We packed up everything needed for a road trip. Helaine was well prepared for many hours spent in a car, as she’s been on several road trips while in my care. For me, I was packing for an entire week of adventures, but for Helaine I was packing for just a couple of days. I pulled out her travel bag and loaded up two of her favorite toys, a bone, her food bowl and only nine cups of dog food because that was all she needed before the inevitable happened. I had spent the entire day avoiding packing anything at all, in hopes that if I just didn’t pack at all, I wouldn’t have to leave and I wouldn’t have to say goodbye. Of course, that’s not the case and I knew that I had to go whether I packed or not so I finally gave in.
My dad and my brother were both home that evening, and spent some solid time playing and snuggling with Helaine. We had plans to leave at around 10:00 that night to drive straight through and land at our hotel in Petaluma, CA around 2 pm the following day. As the hours slipped by, the first to say goodbye was my brother, as he had to work in the morning. He said some sweet words to Helaine and gave her one last hug before retiring for the night. Around 30 minutes later, it was time for my dad to say goodbye. I knew that once their goodbyes were done, that it was time for us to leave together one last time. I picked up all of Helaine’s toys and placed them in her basket. We then snuggled on the couch for a few minutes, before I got the courage to load up the car and leave.
When I told Helaine it was time to go, she assumed it was time for bed and went and stood in the hallway, waiting for me to let her into “her” room. When I didn’t follow her, she looked back at me over her shoulder with an expression of pure confusion. Instead of letting her go and curl up on her bed, I had to call her to the laundry room where I grabbed her leash and gentle leader for the last time, and we exited towards the car. The knot in my stomach grew and grew, because I knew that this was really it. When I left with her, I knew it was the last time she would ever set foot in my home as a puppy in program. It was painful, and difficult to drive away knowing all that was about to change. She knew nothing, and she curled up in the backseat and fell asleep.
We arrived at the home of my best friend, who agreed to take this journey with me. We loaded her things in the car and away we went, cruising through the night, talking and singing along to everything on the radio. We were about 20 minutes from the Oregon border when I had finally given up fighting sleep (I had been awake for 22 hours at that point and absolutely needed some rest if I was going to safely drive the last 6.5 hours of our 14 hour drive.) I woke up somewhere in Central Oregon, and took over the task of driving shortly after. The sky had lightened up a bit, but because of many wildfires burning, it was still hazy and the sun didn’t show itself until we were well into California.
We arrived and checked into our hotel room at around 1, and discovered we shaved off quite a bit of time by driving through the night. Helaine was so happy to be out of the car and able to stretch her legs, and she and I curled up and settled in for a nap that lasted a few hours. I couldn’t believe that this was it. What we had been preparing for was well under way and we were just a couple days away from the big farewell.
After our nap, we ordered lunch from the Applebee’s across the street and came back to eat it at our hotel. We also decided to go out to frozen yogurt that night. We sat outside in the cool (read freezing cold) breeze and chatted about the adventures taking place the next day.
On Thursday, we woke up and prepared for our final outing with Helaine. We had an entire day planned for adventuring through San Francisco. I had a lot of ideas in my head about what this outing would be like, and all the things we would see. I can honestly say it surpassed all my expectations I had for it, and I loved the city. The traffic wasn’t nearly as awful as it is in Seattle, and the streets seem much easier to navigate. And for someone who has NEVER been to this city before, I felt significantly safer there than I do in Seattle. I cannot wait to visit again, and see more!
We started by finding Haight and Ashbury, because my best friend has a hippie soul and wanted to snap a quick photo. We then traveled to Steiner street to see the painted ladies and get the stereotypical photos in front of the Painted Ladies (The houses used in the opening credits of Full House which is one of my fave 90’s shows). Of course they had to be working on the front of one of them when we visited, so that was pretty disappointing, but they are SO beautiful. I was impressed with most of the buildings I encountered in San Fran. The architecture there is just stunning. We didn’t find the house that was actually used in the series, but I will have to go and find it next time…because there is always a next time when raising puppies for Canine Companions.
After we gawked at the painted ladies for a few minutes, and took our fair share of selfies, we had decided to find 2640 Stenier Street. I hope most of you know what I’m talking about without having to Google it but if you don’t I’ll give you a hint. It’s Mrs. Doubtfire’s house. Okay so that wasn’t a hint after all. It wasn’t on our “to-do” list, but with Robin William’s passing just days prior to our trip, we found it fitting to go back to the house that provided so much laughter and light. It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows when we arrived. It was actually really somber, as a makeshift memorial had been set up. The sidewalk was covered in movie quotes written in chalk, and the stairs were littered with flowers, stuffed animals, letters, and candles. There were several people there, mourning the loss of such a sensitive, incredible human being. I was truly humbled, and left a silent prayer before we continued on with the adventure.
After our time there, we carried on to Fisherman’s Wharf. This place was awesome and I was so excited to finally visit a place I had dreamed about! It was hot, and it was crawling with people, but it was so much fun. Helaine blended in with the crowd as we weaved around gobs of people and kids. It really surprised me that no one really paid any attention to her and that there weren’t any drive by pettings. I think the only time someone really paid attention to Helaine is when we were walking on the upper deck at Pier 39, and a grown adult jumped back and grabbed on to her friend from behind like Helaine was trying to attack. I thought that was weird, but we continued on with our day. We had a tasty seafood lunch, enjoyed a cold beer and meandered in and out of shops. We have vowed to come back and do all the things we missed, only next time it will be in November, when Inez is ready for turn in.
After our extremely long day in the city, we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation. That night we had plans to meet with my sweet friend Kim who made the trek from Montana. She is beginning to volunteer with the prison program at Crossroads Correctional Facility, where Canine Companions has several puppies there at any given time. She was to help bring six back for advanced training, and they were taking five little babies back. This was a very last minute trip for her, but it was nothing short of amazing. When we reunited that night, it was absolutely wonderful. We ate at this awesome brazilian place in Santa Rosa, and we laughed and talked for a long while. Then we drove out to Canine Companions so I could see the campus for the first time. It was dark at this time, and the gates were closed. It is kind of creepy in the dark, but I know that it’s an incredible place and I was happy to share my first ever visit to CCI with her and my best friend. When I was dropping her off at her hotel that night, I asked her if she had the chance to walk one of the prison puppies across the stage during the matriculation ceremonies to which she replied that she was. My jaw dropped when she told me the name of the big boy she was in charge of. His name is Harbaugh, and he is Helaine’s brother. There is no such thing as coincidences in my world. Everything happens for a reason. It was pretty kismet that one of my very very good friends who wasn’t even supposed to be there, was able to come and was in charge of Helaine’s brother. I love written-in-the-stars kind of moments!
It’s been a whole week since we did this together, and I already miss our outings. I miss her presence in my home, that she would furiously wag her tail everywhere we went, and that she was just my constant companion. This final trip together was really what I needed to confirm that I had done my job, and that she was truly ready for the next big adventure in her life. She was getting bored with our mundane outings, and she was desperate to learn more. I see that now, and I’m so proud of the dog she is. Her future is so bright, she’s gotta wear shades.