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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Donna Sword, Puppy Raiser – Canine Companions for Independence, Part 2

Inga at graduation.
How many training dogs have you had before Yaxley, and will you continue on after Yaxley is returned? Yaxley is my third pup for CCI. Our first puppy was Inga IV, a lovely full Labrador retriever. She was a super intelligent and easily bored puppy. Inga could be a little stinker; if she wasn’t challenged with a job then she would simply find one on her own. With these leadership qualities (plus the happy fact that I must not have messed up too much raising the first pup) she was successfully placed with a young boy as a Skilled Companion Dog. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of her.

Number two is the mighty Micron, our college dropout. He was released from CCI after three months of Advanced Training. Micron’s bubbly personality (squirrel!) is just not suited to service dog work. As his puppy raisers we’re given first dibs on adopting him. I absolutely adore this dog and feel like one lucky chick to have him in my home.

Yaxley will be in the puppy program until next August. We’ll be looking forward to puppy number four around that time to ease the heartache of turn-in time.

What’s your funniest story about raising a CCI dog?I’m reminded of a couple of stories that fall into the “it was funny later” category. There was the CCI presentation Yaxley and I did at a preschool, where we suffered a miscommunication about Yaxley’s training as a Service Dog. This came out at the Q&A, but I just wasn’t picking up on the clues. Why were the kids asking to see Yaxley balance a ball on his nose and stand on his hind legs? Then a little later that morning I overheard a kidlet say, “Look! There’s that Circus Dog I told you about!” Forget Toastmasters; if you want lessons on talking clearly and slowly, just get feedback from a room of four year olds.

Another story is about a humbling lesson in dog behavior. I have an unflattering character flaw that encourages me to stretch myself a wee too thin. Silly things like overlapping puppies in training while working a full-time job. With three months to go before Micron’s turn-in to Advanced Training, we brought home puppy number three, Yaxley.
Mudpuppy Micron
We’re all out in the backyard so I can take the obligatory First Day photos of eight-week-old Yaxley’s adorable mug. Micron and Jager are playing nicely while I’m busy with the new puppy. Well, that’s where I was in my happy place mindset. The dark reality is that Micron was not very happy about the attention shift and had opted to demonstrate his displeasure about this new little roommate. And just like kids, if things get too quiet, you know it’s time to check on them. I find Micron blissfully exploring the restorative powers of a mud bath. Ugh, swamp dog. Oh, but not one to be topped, the otherwise fastidious Jager had found something rather squishy and very decayed to roll in. I don’t know who really won the contest for the Food Lady’s attention that day, but I was the clearly the loser in the deal.

Donna, can you tell us some of what you go through when you return the dog to CCI? And also when you meet the dog’s new owner? A question we hear as a puppy raisers is - How do you give them up? How, indeed. I’ve answered this before as “with a lot of pride, a box of tissues and a margarita.” But setting silliness aside, it’s hard thing to do because you just fall in love with these pups during the time you have them.

But looking over at Yaxley - this beautiful, intelligent puppy - I know this isn’t my dog. Never was. I’m in this for a reason.

Our first pup, Inga IV, is today a Skilled Companion; she was teamed with a young boy in August 2010. We met Inga’s new family at the CCI graduation ceremony and we were simply wowed by these people. For the last year, they have been sending photos and sharing stories of their new life together. They are absolutely in love with Inga. I drop a few happy tears every time I see that return address on an envelope in my mailbox. May these blessings continue.
Yaxley at Blogpaws.
I would encourage anyone considering puppy raising to attend a CCI graduation. A celebration is held at the end of two weeks of intensive team training of assistance dog and handler. The graduate is recognized on stage, and then the puppy raiser of their dog is asked to come up with the dog and “hand the leash over.” A little symbolic, but a very real experience. Last August we handed Inga’s leash over to her new boy and I have to tell you that there is nothing (nothing!) in the world like that feeling. We were but a small part of a life changing event for this beautiful family. But that’s enough for me.
How do we give them up? With the end in mind, that’s how. With the hope that just maybe, in my small life, I can make a difference to someone.

CCI graduations are open to the public and free of charge. The celebrations are held four times a year in each of the five regions. Dates and locations are on CCI’s website www.cci.org . Don’t forget to bring tissues; you’ll need ‘em.

Is there anything that I missed that you care to tell us about?
Thank you again for letting me go on about CCI. I want to invite your readers to check out www.cci.org for more info on the different service dog programs. Of course, drop me an email at jagerhund@frontier.com with any questions about my personal experiences with these fuzzy yellow pups. I can talk about CCI dogs endlessly. Or until folk start to politely back away from me.

We want to thank Donna for taking the time to share her passion with us so that we could share it with you.  Do we have any readers who might be interested in being a puppy raiser?


Hound Girl said...

I am in awe.

Pup Fan said...

I loved meeting Donna & Yaxley at BlogPaws and follow her blog. Simply amazing and inspirational!

Kitcaboodles said...

This is such a lovely post - thank you for sharing the work that Donna and others do. And how awesome of P&G to allow it's employees to take their CC trainees to work! =^..^=

Two French Bulldogs said...

we love these stories
Benny & Lily

Chicco said...

very great post, I love to know these beautiful things.
have a nice day.
Woof, woof,


Donna Black-Sword said...

A big thanks to Oskar and Pam for giving CCI the spotlight for a few posts. And thanks to all who read my ramblings and left such wonderful feedback.

I encourage anyone thinking about volunteer puppy raising to contact CCI. Regional phone numbers are at www.cci.org. You won't be sorry, I promise. It's an amazing journey.

Anyone interested in following the adventures of Yaxley, a CCI pup in training, can find us at www.puppyraisingbythesword.blogspot.com

Ruca said...

What a great post! I'm off to check out her blog. Thank you!

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