Monday, June 24, 2013

We Have Just Begun, Haddie.

I started today writing my Facebook status with:

Happy 2nd Birthday to Haddie and her H litter siblings from Waverly and Hickman. While she is enjoying sunshine, hard work, and plenty of puppy playtime in College today, I am wishing Haddie a birthday wish that she is placed exactly where she wants to be.  U Haddie Rosa!!!

Haddie with her mom, Waverly, Feb '13
Haddie 12 wks exploring our backyard
Haddie's Dad, Hickman

Then, my daughter took a silly photo with Kolby, because she had taken a similar photo with Haddie, and my next status entry was this:

Who is training who. Ohh, Daughter ....

Haddie - 15 months - Sept '12
Kolby - 5 months - June '13

Finally, after spending some hours on an adventure with Kolby, we returned home to find an email from Canine Companions and my final Facebook status was this:

We just walked in the door to receive Haddie's birthday gift ~ a formal email from Canine Companions announcing she has been chosen to enter Team Training August 5-16th. While there are more dogs in Team Training than placement candidates, the ending to this chapter has yet to be written, but for now - we are wrapping our hearts and minds around her forever happy life as an Assistance Dog. You make us proud, Haddie. 

In full circle, my status when I woke was my birthday wish for Haddie to be placed exactly where she is meant to be, and by the end of the day, I received a glimpse of that answer from Canine Companions.   Thank you, God, for answering prayers (aka: birthday wishes).

I want to remember this day, what it feels like to be on this Roller Coaster of Emotions. From the one side I am filled with pride and can see Haddie working as an Assistance Dog. I have prayed throughout Puppy Raising for this moment, and it is surreal that we are so close to being involved in Graduation. All of our social outings through Training always proved Haddie in an amazing status; she had pose and manners no matter the circumstance. I beamed with pride and happy every time we got back in the car to return home. My heart knew I had a Superstar.

I see Graduation, my family in the audience with our girl by our side, waiting our turn to be called on stage to hand over the leash. I will be staring at Haddie, I will be hugging her, and getting my last whispers into her ear as we sit in the large auditorium.

We will hear our names called from what will seem like a thousand miles away. We will walk onto the stage, and we will hug that forever person, shed some silent tears, and return to our seat. And like that, the next chapter of Haddie will begin. As the Ceremony continues, I will be beaming as I watch Haddie next to her forever person; settled, happy, content, exactly where she is meant to be.

I will walk out of the building with a little piece of my heart attached to that leash we gave to that forever person. Our family will talk over our celebration dinner, and we will say a prayer that Haddie's forever person will always stay in contact with us. And a new life will have started for Haddie, and for us.

The other side of my emotions this evening is one that is very real. It is one of sadness. Knowing that we are nearing our final goodbye, the final chapter of our Puppy Raising, the conclusion that we have been waiting to hear since the day we met Haddie on August 30, 2011.

You see, we had a backup plan for our girl. An amazing family in our town was going to be her forever family should Haddie choose to come home. They would offer a whole lot of happy to Haddie's life with endless possibilities of catching balls, swimming in the lake, vacations, and potential of therapy work at the hospital where the dad of this household works. The perk, of course, would be that we would still be part of Haddie's life by seeing her frequently.

So I am confused. I know we signed up for this volunteer role to make a difference. And the goal has come to pass and our girl has made it far enough to enter Team Training with a potential Graduation being very real. And this is exactly what I want to happen. But I am not one to hide the truth, so I must admit my selfish thoughts - that it is hard to say goodbye. It is hard to love and pour out our emotions - the hard, the easy, the happy, the sad - over this amazing bundle of happy four-legged awesome that we raised from little (where she knew nothing but biting our fingers and running through our house at top speed) to bringing out the good in her through much patience and focus, and now we say "She is yours, forever."

I never claimed Haddie as mine. I always claimed her as someone's. I know Haddie's Change of Career Family. I can play the scenario in my mind of how that would go. I have no vision of her forever Assistance Dog family. I can not play out the scenario in my mind. And that is where the fear, the sadness, the questions come. Simply put ... Will they keep in touch? Will they be interested in Haddie's puppy days? Do they know what occured to raise her from 10 weeks to 20 months? Will they love her unconditionally even if she is tired? Will they play ball with her? Will they just look at her and see her as true joy and love like we do?

Of course. Of course they will do all of these things because I have no doubt they will love her more than I do. Haddie is the connection to their Independence. Haddie is the one Making a Difference for Them. Haddie is their True Pride and Joy. Of course.

As the emotions swirl, I am confident that it is normal. It is normal to know that we can be sad and scared of the unknown, and it is normal to know that we can be happy and joyful of the unknown all within five seconds of one another.

Roller Coaster. I am living it.

While we do not know the outcome of Haddie, on this 2nd birthday of hers, we do know that she has some amazing training adventures ahead that I am confident she will pass to Graduation. She has made us so proud.

I closed my day with this private Facebook message from my sweet friend. It was God-spoken for it was clearly what I needed to hear to get off this Roller Coaster Ride, stand tall, and say with a smile on my face and a swelled heart of happiness, We Have Just Begun, Haddie.

You say it's over...but it's never over.
Her time with you may be, but her story hasn't begun yet. 
Think of puppy raising as a prologue. 
When you read a story, it's never wise to skip the prologue. 
You get a sense of the story, but not the whole story. 
You've written Haddies prologue...but you haven't gotten to the story yet! 
And what a beautiful story it will be. 

~ Cassandra R. - my very dear friend


  1. Incredible all the emotions felt as read this post. Happy Birthday Haddie! Thank you so very much Elle for your amazing example.

  2. Thank you, Becky, I needed to hear this ~ I think of you so often, and I know it will be okay. I know it, but I needed to hear my emotions, although raw, are real and okay. Thank you for your comment.

  3. You are really brave and amazing to show the entire side of the story. This is beautifully written. I honestly hadn't thought of that before, but I can totally see why despite the joy, you feel a little afraid of the unknown. I've been following your journey with Haddie since she was tiny, and I'm so delighted to hear that she is graduating. Congratulations! Haddie is going to do so wonderfully as an assistance dog. I'm excited to hear of her adventures ahead.

    P.S. You have received the honor of being my first comment as a blogger! I'd love if you check out my blog.
    A random side note: When I found out that I was getting a black lab male "K" puppy, the first thing I thought of was Kolby, because he is also a black lab male "K". The probability of getting the same letter/sex/breed and color as any other given raiser is about 0.005%!

  4. Happy Birthday Haddie! I would say this post perfectly describes how every raiser feels when their dog enters training and gets near the end. I'm on puppy #11 and whether they have made it or not there are tons of emotions involved. I just say that it shows how dedicated we are to making sure our pups go to the life that fits them

  5. Ashley - okay, I should have just asked you to write this post - haha - you got to my point quickly and something that was failing in words but what I am feeling. YES, I think it is the amount of dedication and love that we have given, that we want to "make sure" our pups DO go to the life that fits them. Thank you!! =)

  6. Tears running down my face as I read this. I can feel your emotions. Beautifully written.

    How do two black dogs have a yellow puppy?

  7. Oh gosh, the waterworks started here again. I have not made it "that far" with a puppy, but so much of the emotion you share are here as well. I can't tell you the number of times I have tried to play out Dante's graduation, or wondered what I would write on the blog if, heaven forbid, I get a call that he is released. Before I started raising, they told me it was a roller coaster, but I don't know if I quite believed them. Most of the time it is, but sometimes it is just one huge tornado where all the emotion hits you face-on at the same time.

    Sure, everything is not set in stone for Haddie yet, but she has already changed your life, your husband's life, your kid's lives and countless others who have crossed paths with her. And that is just in TWO short years! She has so much left to give, and you were such an integral part of bringing that out in her.

  8. Thanks, Tina!! HaHa....I was shocked to find out that Haddie's Dad (Hickman) was a black lab. It wasn't until I met Waverly (who I knew was a black lab all along) at Turn In that her owner shared the info about Hickman. I had never seen a photo of him, so I just assumed he was yellow. It is not a fluke, it happens all the time. =)

  9. Perfectly worded, Hannah. Thank you for sharing ~ it is encouraging to know that our feelings are valid, because I am finding they are shared by many in our CCI/Other Assistance Dog Organizations. It is not that we don't want our pups to pass, because that is and always will be our ultimate goal, but there is so much wrapped into our goal that sometimes it is hard to express. Thanks for "getting it" right alongside me. Hugs to you and Dante.

  10. Ohhh my dear friend. I have read this, and am now writing this through blurred vision once again. Isn't this just the grandest adventure ever? It's filled with so much wonder, so much hope and so much LOVE. Haddie is an incredible dog you know why? Because you are an incredible puppy raiser. Hopefully the next stop on this rollercoaster ride is at the email stating she's been pre-matched! Big hugs and lots of love!

  11. Thanks, Cassie!! Yes, it is the best roller coaster ride ever. Not complaining, just taking the ride head-on and being honest with emotions. I hope that everyone finds their "thing" that creates their roller coaster ride. It truly is a gift. Praying for a pre-match - and feeling fresh and new this morning after a heavy evening ... your quote makes me smile and gives me such happiness and hope. Can't thank you enough. Go Haddie Go!!! =)

  12. Congratulations! I received Cassius (SD) when you turned in Haddie and have been following your story with interest... so happy to read this.

  13. I remember, Natalie!! That was such a perfect day. Great memories. Thanks for your excitement too, it will be fun to write "that" post when it is Haddie's turn to Graduate. =)

  14. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to Haddie, and your entire family for doing such an incredible job of raising her! I'm pretty sure Haddie couldn't have any idea just how many people - even ones she has never met before - are proud of her, but at least you should know what an inspiration she is.
    Secondly, this post was beautifully written. You had me in tears and I am NOT one to cry! Here's to hoping that Haddie graduates with the family of her (and your!) dreams!

  15. Thanks, Katherine!! I appreciate your sweet words and encouragement. It will be super fun to write about her forever family in August. =)