Tomorrow will hold Graduation and Matriculation ceremonies all over the country for CCI’s wonder dogs.  In all my social media feeds, I’ve seen nothing but chatter about upcoming graduates or pictures of matriculating puppies and I am filled with love, admiration and excitement for those stories and for those puppies.  I can’t help but think about what I will experience in August of 2014, and then again in February of 2015. 

Every morning, I wake up and I let my beauty out of her kennel.  We stretch together, and out the door we go to Hurry before breakfast, (her, not me!)  We play, we cuddle and it is a wonderful start to the day.  When I come home from work, the routine is the same, except this time I sit on the floor and she sits in my lap for as long as I’ll let her.  I sure love this dog.  But with that daily routine, comes the daily reminder that we are working one day closer to our last day together.  I am both excited, and sad at the thought. 

I’m excited because I know that these days are spent preparing her the best I can to become one of those graduates.  I know that once I hand over that leash on turn in day, it will be Helaine’s choice whether or not she continues on this path.  I will watch her walk away knowing that I have left everything on the table and that I have put all my heart and soul into creating a miracle dog. From that moment on, she will choose her own destiny.  It’s a beautiful thought and one that I am both dreading, and welcoming with open arms.  After all, I’m not doing this for me.  I want her to succeed and I want her to graduate.  I look forward to handing over that leash at graduation day.  I love Helaine.  I love her so so so much.  But, I love her forever person so much that I will gladly hand that leash over to them on graduation day in February 2015 with a smile on my face, tears in my eyes and a piece of my heart sealed with them. I’m not giving Helaine any option. She HAS to graduate!  😉

Last night at the beginning of puppy class as we sat in our cradle circle asking questions and sharing stories, a puppy raiser who’s last pup Jet had a side placement a few weeks prior to Graduation had an email to share from Jet’s new forever family.  He is a nine year old boy is non-verbal, the email was from his mother.  Apparently they had another dog for a whole year before they had to reluctantly return the pup to CCI because their son just couldn’t bond, hense the reason of the side placement.  She had explained in detail about how life changing Jet had been in the short amount of time he had been in their life.  What was read next touched me so deeply, it brought tears to my eyes.  Jet and his boy were romping around in the yard, and playing with a stuffed duck.  The family was laughing and enjoying watching the love and playfullness between the two, when the boy said “Jet get duck.”  Now, it wasn’t noted whether he and spoken before, but being non-verbal this was a HUGE step.  We all sat in silence when the email was finished, before we all sighed with love and awe.  How incredible, that these dogs change lifes all the way down to a quick command.  I want nothing more than to get an email like that someday.  My goodness, I’m crying again. 

Helaine is a life changer.  I know that for certain.  She has already changed my life, created in me a new person.  I have an entirely new family to love and share good times and bad with.  I have friends across the country (part of my mission with this blog) and I get to promote and advocate for those who can’t.  I am living a dream.  It was this month, one year ago that I found a blog about a CCI pup named Haddie and my life changed for what I now know is the better (like I had any doubt).  As I was talking with Haddie’s puppy raiser yesterday about what’s to come (in case you haven’t read, she didn’t make a match this go-round so she will remain in Advance Training in Santa Rosa with hopes to match in November, or potentially a side match before then), we had conversed over how much we would love to be able to see the pre-match happen.  For me, I had always wanted to see that moment where a dog and a person become one.  Well, I got my wish.  A few moments later an email came around in one of the national groups with a YouTube link.  What I witnessed was short, so sweet, and so awe-inspiring.  Have a look for yourself:

Yet another moment that brought tears to my eyes.  I serve a really incredible organization.  I am so blessed.  As my fellow PSC members say goodbye to their puppies, and my sweet friend Hannah says goodbye to Dante III tomorrow, I will be sending nothing but loving thoughts and prayers for strength as the end of this chapter draws to a close.  It takes the heart of a lion to do this…I am not only proud of you, but I’m proud that I get the honor of being associated with each of you.  My heart is with you this weekend.


14 thoughts on “Graduation

  1. As always – so beautiful. Thank you, my friend, for always having the right words, the right voice, the wisdom that we need as we walk this amazing dream together. The tears over Jet’s email – I can picture the class and the silence. Wow. Thank you for sharing and for being YOU and for loving Helaine.

    • Thank you for your kind words, sweet friend. The silence amongst the class was truly one of unity. I think in that moment we each saw our future with our puppies and sat in awe at what the future holds. It was really something I am glad I was there for.

  2. I have applied for a service dog for myself after 25 years as a puppyraiser for GDB and CCI…so so scary yet I am excited …any comments would be helpful …thank you

    • Because of your experience on the puppy raising aspect of it, you know just how amazing your future partner is going to be. Everything will work out wonderfully I’m sure of it.

  3. Thanks Cassandra for putting into words so many of my thoughts and feeling–that’s all I can say right now but I’m sending hugs to both you and sweet baby girl Helaine

    • Thank you for reading, Kathy. I had started this blog post shortly after the May graduation, but I didn’t have the words or thoughts to finish it. I revisited the saved copy and knew that between the video of the pre-matches and Jet’s story, I had just what I needed to finish conveying this message. Glad I was able to share this with you all!

  4. I especially loved reading about Jet and his boy because the first CCI pup I raised, Rada, was matched with a 6 year-old boy who was also non-verbal and had been since the age of 2. About 6 months after they graduated, his mom wrote to CCI telling of her son coming home from school, seeing Rada and saying “hi doggy!”. That’s why I raise puppies for CCI and how it is possible for me to keep doing it, even though my heart breaks a little at every turn-in.

    • Although I haven’t had a dog graduate yet (I raised guide dogs years ago) that’s why I raise puppies as well. Knowing that I have some responsibility in changing a life humbles me and touches me to the core.

  5. we are currently raising our 2nd puppy. our much loved Kendra graduated in february and her forever person is andrew, a 14-year old with spina bifida. i am so lucky that andrrew’s mom constantly sends me pictures and videos of them — which always make me cry, but from happiness. you put into words all the emotions i feel on a daily basis as i fall more in love with JD and imagine the wondrous life he and his person have ahead of them.
    thank you.

    • Thank you for your kind words! You have blessed me this morning. I wake up every morning and wonder what is in store for my sweet puppy. I wonder where she will be, and what she will choose to do with her life. Puppy raising is filled with so much unknown, but it’s worth every second!

  6. My Victory was a May Turn In so was not in the NE August Team Training class, but Schaffer’s pre-match did not work out. Victory came in off the bench and Frankie, Kelly, and Victory are graduating today. Since I wasn’t able to go to Long Island, I am so grateful for this news clip so I can “meet” his family. Can’t wait to meet them in person someday.

  7. So perfect beyond words. Don’t have much else to say. Thoughts and prayers were so felt this weekend. Maybe I can form more complete and comprehensible thoughts before I get around to blogging it… Thank you for allowing me to read a reflection of your heart, and even for helping me get my scattered thoughts together a little bit.

    • Glad I could be of assistance, Hannah. I have been thinking about you daily, and hoping that you and Moray are adjusting to the new “normal”. I know this part is hard…but I bet Dante is having an awesome time and getting more love than he knows what to do with! **hugs**

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