Puppy walking

An adventure in looking after a puppy until it is old enough to be properly trained as a guide dog for the blind.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The last post, September 15, 2007.

A portrait

I started posting on September 10, 2005, so it's a nice two years almost to the day for me to finally post the last post. On Thursday, I got the phone call I've been dreading from Guide Dogs. They have decided to take Rockwell out of the program and they wanted to offer him to us as his puppy walkers first.

His quarterly updates were always positive and he did make good progress. However, they also talked about his high anxiety levels and how distracted he could be. In the end, it was his sensitive nature that decided them against continuing to train him. They would watch him progress and then watch him slide back. After months of this, they said, "why are we making this dog do something that he really is not suited for?"

When I got the phone call on Thursday, I knew right away that this was why they were calling. Peter and I had talked at length about whether we would take Rockwell if he flunked. We took Uma back, when she flunked due to "food aggression" back in 1991. But when we got Rockwell, it was just to puppy-walk him for the year and then we wanted to be dog-free for a while. And I had decided to puppy-walk because I was missing Uma so much after she died, the Summer that Rockwell was born. But I didn't want to replace her with a "forever dog".

Anyway, after they called, I said I wanted to talk to Peter about it and would call them back on Friday. When he got home from work, we talked and I cried and we felt guilty. We worried about abandoning Rockwell and whether he would be loved. We fretted over whether we might have caused him to flunk. I asked some close friends for advice and they suggested that we should let Guide Dogs find him a home because that had been the plan all along.

On Friday, I talked to the very nice woman at Guide Dogs, I asked her about whether Rockwell might do some other "work" because I think that dogs do like to work. She said that they had spent almost a year training him to be a guide dog and now, if he was sent for some other training, it would be the opposite of everything they try to teach at Guide Dogs - don't sniff, don't run, don't do this and that. A sniffer dog, for example, would be trained to run around and sniff everything! So they thought it wouldn't be fair, especially to a sensitive soul such as Rockwell, to send him for yet more training. And I agreed.

I asked about their selection process for sending failed guide dogs out to be pets. They have a long list of people who would like these wonderful dogs and so they peruse the list and select the right family and then invite them to come meet Rockwell. Once the adoptive family shows up, they grill them some more and watch the interaction and see if it meets their satisfaction. Only then, do they agree to part with the dog. Plus people do pay for this dog so it's better for them financially than giving him to us for free.

So that's it. Rockwell is going to have a new family and he will get to be someone's great pet and I wish him well. We may never know what happens with him unless we by chance see him in the future. So I'm sad and I feel bad that he didn't become a guide dog. But I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading and offering your support over the year - I have been introduced to a whole new world of dog people and even made some cyber friends because of this blog, for which I will be always grateful.
Oops, bad dog!
And here's one last photo, that I never dared post until now, because guide dogs are NOT allowed on the furniture!

All the best, Julia.

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At 5:20 p.m., September 15, 2007, Blogger 8675309 said...


Thank you as always for your honesty in sharing...that is one thing I have always loved about reading your Rockwell Diaries. Like everything else, the good often comes with a bit of the bad (and occasionally, the ugly).

The possibility that the dog might not make it all the way through the program is in the mind of every puppy raiser. For those of us who hear almost weekly that their puppy reminds someone of another "dog who didn't make it," that thought manifests itself with unpleasant frequency. In my case, where it's not even a logistical option to adopt anyone, the thought takes on even more emotion.

Let me tell you, there is no guilt on your part. Part of the magic and the madness of this is that some dogs who seem like natural born superstars are the ones who don't continue, and some dogs who seem like the most unlikely candidates are the ones who graduate. I am thinking of one dog in particular who graduated despite her own insanity AND some not-so-excellent puppy raisers. It was not you.

It makes me sad as well, a little, that he didn't go on to guide work, but that may be more for you than for him. I know in my head and in my heart that Rockwell is not a "failed guide." He is not a reject, he is not a dropout. He did not flunk. GDA uses the lovely phrase "career changed," but I will refer to Rockwell -- and also to any dogs I raise who opt for a similar path -- as a "Dog of Alternate Destiny." His new "career" is that of lovebug. Snuggler. Couch Potato. Companion. Protector.

And a superstar he will be.

I'm sorry, and congratulations. Please keep in touch.

At 6:21 p.m., September 15, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Oh Jenny, thanks! I can always rely on you to provide needed perspective. I like the DOAD designation too. Maybe he might end up being a champion at frisbee catching. Anyway, thanks for all your encouragement and I will keep in touch.

At 7:47 p.m., September 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Rockwell's grandfather I shed a tear. I also took heart. He entered your lives, and then ours, and made his own impact - most of it positive. He will now go on to have a happier life of his own and, no doubt, make a human family happier also. Be proud of your part in the drama, Julie and Peter.


At 9:23 p.m., September 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Trish, I have been enjoying several puppy blogs and have posted on some but incase you missed them; I am an adult puppy raiser for TSE. I am currently raising my 13th pup, Willow. I have been very fortunate as I have had 2 females go into the breeding program, 8 graduated and only 2 which were career changed. I was able to adopt one of my career change dogs. The public always asks, “How can you give them back?” for me that is not the difficult part, yes it is a very emotional day and there is an empty spot in my heart. However, for me the most difficult part of puppy raising is when the dog is offered back and I was not able to adopt him/her. I know each dog guide school is very selective in where their guides and career change dogs are placed. Just as every child is not destined for Harvard, not every dog is meant to be a guide. I am sure you did everything right and I can see from you last photo you provided Rockwell with plenty of love. Those who touch our hearts remain with us forever. Wags and licks from Willow and a cyber hug from me. http://brianseeingeyepuppyblog.blogspot.com/

At 11:36 a.m., September 16, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Rockwell's "Grandpa", I know you really took a shine to him and so for that reason too, I am sorry he won't be staying with us. Eventually however, we will get some other dog to make you sneeze so don't despair!

Trish, I really apreciate your comments about Dogs of Alternate Destiny, especially the Harvard analogy. I am going to be a regular visitor now to the LW blog!

At 2:31 p.m., September 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are welcome to stop by (Willow’s) LW’s blog anytime. As for Rockwell’s last photo, he isn’t on the furniture; he’s on your lap! Trish

At 10:13 a.m., September 18, 2007, Anonymous Muffy said...


It has been a fun and enjoyable walk with you and Rockwell. Thanks for letting us know his outcome. Think how happy he will be to just be a dog! He will be able to wiggle his way into some lucky family's hearts and respond to all the love and care they have to offer. You did a great job with Rockwell and with your blog.

At 1:51 p.m., September 18, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks Muffy. I do want Rockwell to be happy and I hope his new family lets hm do stuff like chase balls all day.

And thanks Trish - you are right. He was being a lap dog, not a furniture dog! You should have seen him "sneak" up there - like I wouldn't notice his stealthy climb. And by then I think he weighed over 50 pounds. It was hilarious.

At 10:01 p.m., September 18, 2007, Blogger Hobbes Dogs said...

Julia and family,

Sorry to hear the news about Rockwell. However, I have come to realize that every one of these dogs really do end up where they are meant to be - we wish Rockwell all the best in the next chapter of his life.

I have enjoyed being able to follow your journey with Rockwell, and will miss reading your updates. All the best in your future endeavors as well.


At 6:22 a.m., September 19, 2007, Blogger Sandy said...

Rockwell is going to make another family very happy. He's got such a personality. Thanks for all of the updates!

At 8:46 a.m., September 19, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks Hobbes. I am glad there are folks like you out there who do the puppy raising regularly. Good luck to you and yours!

Thanks for stopping by Sandy. Yes, I think Rockwell will make another family happy.

At 10:14 a.m., September 20, 2007, Blogger Joan said...


I think you know I came into your journey with Rockwell very late in the process. But everything I read in your blog told me you're a fabulous, faithful, insightful, observant, honest, hard-working puppy-raiser.

And, like their humans, pups have different innate strengths and weaknesses. I know you're disappointed about Rockwell's not making it all the way through the program, but I can't help but believe there's another, equally as valid role for him that suits HIS strengths perfectly.

Those who need working dogs (to aid, guide, etc.) aren't the only humans who need the unconditional love of a faithful canine companion.

And Rockwell will make a loving, full-of-life, much-needed, joy-inducing addition to his new home in ways you may not even begin to imagine.

You did a great job, Julia. Your heart and hard work were evident throughout your journey.

If nothing else, be encouraged by how many other puppy raisers you helped through your process and by how much further along Rockwell is basic training for his new family (far further along than the average pet).

He has a purpose, different perhaps than what you hoped for or expected, but it's an important purpose none-the-less.

And what a privilege it was for you to be part of preparing him for that purpose.

All that is to say, yes, be disappointed, yes, grieve the loss of your dream for Rockwell, BUT remember that he still has an important role to fill and that your labor was not in vain.

Joan (from LabTails)

At 11:26 p.m., September 20, 2007, Blogger L^2 said...

I'm so sorry to hear the news about Rockwell. However, like others above me have said, even though he did not end up where we all hoped he would, ultimately he is where he was meant to be.

And you have nothing to feel guilty about - you gave the gift of your love, and guidance to start him off right for his life's journey. The people he goes to will be extremely lucky to call him a member of their family.

I have really enjoyed following your journey with Rockwell, and will miss reading your updates. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

All the best to you and to Rockwell in your futures.

- Laura (Willow and Stella too!)

At 7:54 a.m., September 21, 2007, Blogger Runza said...

Oh Julia,
I'm so sorry to hear about Rockwell. He sounded like such a wonderful dog. I'm sure he will make a family so happy. And they will forever be greatful to you for giving him to them. I'm sorry Rockwell didn't go to his intended job, but he will still be making someone's life better.
Love the pic of you and Rockwell on the couch!

At 10:04 a.m., September 21, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Joan, as always, you are an inspiration and I thank you for your insight. Mostly though, I thank you for keeping your Labtails blog which makes me smile every day.

Laura (et al!), thanks for your support. I'm glad to have been a small part of the community of service dogs and may even be a part again, one day, when I'm ready!

Runza, keep up the good work! And your human, too, with all the other puppies.

At 12:00 p.m., September 24, 2007, Blogger MK said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:41 a.m., September 25, 2007, Blogger Granny J said...

Julia -- I do hope that you will get back to blogging at your other sites! I've been checking regularly & didn't think to come to your puppy walking blog. A sad post; but then, my neighbor has a dog that didn't make it through his particular training. Now, he's a dog dog, who dreams of chasing my cat and actually does chase frisbees.

At 4:18 a.m., October 01, 2007, Blogger MK said...

Hm, it would appear Blogger burped on me. Sorry for that other comment. :-x

I do want to say however, that through no fault of your own did Rockwell choose a career change. I'm fairly new to blogging here but for the past six months I've read your blogs on Rockwell and I think you made such progress with him before he returned for formal training. He will make someone in his new home very happy because of the manners, basic training and socialization that you gave him. I worry quite often that my current puppy in training will face the same difficulties Rockwell faced in training. He too has shown me anxiety and distraction fairly often... but only time will tell.

Rockwell will be able to love both you and his new family in his puppy heart. I hope the guilt and pain will lessen over time. You did an amazing job with him. You should be proud of everything you've done and accomplished with Rockwell in the past two years (even if he was allowed on the couch for a cute picture).

-MK & Edgar

At 10:54 a.m., October 01, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Granny J. part of the time when I wasn't blogging, I was cycling in the Maritimes. I have written about 4,000 words about that trip and am only halfway through (writing) it. When I have finished writing, the story will be up at my guru blog. Plus I have been stewing about getting a real job. But that's yet another story.

MK, thanks for your kind words. I wish you luck with your puppies. Don't forget to go read Jenny's blog about Truman, for more inspiration in puppywalking. I can't believe how much he looks like Rockwell.

At 1:40 p.m., November 10, 2007, Blogger Erin & Rei said...

I'm really sorry to hear about Rockwell in some acspects, and in other he chose what he would be most happy doing! And I hope he has a long and happy life!!!
Kudos to you for helping him on his way!

At 9:46 p.m., November 10, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks Erin! I wish you well on your third puppy!

At 1:41 a.m., November 15, 2007, Blogger matt & amy said...


I loved reading your blog and about your adventures with Rockwell. It is not until recently that I could say that we maybe understand. It may sound trite, but we hope that with time some of the "stuff" that comes with having a career changed dog fades away and you are left with the wonderful memories of what a good boy he is, and what a service you did for him, and for those whom he will meet in the future.

Paige was CC'd last week and we're still not out of the emotional chaos. Rereading your last entry gives us hope.


At 7:15 p.m., November 17, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks A&M, I just read your last entry about Paige and it IS an emotional roller coaster. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, I guess.

At 2:23 p.m., December 01, 2007, Blogger Wiry Axel said...

Hi Rockwell,
Axel here from DWB.
We invite you to visit our site http://wiryaxel.blogspot.com/
where you'll read about the Blainville Wire Case. It's the heart-rending story about 97 wire fox terriers that were sorely abused in Montreal in 2005. You may have read about it in the press.

Many of the poor dogs died; but some survived and were taken in by foster parents who nurtured them and brought them back to health. Now the monster who perpetuated this awful treatment is up for sentencing and wants some of the dogs back. To prevent this, we are asking dog lovers everywhere, and particularly in Canada, to sign a petition and write a letter to the judge presiding over the case. You'll read all about it on our blog and on other blogs by Jake & Harry, Gus Dagger, Buster, and Agatha and Archie -- all wire fox terriers on the DWB. But, of course, it's not just about terriers -- it's about all of us canines who can fall into the wrong hands.
Please help if you can.

At 7:34 p.m., December 24, 2007, Blogger Furkids in Hong Kong said...

Though you have had to end this blog, and I am unsure if you'll be reading this - I'd still like to wish you, Pete, Rockwell, your family and all those you love a very happy, safe and healthy Christmas and New Year.

Group hugs!

At 10:18 p.m., December 24, 2007, Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks Furkids! I always get comments as email and I have not shut the blog down so I got yours tonight. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well. We have two feet of snow outside the window so it really is a white Christmas for us this year.

We wish you well and all your fur kids too, in the upcoming Year of the Rat. Speaking of which, go rent the movie "Ratatouille" - it is brilliant.

All the best, Julia

At 8:58 a.m., December 26, 2007, Blogger Furkids in Hong Kong said...

Will do juliar. Thanks for the recommendation!

Now gotta burn off all them calories!

At 6:34 p.m., January 04, 2008, Blogger StarOfFate said...

Hi, my name is Kristen. I am doing a school project on the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind and that's how I stumbled upon your blog about Rockwell.
I just wanted you to know that my family is the one that has adopted Rockwell!
He is a very excitable and loveable dog and he fits right in with the family.
He is very happy in his new home and we all love him.
If you like, I could send you some pictures of him :)
I hope this message makes you feel better about your decision to have guid dogs find a home for him.


At 10:11 p.m., January 04, 2008, Blogger JuliaR said...

Oh Kristin, you don't know how thrilled and happy I am to have received your comment! I know Guide Dogs doesn't tell the foster family where the dog went, probably for fear that we would become stalkers or something. But we did love Rockwell while he was a member of our little family (a pack of only 3 including him) and we wanted him to find a really loving family where he could fit in and be loved in return. My Dad particularly thought Rockwell was very special. I always thought he could do something amazing with his life and it is still early days.

Recently, I have been watching "The Dog Whisperer" with Cesar Millan and that guy is a genius! I fear I do not have "calm assertive energy" or at least, I did not have it with Rockwell. Maybe I was too nervous and wished too hard that he would become a guide dog. Anyway, I have learned a lot just from watching the show (on National Geographic channel) and will use some of his methods whenever we do get another dog. And we will because we love dogs. But we just weren't ready to have another dog full time after our beloved Uma died.

If you are interested, I have other photos of Rockwell as a puppy that I didn't post to the blog. I would love to know how he is doing now so you can email me directly if you like at jringma AT rogers DOT com, and we can exchange pictures. Also, if you need any help with your school project, I may be able to be a resource.

At 7:40 p.m., April 06, 2008, Anonymous Richard Laplante said...

It's always hard to say bye to a friend, even knowning Rockwell is going to a good home. Good work.

At 5:34 p.m., August 06, 2008, Anonymous dog checks said...

thats a great shot.. all curled up on you

At 7:22 a.m., December 24, 2008, Blogger The FOUR Musketeers said...

We wish you a Merry Christmas ,
We wish you a Merry Christmas ,
We wish you a Merry Christmas ,

xoxo ,
Four Musketeers & family
Lady , Zena , Cody & Joyce

At 11:38 a.m., April 28, 2009, Anonymous Cool Dog Checks said...

ahhhh cuddle time

At 2:30 a.m., June 01, 2012, Anonymous Treadmill said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences here on your blog.

At 2:07 a.m., December 15, 2013, Blogger Tammy Sexton said...

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Happy Holidays!
Tammy Sexton
Marketing Coordinator
Tammy at TheUncommonDog dot com


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