharing this update from Chris as a guest post in honor of Thanksgiving — Mike and I are so thankful to have Harper in such loving hands.

Looking forward to year two

by Chris Towles

Heroic Harper hangin’ in his new harness.

Has it been a year since Harper retired and came to live with us? I can’t imagine our house without him. When he came to us last year, he did fine in the house and loved playing in the backyard, but walking anywhere on a leash was tough. He would often refuse to budge, cowering at times, planting his paws so firmly that we could not get him to move, all the time with a look on his face that seemed so troubled and anxious it would just break your heart.

We started by taking small steps, going no further than one house away, then two houses. I would walk backwards most of the time, doing a lot of coaxing and no leash. We had tried treats, toys, other dogs, but nothing really worked until we hit on the “we walk backwards to get Harper to walk forward” technique.

Finally after a couple of months, we were able to get all the way around the block. That seemed like such a huge accomplishment. Building on this success, and after lots of trial and error with various collar and leash combinations, we found that a “Premier EasyWalk” harness and a retractable leash were key in convincing Harper that our walks were less about work, and more about fresh air and exercise.

Now when we walk, we get loads of compliments on how well behaved Harper is. People are always amazed to hear the heroic story of this lovable yellow lab who has become such a part of our life. We gladly acknowledge that our training is a small part of who he is, and that the credit really goes to the folks at The Seeing Eye who trained and cared for him so lovingly. These days we can walk over three miles on the bike paths and in the forest preserves without problems, and with all of us facing the same direction — yeah! .

Harper has a special knack for doing things that warm our harts. Every night he meets me at the back door, dancing and wagging his tail. Every morning he’s an alarm clock, laying his big ol’ Labrador head on the bed right next to Larry and breathing loudly – I love it! He’s great around kids and has managed to turn my dog fearing nieces and nephews into dog lovers. He’ll play catch, keep away and tug-o-war with them for hours, while being incredibly gentle with the little ones. Neighborhood kids also have great fun playing with our Harper.

Harper and neighbor Beau, caught in one of the rare instances in which they’re standing still.

Harper has made some dog friends too. He and Beau, the collie next door, wear themselves out running and chasing each other around the back yard. Harper also looks forward to playing with Wallace, another yellow lab who lives down the street.

Occasionally I take Harper to my office, where he has several FOH (Friend’s of Harper – Beth is president of the club). He helps to relieve workplace stress just by hanging out and letting people pet him.

We’re looking into getting certified as a therapy animal team and maybe spending some time with veterans at a VA facility. Larry and I were both in the Army, so the idea of sharing Harper’s special calming skills with veterans seems like a good fit. I can’t wait to find out what year two has in store for us.

Suddenly, Seymour

The note came from Jerry, via the Guide Dog Users of Canada listserve. His dog Seymour and my retired dog Hanni were classmates at the Seeing Eye.

hello all i lost my Seeing Eye dog Seymour on sat. night he died with a heart attack at the vet. he was 12 years. a great boy still working. very sad for my wife and I. will apply to seeing eye for another.

Jerry and I met Seymour and Hanni in November, 2001, and everyone in that Seeing Eye class agreed about Seymour. Best. Name. Ever. I know how devastated Jerry must be, and my heart goes out to him — he and Seymour were a particularly colorful pair. Jerry’s brief note brought back a flood of memories from that magical class, as well as a flood of appreciation for the friends I made there, my life with Hanni, and the good life she is enjoying now in her retirement with our dear friends Nancy and Steven.

With that in mind, I asked Nancy if she’d be willing to write an update on Hanni. I was delighted when she said yes, and once you read this guest post, I know you’ll be delighted, too.

Still making friends wherever she goes

by Nancy Bollero

That's Hanni on the trail in Wisconsin.

I know Beth felt like she won the dog lottery getting matched up with Hanni 10 years ago. Steven and I certainly felt that way when Hanni came to live with us this past December. Mike had spent some alone time in Chicago with Hanni before he delivered her to us. She knew us, she knew the house well and had stayed here with Mike and Beth a number of times over the years. Mike said Hanni had moped a little when Beth first left, but by the time she made the trip south, she was pretty much back to her old happy self.

Steven can come home from work at lunch to take Hanni out, but we knew she was used to having someone around her 24/7. We worried about going to work and leaving Hanni alone.

On our first day together, I got up early and walked Hanni a mile or two before returning home to get ready for work. She laid in bed as As I prepared for my work day, and when I put on my coat to go out to the car, Hanni looked up at me with a very distinct look that said, “Oh, we’re going out again? Fine.” Up. Strrrrrettchh. As soon as I told her, “Hanni, I’ll see you later,” she plopped back down with a sigh of relief.

Well, that’s the way I saw it, anyway.

Now after I walk her each morning and after she has her breakfast, she stands and watches me in the kitchen. You never know, I might drop something interesting! But as soon as I say, “see you later, Hanni,” she trots to her favorite nap spot in the front bedroom. When Steven comes home at lunch, he usually has to wake her up for a sleepy stroll outside.

Hanni definitely still has a lot of puppyish energy, though. When we’re somewhere where it’s safe to let her off the leash for a short time, she moves like a dog half her

Napping after the trail.

age. She runs like crazy, then stops and looks back at us, waiting for the slow pokes to catch up. Hanni discovered her inner dog digging in the dirt on a woodland walk in Wisconsin. She has played with frogs bouncing around the yard, engaged in a neighborhood hunt for a lost pet turtle named Franklin, and she still makes friends wherever she goes.

Hanni’s tail wags with glee to see my friend Cathy, who tends to have a new dog toy in hand every time she visits. She also is fond of my Aunt Mabel, who once snuck Hanni some ham despite a strict no “people food” rule. Hanni makes my day everyday, usually starting with a cold nose over the edge of the bed, a snort and that famously wagging tail.

Hanni's as affectionate as ever.

One night I was talking long-distance to my brother Art, who lives in Vietnam. He heard Hanni’s tail wapping against our hardwood floor and asked, “Steven doing some carpentry?” The vet commented she was the only dog who wags her tail when the thermometer is in an, well, shall we say, an uncomfortable place. Hanni is just a delight. We love her so much and hope she has a long retirement ahead.


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