We'd never raised a service dog, we (ok I) was unprepared for how hard it was to let go after our job was done. I had to speak at his graduation ceremony and hand the leash over to his new partner. I couldn't finish (I barely even got started) because of all the emotion.
Rocky went to a great family and they love him very much. And we're lucky enough that they live in the area and we get to be his babysitter when they travel. We play host to Rocky about twice each year (more if we're lucky) and we love every minute of it.
Lily, our second service dog (who became our dog when she didn't make it through the program) grew up with Rocky (he was about six months old when we brought her home at 8 weeks old) and was very sad when he went back to the agency for further training. Their reunions are something to see! She hears him jangling in the garage as I'm getting him out of the car and I can hear her whole body wagging!
They whoop it up around the yard, through the house, and everywhere else. Rocky investigates to see what's changed since his last visit, finds his favorite spot on the couch and drifts off to sleep after a long day of playing with old friends.
Letting him go was the hardest thing, but it's so much fun to have him back. I think he enjoys his visits as well, if his initial reaction upon seeing us again is any indicator! It's amazing how much dogs really do remember. I've had him back at the job I had when I was raising him and it's as if he never left. He had favorite people and he gets excited as we approach their offices.
We have him for 10 days this visit. And the best part – he celebrates his 7th birthday while he's here with us! We always celebrate the service pups birthdays because we likely only have them for one birthday, so we make it special. Now, seven years later, Rocky's back in his original home for his birthday… We'll make this one special, too.