Our friends raised this adorable puppy for Leader Dogs

January 10, 2015 • Posted in blindness, Blogroll, guest blog, guide dogs, Uncategorized, writing by

When our friend Mary Ivory told me early last year that she and her husband were going to volunteer to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I asked if she’d be willing to write a blog post about the experience. Mary is a clinical professional counselor, social worker, life coach, and co-author of Parenting by Strengths: A Parent’s Guide for Challenging Situations — she’s a busy woman, but she said yes to my offer right away, feeling sure she’d find the time to write. 

And then, the puppy arrived.

Mike and Mary live on the 12th floor of our apartment building. Imagine how many trips they took up and down the elevator for house training – and that was just the beginning! Mary explains it all in this lovely guest post.

Puppy raising: it changes the street life

By Mary Ivory

Everybody say aaaahhhhhhh! That's Ananda at a very young age taking a nap.

Everybody say aaaahhhhhhh! That’s Ananda at a very young age taking a nap.

My laid-back husband Mike came home one day in early November sounding defeated. “I just walked up the street and no one said ‘Hi’ to me!” We’d been living with Ananda, a female Black Labrador Retriever for ten months, and we’d just returned her to Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Mich., two weeks earlier. Mike had forgotten what urban life without a puppy is like.

We live in a very friendly and close knit neighborhood, but it’s still the big city. Everyone is in a hurry and distracted with their own lives, but you have to slow down when you are walking a puppy, and when others see you with the puppy, they often slow down, smile and say hello, too.

Watching and knowing what a dog can do for a person’s quality of life is a bit of happy mystery. Watching and knowing what a trained service animal can do for a person who needs assistance is the mystery turned into a real miracle. I have always had animals in my life, and as life would happen, I found myself with time and energy to volunteer to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs. Lucky for me, Mike was agreeable to this adventure.

As the job title implies, puppy raisers are charged with creating an environment and focusing on skills to help a puppy become a candidate for a career as a leader — a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired person.

Puppy raising is about nurturing a calm and focused dog to prepare them for the actual skill training that takes place after they are returned. For the first months of life after they leave the litter they live in homes to learn such skills as becoming house broken, yes that means going outside hourly when awake when they are very small. Yes, that means even in the winter of the polar vortex you go for a walk. You also are taught how to teach calm walking on a leash, not easy when your pup is sweet and just full of friendly wiggles and licks, and the other ‘basics’ like sit, stay, come, no, heal, down……oh yes and ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ as she snuck a sock from the dirty clothes or found a stray chicken bone on the street.

Everybody say "thank you" to Mary, Mike and all the puppy raisers for all the schools. It's a tremendous and generous effort.

Everybody say “thank you” to Mary, Mike and all the puppy raisers for all the schools. It’s a tremendous and generous effort.

And all of this happens during all hours of the day, which means you walk down the street a lot. It’s a busy but fun time — strangers snap out of a distracted or grumpy state to talk about the dog, and people seemingly down on their luck rise up to chat about and pet a friendly puppy.

That mystery of connection with animals and people is powerful and amazing to me. My busy city street transformed into a small town lane during the ten months Ananda was living with us. And yes, it was hard to take her back to her career home. Ananda, which means joy or bliss in Sanskrit, was an intense and wonderful presence in our lives.

Today I got an email from the Puppy Development Department at Leader Dogs with this picture telling us she is progressing in her career training. We miss her but are so happy we had this chance to be a part of this great big task, and who knows? We may do it again. Next time, though, we’ll sign up when the dog doesn’t need hourly walks in deep freeze weather.

Pam Berman On January 10, 2015 at 6:27 pm

This was really intresting to me to read. As a dog guide handler myself I’m use to the connection with people that happens when I’m out & about with my dog, but I love hearing how other people are awed by it. I hadn’t realized that it was even possible to raise a puppy for Leader dog here in Chicago, I thought you had to be living closer to the school in Michigan. As Beth said, thank you Mary & Mike for all of your hard work, love & commitment to raising an amazing future Leader guide!

maryivory On January 12, 2015 at 7:33 pm

YES! as we puppy raisers like to say. Awesome it is!

Nancy B On January 10, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Thank you Mary and Mike for your great work and for the post. She’s gorgeous! Great story.

pattibrehler On January 11, 2015 at 9:10 am

Love this! Thank you Mary for opening your home to Ananda. As a fellow puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind (yes, we have raisers in 22 states and Canada!), you are spot on. “My busy city street transformed into a small town lane…” Can’t be shy and raise a Future Leader Dog! Congrats on her training progress, those photos are priceless and ease the pain of saying good-bye. Dogspeed Ananda!

maryivory On January 12, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Nice to hear you share the love of the experience of puppy raising! It is awesome.

Judy Spock On January 12, 2015 at 12:34 am

Our son’s dog, Milo, is 16 years old…only 2 years younger than our granddaughter, Nadia! Milo is a ‘full player’ in our extended family. He has traveled to us (his grand parents) in Chicago since he was a pup, and is entirely committed to us. Seems to say, “Well, where have YOU been?!” when he finds us here, “It’s about time!” He is very silky and has long legs and ears, big feet….some kind of water Spaniel, I think. We love him very much.

bethfinke On January 12, 2015 at 6:33 am

Dogs are marvelous creatures, aren’t they?


maryivory On January 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Thanks for all the nice supportive comments. To tell the truth, I think we got more than we gave! YEAH for puppy raising!

Shannon & Don On January 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

We miss hearing the jingle jangle of Ananda’s tags as she walked up and down the hall to the elevator. Such a sweet girl and she will be honored to be the eyes for someone that needs her. You guys did a fantastic job. We do hope you do it again btw…..

bethfinke On January 16, 2015 at 11:36 am

Wow! That must have been fun having Ananda (oh, yeah, and Mike and Mary, too) right down the hall…


Deborah Darsie On February 1, 2015 at 3:40 am

The first few days without your puppy are among the most challenging.

TO: Mary Ivory and her husband – thank you for being a puppy raiser!
I foster puppies for a local assistance dog organization north of Seattle and have had the pleasure of 3 graduations. I hope Ananda makes it to graduation…or finds another career like a couple of ‘mine’ have!

The love and laughter a puppy brings into your life is priceless, isn’t it?

Mary On February 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Hi Deborah, Thanks for your note. We got an update from Leader Dog yesterday and she is doing well!!!!! The experince is truely priceless and the fun we had can not be bought! Keep on with your good work… we are still considering another pup…

Paula Brady On February 17, 2015 at 10:08 am

I live in Montana and will be picking up a puppy in March. I’ll be flying to Michegan to pick her up and will probably drive her back when her year is up. I’m so excited!

bethfinke On February 17, 2015 at 11:19 am

THANK YOU for volunteering to do this, Paula — I’ll forward your comment on to Mary to see if she wants to give any advice/suggestions —


Mary On February 21, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Paula- Happy puppy raising! It is the most fun I can think of! Work but fun… And you are really going out of your way to do this, I will say thank you for doing that! We got a note from Learder Dogs yesterday saying she is progressing well in her training. So nice they keep in contact. Let me know if you want to puppy raiser chat sometimes… it is good to have someone to talk to about this experience as you go through it…

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