Okay guys. I’ve got a confession to make. It’s something that I know all those who choose to be puppy raisers can relate to. We very rarely talk about it for fear of looking or sounding weak amongst those who don’t understand or can’t fathom why we do what we do, but it is a very real series of emotions that only we can understand.
I opened up my email today and found CCI’s NW Volunteer update; a monthly newsletter sent to all volunteers with the happenings of our region. November marked the last graduation for 2013, and while skimming through the newsletter my eyes stopped on the list for 2014. One date inparticular dropped my heart into the pit of my stomach. August 15th. Yes, although it’s nine months away, this day has been lurking in the back of my mind since I recieved my cute ball of yellow. August 15th will mark my very last day with Helaine, and it deeply saddens me that our time together is truly this fleeting.
I wish I could put into words the array of emotions that roll around in my mind and heart from day to day in regards to turn in. I am so incredibly excited to see my puppy grow up into a mature and wise adult with a hunger to work and be of service to her forever person. I cannot wait to see My Girl in what is known as Service Dog Blue. I am thrilled at the thought of meeting her forever person and handing that leash over. Truth be told, I have dreamed about this since before I ever knew I was going to be a puppy raiser. My biggest reward in this will be the ability to address Helaine as either an SC, SD, HD or FD in the signature of my emails. That is the ending that I am picturing every day. I don’t want to see the ending of her story be anything but a working dog.
But then there are those feelings. You know the ones I’m talking about. The gut wrenchingly sad feelings. The thoughts that run through your mind. The “ohmygoshweonlyhaveninemonthsleftandit’sgoingbytoofastandIhaven’tevendoneallIwanttodoyetwehavenotime” thoughts. And the feelings of pure and utter sadness that she will no longer be there to hug and kiss and play with, and that she truly isn’t your dog. Can I just say that this roller coaster of emotions is one of the hardest, wackiest, scariest rides I’ve EVER been on? And the worst part is…I just got on. It’s not even close to the end yet. Yeesh. Can someone hand me an anti-nausea pill?
I know what some of you non-puppy raisers may be thinking. You may be thinking that I’m weak or selfish for feeling the way I do. Some may even think that if I can’t handle this than I why on earth would I become a puppy raiser, only to fall in love with a dog I can’t keep and have to give back. I’d be lying if I didn’t think those thoughts of myself from time to time. I do feel selfish when I get sad at the thought of saying goodbye to my best friend. Some days, when Helaine doesn’t want to listen and she has a stomach upset and she doesn’t want to perform commands I wonder why I thought I was strong enough to be a puppy raiser. I get what you’re thinking. I do.
The answer to that is simple. I’m not strong enough to do this. Not on my own anyway. If I had to do this all by myself with no support around me I wouldn’t be strong enough for all the bumps and detours along the way. I am strong enough because of the friends and family I have in this crazy CCI world. I’m strong enough because there is someone our there that is waiting for the call to come to campus and meet their Wonder Dog. I am strong enough for this because I don’t need Helaine in my life. I want her in my life. I can get myself out bed, turn on the lights, pick up my debit card I drop on the floor a hundred times, get my own clothes out of the washer and shut a door or cabinet by myself.
Helaine changed my life and my heart. She has brought out in me a better person, a better dog trainer, and a better puppy raiser. To put it bluntly, she raised me. More importantly though, she brought me out of a deep year of sadness and depression. I am affected by the gray, rainy season and I battle depression when the gray is neverending. But the thought of getting her pushed me through weeks of colorless, lifeless days. Recieving her kept me active and out of bed, and now that I am on this end of it, I can say I am completely and utterly content because of my works as a puppy raiser. Even when it’s pouring down rain, she has kept me eartside, rather than mentally checked out. She’s a Wonder Dog, and that will be yet another reason I will have a hard time saying goodbye.
I would just like to say to all of you who go through the same emotional internal battles during your adventures as puppy raisers, you are not alone and your feelings are justified. Do not feel ashamed or embarassed if you have a hard time during turn in. Do not think you are weak or selfish because you grieve over saying goodbye. It is normal. Completely and totally normal. You are strong, you are brave and you are changing a life, while yours is being changed as well. Stand tall and proud to be a puppy raiser. We’ve all been there, we’re all in this together.