My good friend Megan emailed me the other day to describe her surprising findings when she googled “A Pup with a Purpose” (the name of this blog). She said the blog only appeared on the second page of Google's results. I was surprised to hear it came up that high. But I was even more startled to learn that the first page was dominated by news of the Today show's current project of raising a service-dog puppy (“a puppy with a purpose” is their tag line).
Not being a regular Today show viewer, I knew nothing about this. But I've spent some time exploring the various links, and it's almost creepy to compare Wrangler's life with Kyndall's. He's a boy, introduced to the show's viewers January 14, when he was 10 weeks old. That would make him only 2-3 weeks younger than Kyndall. They look enough alike that they could be twins.
He doesn't belong to CCI, but rather Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a New York-based organization that places dogs with puppy raisers on the Eastern Seaboard and trains them to help folks with visual impairments. From what I can tell, some aspects of the two organization's training regimes are very similar. For example, pups are with their puppy raisers for about a year and a half before going on to work with professional trainers.
In other ways, Kyndall's and Wrangler's lives are astoundingly dissimilar.
— Although the Today cast is boasting that, “We're raising him for a good cause,” Wrangler actually lives with a Guiding Eyes for the Blind staff member who previously raised two other puppies. She apparently has to get up hours before dawn every weekday and drive the puppy to the Today show studios in Manhattan, where he's been spending his days in a plushy enclosure so filled with dog toys that it reminds me a bit of the ball pit at SeaWorld. Wrangler has been doing this since he was barely 2 months old. In comparison, Kyndall (like all CCI dogs) wasn't supposed to go out in public until she was fully immunized at about 4 months.
— Although Wrangler mostly is in the studio, on Wednesdays he makes an appearance before his adoring fans in Rockefeller Plaza, where the HGTV “Property Brothers” built him the sort of doggy playground one might expect to find in a Manhattan billionaire's digs.
In contrast, here's what Kyndall was doing last Wednesday:
— Wrangler gets regular cuddle sessions with celebrities who are even more famous than Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. Kyndall hasn't had one yet.
— According to Today's website, Wrangler has more than 120,000 Twitter followers. Kyndall has 0.
Perhaps what intrigues me most is that I haven't heard even a hint that Wrangler might not make it as a guide dog. Everything I've seen on the Today website suggests his success is a fait accompli. In contrast, from our long and painful experience, I know that only about 25% or so of the CCI puppies actually graduate to careers in service. And we've long understood that the road to being a seeing-eye dog is the most challenging of all, since those dogs have to learn not only to obey commands flawlessly, but also to selectively understand when to disobey them (to keep their masters from unwittingly moving into the path of danger.)
In fact, the Guiding Eyes for the Blind website states explicitly that some of their candidates wind up being released, adding that the most common reason for that is, “we find them too sensitive to withstand the pressures of decision-making.” So TV hypesterism probably explains the cockiness of Wrangler's publicists. I can hardly blame them. (I considered entitling my own blog “Service Dog Wannabe” but decided that lacked a certain zest.)
I guess I'll have to follow Wrangler's career to see if he actually makes it. What with raising Kyndall and blogging about our adventures and trying to keep up with the rest of my life, I'm not sure I have the time to keep up with the flood of video and other Wrangler on Today's airwaves and website.
But at least I can follow him on Twitter.