My silly, sweet yellow girl came home just about two weeks ago from the kennel. Those three weeks were so long and almost boring! I didn’t have a pup to snuggle with while I was suffering through yet another case of Strep Throat. I didn’t have a pup to take on outings and I certainly didn’t go to class. I realized while she was gone, that Helaine is the biggest chunk of my life. My spare time is devoted to her. My weekends are planned around what experiences I can get under her belt. While it was nice to fly by the seat of my pants with my plans, I was missing that part of my life. Helaine has become an extension of me, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I love having a dog in my life, and I especially love having a dog go with me wherever I go. The breaks are nice, but that’s all they are…breaks.
I am so grateful that I live in an area that has a chapter as robust as ours. It covers hundreds of miles and includes all types of people. Here, I have met some of my greatest friends and closest puppy raising companions. It has only been about a year and a half since I joined the Puget Sound Chapter, but I know in my heart that I have life-long friendships, whether I raise 100 puppies, or whether I stop after five. We are family because CCI is woven into the fabric that created an “us” out of separate individuals.
It is especially fun to plan and anticipate outings with these dear friends. I let Helaine settle back into home life for a week before I started her on outings again, but we had one planned for this past weekend to spend some time with our chapter president and her puppy Merced, and my dear friend and her puppy Kolby (you know, Helaine’s boyfriend and true love.) Helaine and I started our day with a visit to the vet clinic. She is hovering between 47 and 50 pounds of pure puppy love. Because she was gone for her first birthday, we had to pick up her extra special birthday present from her friends at Chuckanut Valley Vet Clinic in Burlington, WA. They are the best clinic EVER! I’ve been taking my animals there since I moved to the Skagit Valley in 2001 and unless my future includes a huge move, I won’t be switicing clinics. They truly care about their patients, they have excellent rapport with their pet parents and they have an incredible, state of the art facility. LOVE them!
Helaine chose a penguin sans stuffing. She loves it!
She also dozed off while we were on our way to meet our friends!
After our visit to the vet, we met our pals at Cabela’s. Helaine has been there before, but it is such a good outing for so many reasons. We have a satellite store near my town which isn’t nearly as big as the normal sized stores, but they still have A LOT of stuff and it’s usually always busy. There weren’t as many people as usual which was fine by us!
I didn’t judge my drive time well enough, and ended up at the store 30 minutes before our planned meeting time, so Helaine and I spent some time walking around the front of the store, and practicing our ups and unders. It was uncharacteristically warm for January in Washington, so I found a small bench, had Helaine do an under and we sat and watched the passersby. I have a ton of favorite Helaine pictures, but that one of her looking up at me from her perfect under is definitely one of my favorites.
Helaine and I have been working on our outings without the gentle leader. While it has been a great tool, I want to be able to ensure that she can work with and without it in a public setting. We tried this for the first time during our outing to the The Lights of Christmas and she did quite well. When Merced and Kolby arrived though, she was a bit distracted. Part of me believes it’s because she has been out of practice in the kennel world, and partly because she hasn’t seen her buddies in so long! I put her gentle leader back on for a few minutes just to get her to focus, but within about ten minutes we were back to the flat collar and we worked together wonderfully.
After our adventure through Cabela’s, we moved on to a large outdoor outlet mall. At just about 2 1/2 hours from the border, it is a large shopping hub for Canadians and locals alike. I took my very first guide dog, Rowland there when he was little, and that was shortly after it opened. It has grown exponentially since then, but it’s just as good of an experience as I remembered it being. There are plenty of benches and raised flower beds to do ups, jumps, and unders on. It is also usually thick with shoppers of all kinds. Families with strollers, people in wheelchairs, large groups and single shoppers. With the large crowds and an outdoor setting, some people who think it’s acceptable to bring their pets with them (FYI it’s NOT.) Helaine and Merced were verbally assaulted by a small yappy dog in a winter coat. Nothing made me more proud than watching the girls prance along, focused on us rather than the tiny terror being coddled by his human.
This is Helaine’s “please stop taking pictures” face.
Practicing “Up” and holding it until released
Kolby and Helaine steal sweet kisses and love from one another every time they are together. Their friendship and love is so heartwarming.
After the adventure at the outlet mall, and a lunch/catch up session with our chapter president, I decided to make a quick pit stop at one of my favorite local pet stores. I used to take my 4-H dogs there every night before our meetings when I was in the Snohomish County program. It was a great opportunity to work Helaine in a new store (she’s been almost everywhere in my town) and it also gave her a chance to pick out a couple of treats for her belated birthday. She came home with a squeaky tennis ball and a giant bacon flavored biscuit, that she’s been getting small rations of.
Note to self: Squeaky tennis balls are a different kind of evil.
At the end of the day, Helaine was exhausted and I was too. We took all the backroads home. Helaine slept and I took a trip down memory lane, remembering my life before Canine Companions, before a monotonous job, before an unfinished college degree. A time where my life was going to school, going to 4-H and hanging out with my family. Life goes by quickly, and seasons of life change quicker and quicker each year. I am thankful for the things I have seen, done and have been a part of in the last several years, and this special outing with my special CCI friends reminded me how truly and undoubtedly blessed I am.