On Friday March 11th, we welcomed Clifford II into our family and officially became Volunteer Puppy Raisers with Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs to those with disabilities. Clifford will be with us for the next 18 months at which point we will turn him in for Advanced Training in November of 2017. During the next year and a half we are responsible for attending biweekly CCI group training, providing socialization opportunities, keeping him healthy, and giving him all the love we can possibly squeeze in during his time with us.
Prior to joining CCI as Puppy Raisers, my husband and I kept a constant dialogue of how we could fit a service for our community into our daily lives, as much for us as for our daughters. We feel that we have been blessed beyond measure and we need to find a way to give back daily. Our goal is to raise the girls to have an awareness of the needs of others within our community and a sense of what it means to serve others. We have two small children, so serving at a weekly soup kitchen or helping to build a house wasn’t something that would work for us on a regular basis as a family. Through our search we stumbled upon Canine Companions for Independence!
My husband and I discussed becoming Puppy Raisers for a few months before we acted on it. We both had a strong feeling that this would be something our family would benefit from. It seemed to be an extraordinary opportunity to incorporate community service into our daily lives while also bonding as a family over the experience. After many discussions and prayers (and a very compelling TV spot on Disney Channel highlighting a family that was Volunteer Puppy Raising) my husband filled out an application and started the process in October 2015. After phone interviews and a home visit we were approved to become Puppy Raisers. At the end of February, while on vacation, we were informed that we would be receiving Clifford II on March 11th.
The first question we were warned we would be asked and honestly have been asked with every encounter is “How are you going to give him up?” which eventually leads to “The girls will be devastated.” The best explanation we can give for this is, we didn’t go into this journey to get a puppy for our family. It brings us joy to think about the peace Clifford will bring to someone who needs him to make their daily life easier. We are excited to think about the person whom Clifford will match with and how we will prepare him to become a part of their family.
We have been upfront with the girls from the start; Clifford is “staying” with us until he goes to “college” to learn how to help someone. We talk about this every day with the girls. We watch videos of how other service dogs help their companion. This has led my oldest to immediately tell everyone we meet “Clifford is our service dog and he is going to help someone who needs him.” She has even dubbed her Simba stuffed animal, a service lion.
Our hope for Clifford is that he will mature to become a service dog but know we will be sad when the time comes for him to leave us. We have met so many great people involved with CCI and enjoy the new dynamic and experiences Clifford has brought to our family. (Thanks to our Clifford, a notable experience so far has been introducing my oldest to Clifford the Big Red Dog! Memories of elementary school came flooding back!)
All four of us enjoy our time with him. Honestly, the 4 year old gives my husband a run for his money when it comes to training Clifford. We look forward to the next 18 months and plan to share all of the fun experiences that will come along (no doubt there will be plenty with a 4 year old, 1 year old, and a puppy).
If you would like to read more about Canine Companions for Independence and Volunteer Puppy Raising you can do it here:
*All content provided on this blog is personal and does not reflect the views or opinions of Canine Companions for Independence.