Friday, March 13, 2015

Baldwin's Graduation

As a culmination of our work with Baldwin and Guiding Eyes, it was our extreme privilege to be able to attend his graduation as a working guide dog.  All along our journey we repeated to the kids and for our own benefit as well, that he was not our dog, he had a higher purpose than to be a pet.  Until graduation, I don't think that really sunk in.  The only information we received before the graduation was that Baldwin was going to a man named Tamas and that it was going to be his first guide dog.  Before the graduation, we were able to tour the breeding kennels which is such a great experience to be able to see where all of these amazing dogs have their start.  They are prepared for their future jobs right from the beginning, being exposed to different footings, sounds, and getting massages to prepare them for body handling.  We just love to see and play with all those puppies!  Cuteness overload!  Driving to graduation was a mess of emotions for us.  We had already said our goodbyes 6 months earlier when we dropped him off for training.  Would he remember us?  Would this handler treat him with the same love that we had given him each day of his life?  We were also intensely proud of how far he had come and the obstacles that he had overcome to get to this point.  We did not see Baldwin until he entered the graduation with his new handler and all the other dogs that were graduating.  He sat under his handlers chair an then we saw him sniffing the air and looking over to us.  It brought tears to my eyes.  As the graduation started we were surprised to hear that Tom would be the speaker for the class.  I could not hold back the sobs as he spoke of how much this dog would mean to him and his family and how it would make him a better husband and father.  After the ceremony we were able to meet Tom and reunite with Baldwin.  He went crazy!   As we walked down the hall he kept looking back to where the boys and I were.  We sat with Tom and learned that he had two little girls at home and even a golden retriever to play with.  What a comfort to know that he would still have kids in his life and a sister to frolic with.  Tom was so generous with the time we took with Baldwin and in telling us many details of his life so that we could know he would be well cared for.  He asked us why we began raising guide dogs.  My response was that we wanted our kids to learn to serve others and look outside of themselves in such a self centered world.  He was sincerely impressed and urged us to keep up the work and continue to raise dogs for people like him.  He told us that he works for IBM and travels a lot for his job.  Navigating airports had become difficult and his wife had told him to look into getting a guide dog.  Baldwin would be a world traveller and even go to Hungary once a year to visit family!  How very exciting for him!  We exchanged emails and said our goodbyes, promising to keep in touch.  As we left our hearts were not heavy, they were soaring!  We beamed knowing that our boy was a success and that he would be treasured.  Cameron told me that he wanted to feel that way forever and hoped we would keep raising guide dogs to help people like Tom.  Mission accomplished.  These boys did learn something through the process.  It was certainly a full circle moment to be able to see the fruits of our labor and truly understand what all of that hard work was for.  It has made us want to work harder with Fergus so that he too can serve someone in this way someday.  We felt honored and thankful to have been able to be a small part of the process.

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