My Ruby nugget,
591 days that we spent day in and day out together learning, going on adventures, practicing your skills in public and at home, and meeting new people and animals.
When I think back to when you were a small ball of fluff, it makes me realize just how fast 18 months can and has flown by. You have grown from the tiny black Lab puppy who bit at my ankles as I used the restroom at Hero Dogs, the first time I met you before I became your puppy raiser, to the now confident, wiggly, and most genuinely happy dog I know. My eyes well up with tears knowing just how amazing of a dog you have become.
While I will always remember Maria calling me to describe the newest Hero Dog that joined the program as a busy (and that word was used countless times) puppy, you keep life always entertaining. You are a fan of sneaking into the laundry room to only steal a sock, never to eat it, but simply because you thought it was the most fun game of chase, or you knew I would get out a treat and ask you to bring it to me. When I had a bad or stressful day at work, you greeted me with a face full of kisses, put your paws on my shoulders for a hug, and wiggled so much you can’t control which way your body moves. You are always up for a walk, complete with head tilts when asked, “Do you want to go for a walk?” and go straight to where your harness and leash hang.
The thing about raising service dogs is you know there is the dreaded day of saying goodbye that will inevitably happen. You would think as my fifth service dog, but first dog to raise for a year and a half, that “give back day” becomes a little easier, but it’s the day that nobody enjoys talking about, the day you reluctantly count down to when its approaching. It’s the day you forget about when you walk into Hero Dogs and meet the puppy you will be raising, because all you can focus on is the ball of fluff you see in front of you. People ask us in public all the time, “How can you possibly give her back?” My answer is always the same… it’s hard. If someone tells you it’s easy, I honestly wouldn’t believe them. But the thing is, you are destined to become somebody’s lifeline. What you are going to be able to do for your future Veteran is far greater than what you can do for me.
I believe there is a little selfish part to every puppy raiser – you have that thought every now and again of wishing that you can keep your puppy forever. But my Ruby Tuesday, you have a greater purpose than to keep being my sidekick, my cuddle buddy, shadow, and four-legged best friend. You will be your Veteran’s social bridge to become confident in public again, perhaps their extra set of eyes to keep them feeling safe, literally something to lean on to keep them stable, an extra set of ears to listen when they may not be able to. You will be there, tail wagging, to pick up a set of dropped keys or other items that may have fallen that your Veteran is not able to pick up. You will open and close doors and cabinets, drop items in a bin, hand a credit card to a cashier, put your paws up and drop or take an item to hand to your person, and confidently heel next to your Veteran. You will be there to smother them with love and snuggles like you have for me these past 18 months and you will be their best friend just like you have been mine. I have simply had the pleasure of showing you the world is an exciting place and teaching you your foundation of the skills you need to know to do all of this.
In 591 days you have accomplished so many incredible things and been by my side for amazing experiences. We have been on six planes together, buses, and the metro. You have seen what I love so much about Colorado and hiked by my side as we went to Red Rocks Park, we ate at the restaurant my brother is a Sous Chef in, and we explored downtown Denver. You have been to numerous movies. You spent countless days at parks, climbing on the playground and even going down slides. You have walked across so many surfaces with confidence, and ridden in countless elevators. I wouldn’t even be able to count the number of stores, restaurants, and shops you have been to with me. One very important adventure you were by my side for was beginning Graduate School. It makes me sad to think that you were there for the first day of class and won’t be for the last, but you have bigger and better things to accomplish. 🙂
We have bonded so much that I will miss not having my little shadow around to do the simplest of things, such as always feeling the need to follow me into the bathroom and sit and wait, or to keep my feet warm when I am doing just about anything… cooking, dishes, getting ready in the morning, drying my hair, sitting in a restaurant. You are resilient and strong, smart (maybe too smart sometimes) and occasionally dramatic, you are funny and make people laugh, and there is no doubt in my mind you will be able to bond with someone else the way you have with me. You take every adventure in stride and make teaching you easy because of your willingness to learn.
You have taught me patience and how to laugh at the simple things. You have taught me persistence, that practice is key to mastering anything, and with the way you greet everybody with a wiggling body and wagging tail, that everybody has good in them. You are sensitive and intuitive, caring and helpful, you are driven and outgoing. Those are traits that will make you an amazing service dog!
Your life is going to be full of chapters… your first chapter began with your mom who nurtured you through the first 8 weeks of your life. The second chapter began at Hero Dogs where the staff loved you until I brought you home and raised you for 18 months. Your third chapter began when you moved into “college” at Hero Dogs for your advanced training. Your fourth and possibly most important chapter will begin that first day of training with your Veteran. I can’t wait for that day when you get a Veteran to call your very own. 🙂 I love you to the moon and back Rubelet – show everyone what you’re made of!
Remember that advanced training isn’t all fun and games. Work hard, my nugget, and have fun with your friends. 🙂