From the time I retired my second guide in 2014, I knew I wanted another guide dog. By that time, I had changed my stance on dog breeds. I had been matched with a black Labrador for my first dog, and a Golden Retriever and black Labrador cross for my second. The bonding and work ethics of those dogs didn’t mesh well with my personality. After years of German Shepherd handlers telling me how wonderful their guides were and how different their work and bonding processes were, I finally decided to give the breed a shot. Unfortunately, the school I was with at the time couldn’t promise me a German Shepherd for at least two years. There would be another one to two years on top of that because I wanted home training this time. Therefore, I started looking for other options and found the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.
From the moment I started talking to other Fidelco handlers and with the school staff, I knew they were the right choice for me. They are the only school that specializes in breeding and training German Shepherds, and they exclusively provide in-home training.
Once I retired my second guide dog in October 2014, I immediately applied to Fidelco. I had all of my paperwork in by the end of October that year, and they scheduled my home interview for November. I was ecstatic. The turnaround time was much faster than I expected. The trainer they sent to me was brilliant and funny. The trainer was wonderful to work with and answered all my questions with total patience.
After the home interview, my file would be submitted to the selection committee for review. Since they weren’t having a meeting in December, I would have to wait until January before they would review and make the decision. What a wait that was. Come February, I received my acceptance letter in the mail, and I couldn’t have been any happier. Once again, the turnaround time had been quick and painless. However, there came the wait to hear if and when they had found a match for me.
I was told that German Shepherds are great dogs and hard workers, but they take a special type of handler. It could take up to a year to find the right match. I prepared myself for that and settled in for the wait.
April arrived, and I got the call I’d been waiting for. My trainer was calling me to say that he had found me a match. He was going to give it another week or so to be sure, but he would let me know. The week went by, and then two. I was getting nervous. What happened? Did that dog not work out for me? Did they forget about me? I decided to call and follow up. He then told me that the dog he had originally chosen for me wasn’t quite the dog he thought I should get. He told me not to worry because he had found another one that he thought was perfect. We arranged to start training in May. I would get twelve days of training, and we would train in my home area and around El Paso. We would go over anything and everything that I could think of that I might do with my new partner. The excitement was almost too much to handle and I think that month was one of the longest I have ever lived through.
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