Thomas Wolfe coined the phrase, “You Can’t Go Home Again”, in his novel by the same name. But thankfully, that doesn’t apply to Seeing Eye puppies that don’t — or can’t — complete their formal training program as originally planned. Or so we would hope.
This past Thursday afternoon — six weeks to the day we said our puppy-raising “good-byes” to Zuke — we were notified by The Seeing Eye that Zuke was being released from their puppy training program due to a minor medical condition. It was nothing serious or life-threatening; however, it would preclude him from being considered for further formal training as a dog guide. Whenever this occurs, the puppy-raising family is often given first choice to adopt the puppy. So on Friday afternoon I made the drive to Morristown, NJ to formally adopt Zuke and bring him back to his familiar home in Doylestown, where we raised him for nearly 18 months.
Upon entry to The Seeing Eye’s main campus in Morristown NJ, I couldn’t help but notice the huge banner acknowledging 2009 as the 80th year that The Seeing Eye has been training dog guides and matching them to people in need of their services.
Having not seen Zuke for 6 weeks, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. However, after completing the adoption paper work, I was quickly greeted by one very happy black Lab puppy — tail wagging feverishly followed by a quick, unabashed roll-over onto his back in expectation of a healthy belly rub. Zuke was still Zuke!!!
Before jumping into the car for our ride back to Pennsylvania, I gave Zuke a good walk on The Seeing Eye’s campus and captured a quick picture of him near one of several bronze monuments on the campus grounds. It was admittedly the most reflective portion of our walk, because that moment-in-time represented a “destiny unfulfilled” for an otherwise healthy and promising puppy we so lovingly raised for a very special purpose.
The inscription by this monument reads: “BEST FRIENDS — The Seeing Eye gratefully recognizes the children, familes and 4-H leaders whose gifts of love and gentle guidance nurture our puppies during their first formative year preparing them for their special destiny as Seeing Eye dogs.”
Upon reading that plaque, although we were proud to have helped Zuke this far along in the program, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that Zuke would never reach that special point in the program where he’d be partnered with a person in need of a guiding pair of eyes. At the same time, I also realized that Zuke’s ultimate destiny is yet to be determined. And my wife Linda would love to introduce Zuke into the pet therapy field, where he could periodically bring a special dose of his energetic enthusiasm to people in need, while serving in a job that would be much less-demanding than that of a full-fledged Seeing Eye dog guide.
Meanwhile, Zuke is now back in Doylestown… making the adjustment to being our pet and loyal companion — all the while defying the notion that “You Can’t Go Home Again”. In fact, he’s most likely going to discover his ultimate destiny in his own way and in his own time. And from the looks of things (seen here with one of his favorite toys), he’s definitely going to have fun trying — amidst the comforts of home!
Watch this space closely, and stay tuned for future updates!!!