November 11, 2010

The End Of The Beginning

The bond between a service puppy and her raiser lasts a lifetime, but there is also a very clear beginning and end to their relationship. Ruby will always be a part of my heart, but my role in her life has now passed. During the sixteen months that she lived in our home, she was truly our girl; we loved her immeasurably and did our best to provide her with the most solid foundation possible. We were an essential stop on her journey, but her destination is ahead.

The week leading up to our last day together was emotional, but I knew she was ready and I was ready, too. I ached when the time came to pass the leash. Handing her over was painful, yet it was heartening; it was a tough and proud moment, powerful but very quiet.

Then it was done and and Ruby was off. And you know something? Letting her go felt very, very right.

I want to thank everyone, our friends, family, and so many who've reached across the miles and through the screen for your overwhelming support over these past few days. Your phone calls, hugs, texts, cards, comments, blogs, tweets, and emails flew straight to the place in my heart that needed filling and I am so very grateful. You made a difficult week so much easier.

Ruby's journey will remain online and even though it may be awhile, if I receive updates about her, you will too! So, be sure to keep us in your blog readers and check in with us on Twitter.

As my responsibility for raising Ruby ends, my commitment to raising awareness for service dogs grows stronger. Through the many years that I've been involved with service dog organizations, I've met hundreds of people who have asked about the lives of service puppies before they move on to partnership. If you've just found this blog and are curious about service puppies, think you might be interested in raising a service puppy in training, or have any questions about our experience, please feel free to send me an email.

It's been a few days now since turn-in, and everything is falling into place. Even though I miss her, I'm feeling very positive and I've had a kind note from her Advanced Trainer letting me know that Ruby is adjusting well. She's going to thrive in her new environment and I have confidence that her organization will ensure that wherever fate brings Roo, she'll be well cared for and loved.

So, let's tack some happy pix up here to finish this post!

To celebrate our final weekend with Ruby, Mr. Raiser and I took the dogs on a road trip to Aspen, CO. Aspen is very pet-friendly, and at this off-season time of year, very price-friendly, too. The weather was glorious, Kiva and Ruby were in rare form, and we have memories to last a lifetime.

I could watch this nature channel all day.

Clearly, I am but a Pez dispenser.

Just like last year, Roo snoopervises the Christmas Tree decorations.

Shaun's right. Dogs can look up.

One last giant thank you, to my husband, Jeff. Mr. Raiser, you are the most calm, cool, composed, imperturbably patient person who ever held dog or camera. Or both. Often at the same time. You took a zillion great photos and they rock and so do you.

November 8, 2010

Turn-In Day

This afternoon, we'll load up the car with a precious passenger, drive for awhile, make our stop, then say goodbye to our girl. I'll pass the leash, and a new journey will begin for all of us.

She'll have a goodie bag of snacks-to-go and plenty of her usual food to help ease the transition. Her favorite toys are all packed and's their big adventure, too! The screechy monkey toy seems to be hiding (and I was kinda hoping he'd want to make the trip), but I think he's just being loyal to his Kiva. I'm sure I'll find him later tonight nestled in the toy basket with the rest of the home team.

I've just got to hunt down the last of Roo's medical records. I'll leave you for now with a shot of our little yellow co-pilot, taken this past weekend on a road trip in her honor, a celebration of her time with us.

November 5, 2010

These Last Few Days

Very emotional, and sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. I'm driving down the road, singing a tune, and all of a sudden I realize I can't see through the windshield. I've had to wear sunglasses inside the supermarket at 6pm. Yesterday, a friend tweeted some kind words, we both got a little choked up, and I replied that I gave up wearing mascara a week ago. (Someone quickly tweeted me back a link for a free sample of Maybelline, which made me laugh, so thank you for that, unknown twitter person.)

As I was petting Ruby the other day, lost in my thoughts, the tears really started. I kissed her head as I sobbed and she gave me the oddest look. Then she began to wag her tail and pounce around...which is what she does when she's nervous. I collected myself so as not to upset her any further and the realization struck me like a bolt: "This dog is nervous because she's never seen me cry like this before." It's not that I hadn't experienced painful times over the past year, but she's been such an uplifting presence, that even on very dark days, her spirit alters my whole frame of mind.

I raised this little yellow service puppy for sixteen months and she has reinterpreted happiness for me. I can only dream of what she'll bring her future partner.

(Thank you to our dear friends, Dennis & Mickey, for traveling on this journey with us and for the beautiful photo.)

November 3, 2010


One of the things I'll miss about Ruby (one of the everythings I'll miss about Ruby) is watching her respond to the word, "Fix." All dogs get caught up in the leash from time to time, and it can be challenging for a person with a disability to sort out a tangled leash. "Fix" cues the dog to untangle herself from the leash. Really helpful...and pretty cute.

Our service puppies are taught "Fix" very early on, Ruby picked it up quickly. Just position the leash behind the puppy's leg, then gently pull the leash toward you. The light pressure of the leash will cause the puppy to naturally lift her leg, and the leash slips back into place. I've gotten such a kick out of watching Ruby "Fix," I'll have to teach it to every pup I know, to get my own fix! There are few things more adorable than a puppy lifting her tiny paw to get that pesky leash where it should be.