The spring welcomed a new chapter on the journey of one of many special Canine Companions puppies. In front of a crowd of a thousand well-wishers, puppy Merial walked across the SeaWorld stage next to puppy raiser Cecilia to matriculate into professional training at the Southeast Regional Training Center of Canine Companions.

For the past year and a half, Merial was nurtured and raised in Cecilia’s loving care to prepare for this next step on the path to becoming a potential assistance dog for Canine Companions. Merial, the 16th puppy Cecilia has raised, got plenty of experience under her collar during her time growing and learning in Cecilia’s home.

“Merial has been a special puppy to raise,” says Cecilia. “At just ten months of age, she visited the Ellis School summer camp for children with developmental disabilities. She was a real pro, allowing one child to groom her gently. Merial even got in a hammock swing with a child that could only lay beside her. When his hand was placed on her he got the biggest grin on his face that you ever saw!”

Merial’s matriculation is a bittersweet time for Cecilia. Each one of the puppies she has raised leaves an imprint.  In fact, Cecilia takes a paw print from every puppy just prior to matriculation. Thanks to her selfless commitment and hours of socialization and basic obedience, Cecilia knows she has prepared Merial for professional training as best as she can. “Of course I am hoping for the perfect match for her as an assistance dog,” states Cecilia. “But whatever her journey may be, she will do well.”

As for Cecilia, raising puppies for Canine Companions is a true labor of love.  She recently started the journey with puppy number 17, Cecil!

Learn more about raising puppies for Canine Companions.