My Experiences at Raising My First Southeastern Guide Dog

My Experiences at Raising My First Southeastern Guide Dog

I will never forget the feeling of my stomach dropping and the tears welling up in my eyes as my fourteen month old golden lab, Cookie, was called to be taken away from me forever.

During the summer of 2012, I approached my mom about a segment that I saw on a local news channel. The news story was about Southeastern Guide Dogs, and how they were looking for volunteer puppy raisers because they had an influx of puppies in the kennels.


I told her that we should look into becoming puppy raisers. My mom told me that it was something to consider. At the time she thought that it was just something I said out of interest after seeing the segment, but that I wouldn’t actually follow through with my statement.

But by the end of August 2012, my mom and I found ourselves at the Southeastern Guide Dog campus in Palmetto picking up our first puppy: a ten week old Labrador Retriever.


At the time that I discovered the organization, I was unaware that my deceased grandfather always loved and admired Southeastern Guide Dogs. When my grandfather discovered the organization, he made a promise to himself that every year he would make sure that a portion of our family foundation’s donations would be given to Southeastern Guide Dogs.


When people first get a puppy, they have to come up with a name that the whole family likes. However, when you raise a Southeastern Guide Dog, there is no need for that.


The honor of naming a Southeastern Guide Dog goes to a sponsors who have  donated money. In honor of my grandfather, our family foundation made a donation to name the dog we would be raising. We named her Cookie after The Great American Cookie Company that my grandparents founded in 1977.


The first few months with Cookie was like having a little devil living in our house. She was teething, which meant that she was biting like crazy. At one point, my mom looked like a junkie due to all of the puppy bites and scratches up her arms.


Cookie was also known for getting to a store, having the opportunity to go relieve herself outside before entering the store, refusing to, then entering the building, and squatting to pee.


The rest of the time we had Cookie she was still crazy and high energy, but she was also loving and kindhearted. She is the type of dog who just wants to be with you all the time. She is a 65 pound lab who thinks she is a five pound teacup poodle. All she ever wants to do is be by your side and give you doggy kisses.


On Saturday August 31, 2013, my family had to face the depressing fact that it was time to turn Cookie in for training.


We arrived to the campus in Palmetto, Florida at eight o’clock in the morning. For the first 20 minutes, we had the opportunity to walk around the campus and find our dog’s poster with a picture of them as newborn puppies on it. We took pictures in front of Cookie’s sign and then went under the main cabana to start the ceremony.



This was the sad part; saying goodbye. They called up each dog one by one. The puppy raiser’s went up, gave their puppy one last kiss, and then handed them off to the trainers. Everyone was in tears as they called up all 26 dogs to be turned in that day.



After this we all took some time to regroup, and dry our tears. After that, we all walked over to the puppy kennel for “puppy hugging.” After that the breeding director, training director, and the Paws for Patriots director got up to talk to us about each of these programs.

At the end, we all left with a positive feeling about the whole thing. Although we were all sad about having to give up a member of our family, we knew that she was moving on the bigger and better things.


On Tuesday September 10, 2013 my mom and I found ourselves back at the main campus. We were picking up our second puppy! If Cookie was one end of the puppy spectrum, this new puppy is at the other.



She is calm, well behaved, and tranquil. She does not bite, and she does not terrorize out other two dogs in the house. She lets us know when she needs to go out, and she sleeps through the night without any whimpering. She is a 16 week old female Gold-a-door, a mix between a golden retriever, and a lab.

We have not heard any news yet about how Cookie’s training is going but we do know that she is being considered as a breeder dog. If she becomes a breeder dog, she will live with us through her pregnancy, and then go back to the main campus to deliver her puppies, and stay with them to nine weeks.


After she delivers anywhere from two to four litters of puppies, she will retire and become our house pet.


Although my entire family is hopeful that we get her back, we also understand that if we do not, it means that she was destined to change someone’s life for the better.


We are also all excited to be starting the journey over again with our new puppy, who is yet to be named. We are excited to se e what amazing things she does, and the peoples lives she