Where It All Started

It was a short 19 months ago that Canine Companions® puppy Heartley started his journey to become an assistance dog. He was a little bundle of energy, chewing on toys and excitedly exploring his big new world. Today, with the help of his volunteer puppy raisers Cathy and her daughter Kaylee, Heartley is a mature, regal dog with a desire to serve. He has mastered all 30 commands taught by his puppy raisers and is now ready to take the next step to professional training where he will learn an additional 10 commands that will provide independence and support to a future partner.

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The Adventures They’ve Had

Heartley has learned to navigate a house full of equipment, loud noises, car rides, baths (which are his favorite!), other animals in the house, grocery stores, parks,  restaurants and everything in between. All of which is a step in preparing him for his lifelong goal of becoming a partner to a child, adult or veteran with a disability.

Working around the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic proved challenging and rewarding. While certain activities were no longer an option, Cathy and Kaylee found new ways to keep Heartley’s training on track, including a final visit with Bearemy. With masks on and socially distancing, they visited the Build-A-Bear Workshop Union Station store in St. Louis, MO for a final farewell to Heartley’s most favorite teddy bear, Bearemy. “It’s very bittersweet to spend this time with Bearemy knowing it will be Heartley’s last visit before professional training,” shares Cathy. “Build-A-Bear has been so kind to us and generous to Canine Companions and we will always be grateful for the time we’ve spent with them.”

A Bittersweet Farewell

Through tears of both joy and sadness, Cathy says, “We are going to miss his sweet face, his silliness when he’s not working, his eagerness to please and his wonderfully good demeanor. He has stolen our hearts but now it’s time for him to put those paws to the ground, listen to his trainers and change someone’s life.”

While the house may be a little quieter after Cathy ceremoniously hands off Heartley’s leash to a trainer at the Canine Companions’ North Central Training Center in New Albany, Ohio. The memories and joys of watching him grow up to become the handsome pup he is today will be with them always.

As we look forward in Heartley’s journey, we stop to say thank you to Cathy and Kaylee and their family for providing Heartley a safe home, a healthy diet, obedience training, but most of all… love.

To learn more about volunteer puppy raising, click here.

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