Wednesday, May 22, 2013

ASTA visits her puppy-playground

(Above: Toby and Asta: 2011)

I am sure that regular readers will not have forgotten a very special canine friend of ours:

ASTA is a Guide dog who spent her puppyhood in the committed care of my equally special friend - Lorraine. 

Asta was Lorraine's first puppy as a 'puppy-walker'. Subsequent to Asta, she has nurtured "Themba" and "Keltex" too.  I am always in awe of puppy-walkers - they give endless hours of their time in order to prepare these pups for a life with someone else.  There is no other way to say this - puppy-walkers are angels on this earth!

Anyway, you may also remember that ASTA and Mr TOBY were very close canine-companions when they were puppies.  Here are some pictures to remind you:

  During ASTA's puppyhood, we organised many 'play sessions' for them.  Asta and Toby were about the same age and adored each others' company.  Sadly, it was inevitable that their time together would end.

In October 2011, we all said 'good-bye' to ASTA when she returned to the Guide-dog centre to begin her formal training.  It was a bitter-sweet and tearful moment.  Lorraine had done a sterling job - nurturing this young dog for her big journey.  Lorraine's patience, dedication and care has shone through all the way and ASTA was ready for the hard work ahead.  

While ASTA was interned at the GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND we relied on random snippets of information about her progress. She did go 'home' to Lorraine on one or two brief occasions, but that was all. Lorraine waited patiently for news about her impending graduation. 

All went well and  ASTA finally graduated in September 2012.  She had spent nearly a year at Guide dogs before she was handed over to her new companion - Tracy Smith.  Tracy has been blind from birth and had been waiting for a while for a new Guide dog.  Asta and her formed an immediate bond during their orientation week and they finally went home to start their new life together.
(Above: Tracy with Guide-dog 'ASTA')

Quite coincidentally,  I received an email from a young woman who had read my book "MAXDOG".  Besides telling me about how my book had affected her, she also mentioned that she had a friend, called Tracy, who was blind and has a dog named Asta too.  It was the same person and the same dog. To cut a long story short, Lorraine decided to organise a tea so that we could all meet one another.  It would also give ASTA the opportunity to see and play with Mr TOBY again.  It has been approximately 18 months since the two dogs last saw one another. We wondered how they'd respond when they met up again.

At 3pm on Sunday, TOBY and I made our way to Lorraine's house. Soon ASTA arrived with Tracy and Lee-Ann.  They had hardly parked their car when ASTA bolted out of the passenger door.  She knew immediately where she was and entertained us all with a dance of absolute delight.  She bolted from one end of the property to the other in a celebration of familiarity.  Then she roped up TOBY into a vigorous romp. TOBY was equally delighted to see his old friend again.  After running around in circles for a while the two dogs ran straight through Lorraine's house to the back, where the swimming pool is located.  Like old times, they swam and chased one another in jubilation.  Amidst all this, I was also finally able to meet Tracy and Lee-Ann and we sat down to have a cup of tea and watch the dogs.

Here are some photos:
 (Above: Asta - all grown up)
 (Above: Asta and Mr Toby)

 (Above: Mr Toby - finally calmed down)
 (Above & Below: 'Asta' in the background and new puppy-in-training, 'Keltex' closest to the camera)

It was a lovely afternoon.  We munched on an array of delicious nibbles as we took in the spectacle.  Lorraine's new guide-dog puppy - KELTEX - was also present at the party.  It was so uplifting to watch ASTA in her "old" home; she hadn't forgotten the place at all and seemed to be rekindling the connection with her puppy days and her old canine friend.  

Having said this, I must also say that the working bond between ASTA and Tracy is incredibly strong - ASTA's attention is never far from her owner.  Their relationship is tender, happy and loving.  My heart went out to Lorraine too and I asked her how she felt about seeing ASTA again. 

"It is so wonderful to see how she has grown and the bond she has formed with Tracy.  She looks happy and beautiful.  Seeing them together simply reinforces my feelings that, in the end, it is all worth it!" Lorraine said.

In addition, I imagine that Toby's take on the afternoon would be something like this:

"When are you coming to visit again, Asta?"

(Above: Mr Toby, Lorraine, LeeAnne, Tracy and Asta)

Thank you again to Lorraine, Tracy and LeeAnn for making our meeting possible.

Once again, I commend the amazing work of puppy-walkers in general.  Their commitment to this cause is, quite frankly, amazing!  To bring a puppy into your home, train it up and spend so much time nurturing it and then to give it back, is a heroic deed indeed!

The relationship that ASTA has with TRACY is testimony to the selflessness of these incredible people.  I wish you all strength and encouragement as you go about your amazing work.

My thanks, too, goes to LeeAnn, who drove Tracy and Asta all the way across the city to come and visit us.  She is an awesome friend to Tracy.  You guys are a real team!

Sending lotsaluv and wishing Tacy and Asta many happy years together,


Dexter said...

She is just beautiful. Of course we never forget our dear friends from puppy days. I'm happy that she has a good job and is helping that nice lady. I hope you get to see her again soon.


cat said...

Oh gosh, I love this story!

Tracy said...

I agree. Puppy-walkers do a really amazing job. I have had Asta for less than a year, and I can't imagine giving her up.
We enjoyed our visit, and Asta was very glad to see her "boyfriend" again. :-)

MySpecialDoggies said...

Great story & reunion!

Nadine & goldens Neeli & Elle

Two French Bulldogs said...

Love seeing you romp around in the pool. It must have been hard saying goodbye to Asta
Benny & Lily

WFT Nobby said...

I remember Asta well. How wonderful that you had that opportunity to meet her again, and even better that it came about through MaxDog!
Cheers, Gail.

Emily and Laura said...

I'm so glad that Tracy and Asta are so happy together. I've had the good fortune to know several guide dogs, and they are just delightful -- so dedicated when they're working, so puppy-like when they're not. And much as I would adore being a puppy-walker (in the US we call them "puppy raisers"), I know I don't have the special something that makes for the best puppy-walkers. I just admire them from afar!

Thank you so much for this lovely story. After all the sadness here in the US this week (over the terrible tornado in Oklahoma), today has been a day for happy news all over the blogosphere. And nothing cheers me up like seeing a beautiful guide dog so happy in her work!

Mary Lou said...

"I am always in awe of puppy-walkers - they give endless hours of their time in order to prepare these pups for a life with someone else. There is no other way to say this - puppy-walkers are angels on this earth!". I can't but agree!! ;-D
What a neat and heartwarming story!! ;op
--Raelyn and Rose

The Life of Riley said...

What a wonderful reunion, and so nice that Lorraine could see how Asta is with Tracy.

Maxmom - the boys and I send you our best wishes and lots of love for the 23rd. Have a great bark-day with your friends and family.

Millie and Walter said...

How exciting that you all got to meet and Toby got to see his old friend.


24 Paws of Love said...

How cool the circle of life is and that you were all able to reunite.

Mrs. JP said...

What a wonderful treat to hear how Asta is doing and that Toby got to have a visit! It is a small world, yes? That, they had read your book and it all worked God is so good to give us the closure and affirmation we need and now Tracy has a new friend too.

Val said...

What a beautiful story!! I had tears in my eyes the whole time.
Congrats to Tracy.
Hugs to those wonderful puppy raisers/walker/handlers. I don't know if I could do it.
p.s. your birthday get away sounded amazing. :)