Talos has been part of our family since Memorial Weekend 2009. This weekend he's going back to Service Dogs of Virginia where he'll receive more intensive training, then in a few more months, he'll be matched with a person who will become his permanent family.
When you raise a service dog, you know you have to give the dog back eventually. You know about how long you'll keep your charge, but the actual turn-in date depends on lots of factors.
Turn-in day has always been hard for me. I'm ruled by my heart. And my heart is crazy in love with Talos.
Turn-in will be at a dog park/lake in Virginia. We'll be taking Talos there to play and meet his new (temporary) dog family. We'll hang out with Talos, the training director, and the rest of her charges, while Talos gets to know his new friends. We'll stay the entire time, help get Talos into the vehicle and wave as he rides off into the sunset.
Then I cry. A lot. For a long time.
And I wait by my computer for an email letting me know how big T's adjusting to his new surroundings.
While I find nothing good about turn-in, I like doing it this way because we're not disappearing – Talos will be able to see us as he is driven away. And we're not leaving him. We're just going separate ways.
I'll get lots of updates on Talos. Hopefully lots of pictures and lots of video. Our paths will cross again at Graduation.
Graduation means more tears. Tears of joy, tears of sadness, but for the most part Graduation is a happy event for me. I get to see Talos again, but even better – I get to see Talos and his new person working happily together.
This is THE toughest part of service dog training for me. I don't mind getting up three or four times a night with a new puppy, I don't mind all the good-manners training, I don't mind all the teething and chewing and biting from a puppy.
It's the turn-in that's rough. But it's a necessary part of puppy raising. It's what has to happen if this big guy's going to go off and do good things with his life.
Go do good things, T. You've got a lot more to give and while I'll grieve your absence, I know you'll be onto the next new adventure, on your way to making someone's life better.
(Photo by Mary Kate McKenna.)