Dog ownership is a huge responsibility— second only, I would say, to raising children. Raising a puppy can potentially become a harrowing life choice. More than once in my life I have not only heard but experienced how adding a puppy to the family absolutely alters the daily life of all involved.
Our family owns two dogs, both of which have been through obedience training and know how to sit when given the proper command. They walk fairly well on a leash, and they haven’t run away, at least no further than down to visit the neighbors.
Some of their social skills leave a little to be desired, but, hey, they’re dogs. What can one really expect.
I felt pretty good about that until my lunch at the Kyrene Corridor Rotary Club meeting last week. Pat Lawson and her puppy, Tavi, were guests at the meeting, and what well-mannered guests they were.
I can only imagine if my sweet puppies, who by the way are well past their puppy days, had been there. Havoc would have reigned. They would both have been tempted by the seemingly endless supply of new hands to rub behind their ears and the aromatic smell of sushi to whet their appetites. I’m afraid they would not have been a welcome
addition to the lunch table, given that their manners leave something to be desired.
Lawson and Tavi were at the meeting as representatives for Canine Companions for Independence. Tavi is less than a year old, yet he exhibited no problems with typical puppy behaviors like jumping, chewing or the generalized excitement that exudes from most young dogs. In fact, unless you saw Tavi enter the room, you wouldn’t realize a dog, let alone a puppy, had joined the party.
Tavi is destined to become one of those amazing companion dogs who provide assistance to people with a wide range of disabilities. The dogs in the CCI program are trained from the age of eight weeks by dedicated individuals who become surrogate parents for the dogs for just over a year.
These selfless people spend virtually every waking moment preparing these companions for a lifetime of service that will change their owners’ lives.
Companion dogs bring confidence and new freedom to children and adults with disabilities, not only by helping their
owner with everyday tasks but by taking the emphasis off the disability and allowing the owner to achieve challenges that perhaps never before seemed possible.
In Tavi’s short lifetime, he has of course mastered the sit-and-stay routine that I so proudly taught my own dogs. In addition to sit and stay, Tavi knows his right from his left, a skill that even I have trouble with sometimes.
By the time Tavi graduates from the training program in the next few months, he will know well over 100 commands, anything from flipping on a light switch to picking a dime up off the floor. I think I can safely say the question on all our minds as we watched the bond that was obvious between Pat and Tavi was how can she give the dog up. Her answer was simple: When you see how these dogs brighten the spirits—and hopes—of the people they team up with, how can she not let go?
Working with these dogs not only provides a lifetime of memories for the people who raise them but newfound independence for those with whom they become an inseparable companion.
For more information on The Valley of the Sun Canine Companions for Independence visit their website at http://www.cciarizona.org/index.htm
For now, I think I’ll work on getting my dogs simply to stay off the furniture.
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