Any Advice Taking Care of Guide Dogs?
May 5, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

The BBB family is seriously considering becoming a foster family for dogs undergoing training as guide dogs. This is a new program administered by The Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind. Anyone have any experience at this? (more inside).

Basically, the program has been developed to provide foster families for guide dogs that are still undergoing training, but are beyond the puppy stage (and are no longer in the "puppy walking" program). Instead of having the dogs housed in kennels at night or on weekends, we will pick them up and take care of them overnight and on weekends.
We went to an information session, so are aware of the particular needs of a guide dog, and what we will need to do.
Just want to know if anyone else has had any experience with a similar type of program, and can provide any advice or comments on their experience.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza to Pets & Animals (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Still no posts? Ok, I’ll post something; hopefully this will prompt others to, even though the thread's over a day old:

I have to admit, I'm not sure what you're asking for. Could you give a bit more context? Have you had a dog as a pet? Will you be doing any training, beyond being consistent? What level of involvement with the foster dog will the different members of the BBB family have? What concerns were raised when you discussed this? Do you have any particular concerns now? The anecdotes & training tips for CCI don't seem particularly useful or interesting to me, but maybe they'll prompt something better. Absent any clarification, here's my loquacious and general thoughts:

This has the potential of becoming a significant life experience for the BBB family.

Years ago, I mindfully adopted a beautiful doe-eyed, raven-haired, gentle spirited & friendly black Lab mix with the intent of training a Companion Dog, and the hope that she’d also become an avalanche (ie, Search and Rescue) dog . I had pet dogs as a teenager, and expected the general happiness I associated with that, along with a warm satisfaction from doing something that generally made the world a better place. What I got was awe inspiring - I was astonished how much my Quality of Life improved, often in very unexpected ways. [1] [2]

Partly based on that, and partly based on my fondness & admiration for a paraplegic friend, I've given a lot of thought to being a foster family for CCI. With great reluctance, I concluded that for the foreseeable future (5-10yrs), I don't have the time or resources (mostly, a fully-fenced yard) to do a god-fearing, righteous job of it. If your program were in my area, I’d be on it in a heartbeat.

Obviously, casually raising a pet as a teenager is vastly different from raising a dog that could also be a working dog, which in turn is very different from being a foster family. That being granted, I wanted to make these two points:

(1) If you are well-engaged with it, it could be one of the finest of undertakings; it will change your world, and your perception of the world -- I think entirely for the better.
(2) The primary difference between being a foster family vs. the other experiences mentioned is that you have to say goodbye at the end of the foster term.

[1] back to post
This really was an exceptional dog; everyone was attracted to her and liked her -- beautiful women would stop what they were doing, hale me, and then cross the street in order to meet her(!?)

2 [2] back to post
Could examples of these be what you're looking for?
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 10:12 AM on May 6, 2009

Thanks for the comments. To answer your questions and give more context:
Have you had a dog as a pet?
Yes, but not right now.

Will you be doing any training, beyond being consistent?

No additional training, the CGDB have given us information on what is expected of us in order to remain consistent in the training of the dog, for example, no hand feeding, no getting on furniture, no ball/stick throwing games, no pools/cottages and so on.

What level of involvement with the foster dog will the different members of the BBB family have?

I have two kids, 15 and 11 years old. They are excited by this, and are aware of the fact that they will not be getting a traditional pet, but a "working dog", and that there are strict rules on what they can and can't do with it; and that they won't be able to "keep" any of the dogs.

What concerns were raised when you discussed this?

Basically, the concerns centred around how to act/react when outside with the dog...interaction with kids/adults, other dogs.

Do you have any particular concerns now?
Well, my main concern is that we will be responsible for a dog that the CGDB have invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours with to get to a certain point in their training. We wouldn't want to do anything, accidentally or just through naietivity/stupidity to "ruin" the dog or set back it's training. While the CGDB can give us tons of advice, this is a new program, and there is no one we can call upon as a mentor. So, I posted this question to see if anyone has taken care of guide dog, and may be able to give some advice/perspective about their experience.

You described very well the type of impact a dog can make in your life, and I would like this experience to have a similar positive impact on my family (as well as on the dog, too!)
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2009

I do some work with foster dogs, and different organizations have different rules. (And I'm enough of a geek to actually follow the rules.) Handling dogs according to other people's rule can be a bit of a stress - which is balanced by the learning experience of working in someone else's process.

This can be a great experience and I hope you do it. A friend of mine has been waiting several months for a replacement dog, so every little bit helps. (And that's several months starting from when grief abated enough to get on the service dog list.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:44 PM on May 6, 2009

We took care of our first dog this weekend, a Golden Retriever name "Ellie". She was great! It was a lot less stressfull than I thought it would be, primarily because she was so good. She adapted well, and by the end of the weekend, it was as if she had been part of the family for years. We may get her back (or some other dog); but it was a great experience.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:16 AM on June 22, 2009

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