California Adventure Part One

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No, not that California Adventure!  This California Adventure was much better than some Disney park.  This California Adventure was much different.

In April, a member from my volunteer chapter of Canine Companions sent out an all call to the chapter, and told us that she wouldn’t be able to take her dog down for matriculation.  They had way too many things going on around that date, and they asked if anyone would be able to take their pup down.  I had been contemplating taking another trip to Santa Rosa for the May matriculation and graduation ceremonies prior to reading that email, and when it came through I jumped at the chance.  I don’t “need” an excuse to visit Santa Rosa, but it was nice to have one anyway!

A good friend of mine from the other side of my state is also a puppy raiser.  She turned her dog in at the February ceremony, the same one I went to to present Helaine as a breeder.  She too had been searching for a reason to go back to Canine Companions for graduation, and the opportunity presented itself when I decided I wanted Inez to come to California too!  There is NO way I could handle both dogs on a flight.  I wouldn’t even dare try it.  But, with Sara coming along, that wasn’t even a though I needed to think about!

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I had always wanted to make a trip to Canine Companions with Helaine prior to turn in, but I never had a chance.  Now that I had the chance to experience all the wonder of graduation without having to turn in or present one of my dogs, I want to do it again and again.  I don’t think the folks that live even within a couple hours driving distance of Canine Companions realizes how great they have it.  I am head over heels for this program, and I love to spend as much time as possible on campus when I’m in the area.  If I lived near campus, I would probably live ON campus.

When we arrived at Sea-Tac airport, Sara and Inez were already waiting for us.  Inez went home with Sara a few days before we traveled, and they took a flight from her home to Seattle, and waited for us.  Both Ryann and Inez handled the airport with ease. You would think they’ve been doing it their entire career! They were seasoned pros. They weren’t at all bothered by the rolling suitcases, the crowds of people, the weird noises, or any of the general hubbub that comes along with the airport life.

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The flight from Seattle to Oakland was a breeze.  Ryann is long and lanky, but she curled up as tight as she possibly could in between my feet.  She did her best not to bother anyone sitting next to her, and I made sure to tuck her tail in so it wouldn’t be stepped on or rolled over by the refreshment cart. We were fortunate enough to be seated in bulkhead, but the only seat they had left was the aisle seat which didn’t provide as much room as I was hoping for, but more than any of the other seats would have.  She was a fabulous little traveler. She slept the entire time, only stirring to adjust herself.

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When we arrived in Oakland, it was grey and kind of gross.  My legs hurt SO bad from being so cramped. Sharing your foot space with a dog is a big sacrifice for someone who is 5′ 11 1/2” tall!  The airport was so easy to navigate! Much smaller than San Francisco or even Sea-Tac for that matter! We quickly found a restroom for the two leggeds on this journey, and I left my luggage and Ryann with Sara.  When I returned to them, my dog was replaced with a cute black puppy, which only meant one thing!  My friend Kim from Great Falls, MT also flew into Oakland that day, as she was returning her puppy that weekend as well!  That cute black pup was none other than miss Pam.  I hadn’t seen Kim since last August when I turned Helaine in for advanced training.  It was amazing getting to spend so much of that weekend with her!

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Let me talk about Kim for a moment. Kim and I became friends by chance. She came to Seattle in October of 2013 when Helaine was just a little squirt, for our annual Gift of Miracle Gala. She was friends with my favorite family already, as they had turned in Haddie and Leslie together. Kim and I hit it off right away, and the rest is history. She has become such a strong, important figure in my life. She has really swooped in and has treated me like her own. She is one of the greatest mother figure I think I could ever ask for, and I am eternally grateful for the impact that she has had on my life and on my heart. When I found out that I was coming to California, I knew instantly that I needed to make sure to spend time with her. Thankfully I got plenty of time with her, though it will never be enough.

After we said our hellos, we got on the shuttle to go to the rental car area. That entire 10 minute shuttle ride included all three of us talking to a group of travelers who happened to be from our area and who were curious about the program. We answered a lot of questions, and let the pups get plenty of pets! We handed out cards with information on them, and hopefully we see some new puppy raisers in Seattle!

The rental car company let us pick out whatever car we wanted, which was a stark difference to my previous experience. We went with an SUV since we were hauling upwards of five dogs at any given time, though we started out with just three. We got on the road and made our way north to Santa Rosa.  We had a really long day ahead, and that included spending the day with our friend Laura, who was preparing to turn in her pup Battier.

We had hoped to let the puppies out in the play yard on campus, however we brought some much needed rain to California and it dumped buckets. Instead of running them in the play yard, we went to the Charles Schultz museum that is in downtown Santa Rosa. Mr. Schultz was a huge supporter of Canine Companions, and actually donated the land that the campus resides on. His wife still continues the support of the program in many ways. The museum was a really neat place to take the pups, and is actually one of the stops they make during Team Training! It was fun to see all the paw prints on the wall where the automatic door button is. It made us all smile and think about the future of our puppies.

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We made our way to a sushi restaurant not far from the museum. It was warm and wonderful, and we sat out on the patio with all of our pups, and a retired breeder who is owned by Laura. The wait staff was more than accommodating. They brought out water to the dogs, and even included ice cubes for them. The food was delicious and we had a great time just catching up and being together. We had spent so much time planning this trip, that it was so surreal that it was actually taking place.

After lunch, we went back to Canine Companions since the weather had cleared and the sun came out. At this point, the gates were locked so we had to park on the street. This was a perfect opportunity to get photos in front of the Canine Companions sign, and there were tons of flowers blooming too that provided a great back drop. Prior to coming on this trip, I told myself I wasn’t going to take any photos of Inez in places that are typically saved for turn in.  However, my mind quickly changed because it’s not often that we actually get to make it down prior to turn in, and I like to document everything anyway! So it made sense. I’m so glad I did.  These photos will be cherished forever.

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After our photo session at the entrance, we took the pups to the play yard and let them run their hearts out. Inez chased a tennis ball until her tongue was hanging out of the side of her mouth, and she couldn’t run any longer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that exhausted. All the pups really enjoyed going over the agility equipment, and going through the tunnels. They would all chase each other through the tunnel and around the yard with great delight. They were having the time of their life.

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When they were good in tired, we meandered around campus. It was early evening and the weather was mild enough to wear a sweatshirt. The campus was quiet, not a peep was heard from the kennels, and you could still feel the magic that resides there. Even though the campus was vacant on the outside, we knew that there were teams in Gittinger hall who were just buzzing and beaming at the prospect of graduating the very next day. It was a pretty sweet thought.

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When the pups had enough posing and playing, we went back to Laura’s hotel room for a game of Cards Against Humanity and some drinks. We all laughed, and cried, and laughed some more. We talked about turn in, we talked about life, and over all we just bonded. It was a really great first day. We even set the pups up for one party photo before three of the girls went back to Canine Companions.

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It was finally time for us to head to our hotel in Windsor. We grabbed our pups and our things, and we parted ways.  However, this was only the beginning of this fabulous weekend.  Stay tuned, part two will be on its way…

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