Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: A Gift of Puppies

Carolyn Wing Greenlee’s latest release, A Gift of Puppies, Getting Them Ready for a Life of Service and Love, is worth the price of the book for its puppy pictures alone. Compiled from actual words from Guide-Dogs for the Blind puppy handlers and edited by Carolyn Wing Greenlee, A Gift of Puppies is a treasure of stories about families giving their time, energy and love to puppies, only to turn them over to someone else for their permanent homes. How can people give these puppies up after devoting so much time and love? This book answers that question and more.

A puppy raiser serves a vital role in the eventual success of the partnership between a visually impaired person and a guide dog, allowing them to navigate with confidence and independence.

A Gift of Puppies has many touching stories of puppy raisers. Some of the volunteers are teens or younger, who, with their families, have given their time and love to prepare a puppy for a life with someone else. One of the stories is in the voice of the puppy and the adventures (and misadventures) of being raised in this environment.

A guide dog is bred and whelped at the Guide Dogs for the Blind training center in San Rafael, CA. Most guide dogs are either Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever (or a mix of these two), or German Shepard. Between six and eight weeks, the puppy is placed in a home that has been thoroughly scrutinized for safety and compatibility. No prior experience is necessary to become a puppy raiser.

A puppy raiser is responsible for teaching the pup good house manners and basic obedience, and most importantly, socializing them to the world. In addition to exercise and the exposure to a variety of scenarios,  puppy raisers must agree to participate in puppy raising clubs where they learn training techniques and where the pups can socialize with other dogs.

I was impressed with how much time puppy raisers spend with their furry charges. These dedicated people take socialization seriously as they include their pups on trips using various means of transportation (cars, trains, buses, planes), attend school, church, meetings, movies, restaurants, even dentists. All this helps the pups adapt to the different environments to which they may be later exposed. While working, the pups wear green jackets labeled “Guide Dog for the Blind, Puppy in Training” which should be a signal to onlookers to not touch or distract the animal.

Between 13 and 18 months old, a puppy is returned to the Guide Dogs for the Blind training center for six months of advanced, specific training.

Not all puppies become guide dogs for various reasons such as health issues, fears that cannot be conquered, or head-strong tenancies. Sometimes these dogs are “career changed,” which might involve becoming breeder dogs, companions for people with special needs, search and rescue, hearing dogs, or dogs that can detect certain diseases.

In one story, a woman raised a puppy who couldn’t make the grade to become a guide dog, but was welcomed back into the home as a breeder. This dog had three litters, totaling 22 puppies. Of these, 12 later graduated as guide dogs, and 1 became a breeder.

A Gift of Puppies is an enlightening book with first-hand stories told by people who have given of themselves so that others might benefit.  This is the third of Greenlee’s guide dog books. The first, Steady Hedy, deals with the author’s terror of going blind and her eventual sojourn to Guide Dogs for the Blind and the acquisition of her guide dog, Hedy. The second book, The Gift of Dogs is a compilation of stories about blind peoples’ journeys and the blessings of receiving their guide dogs.

Carolyn Wing Greenlee is the author of fourteen books and has edited more than twenty other books from “poetry to pioneers.” As a  Third Generation Chinese American from a California Gold Rush/Railroad family, she has brought to print many stories of her clan who would not speak for themselves. Now she is helping others, the blind and visually impaired, tell their stories,. For more information about the author, please visit


Carol said...

It sounds like a book about a fascinating and worthwhile topic. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Heidiwriter said...

I'm sure this is a wonderful book, as are all of Carolyn's writings! A fascinating subject.

iphones said...

thank you

Kaneko said...

Many thanks for this review, I am very pleased to see tha socialisation is given a big emphasis :)