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Harley and Us

Puppy Raiser Christine shares her fond memories of Puppy Raising Autism Assistance Dog Harley.

“Harley was introduced to our family mid-December, a little blonde bundle who had travelled from Adelaide to Perth to commence his journey as an Assistance Dog….

Yellow labrador puppy running with his mouth open and his ears flapping in the breezeHaving always been “dog” people we had recently taken a decision to volunteer at Guide Dogs WA. Our family dogs had lived long and enjoyable lives and the house had become empty with their parting. However, we weren’t prepared to make another 15 plus year commitment, so fostering a four legged youth for a year and a bit seemed like an ideal win-win for us, Guide Dogs WA and a young pup.

We completed the necessary screening and tutoring with Guide Dogs WA and sat back hoping we might be lucky enough to be assigned a puppy. That notification came just a few months later and Chris, Peter, Hamish and Bridget & I set off just a LITTLE excited to collect Harley, his bed and food and water bowls from Guide Dogs WA in Victoria Park. This is a day we will never forget.

Harley slotted into our home and hearts within minutes.

Toilet training and its inevitable hit and miss consequences are easily forgotten and became replaced by memories of a small Labrador greeting us each morning at dawn (or just before), two paws on the edge of our bed, breathing into our faces doing his best to communicate “good morning, it’s breakfast time isn’t it ?”.

Puppy softness and excess skin gave way to a deepening chest, broadening shoulders and Marmaduke style jowls but the puppy-like love of some fun and games remained. No longer did the morning greeting require paws on the bed. Size enabled gentle Harley to rest his chin on the edge of the bed and, if you were the one dozing on that edge, a lack of response to a nice warm breath would be followed with a wake-up lick that would cover chin to forehead in one wet swipe.

Visitors to the house would always be greeted by an enthusiastic Harley whose tail wag extended to his hips and was sustained with such enthusiasm that his hind quarters made him look like he was doing the twist! With the excitement of visitors, Harley always felt compelled to find something to offer the visitor as a welcome gift. It was generally the closet nylabone or plush toy lying nearby. Whatever the offering, it would be pressed firmly but gently onto the visitor’s leg until appropriately received. We worked to curb this enthusiastic greeting style as it doesn’t befit the role of a Guide or Assistance Dog but we will always remember with fondness how special a dog could make one feel when simply returning home.

Harley could best be described as a messy drinker. Having jowls measured in square metres resulted in his ability to continue to drip water around his bowl after satiating his thirst. Can dogs display a sense of humour? We certainly believe so and time with Harley reinforced that belief. When drinking, this uber relaxed Labrador would often lie down and had a habit of submerging his whole snout and blowing bubbles. Laughter would only prolong a water-bowl- jacuzzi display accompanied by a laconic tail wag. On one routine visit to Cottesloe Vet David, who volunteers so much of his valuable time, came out to investigate what the geyser-like sound was emanating from his waiting room only to double over in laughter as he spotted Harley, lying by the water bowl trying to empty it by blowing bubbles.

Ultimately the time came for Harley to transition from puppy training to formal training. We knew the time would arrive and felt satisfied we’d fulfilled our role of raising a puppy to become a confident, calm and well behaved dog. If we had a dollar for every person who said, on meeting us with puppy Harley; “I don’t know how you do it…..giving the dog back…..”, we’d have been able to replace every item gnawed by a teething puppy in those early days.

But, we went into puppy raising with our eyes open. Harley had a supremely important role to learn; we had loved his company and he had taken up permanent occupancy in a part of each of our hearts.

We know of the difference Harley is now making with his forever family; we’re proud and satisfied to have played some part in Harley’s journey from playful pup to Autism Assistance Dog.

Would we do it again?……Well, we are…..Does saying goodbye get any easier? No, but the company and the fun and the satisfaction far outweigh the sadness of parting.”

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