I am awe inspired every day I go to work. Not because I have the pleasure to work with pet passionate people every day, but because I work with several people that take pet passion to the next level. These individuals not only have pet passion but also people passion. They are special individuals who take time in their busy lives to be puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Individuals who have selflessly brought a rotten, untrained, peeing and pooping machine into their homes for 14-18 months who later return to CCI as a well mannered super dog to fulfill its mission in life- "transform the life of a disabled individual." It is not a job for the faint of heart. It would be an impossible task for most. After months of caring for the well being of this living creature and with whom they have developed a deep bond, the dog must be returned to fulfill its purpose in life.
Employees at my workplace have the privilege to bring personal pets to work with them, therefore I have had the opportunity to meet several of these puppies and follow their journey along with their puppy raisers. A journey that is hardly a cake walk. Anyone who has raised a puppy knows it is challenging to say the least. Aside from the obvious basics of housetraining and "sit", the CCI dog must learn many commands (up to 40) beyond what the average dog would learn. They must be focused and resistant to distractions. After all, one day they may be pulling a wheelchair bound person across a busy intersection or alerting a hearing impaired person of a fire alarm. The puppy is returned to CCI at 14-18 months of age and then undergoes further training. This training weeds out those who aren't cut out for the job. These dogs must be strong and be able to perform flawlessly to move into the program and ultimately be partenered with a disabled individual. If a dog is removed from the program, the puppy raiser has first dibs to adopt. I imagine for the puppy raisers it is a bittersweet moment when those dogs don't graduate the program. Who wouldn't want to see a disabled individivual become independent with a dog you raised? Yet, who wouldn't want the dog back to be your own pet? But what a feeling of pride that must be to see your puppy graduate.....
I truly admire those that volunteer their hearts to raise these dogs. Despite the relationships the rest of us develop with the dogs, we all are pulling for them and want to see them succeed and graduate. It is truly an amazing opportunity to see how animals can improve the lives of people not only with their companionship but also giving disabled individuals the independence that most of us take for granted.
To read learn more about CCI: http://www.cci.org/
To read about the puppy raising experience:
Photo: borrowed from puppy raiser's blog-Super Dog Inga