It's almost June, and many of my friends have children who are graduating from high school and heading off to college at the end of the summer. All of these friends have at least some degree of angst about cutting the apron strings because they've been very involved, and very devoted parents. The amount of time and energy they have dedicated to the details of their child's life is enormous. So when that child goes happily off to college, it represents a huge change for these women. What will they direct their very competent, very active energy toward now that there isn't a young adult underfoot who needs it?
Never worry, I've got JUST the answer. We need you over here. Now is the time to apply to become a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence (also known as CCI). This wonderful organization is similar to Guide Dogs for the Blind in many ways, but instead of training dogs to assist people who are blind they train dogs to have a different skillset that assists people with other kinds of disabilities. For example, some recipients of these dogs are deaf. Some use wheelchairs. Some have had a stroke and can walk more safely with a dog at their side and able to retrieve items for them.
My friend Kathy Huben became a puppy raiser about a year ago, and is turning in her first pup (JoJo) who is returning for the next stage of her training (known as "advanced training"). Kathy found the experience of being a puppy raiser so life-changing in such a wonderful way that she has already signed up to raise another one.
Some people think that they could never handle the emotions involved in letting your pup return to the CCI center for its 6 months of advanced training. But like Kathy, many of our puppy raisers already have their own pet dog in the home. They stretch their comfort zone by taking on a CCI puppy in addition to their pet dog, and while they do in fact love their CCI puppy with all their heart, they realize that it's an 18-month assignment and that the puppy has a wonderful destiny ahead of it.
Like letting go of a child who's going off to a wonderful future at college, letting go of a CCI puppy doesn't involve any pain or death or suffering. If you've ever had to put a dog down at the end of it's life, don't even associate that experience with puppy turn-in because it's completely different (and much, much easier, I'm happy to say).
Take a look at CCI's website, and contact me if you have questions and would like to learn more about becoming a volunteer puppy raiser for this amazing organization. It's the perfect cure for empty nest angst!