Alberta Is Heading West

Post opToday’s post will be short — an update on Alberta.

Alberta had her surgery last week. Her right eye was removed. She also had all kinds of medical tests and — Great News! The tumor was benign, and she is completely healthy (no cancer)!

I still encourage you all to register your dogs with the Morris Animal Foundation for future canine cancer (and other) studies!

Alberta is recovering with friends near the Guiding Eyes for the Blind campus in Yorktown Heights, New York. Her host dogs (and humans) are being very gentle and sweet to her as she adjusts. They’re also working on a way to fashion an eyepatch — or, more likely, an entire wardrobe of eyepatches —for her to wear.

When she’s fully recovered, and her cousins are settled in their new home in Lolo, Montana, Alberta will join them. She loves Montana, will have a busy and interesting life, and, best of all, will still be part of our family.

Ever the celebrity, Alberta is one of very few career dogs to merit a retirement party and front-page news story. It’s a follow up to the feature story that introduced her to local readers three years ago.

Early Retirement

Alberta_closeupThe one constant in life with dogs is change — and that can be tough sometimes.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this: Alberta is retiring. Alberta and Deni are a match made in heaven if ever there was one. They adore each other, and Alberta is a cuddly, affectionate Mommy’s girl. For all her goofiness and antics, though, Alberta is an outstanding guide dog, a creative problem-solver, and the life of any party (or classroom … or faculty meeting …). In harness, she’s a consummate professional; off-duty, she’s an eternal puppy. Her love of fun will serve her well in her early retirement.

Alberta has a rare type of tumor in her eye. She will have surgery to remove the tumor (and the eye) this week, and she will retire from work as a guide dog. She will move to Montana later this summer to live with her cousin Mack and Mack’s parents.

Bayboro_Blonde-smAnd, knowing Alberta, she’ll figure out a “retirement job” soon enough. Maybe she’ll build on her experience as the model and spokesdog for 3 Daughters Brewing’s Bayboro Blonde Ale. Or further her media superstar career, launched by an article in the Tampa Bay Times, frequent blog appearances, and a USA Today story.

I’m sure she’ll continue to delight and amaze everyone she meets. I’ve learned a lot from her about doggy humor, intelligence, and empathy. She taught me how dogs can pass the marshmallow test, which turns out to be pretty similar to the way young children do it (they distract themselves). She taught Deni, the Dog Training Club of St. Petersburg, and dozens (hundreds?) of dogs and handlers that Rally and other dog sports are a great way for guide dogs and their humans to let off some steam. She’s helped Deni navigate torrential downpours, bizarre obstacles, and hostile vehicle and foot traffic, especially in crowded airports; in fact, she’s so good at it that Deni has no idea how many (thousands of) people Alberta has gently but effectively nosed out of their path over their too-short three years together.

While she’s leaving her job, she’s not leaving this blog; I hope to continue to follow her adventures from afar (and sometimes in person). And I’ll continue to tell Alberta stories whenever they’re relevant to revealing the amazing cognitive abilities of our canine friends.

Deni has a tough few weeks or months ahead: getting used to life without Alberta, waiting for a new guide, then adjusting to the new dog. Despite her delicate, petite physical appearance, Alberta leaves some pretty big paws to fill.