On April Fool’s Day, we welcomed home the 5th puppy we’re raising for Canine Companions for Independence. Her name is Jitter and we are absolutely, completely, head-over-heels smitten with her.
And, because of this, she may tear down the entire house.
Annie and Ella wanted in on the puppy action right away.
In October 2014, I wrote about our 3rd CCI pup, Jambi, being selected as a breeder for CCI. Although I had mixed emotions at the time – sad that she wouldn’t make a difference by becoming someone’s service dog, but also elated that our wonderful girl had been chosen for such a special role – I was largely able to allay any concerns by convincing myself that, the more puppies Jambi has, the greater likelihood that one of them will become a service dog… and then Jambi will have made an even bigger difference in the world.
Jambi had her second litter this past February.
Jitter is one of her puppies.
CAN YOU EVEN with this face??
This dog, you guys. Jitter’s personality is out-of-this-world fantastic. She is so sweet and cuddly, so curious, so smart. She has already learned all of her 6-month commands and performs them on cue. (For the record: she’s 11 weeks old.)
(You’re not imagining things – she arrived with sutures in her eyes after surgery; they’re out now and she’s peachy keen.)
Superdog! (With her green tattoo ear…)
She is also REALLY NAUGHTY. Not, like, chew a hole in the wall, pee on every flat surface, bark nonstop, bite your fingers off naughty… More mischievous naughty. Sneaky naughty. Silly naughty.
Yes, she’s lying on top of my laptop.
(Those windows that are open? Frantic error messages.)
What has Strawberry Shortcake done to deserve this??
(That’s a card for our Instagram page. We’re @WNYCCIpups. There’s lots more cuteness and naughtiness there.)
Mmm hm. On the dishwasher.
It is allergy season, after all…
This dog is afraid of nothing and fascinated by everything. She thinks the vacuum cleaner is a fun toy, boldly approaches large, strange objects, and even tumbled right off the end of the dock after realizing, too late, what lay ahead. I had to haul her back up by the scruff of her neck and thought maybe she’d be scarred for life… But not 15 minutes later, she was biting at the waves again.
You can see why we call her Little Miss Moxie.
Contemplating how she wound up going for her first swim…
You can also see why she may tear down the entire house.
Sure, puppies are cute – but they’re not easy. The accidents… the not-sleeping-through-the-night… the chewing things that aren’t meant for teeth… with those razor puppy teeth. It’s like having a furry newborn. Already though, despite the work, Jitter is our favorite CCI puppy so far – bar none – because her personality is just so fabulous. The girls are smitten enough to willingly help out with her care and training…
Annie and Little Miss Moxie out for a stroll.
Nick is smitten.
OH FOR CUTE.
As for me? Well, how can you not dog who snores adorably like this?
Even Langston is warming up to her and not being jealous every minute of the day. (Now, he’s only jealous for approximately 52 minutes of every hour. PROGRESS.)
I can already tell (a mere three weeks in) that returning this dog to CCI for Advanced Training will terribly difficult.
But you know what? It will also be so very worth it.
Since becoming puppy raisers seven years ago, we’ve known that there are no other puppy raisers in the Rochester area. What we didn’t know is that there is a lack of puppy raisers in the entire Northeast CCI region. We know this now because, along with Jitter’s medical records and training guidelines, CCI sent us information and flyers, asking us to post the them wherever we could to possibly encourage more folks to become involved.
The flyers are well done and I’ll definitely find a place to put them up.
They also broke my heart.
From Maine to Virginia, there are not enough puppy raisers… which means there will be fewer puppies matriculating, fewer puppies graduating, and fewer people will have their lives changed by a service or facility dog.
This is not okay.
The good news? YOU CAN HELP.
Yes, you! All of you who live on the coastal states between Virginia and Maine (and maybe nationwide, too; I only know about the Northeast region). If you can own and care for a dog for 15-18 months, you can help.
No, really. You can.
I know – you’re saying what everyone says. “I could never give a dog up.” And, believe me, I hear that. I really do. Turning the dogs in is heartbreaking and awful. I hate it, every single time.
But you know what? It’s also amazing and inspiring and every kind of wonderful because there is the hope that you – you! – have made a direct difference to someone. There is the hope that, through these dogs, you have changed someone’s life (which, paradoxically, changes your own life).
It’s worth reminding ourselves that heartbreak isn’t the end; it’s the beginning. As one of my sheroes, Glennon Doyle Melton, says: “Heartache is a signal to you that you’ve stumbled upon something worthy of your life. Do not run, do not turn away: follow your heartbreak… Everything beautiful starts with a broken heart.”
Perhaps everything beautiful doesn’t start with a broken heart… But, at the very least, a broken heart is an extremely vulnerable place to be – which, although uncomfortable, is right where we need to be if we want to live full, wholehearted, purposeful, joyful lives. According to another of my sheroes, Dr. Brené Brown, “… vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”
That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Nothing truly good – a new job, dating, having a baby, going skydiving, dancing, moving across the country – can come without first being vulnerable, without opening ourselves to the possibility that things might not work out exactly as we seem, without some heartbreak. But in that vulnerability and heartbreak come every kind of growth and loveliness and beauty and truth.
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF HEARTBREAK, y’all.
Or, heck – be afraid. I’m so afraid of the aching heart that comes with turning these dogs in. Instead, DON’T RUN FROM HEARTBREAK.
If you do turn down the job – if you decided that you couldn’t raise a CCI puppy because you couldn’t bear the pain of returning the dog you’ve grown to love – you’d miss out on hilarious moments like this…
Yes, there are apps for dogs. Jitter loves this one – obvs.
Sure, you’ll also miss out on torn-up tissues and stepping in pee puddles wearing only your socks and watching your beloved Strawberry Shortcake doll get pantsed… But, really, these are small potatoes to a) having a puppy snoozing on your lap with their b) puppy breath and c) knowing that, every single day that dog is in your care, you have done something worthwhile and meaningful. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. you are doing good in this world, just by owning a puppy. HOW COOL IS THAT??
There are many legitimate reasons why people cannot become puppy raisers. Monetary concerns, lack of space, allergies, issues with other pets, time constraints, or even just not being dog people (I don’t understand these
nutballs people, but I know they exist) — those are all totally valid reasons why puppy raising is not for you.
Avoiding heartbreak is not a valid reason.
Or, at least, not valid enough reason to refuse to give it a go. Believe me, as soon as you attend a graduation and see how elated the graduates are with their newfound best friends – the ones who were cared for by puppy raisers – you’d see how the difficulty that you experience giving the dog up pales in comparison with the difficulty these folks encounter on a daily basis. And you’d be willing to go through the heartbreak again and again and again to be a part of something so wonderful.
Even with the heartbreak, it’s worth it. Allow your heart to be broken, allow yourself to be vulnerable, so that something beautiful and magnificent can start.
Bonus points if you have children: being a CCI puppy raiser teaches your kids about being responsible pet owners, unconditional love, doing good for others, and seeing beyond themselves. They gain perspective, learn resilience, and understand that, sometimes, you have to give something up for you to reap the returns. NOT BAD, eh??
Double bonus points: seeing faces like this every day.Could you not just eat her up?!
If you’re interested in finding out more about CCI puppy raising – whether you live in the Northeast region or not – please let me know. We can change lives, folks. AND ALSO you get puppy kisses for 1.5 years. Won’t you join us?
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