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Note: This post has been rumbling around in my head for a few weeks, just trying to get it right. Then there has been life which has been crazy and the days seem to go by faster than I like and well here we are. Sorry we have been gone, it warmed my heart that you missed us. Thanks for your emails, here is what I came up with:

Yep, it takes a village to raise a puppy. There I said it. I know that some of your political views may not like the “it takes a village” phrase. So, particularly while we are in the midst of this charged election season, feel free to substitute any other word that means a large grouping of living beings. To help you out I have listed a few:

  • Gaggle
  • Pride
  • Litter (which may be the most appropriate)
  • School

I think you get the idea.

This idea of it takes a village to raise a puppy initially came to me while talking to a “remote” puppy raiser. A “remote” puppy raiser is one who doesn’t live close to a group of puppy raisers or may not even live with in hours of the next closest puppy raiser. These are the most dedicated among us, puppy raising is hard. It is very hard when you don’t have someone close to work with or a class to attend. One of the greatest joys of being a puppy raiser in the Sacramento area is that there are lots of other Canine Companions volunteers to lean on for help and support. The puppy raiser had indicated that she was all alone. In part she was right, she was not near any other Canine Companion volunteers; however there was a whole village of people helping her raiser her puppy. Even if she didn’t know it. Even if they didn’t know it.

Then I went to the graduation in the northwest region and heard a graduate talk about it taking a village to raise an assistance dog. The Canine Companion for Independence village is rich and wonderful made up of donors, puppy raisers, graduates, breeder-care takers, staff, and a crazy assortment of campus volunteers like dog bathers, puppy socializers, volun-cheers and dog walkers. While I know it isn’t quite the same as being next door social media and the internet has made it simpler to connect with volunteers across the US. Regardless what your personal views of the internet, it is undeniable that it has all but erased the barrier of time and space when it comes to communication. I guess that makes Al Gore (Cuz, like he totally created the internet right?) part of the village too.

I look at my pups, and while I have the support of a great puppy team so many of the people who help me puppy raise aren’t affiliated with Canine Companions at all. I work with a wonderful bunch of ladies and they all help with puppy socialization. Stop rolling your eyes, and thinking “of course they help – everyone is willing to give a puppy tummy rub.” You have no idea. Let me introduce you to Jen and Dawn. (whose names have not been changed… you know – give credit where credit is due.)

Jen is a mom of two charming little boys. Apparently you can’t turn mommy mode off and mommy mode extends to four-legged children too. One day I had left Sabina with Jen for a change of scenery for them both. Sabina was about six or seven months old and really beginning to test her boundaries. Jen put Sabina on a down but every chance Sabina got she would start to commando crawl back to my office. Again with the eye rolling? It isn’t what you think at all. Sabina didn’t miss me one bit, she was wanting to get back to the sunny spot in my office. I wasn’t even in my office.

Jen turned her back for a second to help a customer and Sabina made a break for it. Jen found her, right where she expected, in my office – in the sunny spot. When I returned I found Jen correcting Sabina and putting her back on a down in at her desk. Instead of the more traditional “DON’T!” command, Sabina got the “DON’T! – your graduate may not live somewhere it is sunny so you won’t get to lay in the sun whenever you want” command. (Total puppy raiser in the making right?) It takes a village.

Then there is Dawn, her role is to ignore my pups. My dog could be gnawing off her right leg and Dawn would never give them the satisfaction of eye contact. She will even look straight ahead and say “I am ignoring you, and not going to reward your bad behavior” as she is turning away. (She is mom too if you hadn’t guessed.) I should note that when “released” Dawn and Jen can be the worst puppy ruiners though, snuggling, doing baby talk, etc. But when I need them in their roles they are there. It takes a village. 

I could go on and on about how the grocery clerks, librarians, and post man have helped me with odd or at the very least a little out of the norm set-ups. Same with the people at the dog park who (at least the ones who get it and don’t call me cruel) will play ball with their pups on the fence line on the inside of the dog park while we practice commands on the outside. Then there are people who can provide my pup with a new experience: super tall people, people with deep voices, small kids, people in uniforms or working out side with something noisy or weird-looking, men with facial hair – I have approached countless people to meet my dog. Thankfully most have been more than happy to help. I am serious it takes a village.

I hope tonight that all of my Canine Companion friends, regardless of where you are geographically truly know that  help, support, a laugh, or a virtual hug are only a phone call, text message, email, Facebook post, or tweet away. I am proud to be part of village that is Canine Companions for Independence.

For those of you who find this all a little sappy to be coming from me. Your right it is, but the truth is I do mean every bit of it. Including this: for those people out there who think that service dogs aren’t important or necessary, that puppy raising isn’t hard, that our dogs are slaves, that gentle leaders are cruel, or that your dog should get to go to the movies too because it is so well-behaved that you buy a vest and pass your dog off as a service dog making it hard for disabled people who truly need access to get access….

your village called – and they want their idiot back.