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Sigh.

Really. Really. Deep. Sigh.

Yesterday we received the call that our second pup-in-training, Lacinda, was released from the program*. Not that we were entirely surprised after her last report card, but still we had high hopes for her. When you raise a pup, you raise it to graduate. When you receive a good monthly report card you heart soars. Then when you receive a not so great one you hope, sometimes against hope, that your dog will straighten up, fly right, and graduate. (*aspiring service dogs do not fail they are released from the program and have a “change of career” or COC)

Somewhere around 40ish% (I have heard as low as 40% and high as 60%) of CCI aspiring service dogs do not graduate. That means if you raise a puppy you have a pretty good chance that s/he will not graduate.That does not mean that they don’t go on to great things, it means that they aren’t suited to be CCI Service Dog. You know the same way everyone can’t graduate from Harvard, but that there are quite a few community college grads that go on to great things.

Lacinda was progressing well with learning new commands, but wasn’t just wasn’t the party girl I thought she would be and just didn’t like it in the college dorms. She began exhibiting kennel stress through inappropriate vocalization and destructive behavior. Dog trainer speak for barking etc when she isn’t supposed too and chewing stuff up. Certainly not acceptable CCI Service Dog standards.

I know it is a tough call to get, it has to be a tough call to make. Everyone agonizes over the release of a pup. Puppy raisers do a ton of work to make sure that they are ready for training. CCI’s professional trainers use all of their tools to do everything to get the puppy to graduate. Puppies are not released from the program on a whim or on one person’s say so. Knowing all of the work these trainers pup in to the pups, the decision to release a pup must be hard for them too.

As people who, at one time had a pack of three labs, we knew we couldn’t have that many at the same time again. While we loved each and everyone one of them three is about one-and-a-half dogs too many for our little house and very busy schedule. We decided early on that we could have one pet dog and one pup-in-training at a time. Before Lacinda went off to college Sabina had already come home a breeder, so she covered the pet dog position. We knew that we would be raising a puppy from Sabina’s next litter so that position was taken too, which meant we needed a plan for the doodlebug.

Having a plan is a good thing. No matter how awesome your plan is (and ours is an awesome plan), and no matter how convicted you are to the plan (we are super convicted), when your pup recognizes you or realizes she is home – yep the plan pretty much goes out the window. For a split second, partly because Lacinda is a better snuggler than Sabina, I thought plan be damned! We will just keep her for ever – yep plan right out the window all because of a lovable dorky dog. Fortunately, when you have plan, the brain starts to take over and reminds that heart why you made a plan to begin with. You made a plan to make sure this pup you so lovingly raised from a little pup to a big grown up girl can have the most wonderful life she can.

When we picked Lacinda up from friends who brought her to Sacramento from Santa Rosa she was very perky and super happy to see her Dad who was very very happy to see her. We brought her home she seemed to recognize where she was, played with Sabina, and did great with little pup Cate-Monster. She seemed content but not quite herself and then in an instant it happened. She transformed into the old Lacinda and started making her normal psycho puppy run laps around the yard – ending with a “Lacinda Swim”. A “Lacinda Swim” is when she goes to the edge of the pool and puts in her front paws on the top step and then sticks her head completely under the water and blows bubbles. Feel free to laugh, because it is funny. She is funny which is part of the reason that we love her.

While she stays with us and gets ready for her forever home we will just enjoy everything wonderful about Lacinda. She will get to play and be her carefree self. Tonight she gets to sleep on the big bed with Dave and I (and maybe a few other nights too.) We plan to spoil her up pretty good. Don’t worry about her making the transition. We trade our pups a lot during training and she does well wherever she goes – except to advance training apparently.

In her new life she will be part of a new great family that can’t wait to get her. (Truth be told Lacinda has quite a fan club and several great potential adopters.) If she plays her cards right she will have a canine friend as well as her most favorite thing on the planet – little humans of her very own. She will get to play dress up, have plenty of people to choose from for snuggles – for Lacinda that would be dog college drop-out heaven. Heaven for us? You bet, for Lacinda to have an awesome forever family has been our goal all along.

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