By: Skyler Howard (2014 GDB Puppy Raising Scholarship Recipient for Outstanding Essay)
Three freshman girls were sobbing uncontrollably in the school bathroom. “Why would he do it?” cried one. “How could this have happened?” whispered another. The news spread like wildfire throughout the school. By the end of the day, everyone had heard what happened: a freshman boy had killed himself.
The next morning, the hallways were silent. Words were either whispered or sobbed silently into a friend’s shoulder. The first bell rang and the noise was so loud it hit the walls and shattered into a million pieces. I made my way to English class with Triumph, the guide dog puppy I was raising, who was moving slowly by my side. The teacher was kind and decided not to give us a lecture. The class began to work on other homework or draw silently. Ten minutes into the period, three seniors drifted into the room and made a beeline toward Triumph. The quietly greeted me and Triumph, and then sat down on the floor with him. They stroked his paws and his head as he stared up at them with his large, understanding eyes.
“I wish I could stay here all day,” said one of the girls. The others agreed.
In spite of the tragedy of the situation, I couldn’t help but smiling a bit. When I looked at Triumph and the three seniors gathered around him, I could see the comfort he was giving to my classmates. Petting Triumph and sitting with him was making them hurt a little less. I could see that in their small smalls and hear that in their hushed voices directed toward the dog.
While raising a guide dog puppy, I have learned that it’s impossible for a puppy to influence just one person. Instead, a guide dog puppy influences a whole community. Triumph came to school with me every day and throughout the year he spent with me, I noticed just how much of an impact he made on my fellow students.
In my Japanese class, Triumph was the star of multiple skits. In my art and economics classes, he liked to sleep on the rug right in front of the door so that students were forced to stop and pet him when they walked into the classroom. In the hallways, many of my friends began to greet Triumph before even saying hi to me.
On the last day I had Triumph at school, my Japanese class had a party for me. We went out onto the tennis courts and everyone sat in a circle. Triumph slowly made his way from person to person, wagging his tail and calmly sniffing the face of each student. When class was over, everyone stood in two parallel lines and touched hands with the person across from them, forming a human tunnel for Triumph. The students cheered him through, and when he reached the middle he stopped and stretched. Butt in the air and tail wagging, he looked up at all the smiling faces above him. Everyone was so happy.
I began raising guide dog puppies because I have always loved dogs, but that is not why I continue to do it. Now I raise puppies because they have the ability to teach me so many things. Triumph taught me that sometimes a wagging tail is more comfort than another human voice, that people you barely know will stop and ask about your little dog in the green vest, and that an entire community can come together around a single dog.
Triumph also helped me discover what I want to do in my future. I plan to study animal behavior in college, and when I graduate I want to work at an animal shelter or train service dogs. Because of my experience raising guide dog puppies, I know that continuing to work with animals as an adult is what I want to do. Seeing the impact that a dog can have on a person’s life and on a community is truly amazing, and I know that I want to continue experiencing this miracle.