Canine Companions for Independence

Some of you already know this, but for the others, I help raise puppies for Canine Companions for Independence. They are an incredible organization that has been around for over 25 years.
Anyways, we just had a turn-in the other day. Turn-in is that terrible day when you have to give your puppy back to CCI after having spent every day 24 hours a day with it for the last 14-18 months. OK, it isn’t really that much work. The expectations are simple, after taking on a cute little 7-9 week old puppy, us puppy raisers provide basic obedience training and lots of socialization. That includes classes twice a month for about an hour and 20-30 minutes of direct work per day plus the indirect work of watching to make sure your puppy learns how to live in and behave in a home environment.
Back to the original purpose of this entry: One of the puppy raisers works for a local TV station and has been providing a little bit of information about what it is like to raise a puppy for CCI. You can find Hudson’s (that is the puppy’s name) blog here. Hudson is a gorgeous black lab/golden retriever mix. He is now at CCI going through advanced training.
The program, for puppy raisers, works kind of like this:
  1. You apply to be a puppy raiser here.
  2. If your application looks good, you will have a couple of phone interviews and then a visit by a current puppy raiser and a puppy. During the visit, they will check out the home life and check out arrangements for the puppy like where they will be kenneled and what kind of play area is available for them.
  3. If all goes well, you will be approved.
  4. Then, it is time to wait. Depending upon the number of puppies and the number of current raisers, it could be a few months or it could be a few days and then you get the call. Your puppy can be shipped to you, or you can go to CCI and get your puppy.
  5. The joys of the cute little guy will overwelm your heart until you lose a couple of nights sleep while the puppy settles in. Also, for the first couple of months, you will be getting up on a regular basis in the middle of the night to let the puppy hurry (CCI command to toilet). The puppy will learn to hold it soon enough and will learn to go on command before bedtime every night.
  6. Pretty much from day one, you will start taking your new little bundle of love to training classes and will learn how to train your puppy.
  7. You will pay for the food and vet bills (keep track, they are wonderful write offs) as well as mileage for trips to the vet and trips for training.
  8. When your puppy hits the magical 5 month age, that is when life is wonderful because the puppy is now allowed to go every where with you in public.
  9. From 5 months until the time of turn-in, you will take the puppy to classes, to work, to the grocery store, and so on. People will start getting mad at you if you show up at their store without your puppy. People will remember your puppy’s name, but not remember yours. You will no longer be able to make quick trips to the store because you will be stopped by all sorts of people wanting to know about your puppy and they will ask questions like "How can you do that?"
  10. Turn-in is the worst time of all. You now have to give CCI its puppy back. The best way to handle it is to fly out to CCI with your puppy and attend the graduation ceremony to see how much love your puppy will get if it is placed and how much love your puppy will give if it is placed. It makes it so much easier to let the puppy go when you see the great connection of these guys and gals have with the puppies. You will cry at the graduation ceremony, you will cry when you give up the puppy, and you will cry over drinks with other puppy raisers that also turned in their puppies.
  11. The next 6-9 months will be spent waiting to hear if your puppy will be released (several reasons exist) or whether your puppy will graduate. "The call" is very stressful. Only about 30% of the puppies make it through to graduation. A few more are selected to be used for breeding stock. The rest are the ones that make it difficult. You, as the puppy raiser, get first choice as to whether you want to take the puppy back as a pet, or you can help adopt him out to one of the many families out there looking for a well trained and loving dog.
The next step is to decided whether to do it again. I, personally, am addicted. I will probably raise puppies for the rest of my life. I am currently raising my fourth.
Puppy #1 – Creole. He is my personal great big hunk of love. He was released and it was an easy choice to bring him back as he has a special skill. He is able to predict my seizures. The trainer that had him at CCI said it was obvious that Creole wanted to go back home to me. I am glad he made the decision. One of the most wonderful things about CCI is that they really do let the dogs make the decision as to whether they will work or move on to something else.
Puppy #2 – Emile. He is working for a wonderful young lady in the area. She is a college student, so Emile gets to continue to work on his education every day. It was obvious from day 1 that Emile was going to graduate. He loved to get dressed and work every day.
Puppy #3 – Griffen. Griffen never was meant to work. It was also obvious very early on. He hated to work. He hated to get dressed. He is, however, the most loving dog that I have ever seen and he just adores kids. We help get him adopted out to a family in the area with two young children. They adore him and he adores them. He is a very happy dog.
Puppy #4 – Tertia. She is a real sweetie. You can really see the love in her eyes. She wiggles and wiggles all different directions and loves to go to work. At almost 7 months now, she is starting to fill out, but appears that she will be a bit small for a lab mix. She is doing really well though so far.
Puppy #5 – ??? I can’t wait to see what awaits me next.
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