By: Jeannie Fleming-Gifford, Volunteer Puppy Raiser
I knew what I was getting into. Yes, I have been down this road before. For the last 15 years, my family has welcomed puppies into our home. Oh yes, they are cute, but...
Izzy arrived in January 2018. An 8-week-old puppy and winter in Ohio. Did I mention 8-week-old puppy? A glorious time to housetrain a pup (insert my eyes rolling here). Izzy sure did keep us busy. Inside. Outside. Repeat. And then she would sleep. And play. And cuddle. Then in and out again with the puppy in that cold wintry weather.
As the seasons changed, Izzy grew quickly. Three, then four months old and spring arrived. Basic commands...sit, down, stay...Walks became longer, and outings expanded from our house and into the community.
Izzy was welcomed into the long-term care facility where my mom resides. People who no longer were growing, but instead whose health was failing, lit up with the chance to visit with her. Izzy, an exuberant puppy, was pleased to partake in these visits and quickly learned that she would be rewarded with kibble for her good choices.
As summer approached, Izzy discovered her love of water...from her own baby pool in our backyard to the local river she loved to wade in. If there was water, there was Izzy wanting to be in it. And, of course, with water, came many baths.
Izzy has grown. Physically, she now weighs close to 55 pounds. And, of course, she has grown in skill. She happily demonstrates her skill sets of sit, down, stay, over, and even “paw” which provides an amusing greeting to newcomers.
Explorations in our community have now grown into more regional ones. With her vest on, Izzy happily – and mostly – engages in outings to the store or even a quick-service restaurant.
Our days as a family are busy and Izzy now has the skills and temperament for most adventures.
Izzy has become my personal fitness trainer. 5am weekday walks and 6am on the weekends. She is energetic and focused as we navigate our way through the darkness, often met by skunks and deer and an occasional person. Even if I am not motivated to trudge out in the dark, Izzy is, and somehow, she persuades me to lace up those shoes day in and day out.
She has become accustomed to our family’s routines of making lunches and a treat for her that she receives after a mid-day crate and play break. She waits and watches patiently as we go through these daily routines.
And as she ages, I know our seasons will change again soon. In November she turns a year. She is settling down (a bit) and showing her readiness to learn even more. As I have done so many times before with other pups, I will eventually see her off to her new season, her new opportunities and for the purpose which she was born to pursue - that of a working service dog for a child with autism.
And my days? I anticipate – like the seasons noted above – will continue to change too. One thing for sure, I will miss being busy with this pup named Izzy.