Jamba is the 2nd dog we’ve raised for Canine Companions for Independence, a not-for-profit charity that provides Service Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Skilled Companion Dogs and Facility Dogs to the disabled, free of charge.
THE most often asked question I get asked is some variation of “how can you give them up?” or “how do you raise a dog for a year and a half and then just let them go?” or my favorite “can’t you just say no, you’re going to keep him?”.
While it IS true, giving them up or ‘away’ is hard and not for the faint of heart, it is the whole POINT of the process of raising these young pups into a calm, confident, obedient young dog. We go into this process KNOWING we will one day walk into a training facility, put the dog in their kennel, kiss them ‘good-luck’ (I try not to say good bye because there are so many ‘what ifs’ with this process, which I’ll talk about), and then make the long drive home to a no wag welcome and an eerily quiet empty house.
With our first dog, and now this one, one of the things prior to leaving was to take a long walk through the neighborhood, complete with photos of us with the dog. On Thursday, prior to our departure to Ohio we did just that…
…the sun was just coming up, the leaves were still falling and full of color…
..we stopped at different locations to take advantage of that golden sun.
I looked back at the paw prints…a reminder of the many walks we had.
Something IS different. Friday morning we leave early and are graced with the sun, a bright orange globe on the horizon, as it comes up over the farmlands of northern Ohio.
We turn off the interstate and head along the back roads to Columbus, through small towns. There is a place we need to stop at for breakfast. A great hometown breakfast does wonders for the aching heart.
After breakfast we make our way to Dublin, Ohio and wait for the graduation ceremony to begin. Outside we meet up with Jamba’s half brother Carter!
Jamba wears his ‘Turn-In’ cape and an Advanced Training 2013 ribbon. This cape and ribbon let’s everyone there know which dogs are being sent off to their first semester of Advanced Training. There are lots of photos!
After the ceremony we drive to Delaware, OH to the North Central Regional Training Center. This is where Jamba will stay until one of two things happens.
1.) Jamba will stay here for 6-9 months before rotating through a ‘Team Training’ and be matched up with a recipient and become a certified working ‘Service Dog’ or…
2.) Be released from the program, to which he will come back to us and become a much beloved pet.
How we deal with this is knowing this ‘turn-in’ is the next phase in Jamba’s life.
It is also a milestone marker for someone out there with a disability to receive a dog! We know the waiting time to receive one of these dogs takes sometimes upwards of 3 years (as was the case of Einstein’s recipient)! When we turn these dogs in as a group, alongside a graduation ceremony (when a person with a disability finally receives their dog) we see just how precious and RARE it is for one of these dogs to be the perfect match for someone they have yet to meet. It isn’t necessarily goodbye, as there is always that possibility he won’t want to be a service dog and will be released back to us, so it is GOOD LUCK big guy and we take some final photos…
The dogs are paired up in their kennels so they’ll always have another pup with them. I did not take pictures inside the kennel this time (sorry all) because #1, there was A LOT of people turning in at the same time and #2 A LOT of these same people were having a hard go of it. It wasn’t long before I was beginning to feel myself start to think about never seeing Jamba again…I was starting to tear up and I knew I had to do it fast.
I brought Jamba to his kennel, removed his collar and gave him a last scratch behind the ear. I wished him ‘good luck big guy’ and closed the kennel door. With my vision now in a fog I could only hear the sobs from the others in the room and I had to make my way quickly outside. Jim said his goodbyes and when he came outside he said Jamba looked as if he was trying to say ‘What The Hell?”…I wiped the tears from my eyes, took a deep breath and got in the car…
We spend the night in Fort Wayne and make our way home on Saturday.
It is a long trip but we make it in stages and by the time we get back, the turn-in is behind us and we’re ready for our break at puppy raising. The waiting begins, contingency plans are hatched in case he does get released from the program, and the thoughts of another little pup coming into our lives slowly creeps into our thoughts.
So “how do we do it?” you ask?
With Good Luck wishes, walks in the sun, lasting memories and KNOWING this special dog may be on his way to changing the life of someone who’ll need him a whole lot more than we will!
We love the process of raising these special dogs, from the pick up, to the teeth dropping, to their first commands all the way to their antsyness at the end to have more to do.
We love meeting so many wonderful people, especially those graduates that have received their working dogs and telling us how these dogs have changed their lives. It’s a special experience and I’d recommend it to anyone!
Good Luck Jamba! Make us proud big guy!