Retiring Nestle to a Life of Leisure

Usually, when I write for the PHC blog, I try and emphasize all the good things about working with a service dog – and there are many. I wouldn’t stop working guide dogs for anything in the world, but there is one aspect of partnering with a working dog that I will never enjoy…and that’s what I have to post about this time.

The thing is, dogs get older.

They do it much more quickly than humans do, and nobody has invented a magic anti-aging pill for them yet. What happens when a service dog gets older? Their person has to start planning for them to retire. Senior service dogs don’t get to join AARP, but they usually do get to stop working and live as fabulously spoiled pets.

Nestle, the best guide dog ever, is 8 years old now. She has started letting me know that now would be a good time for me to begin planning for a new canine partner, so she can live the life of a spoiled princess. I started noticing changes in her guide work in April, but I told myself that she was just having an off day every now and then. Or maybe she was bored. Or really any excuse I could come up with, so I wouldn’t have to come to terms with the fact that Nestle is getting older, and it would be time to plan for her successor.

Lately though, she wants to work when we first start out. But after a while she starts to get tired. She’s always been a fast dog, but that isn’t so much the case any longer. Also, her work isn’t quite as accurate as it once was, meaning that I find myself knowing far more than I’d like about where light poles and other obstacles are located! And as of about a week ago, we sometimes have to make stops  on longer routes so Nestle can have a break. She used to be able to walk 4 or 5 miles without a problem, and still want to keep going. Now, I wouldn’t even attempt that kind of walk with her.

When Nestle does retire, she’ll get to live with some of my relatives. They adore her, and she loves them, so it should be a good fit for all involved. They also own their own business, so she’ll get to become the official mascot and greeter. Somehow, I don’t think she’ll mind that at all. I would love to keep her myself, but I plan on training another dog, and Nestle really is an only-dog kind of girl.

I have begun planning for my next furry partner, and I should be able to share details about him or her with you all in a few weeks. For now, the plan is to keep Nestle with me until I get the new dog. Then, she’ll get to do all the things working dogs can’t. It’s bitterweet.


Photo Credits: Feature image from Inset photo is Nestle on vacation with Shanna.

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