May 2001

Dear Mom,
We have spring, do you? Everything smells terrific and the bugs have come back, and it’s sunny and wonderful except that by next week I’ll be bald.

All my fur is falling out. Every time I shake, I lose some more. I think I will look pretty stupid with just wrinkly skin and no fur, but Miss Ami keeps brushing me anyway and last week she sat me down and took the vacuum to me. Almost lost an ear! No kidding—she’s nuts. Whoever heard of vacuuming a dog?! Thankfully she didn’t drive the thing over me, she just yanked the hose out and tried to suck my skin into the bag. It’s OK, Mom. My skin’s still stuck on real good and I even have some fur left.

We’ve done a slew of cool things the past couple of weeks. First we went to the beach with Aunt JoAnne and some other dogs. There were five of us and only two humans. It was so exciting.

That’s Murdock, Shayna, me, Baker, and Charlie. Aren’t we cute? Oh yeah, that’s Aunt JoAnne holding our leashes. Us leader dogs always have to be on a leash. That’s in case one of our humans wants to take off and chase a duck or something. Yeah, right! (That’s just a little dog humor.)

I don’t know if you know this, Mom, but they have water at the lake. Great gobs of it. And it’s wet, just like the stuff when you get a bath, only much colder and no suds. Aunt JoAnne went in the lake with the other dogs and called me to come, but I didn’t want any part of it except that they were having so much fun and she was calling and calling me and I was at the way end of my retractable leash and then I decided to run to her AND I GOT ALL WET! Yick! It was awful. I was so surprised I just stood there and then I ran out and she laughed really hard and said I was a blonde! Well I am and I don’t like the water at all. I’d rather get vacuumed.

And Murdock, that dope, swam all the way under water. ‘Course I’ve seen him drink out of his water bowl and he does the same thing — sticks his head all the way down past his eyes. He thinks he’s a fish or something. I like to be dry, thank you. Miss Ami was just as chicken as I was. She didn’t get wet either, except when I leaned all over her jeans to dry off.

After swimming we posed for pictures in the car.

That’s me. I’m kind of on top of Shayna ‘cause she wouldn’t move out of the way and I wanted to make sure you could see me in the picture. See me smiling big, Mom? Then after us are the three dark dogs. You can hardly see them. So I’m glad I’m blonde! Anyway, that’s Murdock, Baker, and Charlie.

Here we are again. Charlie is the oldest of us dogs. He’s driving. (Not really, Mom! We’re dogs; we’d get arrested for sure!) I’m in the way back in the window. You can hardly see me.

Anyway, a couple days after the lake we went to a dinner theater a couple of hours away. Lots of the puppy raisers and puppies went with us. We caravanned down in three vans and here we are getting ready to go inside.

We all had a really great time especially when Aunt JoAnne left plastic “park” on the floor to make one of the puppy raisers think his puppy left him a present in the restaurant. He tried to scoop it up and everything. I laughed so hard I almost fell over.

Then everybody played a trick on Aunt JoAnne. She had Murdock under the table and Miss Ami was keeping an eye on him. Then they passed Murdock all the way to the back of the room and snuck him out the door. When Aunt JoAnne didn’t see him they told her somebody took him out to park before the show started. Then Aspen’s humans asked the Stage Manager to help surprise Aunt JoAnne. And he did! Just as the curtain was going to go up he brought Murdie out on stage in front of everybody and asked if anybody lost a dog! Then Aunt JoAnne turned colors, mostly red.

We have a new puppy in the group. Her name is Carmen and she’s really soft. This is her with Aspen’s human. Aren’t they cute?

Once the humans stopped playing tricks our whole group was nice and quiet. Us dogs were all really good during the show, except Rudy sang a little. He was pretty much on key and real quiet, so I don’t think anybody cared.

Aspen slept most of the time part way under the stage. He’s such a goof, so I took his bone when he wasn’t looking. I think he still likes me. Then Murdie stole it from me. By time Aspen got it back when it was time to go I bet half a dozen puppies chewed it. But that’s what we do. We all get along really good.

I’m just about all grown up and ready for school now. I know my basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “come.” I also can go backwards if I’m someplace and can’t turn around, and I know “up-up” for scary stairs like bleachers, airplane steps, fire escapes where you can see through the steps, and for getting up into the van.

When we get to doors that have the hinge on the left, I know the “around” command and I move to Miss Ami’s right side instead of her left to go through the door where I’ll have more room and be safer. Then after we go through I go back to her left side when she says “heel.”

I know “heel” to walk good and I “lead out” so my head and shoulders are in front of Miss Ami. That’s perfect position for when I get my harness. I try to walk at just the right pace so that my leash is really loose and when we stop I always face forward and stand really still. Leader Dogs don’t ever sit down unless they’re told to, otherwise we’d yank the harness out of our blind partner’s hands.

I can find my bones and bring them to Miss Ami when she says, “Go get your bone!” and I know how to “kennel up” at night. I also know “Get out!” when she catches me in the bathtub and I haven’t been invited to lick the water out of the faucet. But, my best thing is when Miss Ami asks, “Do you want to go bye-bye?” That’s what she says when it’s time to go to work. I get to wear my Future Leader Dog cape and we go special places to practice stuff.

I expect I’ll be going back to school any time now. I sure will miss everybody here, but I’m going to learn so much at school. That’s where the real training starts. I probably won’t be able to write as much, but I sure will try, Mom. Wish me luck! I’m going to try my very best and learn as much as I can. I want to make you really proud of me.

I love you,

Daisy will begin the next part of her adventure on May 12 when she goes back to school to begin her formal training. Hopefully she will master the skills needed to become a Leader Dog and begin a long life of service with her blind partner. We are grateful to Leader Dogs for the Blind for entrusting us with her care and thank Sam, Bev and Kathy at the Puppy Department, Dr. Smith, Michelle, Erin, and all the staff for their guidance and support.

Sharing our lives with Daisy over the past 10 months has been a remarkable experience for our family. Watching her grow from little pup to almost-grown-up dog has been nothing short of amazing. We’ve always known that our time with Daisy would be short. Still, as we prepare for her departure, the list of things we’ll miss about her gets longer and longer.

Our experience with Daisy would not have been such a rich one were it not for JoAnne and Dale McDonald, our Puppy Counselors. Their contagious enthusiasm and tireless devotion to the Leader Dog program is second to none. They planned countless outings for the puppies, provided us with much needed guidance in all things “doggie,” and offered us their friendship. Through them we met other Puppy Raisers in the area who were just as generous with their time and talents. To all the Mid-Michigan Puppy Raisers we offer our sincere thanks and heartfelt gratitude.