The first time I saw Lacey, I was surprised how petite she was. She radiates joy and personality in her 55-pound English Labrador frame. She is so verbal sometimes she seems to be talking. Her tail is in constant motion, an established threat to glasses set onto the coffee table.
According to Southeastern Guide Dogs, she is in the top 10 percent of all their canines. She would have been an excellent guide dog, but she had an even higher calling. Because of her genes, personality and intelligence, she was chosen as a breeder to produce future guide dogs.
Southeastern seeks out families who can provide a warm, loving home for the breeders and can return them to the school when it's time for them to propagate.
Three years ago, after my husband and I lost our 16-year-old found hound, Jasmine, I started volunteering at Southeastern, which is situated on 35 park-like acres in Palmetto.
The organization needed puppy huggers to socialize the little ones. I needed puppy hugs. When we heard there was a need for host families for the breeders, we applied and were matched with Lacey.
It's amazing that this bundle of potential now sleeps under our bed. She had her first litter of future guide dogs in November 2012 and now is tending to her second with eight golden bundles.
People often ask me what it's like to have a houseful of puppies. I wouldn't know, since they are born at the school, where ultrasounds can monitor fetal heartbeats, stress levels are measured, and blood samples are taken.
We visit her weekly during the 8-week whelping period, giggling and cooing and taking pictures.
Lacey will be 4 in October, which means she is nearing the end of her breeding career. Breeders often stop at age 5.
Once she's retired, we will adopt her, and Lacey will become officially ours.
We get to keep her while her offspring are out in the world helping provide independence and confidence to people in need.