Today is the “expected” day to be thankful for something-and although I am thankful for so very many things in my life I always hope that I can be thankful every day for things around me and not have to wait for the one day a year a holiday reminds me to do so. But today reminds me to be thankful for the incredible service these dogs provide to the clients and forever homes they are placed with once their training is complete; to be thankful that their are organizations like this that somewhere in their past saw a need to help others, found that dogs indeed do have the capability to provide that help in incredible ways, and then found a way to make it a reality. In addition, then there needs to be whelping homes to help fulfill the need so that hopefully waiting lists can be eliminated in the future for people waiting to receive a dog.
It is the job of the whelping home to teach these “puppies with a purpose” to navigate through the waters of being an assistance dog in training and eventually a full fledged assistance dog; to weather the learning curve of bumps and bruises along the way by hopefully teaching them resilience. As you’ve seen in earlier posts, training begins on day 3 for these pups and the learning process will continue even past the day of graduation when they are placed with their client. Training has no finite end, but rather it is an infinite loop of learning- learning the appropriate reactions to stimuli(sometimes a training day can ONLY be about not chasing squirrels!), learning tasks that will help their client lead a life of freedom from the things that were creating a struggle for them previously, learning how to “work” when their cape is on, and learning that being a regular, everyday dog that loves to fetch a ball, play tug of war and swim in the lake is just as important!
It is 400am, and as I sit here and watch trying to get their legs underneath them to acquire the accomplishment of learning to walk I realize once again that these puppies have NO idea how special they are! They will be happy doing what they learn because their whelping homes, foster homes, puppy raisers and trainers will spend 2 years or more encouraging them to learn a huge variety of tasks in a fun and engaging way and that is all they’ve ever known! It won’t seem unusual for them to be under a table at a restaurant during a meal or walking through a crowded mall when they are still a young puppy because they’ve never known anything different. They will need to be in a variety of homes with a variety of opportunities so that nothing surprises them. The statement that it takes a village is no truer than it is with teaching these dogs.
And so, today, they will hear MP3’s of noises lightly in the background that will help them gain that resilience; busy city noises, trains, honking horns, loud noises and more. They will add those noises to their data bank of learning and those noises will just be white noise in the background to them hopefully as they encounter them in the real world down the road. In the future, they will be able to continue to focus on their client because they have experienced so much in the past and they understand it’s nothing to be afraid of but instead something to ignore and move on. They will work to become the champions of greatness that all of us who volunteer in this organization know they can be, and they have a section of cheerleaders on the sideline, numbering in the hundreds or more, waiting to see them cross that stage one day with their forever person and change their lives in ways we can’t even comprehend-and THAT is hopefully their destiny!