June 13, 2012

A Ruby Reunion!

When I said goodbye to service puppy Ruby in November of 2010, I knew I might never see her again. Service puppy raisers understand and accept this; we don't know what path the fates will choose for our puppies and that's okay. But like all puppy raisers, I had just one wish...that she would be loved.

A few weeks ago, thanks to Ruby's partner David, I was able to see just how true my wish had become.

Saying hello to beautiful "Service Dog" Ruby for the first time.

David and I had been corresponding since Ruby's placement in December. As the weather turned warmer, we discussed getting together and he kindly invited my husband and me to visit. David and his family were just so warm and welcoming, and we were thrilled to see that the puppy we raised is living in the most loving home we could ever have hoped for.

I'm often asked if service dogs ever get to have any fun. Why, yes! Yes, they do!

Last time I saw Ruby, she was still very much a puppy. And even though she's matured now, she has that same sparkle.

See? I told you she finally grew into those ears!

I know you're wondering...did Ruby recognize me? Yes, I believe she did, and what really made my heart sing was seeing the deep bond she has with David. Just look at the amazing focus she has on him!

I was interested to know what David thought were her most important skills. He said that her assistance in picking up dropped items was invaluable. He also mentioned how much he relies on her strong recall. It's important for any dog to come when called, but it's critical for a service dog to respond to her partner immediately when he gives her the command.

We also talked a bit about the social aspects of having a service dog. Service dogs can help break down social barriers that people with disabilities often encounter in public. That said, it's still so important for people to refrain from petting a service dog while she is working. 

Aside from the fact that petting a service dog without permission disturbs her focus, I feel it's also a matter of respect. When I'm out walking my dog, or while she's laying beside me on a restaurant patio, my dog is an extension of me. That's even more true for a person and a service dog who are working together as partners. Yet, some people just don't respect boundaries.

Back when I was raising Ruby, we were in the supermarket one day and a guy just reached out and gave her a noogie. I was like, "Dude...really? She's not Gilda Radner. And you're definitely not Bill Murray." I thought this would go without saying, but when it comes to service dogs, just say no to noogies. 

No noogies! No matter how cute.

Of course, if you have raised said service dog, and her partner gives you the go-ahead, said service dog may allow you to give her a hug...

and maybe even a smooch.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see our service puppy Ruby all grown up and happy, living with her partner that she adores. Many thanks to David for a great day!