It was an average Friday. I was slammed at work and I was preparing for a weekend of adventuring with Inez, one of my puppy raising friends and her pup, Fritz. I had just gotten back to my desk from lunch and was starting up my spotify again when 707 flashed across the screen of my phone. For those of you who don’t know, 707 is the area code for Santa Rosa, CA. That’s right. I was getting a call from Canine Companions. Instantly I burst into tears and stared at the screen. I scrambled to unplug my headphones and charge and rush to the hallway where I was about to learn the fate of my sweet Helaine. Gaining composure and breathing deeply, I answer with an undoubtedly stressed sounding “hello”.
Trying to maintain composure when you have no idea what you’re about to learn is nearly impossible. I was shaking with adrenaline. I was trying not to burst into tears again, especially since there was a long pause on the other line and I wasn’t even sure who was calling me. I knew that it was one of two people. Either a males voice, who would be James our Puppy Program Manager calling to tell me they are releasing Helaine, or Esther, the Breeding and Puppy Program Manager calling to tell me that Helaine has been selected to be a new addition to the breeding program.
It seemed like eternity for the caller on the other line to provide their greeting. They were chipper and happy. Clearly having a very good day. The first thing they said was that they were calling from Canine Companions. Okay, I knew that already. It was the why that I was concerned about. They introduced themselves to me and said they would like to give me an update on Helaine’s progress in the program. Okay, now that’s weird. Isn’t that what the Advanced Training reports are for? Nevermind that. I was getting my answer soon enough. However I blocked it out! Most of it anyway. I was in this whirlwind daze of information and trying very hard not to pass out. Do you understand how hard it is to breathe when you’re so worked up? No? Then become a puppy raiser and you’ll learn soon enough. They caller asked me if I had any questions regarding the information they provided, and of course I had none at the time because I couldn’t even remember my name. Wait why were they calling? Where am I? The walls are closing in. Is it hot in here? Sigh. I thanked them for notifying me and hung up the phone. Still in a daze, I called my very best puppy raising friend with the news.
Elle and I spend most of our day conversing with one another about just about everything life throws our way. The last several weeks, however, have been consumed with puppy talk. Missing out college rockstars, wishing we had their final answer already, day dreaming about the day we would get to see them again. This conversation is mainly through text. The only time we call one another (read I call Elle ) is when I’m A) Lost and trying to find a parking spot or B) I have important news that just cannot wait. I called her the day James called me about Inez, and I called her again on this day.
I started with the “Hi. Are you sitting down?” Elle (and her son J, who just walked through the door) both started screaming with excitement. They knew my news before I even got the words out.
Now, at this point in my story, you can probably figure out what my news is. But, for those of you who were fooled by my smooth talking way with words, I’ll give you a hint: 2-3%.
Still stumped? Well, let me just go ahead and tell you this tidbit of information. Did you know that Canine Companions for Independence has managed their own breeding program since the late 1970’s? Did you know that Canine Companions selects their breeders based on intelligence, temperament, demeanor, work ethic, health history of the dog and parents, trainability and other traits desirable in Canine Companions Assistance Dogs? Did you know that they only select the top 2-3% of dogs to become a part of this breeding program?
By now you should all be picking up what I’m laying down. But for those of you who haven’t had their coffee yet this morning (I suggest you go get some right now) here’s the scoop. It was Esther on the other line of that 707 phone call, and Helaine has been selected to be a part of the breeding program! She will be fostered until a Breeder Caretaker falls in love with her, and then she will move to her new permanent home. Most breeder females will have five litters, but Canine Companions has the 5 litter or 5 year rule, which ever comes first. This also means two things. I will be going to Santa Rosa in February to present her as a breeder, which is the same month she would have graduated as a Service, Skilled Companion, or Facility dog, and I will also get one of her puppies to raise out of her first litter. This is an extreme honor. I have always known that Helaine was a special girl, but I’m so glad that Canine Companions has seen that too. My heart is so overwhelmed, and I look forward to sharing with you all, her future!