A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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Autumn’s Views on Impending Retirement: Sad and Celebratory Realities
21 Jun
By 2020Visionquest
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Autumn, a black and tan lab in the grass next to an empty harness.

Autumn sits in the backyard, next to her harness, ready for whatever comes next.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Seneca, Roman Philosopher

From the first moment I lift the harness handle, I always know the day will come when I lift it for the final time. These are transitory times and Autumn has decided she’d like to begin her transition towards retirement as well.

COVID-19 changed our routines dramatically and she was already entering the age range where it would be reasonable to expect she might start thinking about retirement. The beauty of the partnership is that it is always her choice to guide me. Similarly, it is her choice when she may want to retire. My role is to be aware of the signs and to react appropriately.

Black and tan lab looks expectantly at the camera, wearing a harness, with snow in the background.

One of Autumn’s earliest photos at the start of her time with Randy in March 2014.

I have observed the signs, spoken with her trainer about them and we are in agreement. For now she is still working for me when she wants and it is appropriate but I have begun the steps to bring a new guide dog eventually into my life.

What does this mean for Autumn? She is healthy, happy, and generally still quite energetic. As such, she will stay with us and receive all the love and appreciation her delightful nature and years of work well deserve.

For now, I can offer her the opportunity to work if she wants when the situation affords us an opportunity despite the COVID-19 restrictions. This is generally going to be tremendously reduced and only if she is inclined.

We’ll also make a little more of an effort to have Tracy become more prominent for her. This will help her adjust when an eventual new dog arrives and I need to be certain to build a very strong bond with the new guide.

I’ll still love Autumn and give her plenty of attention and she’ll also have Tracy more primarily in place to support her on all aspects of that transition. No doubt though, she’ll always be my sweet and lovely Autumn!

Randy, Tracy and Autumn laughing on a summit peak. Tracy wears a bright pink top and Autumn is caught with her pink tongue out in the middle of licking her own nose.

A happy family photo with Autumn, Randy, and Tracy. They’re ready to embrace the future!

In the meanwhile, I have sent in my application to begin the process with Guide Dogs for the Blind. I have spoken with their admission department and they are collecting my medical records and some other materials.

I’ll have a form of home interview in the not too distant future to evaluate my orientation and mobility skills, my walking pace, and a little more insight into my dog expectations.

These are not conventional times for Guide Dog training and we will all work together to evaluate the process and planning together. It may be a prolonged process and that’s ok.

I’ll be using my cane a fair bit more for awhile, but there are many reasons why I personally vastly prefer the wonders of a Guide Dog. I think I highlight that entire process rather well in our book “See You At the Summit” for those who want more insight.

Man with sunglasses, curly hair, and a mauve shirt hugging a happy black and tan lab dog with her tongue out, panting happily.

Randy and Autumn snuggle after a presentation, a common occurrence.

The good news is that I have the most important part still with me: Autumn is my beloved dog and I always appreciate my dogs even more than their incredible guide work.

So while I eventually hope to have some incredible adventures with a new pup guiding the way, I have a host of memories of adventures with my awesome Autumn.

She’s still right here beside me easing into the retired life until we can find the right pup to take over her role.

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