A Lifetime of Leader Dog Support

By Wendeline L. Wagner, DVM

Published in: Update - Issue 1 - 2017 »   

Wendy Wagner raised the first of four Leader Dog puppies when she was just 16. She credits who she is today to the experiences she had as a puppy raiser.

Ed Lange Jr. holds Apollo just minutes
after Zephyr (larger golden on right) passed his test to be matched
with a client. Also pictured are Wendy and her sister Stephanie.

Ed Lange Jr. holds Apollo (Wendy’s second puppy
raised) just minutes after Zephyr (larger golden on
right) passed his test to be matched with a client.
Also pictured are Wendy and her sister Stephanie.

In the summer of 1981, a golden retriever named Zephyr became the first puppy I would raise for Leader Dogs for the Blind. At the time, raising a Leader Dog puppy was a Michigan 4-H project and though I lived in Minnesota, it spurred me to join 4-H in my area. Because Leader Dog was supported by Lions, my father joined a local Lions club.

Since people outside Michigan were not familiar with Leader Dog, I was often asked to speak about the organization and puppy raising. My parents drove me and Zephyr all over Minnesota and into Wisconsin as I presented to over a hundred schools, civic clubs and Lions clubs that year. There were many challenges, not the least of which was keeping a growing puppy happy while I gave a 45-minute presentation in a dark supper club.

We returned Zephyr to Leader Dog the following summer on our way back from a family vacation to Washington DC. We were delighted to receive a tour of Leader Dog and to meet Ed Lange Jr., general manager and supervisor of the puppy program, at the time.

Wendy holds Zephyr, the first
dog she raised.

Wendy holds Zephyr, the first dog she raised.

The next puppy I raised was Apollo, a golden retriever, and then Larkin, a chocolate Labrador retriever. After taking many years off from puppy raising to complete veterinary school (an experience I shared with a career changed Leader Dog named Mohammad), I raised my last puppy, Seton, a German shepherd.

My experiences raising these puppies have been life changing for me. In the simplest terms, Leader Dog brought dogs into my life; but not just any dogs—the very best, most intelligent dogs. Dogs that were a joy to be around before they went on to change other people’s lives.

Prior to raising Zephyr I was very shy, but my puppy raising experience caused me to open up. I had to ask shopkeepers for permission to enter their stores, I learned how to explain who I was and why the puppy needed access to their business. Through my many speaking engagements I developed strong public speaking skills and was able to exercise these skills in a way unusual for most teenagers.

Today I am at a stage in my life that I have established my legacy plans. I have included Leader Dogs for the Blind in my estate plans and am proud to be a founding member of the Legacy Society. I urge everyone reading this to join me by including Leader Dogs for the Blind in your estate plans.

To learn more about Legacy Planning, please contact Roberta Trzos, CFRE, manager of gift planning, at 248/659.5014.