So...You Want to be a Puppy Raiser?!

Catch a glimpse into what it could be like
as a first time puppy raiser...
Here is the story from inside a puppy raiser's heart!

Are you prepared for a twelve pound fuzz ball to enter your life, change and rearrange it in a way you never dreamed possible? Let me take you through the emotional roller coaster ride of a puppy raiser's life...

You are teeming with excitement at the prospect of seeing the eight-week-old pup for the first time. Today is the day you get to bring Fuzz home. You decide to make it a family affair. On the way home, everyone coos and cuddles Fuzz, prickly teeth and all, until he upchucks in the back seat with the kids. Where are the paper towels? Finally, he falls asleep in your arms. Guess what he has to do when he wakes up? You hope he’ll sleep the rest of the way home and he does.

Your home is puppy proofed like you were instructed. You decide to just let them all play together to get acquainted when you hear, ... “Mom, Fuzz peed on the carpet!” As you dash to clean up the mess, it hits you . . .this is full time work! You resort to the program’s instructions on restricting his area until Fuzz knows where to relieve himself. Confident he has played so hard he will sleep all night, you go to bed. His whine wakes you up around 2 a.m.! You take Fuzz out to relieve himself and settle down for the rest of the night.

Why is he crying again? . . . you just took him out . . . you look at your watch. It’s only 5 a.m.! Fuzz is hungry; needs to go out; and is ready to start his day! Oh, when can you get a decent night’s sleep? You feel like you are in a stupor half the time from sleep deprivation. As you remind yourself why you started this project(to help someone else), all the pieces seem to fit together. The vet reports that puppy shots are complete. She is pleased that Fuzz is not growing too fast. Fuzz is reliable with relieving himself most of the time.

You need to dash in and pick up a prepared prescription. It will just be a quick trip. You decide to see if Fuzz may accompany you. He is ready for a small store. Having second thoughts, you call anyway. Permission is granted! (They forgot to tell you there is no such thing as "dash in" when you have a cute puppy with you!) He relieved himself before you left the house but it is taking so long you wonder if you will need the plastic bag and paper towels you stuffed in your pocket. Finally, you leave the store with Fuzz - the trooper - and head home to practice puppy kindergarten skills. Tonight is the last class and you want him to be promoted.

Formal obedience class has homework also. You wonder how you can ever expose him to everything he will need for his job like elevators, trains, buses, cabs, planes, subways, grocery stores, playgrounds, kids, department stores, malls, grid surfaces, theaters, schools, parades, concerts, open stairways, groomers and still create confidence and love of work. You practice skills for your organization. You participate in their training and socialization activities. You recognize this as a labor of love and pour your heart and soul into raising the best assistance dog possible in the year you have with Fuzz.

You wonder where time goes when it is flying. You’ve never discouraged a retrieved item even when it was your favorite antique teddy bear. You managed to take Fuzz out every day to experience traffic, crowds, post offices, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and a host of other things that weren’t even suggested by the program. You dread turn-in already. Fuzz has become part of the family! Look at the pictures . . . he’s in every one! You wonder how to share these special puppy moments with his recipient. Your mind wanders back to the pictures when you remember he may be trained as a guide dog. Oh, how you wanted to start a diary to record his puppyhood. It was too easy to wait for the tomorrow which never came. Maybe you should have made a heavily textured quilt for them. You would have had a keepsake for the team while using your hobby. Quilting is hard with a puppy in the house.

You decide to do it differently next time so you will have a keepsake for the recipient. Your mind is cluttered with “if only I had done this . . . if only I had done that.” The multiple mental diversions keep you from worrying how to handle turn-in. Could anything ever fill the void you anticipate? You dread that day most of all.

You are notified of the turn-in date. Your eyes fill with a river of tears. You look at Fuzz and see a sleek, gentle giant ready to conquer the world. Just a glance at him makes you cry. You try to focus on the changes he can make in the world for the right person. Then, you begin to pick up the pieces of his puppyhood - some teeth, favorite toys, pictures showing him grow up, a flag from a parade that only the "kids" got, a bandana from the groomer, and just in case he is trained as a guide, you write what he was like as a puppy. Reality sets in and you cry again.

You are prepared for turn-in. You have proof of up-to-date shots. The puppy coordinator comes to greet you and Fuzz. The family wasn’t as anxious for this trip. You are feeling lonely already. You wonder if you will ever see Fuzz again or raise another. Would the smell of sweet puppy breath ease this pain? Will the partner contact me? Will the partner eve know who the raiser is? Will there be an opportunity to attend team graduation? You did check but each program runs just a bit differently. You forget how this program does things. It was just the program that had a puppy available when you were ready, willing, and able to take one. You want to know so many things. You are told......first he has to pass medicals.

You know about medicals.....enough to worry. Fuzz can’t be an assistance dog if he is not physically sound. Fuzz would become a "career change" dog. He must pass x-rays. Emptiness makes you hope he fails so you would get him back. You cry again. Then, your common sense reminds you of all the work you put into Fuzz. You know what a great work drive he has. Surely he will be partnered with someone who needs a lot of assistance. You wonder if your head and your heart will ever be on the same wavelength and your family wonders why you are worrying about something you can’t change.

Fuzz has been gone over a month when the call finally comes. He passed his medicals! He can be trained as an assistance dog. They have someone in mind that they have been trying to match for a long time. Fuzz has now made that possible. Training is projected to take six months. Tears of joy stream down your face until you begin to wonder if you have prepared Fuzz well enough. Will he be able to complete training? Will they classify him a "career change" dog after all? If he passes training, will his new person like him? The waiting and wondering begin again.

You are eager for information about your boy....even bad news....but something. You don’t want to be a pest by always calling the program. Finally, a call comes letting you know that Fuzz is half way through training and has met his recipient. They seem to hit it off instantly. Your excitement builds until you think you will explode. You ask gingerly, "Are you allowed to tell me what he will be doing?" Chuckling, he replies, "Sure....a lot of things really. He’ll pull a wheelchair, do switches, counter transactions, open doors, retrieve dropped objects, get the phone and get help. He’ll be working with a very tall blonde gentleman who lives a few hours from you. You’ll have a chance to meet him at graduation, if you can come." What does he mean "if"?! You wouldn’t miss it for the world.

You are elated. They have the perfect match for Fuzz, your gentle giant. You consider all the people waiting for a dog and decide finding his partner was the easy part. He’d better finish training. Someone is counting on him. They have met already. You wish you could have a private pep talk with Fuzz. You want to explain what an important job he has. He can open a new world for this man. You wonder if you can stand worrying an additional three more months.

The graduation invitation arrived in plenty of time for everyone to plan to attend as a family. After all, that’s how they first met Fuzz. You agonize about being able to recognize Fuzz after so long and wonder if he will remember you. Here come the dogs. Fuzz stands there with the same goofy grin. There is only one blonde male receiving a dog today. It is easy to see where Fuzz is going. You watch intently as the dogs are presented. They look like a great team. You wonder what to say when you meet afterward. Trying not to rush the team, you hang back a bit. You exchange pleasantries and addresses.

Then, Fuzz leans toward you and his tail starts wagging. You try to smile while holding back your tears,"You catch my scent, Fuzz? We’ve missed you, buddy. . . this is Crystal . . . she’s in training."

"With tears of love, hope and encouragement..."
~~QB  1996

Text by Melanie "Quint" Meenen, 1996
Design by Kath's Kreations ©1998

This work linked with permission from "Quint's Corner"