We love hearing stories from our puppy raisers and graduates. Here’s one we had to share, written by Karen of New Mexico, after seeing the dog she raised graduate at last Friday’s Hearing Dog graduation in Santa Rosa.

“Well, the day I’ve dreamed of since we started raising puppies nearly 7 years ago has come and gone – and it was everything that I’d hoped it would be!

Gathering at Hearing Dog Graduation

We arrived at Canine Companions at 11:45AM and after a brief rundown of the schedule, we were taken to the room set up for the luncheon.  We found our table and there was a beautiful picture of Cadence and her new person.  This is when the tears started flowing.   Ken Reid, the trainer, handed me a box of tissue.  😮  Then the graduates came in.  Cadence’s new person, Chris, and his family – wife Jennifer and four sons ranging in age from about 16 to 6 plus Jennifer’s mother walked over to us.  I hugged Chris and apologized for my tears and assured him they were happy tears.  I was worried that my emotions would make him uncomfortable.  His wife said, “Don’t worry, Chris has been crying all morning!”  We spent the rest of the day passing the tissue box back and forth.

We talked more than we ate – learning all about each other.  Chris lost some of his hearing as a young child, and then completely lost the hearing in one ear about 8 years ago due to a virus.  He had been a professional tennis player in his younger days, and then worked as an inspector for large home-building business, quickly rising to the top.  After the loss of his hearing, he was unable to do his job due to his difficulty communicating, and resigned his position.   He now teaches full-time in the school his wife founded, “Hands in Motion” that offers enrichment classes for home schoolers.  Jennifer has a masters in ASL (American Sign Language) and their dream is to help families dealing with sudden hearing loss.

I gave him the beautiful photo album that my sister, Becky, had made.  He and his family were thrilled to see pictures of Cadence growing up.

Cadence joyfully greeting Karen

Then it was time for Michael and I to go see Cadence.  We could see her on the patio with her trainer through the glass doors.  As we opened the door, she perked up, then as we came out, her tail started to wag and then her whole body was wagging!  Ken handed me the leash and we went over and sat down in one of the chairs – Cadence practically climbed into my lap licking my face.  Then Michael sat down and she did the same with him.  She was soooo excited to see us!  And it was such a thrill to see her wearing the blue vest of a graduate!  We walked her around Canine Companions’ campus and met up with Martina, who had Narha, and Cadence’s mother, Caro, and father, Pryde, and their breeder caretakers who had come for the graduation.  I had never met them in person, but we had corresponded via email while Michael and I were raising Cadence and during her 13 months of professional training.  It was so great that they came to help us celebrate.

After spending about 45 minutes with Cadence, it was time for the graduation ceremony.  Michael and I and Cadence sat in the audience.  The NW executive director welcomed everyone, and then Ken showed the video taken of the dogs and students during Team Training.  Then one by one, the graduates went up to the microphone and told a little about themselves and what getting a hearing dog would mean for their lives.  When Chris spoke, he told how he lost a big part of his life when he lost his hearing, and how he would not only be coming home with a dog, but with that part of his life back.  He went on to quote the poem, “Footprints in the Sand”, and said that he knew that now in addition to his footprints, there would be pawprints, as well as the footprints of all who had a hand in bringing this wonderful dog into his life.  Ken then introduced Michael and I, and we walked up with Cadence and I handed the leash over to Chris – who gave me a knowing smile and handed me a tissue before giving me a big hug and saying “thank you” in my ear.  He then gave Michael a hug, and someone snapped a picture of the four of us.

After the ceremony, there was lemonade and cake, and everyone hung around visiting.  Chris’s youngest son came over to us and said “Thank you for raising Cadence”.  Michael told him “Cadence is a really good dog, so you take really good care of her.  :o”  And he replied, “We will!”

Michael and I and Cadence’s new family then gathered on the patio for pictures.  Chris Kittredge, and her breeder Adah, (Cadence’s grandmother) had also come.  Chris is a professional photographer who does all the photography for Canine Companions and she took tons of pictures of all of us.  Too soon it was time to say goodbye.  Jennifer told us she wished we lived closer so we could see each other more.  Martina told her that I would be back this fall to whelp Hilani’s next litter, and next thing I knew, she and Jennifer had made plans for Jennifer to bring her home-schoolers over for a field trip to see the puppies!  As we were starting to leave, Chris said to Michael, “It must be really hard to give Cadence up.”  To which Michael replied, “After seeing her with you and your family, we know she’s where she’s supposed to be.”

Michael and I are so blessed to have found Canine Companions.  Little did we know when we brought home Laurie, our first little ball of fur, what a wonderful family we would become a part of.  And now it is just a little bit bigger.”

Do you have a story to tell? Share it with us at cci.org/mygreatstory.

One thought on “Reflections of a Volunteer Puppy Raiser

  1. This is a beautiful story. I am just beginning my quest for a service dog. I have MS and am always dropping things. Then when I bend down to pick it up, I loose my balance and sometimes fall. I need a service dog and I’m hoping someday to feel the emotional charge that you and Cadence’s family feel.

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