Friday, June 3, 2016

Thanks to Susan for many years of leadership of the Bradenton Puppy Raisers.  Melissa and Linda are now Co-Area Coordinators of the group, with Deb and Amanda as Group Leaders.  There are currently five pups in the group, with five others in for training since the last post.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Letting Go

I am stepping down as the Bradenton Area Coordinator and will hold my last "official" meeting on November 7th.  I have chosen to have the meeting down along the Bradenton waterfront, which is where I attended my very first meeting as a brand new Puppy Raiser Applicant years ago.

As the Area Coordinator of the Bradenton Puppy Raiser Group I have had an amazing journey and have learned quite a few lessons, about both myself and others. 

I have learned:
  • I can do things I thought I couldn't.
  • I can expand my preconceived and restricted view of things and people to allow myself to see other sides.
  • To appreciate what individuals can bring into my life even if they can't or don't live up to unrealistic expectations.
  • That sometimes the best I can do is good enough, even when it falls short of my own or other's expectations.
  • That people from all walks of life, for all different reasons can and will give a piece of their heart away for a good and worthy cause.
  • That when you choose to do what is right, even if and when your time and energy is not appreciated, you will still feel good about yourself.
And now it seems that in stepping down as the Area Coordinator for the Bradenton Puppy Raiser Group there is one more lesson for me to learn, and that is the ability to "LET GO."

Watching the people who graciously prepare to take over the group, I am both grateful and unsettled.  I honestly believe that they will do a great job.  Thus, I now need to learn how to let it go and let them be free to make their own decisions, and grow from their own experiences just as I have.  

They may change how I did things, they may make mistakes (as I have certainly done), they may disappoint me and they may also make me very proud.  All of those "mays" are in the future and that is my last lesson:  "may" is something I have no control over. They must follow their own path and find their own way, and I must allow them to do so.

In all honesty, I may find it hard to watch from the sidelines, but as part of my final lesson I hope that I do that graciously. 

I have raised two puppies who went on to become guide dogs.  I have finished 3 dogs who did not make it as working dogs - two of which I have adopted back and whom I am grateful for every single day.

However, in my time as an Area Coordinator I have had over 40 puppies raised in my group and thus also have the following as part of my legacy.  
15 have become Guide Dogs.
4   have become Veteran Service Dogs.
3   have become Detection Dogs.
3   have become Breeders for the school.
4   have been adopted back by their raisers.
8   have been adopted by others.
3   were finished outside of the group.
2   are in for their formal training.
6   are still with their puppy raisers in the group.

It has been an honor and a blessing to be able to serve in the capacity of Area Coordinator.  I intend to stay involved with Southeastern Guide Dogs, as time allows, and will always hold a special place in my heart for the wonderful work they do.  

Good Luck Bradenton Puppy Raiser Group - may your leashes stay loose, your puppies stay focused, and may your hearts stay filled with love, patience and guidance for the puppies you raise. 

With all my love and gratitude,  
Susan LeBourgeois

Following are a few pictures from our last outing at a local pumpkin patch.

Debbie and Remy.  When Debbie first applied to be a puppy raiser, the AC at the time thought she might be too small to handle a full grown dog, little did they know that she would become one of the most amazing puppy raisers.  Debbie has taught me so much and I am honored to call her my friend.
Debbie and Remy
Joanne holding Penny.  Joanne may not have raised a puppy for the Bradenton Group, but she has been an invaluable asset. 
Amanda and Lulu.  Amanda along with her husband Steve, are an amazing puppy raiser duo and always do a wonderful job with their pups.
Lauren and Sheba
Although Lauren is a brand new puppy raiser you can see the incredible bond between the two in this picture.
Ray, with his daughters' Ashley and Kaylee, and puppy Annie.
"Hey Mom?  Have you noticed that that pumpkin is as big as I am?"
Helen and Rosie.  Helen is another wonderful raiser of the Bradenton group, and I was blessed to be able to co-raise Cash with her.
Shirley F. and Willie.  Two intelligent, strong, willful females.
The wounded warrior- her hand met a sharp puppy tooth at the beginning of the meeting (Shirley H.), the patient saint  - I don't believe I have ever seen her ruffled (Helen H.) and the courageous crusader - a super fundraiser/organizer for past walkathons (Joanne L.)  I should call them the three amigos.
It has been a privilege and an honor to be the Bradenton Area Coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs: an organization of wonderful people, and incredible dogs remarkably and selflessly changing people's lives.  Woof Woof

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Blessing of the Animals

The latest outing of the Bradenton Puppy Raiser Group took us a bit south of our usual stomping grounds as we all met at Saint Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key for their Blessing of the Animals.  This church has supported the efforts of Southeastern Guide Dogs over the years and we wanted to show our appreciation by going down for their Blessing of the Animals on October 3, 2015.

All of the pups were a bit excited upon first arriving as there were a lot of people and dogs of all shapes and sizes.  Our pups did not understand why we were not there to play with all of them and found it difficult to control their natural enthusiasm.  They were also a bit antsy while sitting in a small outdoor area for the main program. However, by the time they each walked up for their individual blessings all of the pups had calmed down and did very well.

It was a good experience for the pups and the raisers were able to see that although some new situations may be a bit stressful at first, that by being calm and patient both raiser and pup can adjust and grow from the exposure if done in a slow and consistent manner.

Lulu, being raised by Steve and Amanda T.

Rosie, being co-raised by Helen H. and Shirley H.
Sheba, being raised by Lauren B.
Penny, career changed, and much loved pet.
An Owl and a Hawk even received a blessing.
 After the service, they had refreshments set up for both people and pups, and were collecting food and donations for the Sarasota County Humane Society.  I put a little something in the collection bowl from our group.

Other than dodging a few raindrops and sitting in a few damp seats, it was a unique and fun exposure for our pups.

Until next time, keep your paws clean and your tail wagging high.  Woof Woof

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Archie and Cooper Michael

Back in January 2014, we introduced two new puppies that just happened to be brothers, Archie and Cooper Michael.  And so began their journey as future guide dog candidates.

Cooper Michael
Their puppy raisers were patient, consistent, loving, and kind and worked hard to teach them their basic commands and introduce them to new places, new people, new things, and before they knew it it was time to send these pups off to college on In-For-Training day.
Archie and family at college send off.

Cooper Michael and his raisers on IFT morning. 

Both Archie and Cooper did well at college and each month I was able to send good training reports on to their raisers.  Six months later, I was very happy to make one of the best phone calls an Area Coordinator can make:  "Your puppy has been matched in the current class and you are invited to attend Puppy Raiser Day."   The brothers started together, went to college together, and now would be graduating together. 

Puppy Raiser Day begins with the raisers hearing a short biography on the person their puppy was matched with and also receiving a plaque in honor of their contribution of raising the puppy.   It is a bit nerve racking to sit through as you tend to be anxious to see your pup again and also a bit nervous about meeting their new handler.

Next you get to stand off to the side and watch as the pup and their new handler walk a route. Sometimes the pups seem to be aware that they are being watched and they may also be catching the scent of someone they knew and loved. 

Archie begins his route.
Archie checking out his admirers. 

Archie showing off his guide dog skills. 
Watching Archie work from the sidelines. 
Cooper begins his route. 

Cooper may have smelled his puppy raisers!

Cooper and his new handler showing off their teamwork. 

Watching Cooper work. 

Finally, after what feels like a lifetime, the puppy raisers get to meet their pup's new handler and they get to reunite with the puppy they raised.  If you have any doubt that your pup will remember you, rest assured they will...

Archie certainly remembers Preslie. 

Preslie and Archie happy to see each other again. 

Archie watching his puppy raisers approach. 

Mickey and Archie getting reacquainted.

Cooper couldn't wait to say hello to Meisha. 

Cooper is happy to see Joe again also. 

Cooper and Joe. 

Visiting and enjoying each other's company. 

Joe and Cooper. 

Cooper had not forgotten Richard either.
Although our puppies are diligently taught to keep all four paws on the floor and not to jump, during Puppy Raiser Day those rules are briefly allowed to fly out the window.  The pups are just too excited, and are allowed to show and share their joy through their exuberance.

Cooper Michael


Class 235 - with brothers Archie and Cooper Michael

Please join me on congratulating, Collin with Archie and Tom with Cooper Michael, on their graduation from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.  We wish you happy, safe, and joyful journeys together going forward. 

My heartfelt thanks go out to the special raisers of these wonderful dogs. Without you these great new teams may not have come together.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Parade

Happy Easter from the Bradenton Puppy Raiser Group!

It was a gorgeous morning for our Easter weekend meeting and we met at Tom Bennett Park, which is a beautiful local favorite of ours.   

As our puppies need to learn to be handled quite a bit and they need to learn to eventually accept a harness being put over their heads and a handle lying on their backs, dressing our puppies up is a fun exercise... at least on our end of the leash. 

So, we had an Easter Parade with our pups dressing in their Easter finery.

We also had a "walk by the Easter eggs without lunging at them" exercise.  If the pup got by the egg without lunging for it, then the raiser could take that egg. All but one of the eggs had mini Milk-Bones inside as a treat for the pups, and one special egg had a Cracker Barrel Gift Certificate as a treat for the raiser.

Here are some pictures from our meeting:
From Left to Right:  Debbie with pup Remy; Steve and daughter, Hannah, with pup Miss T; Steve and Amanda with daughters, Emily and Hayley with pup, Lulu; Jeff with pup, Ava. 
Miss T in her Easter finery.

Miss T sporting some bunny ears. 
Lulu in her outfit and bunny ears.

Remy in her bunny ears and colorful outfit.
Miss T really wanted to pick up her own Easter eggs. 

Remy doing a nice job walking by the Easter eggs. 
Amanda and Steve were the lucky winners of the gift certificate.

Sweet Lulu looks like she is heading to the gym in her Easter outfit. 
Blue shirt, plaid shorts, pink top and multi colored skirt... all we are missing here is an Easter Bonnet for Steve. 
Lulu looking... CUTE!
The pink ears and turquoise top look stunning against Ava's shinny black coat. 

Happy Easter, everyone!  Woof Woof