Service Dog Series: The day I said YES!
In the beginning.....
If you would have told me a few years ago that we would be raising service dogs - I would have laughed. We loved dogs but didn't want to be bogged down with the details in having one. Instead we had a cat for over 14 years who was a great companion. He passed away and watching him grow old and suffer was heartbreaking. We didn't want to go through that agony again. So we became content without any pets.
Fast forward to 2011 when my husband found himself working downtown near Portland State University. One of his duties was to check on tenants and respond to needs that they might have. One of these offices had a young woman who was a puppy raiser. She also volunteered for an autism service dog organization.
My dear husband found himself drawn to this dog named Gunnar. Every night at dinner I would hear tales about Gunnar. Gunnar was a nice dog. Gunnar was so sweet. Gunnar this and Gunnar that. Knowing my husband as I do; I'm sure he invented reasons to check on this office more than is necessary just to see this Gunnar.
Soon he began mentioning about being a puppy raiser and wouldn't that be a nice thing to do. Whoa! I need to nip this thinking in the bud quickly. My family will tell you that I am one of the best "excuse makers" on the planet. I used my gift of "excuse making" and gave my husband a long laundry list of why we can't become puppy raisers.
In truth, I knew the majority of the work and time involved would fall on me not him. His job would not allow having a service dog around. I have my own business and work from home so it would definitely be my responsibility to have this service dog around.
Running out of excuses....
My husband Don must have regurgitated all of my excuses to this young woman. At the dinner table, he gave convincing arguments and answers for all of my "excuses". This exchange went on for a few weeks.
My biggest concern was "allergies". No problem, they have a labradoodle who is hypoallergenic. Well what about "potty training"? I don't want to do that. No problem, they have Puppy Coaches who teach them potty training before they come to you as the Puppy Raiser. I'm running out of legitimate excuses.
Then one day, he mentioned that this young woman was willing to bring together some puppy raisers in our area for me to meet and ask them questions. With someone going the extra mile, I couldn't turn that down - could I? So it was arranged.
We met with 2 or 3 Puppy Coaches & Raisers in our area. They came with their dogs so we could see how they behave in a public setting. Even with this extra effort and impressive puppies; I remained unconvinced.
Learning to say YES!
I'm not sure what happened but I began to think about it seriously. After all, what is the worse thing that could happen? If we do this and absolutely hate it - we could fulfill our obligation and be done with it and not get another one. In my mind, I was playing devil's advocate to weigh carefully our options.
Somehow I began to see that I could be holding us back from what could be the most amazing thing we've ever done. I had my plan for if I hated it but what would happen if this turns out to be a great thing? So I decided to get out of the way and say YES!
Once I could say YES to the process and YES to my husband; I felt a release and a elation of joy. We were going on an adventure with this Puppy Raiser thing.
Hope needs a Puppy Raiser
There is more to becoming a Puppy Raiser than you might think. Once we said YES - they scheduled a home visit at our house. We had to fill out a long form - very legal looking.
We learned about a labradoodle named Hope that was recently donated to the organization. We would be her Puppy Raiser. She was potty trained already. We had to attend monthly meetings for training. That was it.
After all the build up getting to this place, the actual doing it was rather quick and matter of fact. We had a few moments of panic when we realized that we had never had a dog before in our married lives. Our only other experience was having dogs when we were kids at home and Mom took care of everything. This time there was no Mom to help.
So we begin our adventure with Hope in becoming Puppy Raisers.