As a puppy raiser I knowingly take in a puppy, raise it, teach it, love it, and give it up to hopefully help someone who needs it more than I do. We constantly get asked when our pups are out in public “Is it hard to give them up?”, or we hear “I could never do that because I would get too attached.” It is hard to give them up? Yes it is hard to give them up since we get very attached to these amazing puppies. After all, they go pretty much everywhere with us. When I puppy raise I know that I will go through almost every emotion possible at some point. Excitement when I meet my new bundle of joy. Sleepiness during those first few nights. Happiness and joy when my puppy wags his/her tail, gives me kisses and smiles back at me. Pride when my puppy learns something new. Frustration when I make a mistake and my puppy does something he/she is not supposed to. Sometimes a little anger the time my puppy destroyed our shoes and wall molding (this is usually anger at myself for not paying close enough attention; it happens to all of us at some point). But always a myriad of emotions during the process.
The event where I experience the most emotions is when my pup returns to formal training to be a service dog. I’m so excited and proud that I helped get a puppy ready to this point. I feel sadness that I have to say goodbye to a puppy that I love so dearly and have such a bond with. Sometimes I fear for my puppy. Is my puppy going to adjust to kennel life? Is my puppy going to be lonely and miss me? Will my puppy enjoy working? I watch for the updates on how my puppy is doing in formal training. Every week after we returned Gabby, we waited for the Thursday phase reports to be posted. What phase was she going to be in? Phase1, woohoo she passed her medical evaluations! Phase2, all right she hasn’t been kicked out yet. Phase3, wow that was fast! Phase4, boy she is a fast learner. Phase5, this is where we started getting excited. She passed the half way point. Phase6, getting closer. Can she really learn all these skills? Phase7, OMG she may actually do this! Phase8, oh boy this is the last phase. This is where we get more nervous because there are only two options for her; pass her final testing or get career changed. Finally we get the phone call…Gabby is in class! Once again a flood of emotions. Excitement first… she did it! Then pride; wow…she really did it! Then wonder; who did she get matched with? Where is she going to be living? Will we like this person and will he/she like us? Will he/she keep in touch and let us know how Gabby is doing? The final and most important question can only be answered on graduation day; is Gabrielle happy?
So flash back in time to Matt and I and our personal experience that day. It was time to meet Gabby’s partner and of course see Gabby! Being reunited with my puppy was an amazing experience. Gabby greeted us in true Gabby fashion; with great excitement and exuberance. She was very ecstatic to see all of us including her first puppy raisers who had not seen her in almost a year. Then we got to visit with Gabby and her new partner Katie. During this time all the wonder and worries got answered and disappeared. On top of that Gabby was no longer a puppy. She had transitioned into a mature dog; a guide dog. She was still her goofy self, but it seemed that she knew she had a job and was now responsible for guiding Katie; and she liked it. While working she is Gabrielle. While off duty she is Gabby. We love that Gabby gets to keep her nick name and it fits. Gabrielle is very formal sounding, and Gabby is fun and goofy. We listened to stories told by Katie of how her life has changed and how free she feels being guided by Gabrielle. This is Katie’s first experience with using a guide dog and she told us how it is more amazing than she ever could have imagined. The more time we spent listening to stories and watching Gabby interact with Katie, the more relaxed and comfortable we got. Katie is an amazing person who is currently going to school majoring in special education. She seems like a perfect fit for Gabby and loves her to pieces, every puppy raisers dream! When Matt and I stood up to present our puppy to her forever partner something happened. That day we turned Gabby in for formal training as we hugged our puppy goodbye my heart broke a little bit, it happens every time. But as we handed Gabby’s leash over to Katie that piece of our heart that broke mended and grew. We now have a new person to love, our puppy’s partner!
We don’t have kids of our own yet but the best analogy that I can come up with is this… maybe this is the way parents feel the day their kids get married? You are not losing your child but your family grows a new family member this day. We are so happy that Katie and Gabby were paired together and can’t wait to hear all about their adventures together. So when we are asked the question “is it hard to let them go?” Yes it is. Tears of sadness fall when they leave our home, but then tears of joy come when we see them mature and become guides. There is no better feeling than to help change someone’s life for the better. This is why we love and let go over and over. It is a puppy raisers roller coaster and we wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂
Written by Amie Chapman
Co-founder of Growing Up Guide Pup