A letter from a puppy raiser –
A couple of years ago, my family and I were at Baylor football game, one of the things we like to do each fall. At halftime, Canine Companions for Independence made a presentation which included several pairs of Canine Companions graduates with their human partners. It also featured Judge Kinkeade holding up the cutest lab puppy. We were so touched to see the faces of those who had received a Canine Companions dog. That was it, I looked at my husband, he looked at me, we wanted to be a part of this organization! We started the puppy raising application process that day!
We are a busy household with two pre-teen daughters, whose lives are full of school, sports and other extracurricular activities. In addition, we have a pet dog and a friendly, but independent, cat. As we watch our girls grow, we see their desire to volunteer, to give back to the world, and to help others who may be less fortunate than they are. There are canned food drives, Girl Scout cookie sales and requests for sweaters, coats, used sports equipment, etc. I hope it goes without saying – we wholeheartedly support all of these efforts. Still, we wondered if there was a way for our girls to experience giving in a way that would be tangible. We wanted them to see, feel, experience and teach. Raising a puppy is something they contribute to each day. From feeding him as part of their chores to walking him around the block to working with him on his commands.
Naturally, we worried about raising and loving a puppy for a year and a half, treating that puppy as our own, and then returning him back to Canine Companions. Many people express their reluctance to puppy raise because of that, and I completely understand. But when I hear that reluctance, I encourage them to attend just one graduation ceremony. The stories, the lives and the smiles of the recipients fill the void that giving up the puppy leaves. I am especially moved by seeing the children, some of whom struggle to communicate with people in the world, receive their assistance dogs. When seeing their dog, they suddenly brighten up, smile and wiggle with excitement.
We turned in our first puppy just this past August. It was a very emotional day for us. In all honesty, our girls were very sad about leaving Albie there. So was I. Some people say it’s like taking your child to college, but I am not there yet. There were a lot of tears. But there was a lot of hope too. What will the future hold for Albie?
When he was a young puppy, I liked to whisper in his ear that he was born for amazing things. I’d look in those soulful eyes and tell him that again and again. I hope that Albie is fulfilling the wish that I had for him. I hope he will become someone’s everything — their trusted confidant, their gentle listener, their tireless worker, their source for unconditional love and their key to being a part of the world. And I am humbled and amazed to be part of his journey.