My 16-year-old granddaughter, Hannah Claire Kelly, is working on a project that could earn her The Gold Award—the highest honor given to a Girl Scout. If successful, she will have spent a full year helping train a service dog, a dog that will eventually serve as a life-long companion for a blind person.
On March 3, 2012, Hannah and her mom, Amy, and grandmother, Dot, left from Houston, Texas on a flight to Tampa, Florida. The destination was the South Eastern Guide Dog School in Palmetto, the birthplace of a thirteen-week-old black Labrador retriever, Barb—the smallest of Sparky and Bailey’s eleven-pup litter.
Hannah remembers that it was love at first sight when she initially sighted Barb. An overwhelming moment, her baby, an eighteen-pound bundle of joy, a very mellow, petite puppy. She also fondly recalls the fancy four-course dinner on Saturday night hosted by the School. Three types of families attended the dinner along with their dog, each dog at one of three levels of training. There were those there to pick up a puppy like Hannah, Amy and Dot, families returning their dog after a year of training and a blind person there to take home a well-trained dog.