Thursday, July 2, 2015

Buchanan ... Cannon

He was born Buchanan in February 2014 in Northern California. He traveled by plane to our region at 8 weeks of age to join the Puppies in Program at a military correctional facility under the direction of our contract trainer for Canine Companions for Independence and two very well versed women staffed at the correctional facility. They shortened his name to Cannon and his growing up months began.
We are enjoying a change in our volunteer role. Rather than being a full-time Puppy Raiser, I am involved as our Chapter Secretary, and as a family we continue to help with Puppy Raising by being a Puppy Sitter. We know what it feels like to have a puppy underfoot without a break; it feels like having a toddler underfoot with no date-night escape. Sometimes, puppies (like toddlers) needs to venture off to their Cousins for days of focus and fun, so the Puppy Raiser (like parents) can regroup with an adult status in this world.
But the military correctional facility is just a touch different than Puppy Sitting other puppies ... the Puppy Raisers might enjoy their break from the puppy, but the Puppy is in more need of a break from the routine of the facility. While their command work skills are sharp and spot-on, they need the social side of the world. Learning to walk through a park on a loose leash despite other dogs roaming and geese flying, and they need to learn to walk through the bread aisle at the grocery store without talking a close sniff ... they just need to see the world.
We enjoyed having Cannon for the last eight nights. We didn't really know much about him, never really seeing him enough at chapter outings or classes to know what his personality or work ethics were like. So it was fun to have a complete "stranger dog" among our family.
It has been reaching 90-degrees daily for the entire time Cannon has been with us and we are not used to that high of temperature. It is the hottest June in the history record books for our area, by about 20+ degrees. The need for Air Conditioning in houses is rare, and so we are among the majority company in doing the cooling off the old fashioned way, open windows and fans. I like to think that if nothing else, Cannon had a taste of what it will be like to live in California during college. If he can survive the worst of it here, he will shine in the heat of Santa Rosa. And Cannon did great.
Throughout our days we went to the parks and trails that meander through our zip code. Because of the sunshine, we opted for early morning walks and it was perfect. It set our day out right by getting in our exercise so that the rest of the day, no matter the plans, he was ready to focus. Although, the more I got to know Cannon, the more I found out that he is one mellow fellow. He didn't need to be "worn out" in order to focus, but all dogs need exercise, so I am happy that was consistent to his routine.
We ventured to stores for the Air Conditioning perk and he walked by our side without sniffing, pulling, or lagging behind. He was our happy partner as we shopped for cold items like ice cream and ice tea and ice lattes and ice water ... and ice cream.
Other adventures took us to an elementary aged musical in the heat of the evening because my daughter was one of the camp counselors of the week long event. Cannon settled in next to my chair and didn't move, despite the swarm of kids that came to say hello. In fact, during the performance a sweet little toddler came close to Cannon, but without touching him (he listened to his mom) he laid down on his belly to face Cannon's face ... and they stared at each other for many minutes, both bodies not moving, only their eyebrows showed their mutual love interest in "What are you doing?!?"  Cannon is amazing with children!!
We had a Chapter Meeting that lasted many hours, and Cannon did a great job relaxing under our chairs and around other Puppies in Program. He is a mellow big boy that was never phased during our time together. He is a very happy puppy with a wiggly butt whenever someone shows him attention, but he does not solicit and does not go overboard (no excitable greetings). It was easy to take him places; like shopping at the big indoor mall for additional summer clothes for my daughter, and a sushi restaurant where he laid at our feet under the table and received "Ohhh, look!" from patrons when we left (a great sign they didn't know he had been hanging out), and of course to Starbucks to enjoy time with extended family.
Cannon experienced a Thunder and Lightening storm in the middle of the night, and passed. Cannon played with our Beagle, who is not a big dog fan, and he passed. We went to church and he slept during the entire service with flying colors. We visited my parent's house and we let him run and catch Frisbee's in their acre fenced yard, and he enjoyed that with a sideways tongue hanging out. We laid quietly for my Summer Piano Lessons where students came and went with piano music playing in between without fuss or disapproving expression.
A boring week? Not at all, Cannon was just so solid. The finale was a huge gather of thousands of people at a "Take Your Kid To Work Day" at a large Fortune 500 company in our area - hundreds of little hands pet Cannon and other Puppies in Program under the shade of the tent in the warm heat and ALL the puppies were rock stars. I was overwhelmed at the volume of people to start, but Cannon held steady throughout.

So proud.

You have a gentleness to you that can not be beat. Your tail wag says you are so happy to be with humans, and your eyes soften when you see the ones you like the best. Your confident nature in allowing time away from humans is a good attribute (you are ok with staying on the cool hardwood floor even if the rest of the family was in a carpeted room). Because of these attributes I am hopeful that you will shine solo in college. You will love the attention from your Trainer and volunteers, you will be able to handle alone time when it isn't your time to work, and you will snuggle with your roommate when it's time to go to sleep at night because you are just so good with your peer group!

Your skills are solid in knowing all your commands and using them while in distracting, public areas. I have no doubt that the staff in College will be impressed with your knowledge and ability to work. You certainly know your Puppy Stuff. Nice job! 

So really it will come down to you. Do you want to Graduate and work? I hope so. I think that you have a lot to offer a person or groups of people because of your strong character of wisdom, confidence, alongside your gentle, mellow side which makes you easily blendable into any given situation. I hope I see you in a Blue Vest and hear your Graduate Story. I hope you thrive and live fully ... I believe in you. 

And should you choose another path - it still applies, you will change a life for the better. You are just that amazing. Thank you for making our week together so easy, happy, and memorable. 

Much love, 

Your Puppy Sitter

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kolby, the Service Dog

I said I was going to return to the blog to write the story that happened before the finale. Where do I end the journey of a dog that leaped so far into our hearts that it is hard to say a proper goodbye. I am more than confident that Kolby has found his true love, and I am not sitting here stewing over anything about his new life. He is more than loved, cared for, and able to work for his Forever Person. That brings me great peace.
And maybe that's it - there is no grand finale because it is just so perfect. Life seems to have taken off at full speed for Kolby and he is thriving. It is what he was meant to do in this world.
When we met Kolby at the Canine Companions Van on Graduation Day, I had previously overheard during lunch from his trainer that the Graduate Dogs had a long run and play time in the private play yard on campus. They were worn out. The final "party" of college life. So when we arrived to take Mister, he was a bit groggy and slow to come-to ... he didn't bound off the back of the van in a soaring leap. But when his nose finally kicked in, he was all loves with exclamation tail wags and his face burrowed deep into our sides to get as close as possible.
Kolby was back.
We took the time in private behind the graduation building to get all our photos with him. We talked to him and just watched him watch us. It was one of those moments that you dream about as you are raising a puppy and imagining the future life for your puppy. And once you are in the real life moment of the conclusion, you just pray time stands still and you can truly soak it in. With no distractions, we really were able to soak it in, and it was better than I had dreamed.
There is something amazing that transpires when you are a Puppy Raiser. When you snuggle in close to your puppy at Matriculation to say that final "Goodbye" to all the life experiences you found together, the closure of Puppy Raising your puppy, the end to knowing this puppy on a daily, responsible basis; tears fall from deep in your heart and it's hard to wrap your head around the thought that there might be something greater for your puppy. Something greater than you caring for and living with your super star.
And then months pass and every day you think of your puppy but the memories fade just a touch. You forget the feel of your puppy's fur, the cute little antics of a head tilt at just the right moment, the mopey-sleepy side when it's time for bed late at night and you have to do everything in your power to get your puppy off from snuggling your feet for one last Hurry break before bedtime. You forget the daily.
Reunited. You would think that the reunion would feel like two puzzle pieces that snap together in an instant and all the daily routine of your puppy will flood back. But like my first experience with Haddie, the second experience with Kolby was just the same. You have the memories but you don't sense that the puppy is yours anymore. The tie and connection has profoundly separated and you are left with love. Pure love.
Love that you know the person and family your puppy has fallen in love with ... Love that you helped get your puppy to this part in life ... Love that you don't have to have your puppy be the focal any longer ... Love that you have allowed yourself to grow and let go ... Love that you want your puppy to thrive. Simple, Love.

On Graduation Day we felt the love for our Puppy, and the great respect and joy that our Puppy is now the proud Service Dog for Karen.
My first memory of Kolby he was 5 weeks old. My two kiddos were playing with his siblings and my husband was chatting with our Breeder Caretaker. I had Kolby off to the side in a cradle in my lap and I was starring into his eyes and I bent close to whisper, "You could be a Graduate. You could be the one, Kolby. You."

And here we are - Kolby the Service Dog.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


We have returned and we are all walking on Cloud 9. However, there are few words right now as I try to grasp the impact of what just happened to all of our lives. There is something magnetic, sacred, protected in letting go after you have raised a puppy. Some things you can share because the words come easily. Other things are too raw and not very explainable, and my fellow Puppy Raisers will understand.

The depth that you just completed something totally incredible, something beyond self, for an experience that changed your life so profoundly - those are the emotions that can't be written easily or explained adequately. It is simply one of the best feelings ever felt. 

So I will start at the ending point and work backwards in the upcoming days and weeks to complete this chapter of Kolby's Puppy Raising. 

The photos need no explanation. The set-up is a time line of the moment when we lovingly and proudly handed Kolby's leash to his Forever. A beautiful match. We are very blessed and grateful. 
It is clear there is a connection and deep love in this exceptional team. I cherish these photos, and I am so happy that our friend grabbed our camera and got up close to the stage to capture this incredible moment. Friday was amazing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

final match

Kolby did it!!
Kolby flew confident and solo in college, and proved to be made of the very best characteristics that fit perfectly for his Forever Person.

I returned home from work to a husband that worked from home - and one who had instructions to not touch the house phone, even if a 707-call came in, because I had a streak going of getting the call on my answering machine or in person.

My sweet husband assured me that the phone had not rung all day, and so I went about my business getting laundry done and other household items. I was about ready to walk out the door at 1:55 to pick up my son from school when the phone rang with our final match answer from area code 707.

Our puppy program manager shared the good news that Kolby "had made a final and official match". I was beaming. The Puppy Raising road had come to an end, the long awaited moment had finally reached our household, we are finally California Bound to meet Kolby's Person and to see Kolby again.

I immediately shared the news with my husband, and sent the text messages that my kids had requested - and then I just reflected on the moment for 90-minutes being silent from others. Thinking about the journey of Puppy Raising, of Kolby, of California, specific news about our Graduate ... it was peaceful. And I so appreciated that I felt that urge to just remain quite. To soak it in.

I am one thankful, blessed, and proud Puppy Raiser. Kolby joined our family, changed each of us, and has found his way to helping one very special woman. He will leave Campus this weekend and walk confidently into his new home, new city, new environment, representing Canine Companions as a Service Dog.

Kolby loves Karen.

And I am so happy.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Answer

After nine months in college ...
Yesterday was the day we had planned to hear the phone ring from area code 707 with Pre-Match phone calls. Usually the calls are placed in the morning, so I was expecting after a very busy morning at work where time cruised that I would come home to find my voice mail light blinking. But I did not.

Then time then stood still from 12:20 to 2:45.  My Canine Companions family was amazing, I had text messages coming in from all over the country asking "have you heard yet?" because, like me, we all expected a phone call by Noon.

It continued, I had time to leave the house to get my son from school, and still no call. I had even called our Puppy Program Manager at 2:30p but only received a ringing phone into voice mail. I didn't leave a message, but as I was reaching for the phone to call his Assistant, my phone rang at 2:45. I got to see the area code 707 that I had been waiting for (I had always been away when previous pre-match calls about Kolby had come to the house).

After extra hours of waiting for that call, I will admit that I went through the sheer excitement phase to sinking really deep that bad news was coming our way. My heart was pounding when I heard our Puppy Program Manager announce that Kolby had made a pre-match. And it was nice that he knew this had been a long wait with multiple "bad news" calls of no matches on previous calls ... because he was very happy sounding and slowed his words like a drum roll. He made it everything that it needed to be.

So - now we wait until the next call that says Kolby's match is a forever fit. That should come anytime between now and Monday, but I won't be sitting by the phone waiting. Now I can relax and enjoy every moment of this next week. I know the time will fly so fast and I want to be sure to soak in every moment of gathering our Graduate's Gift, packing, and heading out of town.

KOLBY - we are so proud of you. Everyone in your puppy family is beaming and celebrating that you have found your person. We pray you are happy and in love with the excitement of your new adventure. Keep working hard, be yourself, and we will see you soon. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Final Report Card?

Maybe the report card I received today will be Kolby's last? Maybe? There isn't much to say as the report card was strong in all the right boxes and had this comment to share: 

Kolby went on several field trips this last month, including to the outlet mall and the farmers market. He has continued to progress and generalize his command in new ways. He can now push the dishwasher closed. Kolby rotated through the side placement this month. Although he did very well, he did not make a match. I am looking forward to seeing him go through the May team training. 

I found this picture in my Kolby file and thought it was appropriate. I think it says what I'm thinking and feeling going on month 9 of Kolby being on campus. 
I want so badly for his Forever Person to show on campus, to look at him and melt, and say, "This is my dog." I want them to fall in love with everything we know about Kolby and everything we don't know about Kolby that only they will know. I want his person to take lots of photos and beam with pride that Kolby was chosen specifically for them. I want to know their name and story and say, "Of course, the wait was all for this, and this is perfect." 

Team Training begins on Monday. Kolby will once again begin another session and I hope that his person is in the class and falls in love quickly. 

Love you, Kolby. The wait has been long, but the excitement of Team Training never fades. Keep being yourself. xxoo

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Groundhog Day

Waiting for Kolby to decide to Graduate is like waiting for Punxsatawney Phil to see his shadow on Groundhog Day. This was the answer to the question, "Did Kolby make an April Side Placement Match?"
Since the answer is No, we have three more weeks of college learning before we spring into the next Team Training Session. In the meantime, his Graduate Gift is waiting on my dinning room table, our nice clothes have been chosen, and we are keeping busy while we continue to wait for the call that says we can hop in the car and make a road trek to Santa Rosa.
The good news of this past week was that Kolby's sister, Kashi, did find her perfect match. She Graduated last night as a Service Dog to a  young gentleman who is over the moon excited to have Kashi in his life. Seeing the videos and photos from my sweet friend (Kashi's Puppy Raiser) last night and this morning reminds me that the perfect match always finds itself in the wait. And Kashi looks stunning in Blue.
Left Kolby, Right Kashi

We had the privilege of meeting Kashi and her Puppy Raiser when the siblings were only 5 weeks old at the Breeder Caretakers house in February 2013. It was such an amazing morning and we continued to keep in touch daily, weekly, monthly throughout their Puppy Raising adventure; even though we raised them two states away. We spent our last evening together back at their Breeder Caretaker's house before we sent them off to college in August 2014.
Mom Kanga (yellow), Kashi (left), Kolby (right)
Kashi and Kolby worked hard together in college, and while it was our plan to have them Graduate and leave college on the same day, I am ecstatic that Kashi found her Forever. It just spreads out the love into different weeks and that makes it feel just right.
L to R: Kolby, Kanga (mom), Luca (dad), Kashi

Kolby - you may be the only one left from the August Turn In, but you have certainly not been forgotten. Everyone says that you know who your perfect person is, and you are just waiting so patiently for that someone to come to campus. I often think what that person is thinking; is he/she wondering about you, wondering if you are male or female, black or yellow, what personality you will have, what special thing he/she will fall in love with first about you ... I can't wait to see who this person is. I can't wait to see you with that person, and know that it is the final answer. 

Stay true, stay strong, and I'll see you soon.