Puppy New Year

There are so many polarizing parenting styles out there: tiger moms, free-range moms, helicopter moms.  I’m not sure which one I’d be if FOP wasn’t a force in our lives, but since it is, my style is to help Sienna pursue her interests, while guiding her towards ones that are safe for her.  FOP is an ultra-rare condition where muscles and soft tissues turn to bone, progressively restricting movement, so I’d have to steer her away if she was hoping to pursue… say… gymnastics.
Luckily, Sienna’s biggest interest at the moment is dogs – reading about dogs, cutting out pictures of dogs from magazines, and playing with real dogs (which we limit to calm ones who won’t knock her over). I love that she is developing her identity as an animal lover, especially since she can’t pursue sports or dance like many of her friends.  And recently through our neighbors who are raising a breeder for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, we learned about the opportunity to socialize future guide dog puppies.  I thought this was perfect – an opportunity to play with puppies, learn about dogs other than our own, and do a good deed all at once!
We had our first experience socializing puppies over this past holiday break and Sienna said it was her favorite experience of 2016, so I wanted to share it with all of you to help kick off a great new year!
The goal of the program is for the puppies to have positive experiences with all different kids of people, houses, animals, noises, experiences, etc, so that they are ready for anything when they are called to action as guide dogs.  In the program you get 1-2 puppies for 3 nights.  The dogs in the program are labs and German shepherds, and this time, we received two German shepherds: Harper and Hampton.
Here is Harper, with her sweet fuzzy face:
And here is Hampton, with his dignified, attentive face (don’t tell his sister, but Hampton was our favorite):
Overall, this was the perfect activity over break.  Sienna had access to sweet and snuggly puppies who seemed to enjoy her attention – both took turns napping in her lap and she laughed continuously at their antics – full, hilarious, gasping-for-air belly laughs.  Laughter is the best medicine, right?  Sienna had gotten sick over just about every holiday break last year, and it happened again this Thanksgiving.  And she had been fighting a cold just as school got out this break, but the puppy project seemed to help keep her well.
Granted, the puppies were exhausting for us as parents – continuous peeing, even right after “getting busy” in the proper place outside (where do they store all of that?!), chasing our poor 8-year-old Pepper (who we quickly taught that the puppies couldn’t yet jump on the couch/bed/etc so she could go high for cover), trying to chew our carpets every chance they could get, and yapping at 6am when we’d rather sleep a bit longer.  But by their third day we had their routine down – no accidents and they seemed to have really gotten to like us, greeting us like their best friends when we’d only been out of the room for a minute.
But then it came time to say goodbye…  I had not considered how hard it would be to say goodbye to those fuzzy faces after knowing them for only 3 days.  We were so sad that we called and drove all over town to find two stuffed replacements to help fill the hole…  I’m not crying.  You’re crying!
But now that it’s been a couple of days since they’ve gone, we can look at their pictures again and all agree that it was worth it to get to know them.  We can’t wait to see them graduate at the top of their class and go on to be someone’s companion and guide!  I hope that they will recognize Sienna’s laugh from the crowd at graduation and wag their tails.
Puppy New Year to all of you!

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