I have been on the other side of service dog work. Whereas my most recent interviewee, Ms. Brill, is assisted by dogs, I was a foster parent to a puppy, raising and training him to become a service dog.
My husband and I started off applying for a companion dog for my daughter, Nava. As I read all the incredible tasks these dogs can learn to do to assist their owners, I began to have reservations about getting one for Nava. The last thing I wanted was for her to become dependent on a dog and therefore become more passive and inactive. She wouldn’t even have to get up to turn on the light or open the frig. I decided this might not be in Nava’s best interest.
However, in reading further, the idea of becoming a foster parent was quite intriguing. How awesome to get a puppy at 8 weeks old and raise him for 1 ½ years to hopefully become someone else’s service/companion dog. That seemed like such meaningful work to do and pass on.
Work – yes; purposeful – yes; separation difficulties – oh yes.
The yes’ won. After the first couple of months, I was ready to give Yael back. A pre-toddler-like child at his worst; never listening to ‘no’ and deciding he was running the show, I questioned my sanity in voluntarily taking on this additional workload. We called in the agency people and they suggested we take on some new tactics. Out came the spray bottle of sour apple. I cringed just to spray it in Yael’s face. But I did become the alpha parent. My shoulder stopped hurting from his leading, tugging and pulling me along, as he learned to walk alongside me.
Two years later, Yael walked up on stage beside us, as we handed him over to his new owner – a little boy with cerebral palsy. With tears in our eyes and pride in our hearts, “our” doggie was fulfilling his mission to become a service dog.
This rates up there as a very meaningful life event. Despite the tremendous amount of work entailed (unlike parenting kids, Yael came with a large instruction manual) and the frequent difficult and frustrating times, it was well worth the time and effort to raise a “mensh” of a dog.
What kept me going when the going got rough?
- Sought out and learned new techniques/skills.
- Asked for help.
- Stayed attuned to the goal at hand.
- Remained focused on the bigger picture – the ‘cause’.
- Held onto the meaning and purpose of what I was doing.
What has been a meaningful event in your life despite its hardship?
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