Caysun fits into our household, into our lives, like she's always been here. Only a couple other dogs have fit so well: Rocky, our very first service dog; and Ivy, Lily's sister who stayed with us when we did a "puppy swap" to give her some more out & about exposure.
We've had a lot of dogs. I think Caysun's the 11th dog to come through and when it's right, you know it.
Ike, the Labrador we just turned back over to Hero Dogs for his final training, was a fun-loving and happy dog, but he wasn't the best fit for us. Funny thing is, we didn't realize how much he didn't fit until after he was gone. The week after he left, it was like all our dogs sort of came back to life again. Lily and Nemo played! It had been over a year since Lily and Nemo played together. We didn't notice it because Ike was always in the middle, always deflecting play between the other dogs to himself. He was the main player. If you were going to play in this household, you were going to play with him. He made sure of it.
With Baby Caysun, the feel is so right. She's not over-the-top, in fact she's the most appropriate puppy I've raised in a long, long time. By appropriate, I mean that she's not bossy, she's not too, she always has the "right answer" to whatever situation she finds herself in. Maybe an example will clarify.
Nemo is used to playing with large, exuberant adolescent males. Talos and Ikey were his playmates for the past two years. You have to be rough and ready if those are your playmates! Naturally, now that Caysun's getting bigger, Nemo's trying his "big dog" play maneuvers with her. She can hang for quite awhile, but sooner or later, Nemo takes it up a notch too far for Caysun. She finds the closest object under which she can scoot herself, and waits out the playstorm. Nemo quickly realizes he's chased away his playmate, lays on the ground (or floor), and re-invites Caysun to play. As soon as she sees that invitation, she leaps out from under her hidey-hole and lands on Nemo's head. That's appropriate: she's not a scaredy, she just knows when the play's gotten a bit more rowdy than she can handle. And she comes right back when the play is reined in. It's nice.
Another example of Caysun's appropriateness (or dog-savviness). I've described Lily, our almost 10-year old Labrador, as a librarian with her hair up in a super-tight bun. She's very matter-of-fact: no silliness, no foolishness. She colors inside the lines. And she'd like that you do the same, thank you very much. There was just one dog in Lily's 10 years that has been able to get Lily to really let her hair down (Rocky, who helped raise Lily from the moment we brought her home). We can add Caysun to that very short list. I've watched Caysun daintily approach Lily and very softly grab at her ears. She'll watch Lily's reaction to gauge which move to go to next: grab a little harder or move toward Lily's tail. If Lily gives her a "go away, kid, you bother me" look, Caysun heads toward the tail. If Lily merely ignores her, that means grab the ear harder. (Ignoring is Lily's way of saying "maybe I'll play with you; ask me again.")
I remember cringing the first few times I saw Caysun try to entice Lily to play. Lily plays about twice a year, and then for only about 10-minutes before she regains control, smooths her hair, and regains her librarian persona. I figured Caysun had to learn, and there's no better teacher than Lily – she's firm, appropriate, and there's no way to misunderstand her! Imagine my surprise when (1) Lily ignored Caysun (she normally cuts off any invitations immediately) and then (2) when I saw Lily's ears come forward and get "that look" in her eyes. I yelled to my husband to come and look, that's how surprised I was. And giddy.
I've even seen Lily solicit play from Caysun! Now that's something!
What this all means is that I'm setting myself up for another heartbreak in about a year when Caysun's got to go back to Service Dogs of Virginia. <Sigh.> Such is the life of a puppy raiser.