Tuesday, November 26, 2013


 On Monday, November 25, 2013 Dante arrived at his forever home.  

He came eleven days after he was released.  At times during that week-and-a-half, it seemed way too long, but I am glad I had a little time.  Don't get me wrong: I love Dante with all of my heart, and am truly, very, really, so happy to have him as my very own, but I needed that time.  

Dante's career change did not come as a total surprise, but it is still hard news to digest.  After twenty-three months of training, hoping, and striving, letting go of that dream for him was hard.  

Maybe it was the fact that he was So. Close. to making it into the Hearing Dog program.  Most likely, it would not have been any easier if it happened a month or two ago.

But one thing I have come to learn in the last eleven days: Dante is truly where he belongs.  

It may not be where I originally envisioned him, but I have no doubt that his purpose in this world is just beginning.

More than that, I know I cannot keep all this Happy to myself.

But I sure am blessed to get to share in it.

(And since you made it through that long, sappy post: here's the video of the reunion.)

Friday, November 15, 2013


About 9:40am Thursday morning, Moray and I were just getting out of the car to head to Chemistry class when I received a text from my sister.  It was the simple words that our Puppy Program Manager called and our mom was on the phone with her right then.  There is one thing every puppy raiser dreads when they have a puppy in Advanced Training, and that is a phone call.  

All I knew as Moray and I walked into the building was that it was indeed the dreaded call, and that it had been decided that Dante will be released from Professional Training.  I was still waiting with a promise that my mom would call me as soon as she was off the phone.  I thought I was holding it together fairly well.  My best friend was waiting for the previous class to let out, and as soon as she saw me knew something was not right.  She hugged me and the tears that started then came and went for the rest of the day. 

Dante is Dante and there is no one that can change that.  Our PPM told us that although Dante's behavior and commands are impeccable on-leash, as soon as he thinks he can get away with something, he gets a mind of his own.  Dante is off the charts smart, very independent-minded, and needs a strong hand to manage him and give him the discipline he needs.  She told us that when she told his trainers Dante was our first puppy, they could not believe we were able to teach my hard-headed boy all that we had.  Not that I want that to come across as bragging or anything like that, but she assured us it was just his personality, and there was not much we could have done differently to curb this behavior.  

She told us that Dante's release was a hard decision for them as well.  They had been doing a lot of sound work evaluating him for the Hearing Dog program, and he was doing fantastic and excelling in it.  The decision boiled down to the fact that Dante is just not trustworthy enough for placement.

Even though I have seen this coming for some time, it is hard news to accept.  For almost two years, we have worked and striven toward the dream that Dante would become a Service Dog.  There have been many ups and a few downs along this journey of puppy raising, and it is extremely hard to let go of that dream.  Being honest, it is hard to realize that Dante's future is no longer in "limbo" with the hope he could still make a placement.  It is final, and even though he will have a great life, and still will share his love and laughter in different ways, the passing of this dream for him is hard to come to terms with.

While we are still figuring out a travel plan and agenda for Dante, we know he will be coming back to spend life as a spoiled rotten "Change of Career" pet; me as his forever family, and he as the very first dog I will ever call my own.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2nd Advanced Training Report

Last week I was surprised to receive Dante's second Advanced Training report.  Canine Companions' training schedule goes by semesters.  Each semester lasts three months; between each matriculation/graduation.  Normally, dogs are in training for two semesters, but sometimes three if they do not make a match during Team Training.  This past weekend was Graduation, so that means that Dante has officially made it through his first semester!

Dante has started learning to work alongside a wheelchair now.  He is working on "get" -- to retrieve something off the floor, "hold" -- to hold something in his mouth, and "push" -- to push drawers closed/buttons, etc.  They are also doing sound work with him, so that means Hearing Dog training could still be in the picture.  

Dante was a tough puppy to raise.  He is very independent, energetic, and off the charts smart.  He knows how to challenge, and will take advantage of you if the slightest chance presents itself.  I have hoped and prayed he would mature and these issues would fade in a new place, with many new things to learn, and under the guidance and experience of professional trainers.  Unfortunately, these issues are coming up again.  The only thing that surprised me was that they said he is showing some slight signs of stress while training as well.  The comments in his report also said that they are keeping close attention on him, but are concerned about these issues.  
Odina & Dante right before their first flight to Orlando for Turn In.

In all honesty, it was disheartening but not surprising to read his report.  I know that CCI and his trainers are giving him every chance they can.  I know that they want him to succeed as much as I do, and are doing their very best to steer him in the right direction.  I also know that each Canine Companions dog chooses their own path, and whatever Dante chooses to do will be the very best place for him.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Fun

Moray has participated in many things in the last few weeks.  Two weeks ago the day was spent doing all things Fall related.  First up was the corn maze!  Moray did very well.  He is really starting to show me just how solid he is becoming.  He walked very nicely on his leash even when I knew he wanted to check things out at his pace, not mine.  He was also very brave and went up stairs to a platform that was all wire, so you could see straight to the ground. 

Some time was spent admiring the pumpkins and fall displays at the farmer's market just next door.

That night Moray attended his very first movie.  I am not quite sure what I was thinking when I decided to bring him to an over two-hour film for his first time, but he did fantastic and after the first ten minutes of watching the screen, fell promptly asleep for the whole thing.  The best part: he didn't show any sensitivity to the noise!  Something we have been working on desensitizing to for a while.

The next morning was puppy class, and then a trip to a fall festival at a church in the city.  It was not all that exciting -- just working around people, trying to be calm for greeting, and oh!  A very pink fire truck that was in need of an extra cute model!