I wasn't really sure I was ready to write about this. I thought that maybe I'd leave it over the weekend, but sharing seems to make it more real and also seems to help me grieve in a sort of way.
I have decided to retire Glacier.
There, I said it.
After years of struggling, going back for retraining, adjusting my handling practices and my in home behaviors, I have come to the conclusion that Glacier would rather be a pet. This decision was made so much harder because when he felt like working, he was spot on and excited about his work, but when he didn't feel like working, he was not good. The inconsistencies confused me for so long that I just kept working him.
I would look at walks that we had where he did great and try to replicate that in other walks, but no matter what I did, he always surprised me. I usually didn't know which Glacier I was getting until half way through our adventure out. He's always been firing on about 60 percent, and after retraining or if we were going somewhere new and exciting, he'd run on about 80 percent, but it never lasted. We've always had problems, right from day one, but I loved him so much that I wanted to give him every opportunity, but after he walked out into three intersections last week, I had enough. His laid back attitude about things was putting both of us in danger.
There is so much I want to say about him, but don't really know how or what to say. The guide dog rep summed it up yesterday when he said that somewhere deep in Glacier's psyche, he just wants to be a goofy guy with no responsibilities. Lately, the happiest I've seen him is when he's out just being a dog, rolling in the grass or running on the beach, or even just heeling by my side like a pet; with no responsibilities. He doesn't "smile" when we get ready to go out, I think it is a drudgery for him.
I feel horrible; like I failed him somehow. I couldn't be what he needed to be a successful guide dog. The guide dog rep made me feel a bit better by saying to Mr. K that I'm such a good handler that I make Glacier look better than he is, but I still feel as though I failed him.
What i really want, is to keep him and give him the retirement he wants and deserves. I want him to be a dog and I want to be the one who gives him that, but I don't think we can keep him. I really, really want to and after retiring Jetta, I had sworn that I wouldn't give up another retired dog, but I'm not sure we are equipped to keep him right now. However, I have some time yet as I will work him until the Guide Dog Association finds me a match and so who knows what will happen in that time. I've had a few friends say they would like him and if that means he gets to stay close and still play with Roscoe on occasion, then maybe we'll do that.
Whatever happens in the next few months, I am trying to grieve for our working relationship now, so that when my new partner comes along, I'll be ready to give that relationship all it deserves. For now, I will keep on as I am and hope that we can find some way for Glacier to stay with us or at least close by. I have learned so much from him and hope that I have given back to him half of what he has given to me. I don't think he should have ever been placed as a guide dog, perhaps a wheelchair assistance or Autism assistance, but definitely not a guide dog; there is just way too much responsibility involved in being someone else's eyes for him. He's such a beautiful dog, inside and out-I know, how cliche-that it is going to be so hard to let him go.
Anyway, it seems as though I am just stringing together disjointed thoughts, so I will leave it at that for now.