Be good ten month old puppies, you four and your three other pet siblings!
Yesterday we attended out first graduation in a number of years and we were in pure heaven! It was somewhat awkward as we didn't know anyone there, our first ever graduation as purely part of the "public"!
It was nice though, we were all in the same boat and went in with open minds. We defintely weren't disappointed, although we had no expectations /grin/
Oh, who was the graduation for? Canine Angels Service Teams, an organization who trains and places fully trained dogs (of different levels/uses) to children with disabilities between the ages of 5 and 25 at no charge. You can visit their website here. They train mainly labradors, goldens and crosses of the two although they have a litter of goldendoodles and regularly have an American Indian Dog (donated from Song Dog Kennels) in training.
Graduation started with an opening statement from CEO (trainer/breeder caretaker/puppy raiser) Sandy Mays. Followed by an overview of the program by Southern California Outreach Coordinator Kelly which also outlined some aspects of the puppy raising program. More info was to follow though as a first time raiser who's pup "Denali" aka Ali is in advanced training talked about what it takes to be a raiser and such. Then was the presentation of new breeder boys black lab "Flint" and golden "Lewis" who were both Gorgeous! The other breeders were introduced (the ones that were present), the current dogs in training were introduced and two of the new puppies "Twister" FBL from the Games Litter (of 8) and "Skylar" FAID 9 weeks old made their debut.
Then came the heart touching part. A mother and daughter team gave a short presentation. The daughter is mainly non-verbal and is thirteen. They attempted training their goldendoodle themselves but didn't know how to advance. Last year they contacted CAST for assistance and Zoe was sent out to go through the training process. They graduated last year but came back for a refresher course, mainly to see the trainers again ;-) The way the girl (I know her name but am not posting it due to privacy reasons) is going to be "calling" Zoe to her is with a squeaky toy that is attached to her chair with velcro. Ingenious!
Next was a mother and son that were matched with their dog in this class. The son has a tumor on his optic nerve, he's completely blind in one eye and partially in the other. The dog (a female golden) will help him by turning on/off lights, some balance work (I believe) and making him more secure. In a few years she may be his guide as well. The boy is seven, diagnosed at the age of three. Emily's age.
The other mother and son matched with a dog in this class was another boy with a brain tumor. This one is on the boy's brain stem though, greatly limits him, he's in a power wheelchair. He was matched with a darling little American Indian Dog. For the first time, he opened his right hand fully to feed his dog, after only about a week to a week and a half! Something that would have taken him more than a few months in physical therapy.
There was also an eleven year old girl there who just got certified with her Assisted Service Dog (Skilled Companion) as a Service Dog Team on their own /grin/
All their stories were heartwarming. One of the best parts though? When the puppy raiser of the golden handed the leash off, the donater of the American Indian dog handed her (?) leash off and the teams got their certificates and public access certification cards.
It was a very sweet, very touching graduation.
This school is in consideration for me to raise for, as they're based an hour south of here. Closest support I'll be able to find. However, a decision is not being made at this point as Alex just lost his job (for not being willing to lie for the salesmen) so we're stuck at my parents for a little while, until either A) he finds another job or B) he gets unemployment.
That's all for now.... we hope to hear about Eclipse's future soon! Oh, and Charlie (who I'll be "co-raising") arrives in only SIX days!