Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Who Needs Disney World?

Orlando, Florida is a mecca for theme park goers. People flock from near and far to take in the sights

at Disney World or Sea World, Legoland or Universal Orlando. However, like true puppy raiser geeks, when we recently visited Orlando, we decided to spend the day downtown tagging along with war veteran Bob and his guide dog, Ranger. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Lake Eola Park, situated in the middle of Orlando, Florida. Bob and Ranger's apartment is one of the tall buildings in the upper left side of the photo, several blocks from the park.

Young Ranger at the Washington, DC Zoo in 2010.

Ranger was the guide puppy we raised in 2009 and 2010. Dubbed my Prim and Proper Puppy, by the time he was 7 months old he had a maturity level way beyond that of his young life. Also blessed with a calm, steady demeanor, he was a natural-born guide dog. Later, when he went back to Southeastern Guide Dogs, I received his trainer's comments:  "Aces, this dog's performance renders me speechless." In another report:  "Just a supreme dog, would exceed in anything, and is as well behaved as you can hope for." It would be nice to take some credit, but in all honesty, I think Ranger simply had it in his blood.

Now, in April of 2013, we are given a rare opportunity to glimpse his life as a guide dog and get to know the man who spends 24/7 with Ranger. I was afraid Bob would not want to be disturbed and was expecting a quick visit down in his apartment lobby. But I was pleasantly surprised. As Ranger guided him, he guided us! Ambling the busy streets of downtown Orlando, we took a tour along his favorite routes, including the Publix grocery store, a nursing home he visits with Ranger, and other haunts. The highlight was a stroll around Lake Eola and the surrounding park.
Bob and Ranger
We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe, saw swans, ducks, squirrels, and numerous dog walkers, all of which Ranger gave but a casual glance.

Dorian facing off with a pair of resident black swans.


In the 5 hours we spent with Bob, Ranger and Bob's friend Pat, we swapped many stories of Ranger. I constantly marveled at the way the two worked together so smoothly and comfortably, the devotion Ranger showed to Bob and vice-versa. Bob, who has quite a sense of humor, wanted to thank our son for "teaching Ranger how to find pretty girls"! I was happy to discover after 2 years, Ranger still remembered his puppy raiser. Near the end of the visit, Pat noted Ranger watching me closely, as if he knew our time was drawing to a close. Thank you, Bob, Pat and Ranger for an epic day. And Disney World, you'll have to see us another time!

Keep on truckin' fellas!


  1. How special that you got to visit Bob and Ranger! I can only hope that whoever ends up with Dante will want to keep in touch like that!

    1. Hannah, yes I hope you can see that part of the puppy raising experience that comes so much later. It brings closure to a puppy raiser to see your puppy and their forever person together and see how that person's life is changed thru the hard work you've done. We have been very fortunate. All 4 of our puppies matched we stay in touch with, and have visited them all at one time or another. The partner always mention (several times) how grateful they are for their guide dog/friend. It makes that In For Training Day take on a whole new meaning. Sadness, yes, but a hope and a future too.

      Be warned tho, some people don't want contact and you have to respect and accept that. I know PR's who've have that experience too. Thanks for what you're doing.