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I have been told that the first time is always the best, the first thrill, first love, first “fill in the blank” is the best. That the euphoria and excitement that comes with the first can never be recreated. I am not sure about all of that. I have had a couple firsts that were most certainly so terrible that I made sure there wasn’t a second. What I do know is that we all get tired. Maybe not “climb into bed and not get up for a month” tired but things we do in and out can certainly begin to feel and appear lackluster after a while. They most certainly lose the rush or glamour that came with the first. Sometimes the tarnish becomes so embedded that the work to polish it off is greater than the cost of just tossing it out and starting over.

I am the all time Queen of I am going to do “fill in the blank”. There is much pomp and circumstance in my proclamation of doing “fill in the blank” and of course gathering the stuff that I am going to need to do “fill in the blank.”  Don’t get me wrong I don’t have to have new or shiny, I am happy to go to your garage sale and buy the stuff you needed for whatever craft or hobby you have now discarded. Still despite all that it eventually falls by the wayside.

After much introspection I have come to realize that it isn’t really doing “fill in the blank” that is attractive, it is the challenge of learning something new, that I love. Take golf for example. I don’t do it. Why? Because you never master golf, you can’t really learn it completely. That and you’re supposed to be quiet and I don’t do that quiet thing well (I don’t fish for that very same reason.) When you have an hour or two and are willing to buy Dave a beer, ask him about all the things that I have jumped into whole heartedly and then once I reach some level of competence move on to the next thing.

Now this isn’t meant to insinuate that I am some super talented master of all of the things I have tried (Not by a long shot.) I am more of a jack of all hobby/crafty trades and master of none. At most you could say that I have mastered the art of being curious and you know what curiosity did to that poor cat. Alas, there have been some constants throughout my life and as of late I have decided that I can find learning adventures in advancing those efforts. Namely photography, writing, scrapbooking, and now you can add being a volunteer for Canine Companions. That certainly has proven to have staying power. In fact I have told them I will stay as long as they will have me.

Yes my friends we are reaching the golden five-year mark in a few short months that Dave and I have been part of this wonderful organization. I am not going to say that it is all fun and sunshine – in fact there is nothing sunshiny about going to puppy class in the rain, having your pup-in-training poop in the middle of the mall, or needing to rush your pup to the emergency vet. However when it is sunshiny it is enough to sustain you, through and well beyond, the occasional heartache that comes in this dog focused life.

Last month I had the privilege  of attending Canine Companion’s Team 2013 Volunteer Conference in Santa Rosa. Team 2013 truly deserves a post all to its self and despite it being out-of-order chronologically I will save that for another day (look there a departure from my regular blogging style – an adventure awaits!). The conference left me excited in a whole new way about Canine Companions – as much as if not more than the first conference I attended. Instead I will tell you about Friday September 20th. It was another first, and it will stick with me for quite a long time.

I was in Santa Rosa and on campus to attend the Canine Companions National Board meeting. While the girls were on the play yard there was a tour group out and about on the grounds. This is not uncommon sight by any means, any member of the public can come on tour day and see the digs, learn more about the mission and organization. (There are five regional centers across the United States – check one out!) This was no ordinary tour – these were people who were in the process of becoming a graduate team. Another first – I had not meet so many graduate candidates at one time, and most certainly not crashed their campus tour.

Dave and I looked on while National Board Member and Graduate Nancy shared her Canine Companions story with the prospective graduates. I am moved every time I hear her speak. To be honest sometimes she breaks my heart. Nancy is a vibrant, exciting, intellectual woman who uses both a wheelchair and crutches. You should see the look on people’s faces when she “rolls” out of a meeting and then is able to stand and transfer to a car. It probably shouldn’t, but it truly cracks me up every time I see people see it.

Anyway something I have heard her say countless times is how she is treated when she is in her wheelchair. I should say how poorly she is sometimes by people when she is in her chair. She will tell you that her service dog opens not only doors literally, she opens doors to people, to communication, to the “normal” world. I know that some people act poorly that way because no one has taught them better, but some people have never tried to learn better either. To them I say – you have just cheated yourself out of the opportunity to meet a pretty spectacular lady.

As we started to depart for the Board Meeting Nancy invited me to talk a little about puppy raising and being a breeder caretaker. Of course Sabina obliged the group by “letting” them pet her (she would have been demanded being pet, had it been her choice.) Soon it became apparent that we had held the group for too long and they had to get on to their individual interviews, another step in the journey to graduate team training.

Many of you know that one of the things I can’t stand in this life is pity. There was nothing pitiful about this group. They were on campus not to be pitied or to receive a dog out of pity. They were there working with what they had and working for independence for themselves or their loved one – whatever that looks like for them. I am guessing for this group a highly trained service dog fit  into their picture of independence. What a great honor to be able to contribute in a small way to someone’s picture of independence.

I have no idea if I might see those people at a future graduation receiving their very own service dog or not. I hope I will. For me they were a visual, real live, reminder of why volunteers do what we do for Canine Companions. My paws are crossed for you Cate-Monster, work hard my snuggle girl. Someone is already out there right now working their way to you.

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