At last! News everyone can be happy about: retired Seeing Eye dog celebrates 17th birthday today

February 8, 2017 • Posted in blindness, guide dogs, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized by


  Hanni’s still spry at 17!

Bring out the party hats! Hanni turns 17 years old today. You read that right: seventeen.

Loyal dog followers know that after Hanni retired from guide work, she went to live with our dear friends Nancy and Steven. They started celebrating the big day last Sunday with a visit to nearby Homer Lake–Nancy sends audio messages to my iPhone whenever they head to that forest preserve. The audio reports are a joy to hear — they always come with background sound of Hanni panting after a run or chomping on well-deserved treats. “We’re getting ready for Hanni’s big 17th on Wednesday,” Nancy said in Sunday’s audio report. “It’s a beautiful day, sunny, the geese are out, hard to believe it’s February.”

I guess it should be hard to believe that a 17-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever Cross can still get out and enjoy a romp at a forest preserve, but I’ve gotten used to it. My first Seeing Eye dog Dora retired at 12 and lived to be 17 years old, and my third dog, Harper, who retired after saving us from getting hit by a car in Chicago traffic, is healthy and robust at age 8. The excellent health of these mature dogs has everything to do with the wonderful friends who adopt my retired dogs, but the care and research the Seeing Eye and other guide dog schools put into their breeding programs deserves a lot of credit, too.

Some schools still train service dogs who’ve been donated from individuals or from animal shelters, but the more established guide dog schools breed their own dogs in order to end up with the unique traits so important to guide work:

  • excellent health
  • intelligence
  • temperament
  • willingness to work
  • ability to thrive on praise

The Seeing Eye breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Lab/golden crosses and German Shepherds. Decades of research has gone into the Seeing Eye’s breeding program, much of it driven by the fact there is no “perfect Seeing Eye dog.” Dogs of all sorts of temperament, size, strength, speed and energy are necessary to match with blind people who come to the Seeing Eye school with, guess what, all sorts of temperament, size, strength, speed and energy levels. The Seeing Eye web site says their breeding station has “interconnected geometric pavilions, designed so that dogs can see each other and see people enter the kennel, so barking–not to mention stress – are greatly reduced.” Their goal? “To provide a facility most conducive to a positive early childhood experience for the puppies.” I just love that.

And I just love Hanni, too. I’m so grateful the Seeing Eye bred her for me, and so happy to think of her celebrating with Nancy and Steven today. Happy birthday, dear Hanni. Happy birthday to you.

Linda Lyon On February 8, 2017 at 1:06 am

Love this! We love Hanni, too. She has visited us at our summer home in Galena with Steven and Nancy. She is a most considerate and welcome guest!!

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 7:25 am

Galena? Whitney is jealous…

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ojdoherty On February 8, 2017 at 3:30 am

Happy birthdayy Hanni. You have the same birthday as my beautiful God daughter so I should remember. Although she is only two. What is the secret that keeps your dogs living so long? I need to know!

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 7:27 am

Not sure. Luck, maybe? I do keep their weight down, if that helps.

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Sharon Kramer On February 8, 2017 at 5:57 am

My birthday wishes to a great dog.

Marilee On February 8, 2017 at 8:16 am

Happy Birthday to the famous Hanni!!

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 9:11 am

You know, she is the most famous Hanni I know of — although years ago a blog reader named Hanni left a comment and said she herself was named for a well-known Olympian skater…?

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Jane Hertenstein On February 8, 2017 at 10:26 am

Job well done Hanni!

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

I’ll say!

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Bev On February 8, 2017 at 1:57 pm

She looks great and evidently won the retirement jackpot with Nancy and Steven. Happy birthday, Hanni!

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Yes. I may ask them if I can retire there when the time comes….

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Pam Berman On February 8, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Awesome news Beth! G-d bless Hanni! €™I’m tickled to learn that she is a Golden/lab cross, for my new guide Gumbo is a cross and I’m looking forward to having him around for a very long time. A very happy healthy birthday to sweet Hanni!

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Welcome to the club, Gumbo! Whitney is a lab/Golden cross, too=the best of both worlds.

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Laura On February 8, 2017 at 3:36 pm

So sweet! Happy birthday Hanni!

Hava On February 8, 2017 at 6:14 pm

How delightful! I wish her many more.

bethfinke On February 8, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Who knows? Maybe she’ll spend as many years retired with Steven and Nancy as she did working as a guide for me. She’s getting pretty close…amazing! _____

nbollero On February 8, 2017 at 8:43 pm

What a great post. Thanks, Beth. And Hanni got a great present today, snow!

bethfinke On February 9, 2017 at 10:19 am

Exactly what she wanted! I can just picture her romping in the snow…

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Charlene On February 8, 2017 at 9:36 pm

Happy birthday Hanni… I remember walking you on your outside PottyBrake at Chickasaw Elementary when you visited Florida. Hi to you Beth… love ❤️ from your favorite Fan, Charlene

bethfinke On February 9, 2017 at 10:20 am

Wow, that seems *years* ago. I guess it was!

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