With smiles beaming ear-to-ear, Puppy Raisers Narelle and Steve dropped by Guide Dogs WA HQ to chat about raising the sweet and lovable Fletcher. Now that his first birthday is fast approaching, the couple are reflecting on the past nine months with fondness:
“We were totally in love with him right from the beginning—we just lost our hearts to him.”
Fletcher settled in easily with the pair. They both work from home and often take trips down to their holiday house in Dunsborough, so making the time for their puppy was easy. Narelle explains how she feels about the experience: “I wouldn’t say ‘challenge’ is in the vocabulary at all. It’s been much more of a joy—pure joy—he just gives us so much.”
Several years ago, Narelle suffered a series of debilitating strokes. She lost the use of much of her left side, but admits the hardest part was losing sight in her right eye. She and Steve used this as motivation to give back to the community, for those who have suffered severe vision loss or blindness: “We just thought—what can we do to give back? We can make someone else happy, and change their lives in the process.”
To Narelle and Steve’s delight, Fletcher has been progressing in leaps and bounds in his fortnightly Puppy Classes. He is learning to respond to a whistle, which will be useful for a future Guide Dog user.
He responds to the whistle extremely well, usually without hesitation—even when other people and dogs are around! This is a massive achievement for Fletcher, and Narelle and Steve swell with pride every time they talk about his progress.
The pair laugh as they recall the time when they were down in Dunsborough and had forgotten to bring the whistle. Their daughter had to release him from a ‘wait’ command with two high pitched “toot toots”—which left the three of them in stitches. True to his intelligent nature, Fletcher understood the command immediately (not to anyone’s surprise) and knew exactly what was being asked of him.
“Fletcher has just made us so happy—he’s made the world of difference in our lives.”
Puppy Raisers welcome a puppy into their homes from the age of 8-12 weeks. They work closely with the Guide Dog Team, socialising the puppy and teaching basic obedience skills, such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘up-sit’ and toileting on command. The dogs enter formal training at approximately 18 months of age, where they learn the guiding skills.
The couple are often asked how they’ll manage to give him up when the time comes. With tears in her eyes, Narelle explains: “It’s bittersweet… But we have to remember the difference he’ll make. It’s not about us. It’s about him.”
“I just think this is the best thing we’ve ever done.”
You can help raise the next generation of Guide Dogs! Find out more about applying here.