North Delta pup rises to prominence as Lt.-Gov.’s Vice Regal Greeter

The former guide dog candidate was adopted by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon after failing training

It’s a difficult job being the Vice Regal Greeter of Government House when you’re just a two-year-old puppy.

There’s food to be licked off the floor. Balls to be chased through the front foyer of the house. Tails to wag when Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon (a.k.a. Dog Mom) walks through the front door.

Luckily, Olive is up to the challenge.

The North Delta-raised labrador retriever was adopted by Guichon in May of this year, after Olive flunked out of the B.C. and Alberta Guide Dog program.

Local resident Judy Smith was the one raising Olive and mentoring her to become a guide dog.

“They say it’s a volunteer job like no other, and it really was,” Smith said.

For 16 months, Smith was responsible for socializing Olive and giving her basic training. She taught Olive how to “get busy” outside when the pup needed to relieve herself, attempted to teach her how to not chew up three pairs of shoes and taught her the importance of patience when being dressed up in doggy-Halloween costumes.

It was all the joys and stresses of raising a puppy, with the added benefits and rules put forward by B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs.

Because Olive needed to be comfortable in unusual situations, Smith took Olive everywhere. Together, the pair went to the movie theatre, the local legion, a wedding, some funerals and, of course, the grocery store.

“You name it, we did it,” Smith said. “She was better known than me at the places we went.

“People sometimes referred to me as Olive’s mum.”

The ability to take Olive everywhere was enjoyable, Smith said. She got a kick out of taking photos of Olive sitting next to signs saying No Dogs Allowed.

But there were some rules that B.C. guide dogs have to adhere to, and Olive found it hard to adjust.

While Olive was in the program, Smith never threw a ball for Olive.

“They weren’t allowed to play with balls,” Smith said. But “the first thing she always did anyways when she went to the park with other dog owners is she would chase their balls.”

If a dog is ball-crazy, Smith explained, it’s possible they would take off down the street to chase one, dragging the person holding the leash behind them. The same thing is true of dogs who are distracted by other animals.

Guide dogs are also meant to sit on the floor of the passenger seat when travelling in a car — something Olive truly struggled with.

In the first car ride Smith had with Olive, she barked and howled, trying to get up on the seat.

“Even the last week she was with me, she’d get up and turn around and shift me into neutral,” Smith said.

But the real problem — the thing that ultimately got Olive disqualified from the guide dog program — was the barking.

“I personally didn’t mind it, because it’s protection a bit,” Smith said about Olive’s tendency to do territorial barks at unknown dogs or people around her house.

“She would recognize my son’s car when he drove up, but strangers she actually knew and she would bark at them.”

When the barking was first noted, Olive was recommended for the B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs breeding program. But Olive wasn’t a fan of the vet, and ultimately wasn’t given the go-ahead for breeding.

In March 2017, almost a year and a half after Olive started training to be a guide dog, she was disqualified. This created a difficult situation for Smith, who had fallen in love with the yellow dog.

“I am too much of an animal lover — I could not do it again,” she said. “I had a very hard time giving her up.”

Smith decided she wasn’t able to keep Olive because she anticipates eventually downsizing into a home that wouldn’t support an active, growing puppy.

“I thought, well, it would be better to give her up now than to have to give her up three or four years from now.”

It would have been around that time that Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon was looking for a furry friend to complement her Government House home.

“Sometimes on the weekend if there aren’t a lot of events happening and the staff aren’t around then it can get a little bit lonely here,” said Rachel Rilkoff, the communications and events officer for the lieutenant governor, and the one in charge of maintaining Olive’s blog.

“So it’s been really nice for her just to have company.”

Olive was brought to Government House in mid-May and, according to Rilkoff, seems to be enjoying life in her official capacities as Vice Regal Greeter and Vice Regal Eater.

“She’s such a social dog, and she’s got an extremely calm, friendly temperament. She’s excellent at meeting absolutely everybody,” Rilkoff said.

Olive gets dressed up for events, and can often be found under a pile of kids, giving them sloppy kisses. On quieter days, when Guichon is working in her office, Olive can be found lying at her feet.

When Guichon travels for personal reasons, Olive will often go with her. But sometimes Olive has to stay at Government House on her own, hanging out with the Commissionaires, security guards and Frank, the director of events, programs, outreach’s dog.

“When Her Honour’s not home, and you come in the house for work and Olive’s there with the commissionaire, she’ll come running to the door, because you know she’s looking for Her Honour,” Rilkoff said.

For Smith, giving up Olive was “probably the hardest decision I made.”

But, “she couldn’t have a better life,” Smith said.”It sounds like she’s around people all the time.”

“I have no regrets giving her up.”

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Olive often gets dressed up for government events. Luckily for Olive, government dogs are allowed to play with balls, unlike guide dogs. (Rachel Rilkoff/Government House photo)

Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon and Olive took to each other right away. (Photo contributed by Judy Smith)

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