Our family raises puppies for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a service dog organization. CCI trains dogs to act as everything but seeing-eye dogs: dogs for the deaf, for people in wheelchairs, for people on the autism spectrum, for disabled veterans, for folks with mobility issues, etc. CCI also trains and places dogs with law enforcement officers, in hospitals, and in other places where specially trained dogs might provide assistance. Recipients get their fully-trained service dogs for FREE.
CCI puppy raisers are volunteers who have pups in their homes for ~18 months, then return them to CCI regional centers for Advanced Training. Puppy raisers are responsible for all veterinary care, house-training, and teaching the puppy basic commands. Aside from a few slightly more advanced commands (visit, back, etc.), the biggest responsibility held by puppy raisers is socialization – so that by the time pups enter Advanced Training, they will already have become acclimated to a wide variety of environments, situations, people, other dogs, etc.
When you have a dog for a year-and-a-half, they become part of your family and you grow deeply attached. And so, yes, returning the pup to CCI is incredibly difficult. But once you’ve attended a graduation ceremony and seen the dogs matched up with their new owners/recipients, and you see the immediate and profound difference these dogs make in peoples’ lives, you know that you can do it. Teaching our girls that life is about giving back is one of our most important goals, and raising CCI puppies is an inspiring and amazing way to do that.
She was a sweet, fun puppy. Ella and Annie loved her, although – being only two and four when we got her – they did find her puppy nippy-ness to be a bit crazy.
We took her everywhere with us; she was a quick learner and awesome companion.
Returning her for Advanced Training was very, very hard… But we made it through, and off she went.
We had high hopes for Dizey – and, indeed, she made it through 4.5 of 6 months of Advanced Training before ultimately being released because she became aggressive around other dogs. (Only 30-40% of CCI dogs that enter Advanced Training actually graduate. The rest are released because they’re not perfect, which is a standard that even I find difficult to attain…) Given that we already had three (!) other dogs at home, including our newest CCI pup, we knew, as much as we wanted to, that we couldn’t take Di back as our pet… And so, as wonderful luck would have it, local friends of ours adopted her and she’s very happily Diamond the House Dog. Diamond had 6 wonderful years with her forever family; very sadly, she passed away in March 2018.
Langston was our second CCI pup. We got him the day after school began in September, 2011, and returned him in February, 2013.
From the get-go, we were pretty crazy about him. He was a good pup and very smart.
Despite an annoying penchant for eating socks (not just chewing them but actually consuming them), he was a fabulous dog and we loved training him.
When the time came to return him, Lang and I flew together to Long Island and I tearfully said goodbye.
We were sure he was going to make it and become someone’s service dog… But, it turns out that Lang loves us so much, he became exceedingly anxious being away from us… and wound up fighting with another dog and snapping at a trainer. Yikes. CCI assured us he wasn’t aggressive at all — in their words, it was just a case of being so stressed out, he “snapped” — and so, a mere eleven days after turning him in (!!), and although we were bummed that he didn’t graduate, we very, very happily brought Langston back home. He’s now our forever dog, and while we cannot take him into stores or on airplanes anymore (legally, at least…), we’ll take him cuddling up and fetching the ball any day.
In early March, 2013, only 3.5 weeks after turning Langston in for Advanced Training, we welcomed our third CCI puppy – this time a yellow Lab – into our lives. With her adorably droopy eyes and wrinkly skin, Jambi (rhymes with Zombie, not Bambi) stole our hearts from the minute she arrived.
Jambi absolutely spoiled us by proving, hands down, to be the best-behaved CCI puppy imaginable. She was sweet and loving and generally amazing. Plus, Langston was happy because he thought we brought him a new toy.
Our older two dogs, Maddy (then 13) and Joey (then 10), weren’t terribly pleased with our newest addition…
… but the rest of us were completely smitten. Considering how unfreakin’ real cute she was, how could we not be??
After a wonderful seventeen months, it was time for Jambi’s stay with us to be over…
… and so, in August 2014, we returned her to CCI for Advanced Training.
As fate would have it, we were spot on about Jambi’s temperament: CCI thought she was so fantastic, they decided there should be more Jambis in the world… so she was selected as a breeder in October of 2014! Her first litter went to their puppy raisers in the summer of 2015; they achieved an unbelievable 100% graduation rate (every single eligible pup was placed with someone in need!) in the summer and fall of 2017. We were the lucky recipients of a pup from Jambi’s second litter; Jitter was with us from 2016-2018 and remains in Advanced Training. Paws crossed!
Although we missed Jambi, we certainly didn’t have time to be lonely because we welcomed our fourth CCI puppy, Fenwick, one month later! He’s a Lab/Golden cross, super stinkin’ cute, and was with us from September 2014 until February 2016.
Fenwick was an absolute imp. He raced around the yard with abandon, attempted to get Langston and Joey (our non-CCI dog) to play with him nonstop, and wanted to be anywhere that his humans were — we even found him on the floor of the bathroom when our girls were taking showers!
He was tremendously cuddly, very smart, did a great job being out in public,and was a super ambassador for CCI.
Fenwick was a love and a goofball at the same time. We all thought he was fantastic… But it was Annie who took an incredible shine to him; turning him in was very difficult.
To our absolute delight and wonder, Fenwick made it through all six months of Advanced Training and into Team Training, where he was matched with a 12 year-old boy. We attended graduation and ceremoniously handed over the leash on August 12th; it was easily one of the best days of our lives. Fenwick is now an official Skilled Companion – a boy’s best friend, confidence booster, and life changer. We are so proud of him.
On April Fool’s Day, 2016, our fifth CCI puppy – one of Jambi’s pups! – joined us. Jitter stole our hearts from the moment she arrived and hasn’t let go of it yet. We’d thought that Jambi was the sweetest, most relaxed, even-keeled puppy of all time… but we were wrong. Jitter is ten times more all of those things – and she’s got a the biggest, most mischievous, adorable personality of any dog we’ve met. She was the fastest learner of any of our CCI pups and generally astonished us daily.
Obviously, there are no guarantees in life… but Jitter truly seems destined for big things. She was returned for Advanced Training in November 2017; every month, we await her Progress Report to hear how she’s doing. So far, so good!
Arlington became our 6th CCI pup in September 2017, before Jitter was even turned in; we raised them simultaneously for 7 weeks. He is our first mostly-Golden puppy and definitely looks the part.
Arlington is very smart, very sweet, and very much a goober. He trips up and down the stairs, falls over his own feet, sleeps on our feet, eats paper, and is a ridiculously fast learner. We cannot get enough of his floof, nor cuddling up with him. Thankfully, we’ll have him for a loooong time – his turn-in isn’t until August 2019!
The journey continues… stay tuned!
All content provided on this blog is personal and does not reflect the views or opinions of Canine Companions for Independence.