It’s why we raise and train service dogs.
Aside from the day we receive the pup, the best day in a puppy raiser’s life is Graduation Day.
Sweet Baby Caysun graduated as a diabetic alert dog (DAD) last week and it was a fabulous time.
The graduation ceremony included a “Puppy Parade” in which all the dogs in training are paraded onto the stage with their puppy raisers. It was a glorious day for us because we had four dogs at the ceremony.
Caysun was graduating.
Lovely little Asti Spumante (Monti):
The oh-so-silly Schooner:
And the handsome man, Levi:
It was a fabulous reunion with the three dogs who’ve gone onto final training. There were wags and smiles from everyone (and everydog) involved.
Because three of the dogs were in the Puppy Parade, I claimed Schooner straight away.
My husband walked with Levi, and a volunteer handled Monti. (If I could’ve figured a way to hang onto all three and take them all up on stage together, I would’ve done it!)
It’s no secret that I’m a real softie and tears fall down my face at the drop of a hat.
I admit, when Schooner and I walked down the aisle and up onto the stage, I was fighting back the tears. The pride I felt walking with that dog was bursting at the seams and I couldn’t contain my pride and admiration of the dogs and the people involved in the entire process. It was a great moment.
When it was time for the graduating teams to take the stage, each puppy raiser preceded the team to introduce ourselves, tell a quick story about our pup that was graduating, and then introduce our pup with their new partner. At my first graduation a decade ago, I cried so hard on stage that my husband had to take over until I was able to pull myself together. This year, he stayed in the audience with Schooner and Levi — smart guy. He wasn’t taking a chance that I’d put him on the spot again.
I proudly spoke of Caysun and the fun we’d had together and was able to introduce her with her new partner — all without shedding one tear. I needed a tissue however, when Caysun’s partner spoke of the many positive changes Caysun has brought to her life. Hearing of the independence Caysun has provided her, the companionship, the love, the freedom… it was magical. And every recipient shared a story of the difference the dogs were making in their lives.
It’s what we puppy raisers live for, I’m telling you true.
I go back to these memories of graduation every time I turn in another puppy.
I know I’ll need to draw on the memories of these moments — remembering the overwhelming pride and happiness at seeing the dogs so happy with their people, seeing the amazing joy and independence the dogs bring…it’s the salve that soothes the sting of letting our puppies go…