Most of the guide dog users that I know would tell you that in an ideal world their guides would work forever. Sadly this isn’t the case, and we, as their handlers, have to make the tough decision regarding when it’s the right time to retire them.
Back in May, I got my annual call from Guide Dogs to ask if I wanted a home visit from one of the instructors. Since Midge wasn’t having any specific issues that I could think of, I opted to just have a talk about how she was doing. During the conversation the instructor brought up the fact that Midge is almost nine years old, and it’s their policy to just check in about whether or not retirement is something I’m thinking about. At the time I said that Midge was fine, but just the mention of retirement apparently acted like a bug in my ear because after that talk, I started noticing things that I was probably ignoring.
It didn’t take long before I started arguing with myself about whether or not I could put up with issues I was experiencing with Midge, such as how she has been slowing down her pace significantly and getting easily distracted. I had a talk with a number of my friends who were guide dog users, as well as my husband. They all encouraged me to start the application process so that if I had to retire Midge, I wouldn’t have to go without a guide while I waited to get into a class.
I started the application at the end of May and I just had my home interview yesterday. Having the home interview made everything real. I know that Midge is ready to retire in a lot of ways, but I’m not sure I’m ready for her to retire and to transition to a new two year old dog. One of the great things about working a dog is that you become a well oiled machine. That all goes out the window with a new dog. You have to spend the time and effort to teach them everything the old dog knew and adjust to their greater energy level.
I would love to hear others’ experiences of retiring their guide in the reader’s forum. Also, if you’ve kept the old guide, which is what I’m doing, how did you help the old guide get used to the new one?