Yesterday, Kimi–one of our readers and the winner of the paracord leash giveaway–sent me a sweet Thank You email and photo update of the leash with her three beautiful lab-golden crosses. The photos, as you can see, are adorable, so I just had to share them with you. As we exchanged a few emails, however, I realized that there was a story here that I wanted to share, so for the second time this week, I’m doing a sort of guest blogger feature, with Kimi telling her story in her own words.
First, let me give some introductions. . . . Kimi is a puppy raiser for CCI (Canine Companions for Independence), an organization that I highlighted just a few weeks ago in a post on their Puppy Sunday open houses. She’s currently raising two trainee pups with the help of their doggy mentor Titian.
Titian was the first puppy that Kimi raised for CCI, and she’ll be 7 years old next month. (She’s pictured above.) Kimi describes Titian as a “handful” of a puppy. After her 4.5 months of professional training, she was released from the program for being just a little too smart . . . : ) Kimi took her back to live with her, and this head-strong smarty pants now does triple duty as mentor to Kimi’s CCI trainee pups, therapy dog for BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids), and all around house helper and good girl. Titian can pick up dropped items, tote items on command, turn on light switches, push doors and drawers, and even tug open the refrigerator with her tug rope. Whoa! Kimi – I’d be happy to dog-sit Titian any day!
Kimi’s second dog, and CCI trainee is Gottlieb (pictured here) at 17 months old. He’s due to leave for professional training in August, and Kimi tells me that he will be a tough one to let go. Although he’s sweet and calm in public, he also has a fun, goofy side and he loves kids. Kimi hopes he’ll make it through the program and be matched as a skilled companion or facility dog, which would be his dream job. Gottlieb is a big boy, but he’s still a “laprador” at heart. Good luck at your professional training Gottlieb!
Finally, meet Hadara, the baby of the bunch and Kimi’s seventh (!) CCI puppy. This 7-month old is Gottlieb’s half sis, and according to Kimi is one of the smartest (next to Titian) and most food-motivated dogs she’s ever raised. Hadara may be young, but she already knows 23 of the 30 commands that they teach the CCI trainee pups. Hadara is a calm, happy worker with a wiggly side. She’ll definitely do the full body wag. In addition, she loves water. (Shhh – don’t tell any one, but she’s been caught digging in the toilet!) Hadara is just a puppy, but it sounds like she has a long and illustrious career in front of her!
And as a side note, did you know that all CCI pups of the same litter are assigned the same first letter for their names? This system helps the organization keep track of over 1,600 active graduate teams and the hundreds of current trainees nationwide.
So after meeting these awesome dogs, I just had to ask Kimi – how does it feel to raise your pups and have to let them go? And what do you think is the best advice you can give a potential puppy raiser? Here’s what she wrote:
It’s never easy to give a dog back. It takes a lot of time, effort, patience, care, and love. Each one steals your heart in a different way, and it’s hard to not get caught up in your own feelings about each dog. A lot of us feel that if we truly love our pups and want the best for them, then we will give them back with a hug of confidence and hope for success. Does it ever get easier? Absolutely not. Sometimes, I have had more confidence in some dogs than others; knowing they would adjust well to kennel life while others might get stressed. This helps with worrying less, but I miss them all equally. The best medicine after turn-in? A new puppy to raise. You’re so focused on that new pup that you don’t have time to worry about how your last dog is doing. You keep moving on, and so does the dog you turned in. I trust the trainers at CCI, and have been lucky enough to get to know them. I know my dogs are going to be loved, hugged, encouraged, and will get the opportunity to show CCI what they’ve got! I don’t raise puppies for myself. I raise puppies for the graduates. I know that CCI is looking out for the dog’s best interest, whether it is as a service dog, or as a release dog. They know what they’re doing, and they do it right. They won’t force a dog to work. The ones that make it are the ones that love to work. I’ve seen the miracles these dogs become. I’ve been lucky to have two dogs graduate, and see the final product.
As for what kind of person would do best as a puppy raiser… Someone who is patient, kind, confident and has a sense of humor. These puppies will steal your heart the day you pick them up at puppy park. The frito feet, puppy breath, and that sweet puppy face. All lures to suck you in to the little teething, chewing, barking machines they really are! These guys are smart, but it takes a confident individual to rein them in and guide them. A lot of people meet the graduate dogs, or advanced dogs. They miss the potty accidents, waking up at 2am, 4am, and pulling out sticks, leaves, and rocks from their puppy teeth. It is a lot of work, time, and dedication but so rewarding. At some point, someone will stop you and say that that’s the best behaved dog they’ve ever seen. That makes you proud, and that’s what we want to give back to CCI. We want to turn in a well-behaved, and well rounded dog. One that is confident, despite changes in its environment or distractions.
It’s amazing to meet the graduates, and see first hand how these dogs change lives. I’m glad to be a part of that. Knowing my graduates, and the dogs I raised for them, when someone asks, “how can you give them up?”… Simply put, how can I not? If you’re able to step away from your own personal wants, then you’re able to give someone else the gift of pursuing their life fully. There’s no better feeling than taking part in giving someone their independence back. What better partner to have than one that is full of love, and always has a wagging tail 🙂
Thank you Kimi, for that glimpse into the life of a puppy raiser volunteer. I admire the work that you do!
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This is my second post in my Dogs With Jobs series. If you know of any working or professional dogs, or would like to tell your own story about a dog with a job, please leave a comment or contact me via email or our Facebook Page. Thanks for reading!