Hi! My name is Pumpkin, and I am a Guide Dog for the Blind in training with the Guide Dog Foundation through the University of Maryland, College Park. Starting at 7 weeks old, I have been by LMD’s Account Coordinator (and my foster mom) Morgan’s side learning the ropes.
Three to five times a month, Morgan and I go to training classes where I learn obedience. My status as Guide Dog in Training allows me to go wherever Morgan goes for maximum exposure and socialization. This means shopping, restaurants, the Metro, the doctor’s office...and LMD. I’ve even flown on an airplane several times.
6:30 am: I jump up as soon as Morgan’s alarm goes off! It’s time for breakfast, the best part of the day. Breakfast is an important part of my training. I must sit and wait until Morgan says it's ok to eat. I can never eat food off the floor, only out of my bowl or if Morgan gives me a treat. And I can never, ever have people food (a fact I intend to take to court).
7:30 am: I sleep in the car, to make sure I am really charged up and ready to go when I get to LMD. I sit in the passenger seat well so that I become used to sitting at my handler’s feet. When we ride the Metro or an airplane, I sit in front of Morgan or under her when possible.
8:00 am: I arrive! I have to start working immediately—I mean, I basically run this place. Morgan starts checking her email and lets me stretch my legs. LMD’s office manager Monica is the first in the office, so I go greet her and bring her a toy. Then my first task is to collect the rest of my toys and scatter them around the office (for accessibility.) I also check Cathy’s office to see if my friend Neptune is here! He came in once and I check every day to see if he’s back.
9:00 am: As my employees start arriving, I greet them individually. As my co-workers arrive I select the toys I think they would like best and show them off. I can only have hard toys like Nylabone or Kong. This is because I have very strong teeth that can destroy soft toys, but also so one day I don't confuse my handler’s pillow or a stuffed animal with my toy!
10:00 am: If it's Monday, I need to supervise the Monday staff meeting. It may look like I am asleep but I just think better with my eyes closed. While my employees review their accounts and plan for the week, I contribute very important points in the form of loud snoring.
11:00 am: While Morgan works on her accounts, I take another hour to think with my eyes closed. A very important part of my training is to “settle” by my handler’s side. When we are on the clock, all guide dogs must be calm, centered, and focused on their handler. When my vest is off, it’s playtime!
12:00 pm: Lunchtime! I like to wait outside the kitchen door so anybody who wants to get their lunch HAS to give me pets first. If it's nice outside, I’ll join my employees on the patio for their meal. Sometimes Morgan takes me with my other employees to get lunch out, but I don’t get any. (Rude.)
1:00 pm: Where did the day go? I catch up on some chewing. I am an excellent multi-tasker and can sometimes chew three bones at once!
2:00 pm: My afternoon meeting to watch the parking lot starts. My favorite window to look out of is the one in Karen’s office. I let her think she is the President even though we know who really runs this office (me).
3:00 pm: I meet one-on-one with Scott to discuss his current assignments (playing with me). Sometimes he brings in toys for me!
4:00 pm: Some more deep thought under Morgan’s desk where I snore loudly. If I am interrupting a call with my snoring, she might wake me up, which I do NOT like.
5:00 pm: My day is finishing up! Morgan collects my toys and returns them to my bed so I can scatter them tomorrow. I say goodbye to my employees and head out. I’m already so excited for work tomorrow!
If you would like to learn more about raising a guide dog like me, or know someone in need of a Guide Dog, check out the Guide Dog Foundation, which has an extensive presence in the Baltimore and DC metro areas. Click here if you would like to help the University of Maryland students sponsor a Guide Dog for the Blind.