It is the anniversary of the night before you arrived; January 9, 2018. Like any expectant puppy parent, I was excited, nervous and anxious. I had been down this road before. I couldn’t wait for your puppy breath to hit me in the face or to cuddle with you as you would sleep on my lap. I also knew I may be seeing my last good night’s sleep for a while, but I didn’t care. You were arriving. You had been born in NC, transported lovingly by numerous volunteers and I was being handed your care for the next year. You were born for special work, but in that moment, your work was just about puppyhood and I was ready.
As I expected, you came into my life and stole my heart. I took you with me when I could, when I knew it would be appropriate and I knew you could learn and grow from our outing. Oh, the smiles you brought and connections you made. From our trips just around the neighborhood, slowly but surely, we would stop, greet, meet and tell your story. You were Izzy, a pup born for a very specific reason, but for right now, puppyhood was your most important work.
My mom loved your visits. You had no idea, but as a stroke victim, you filled up her otherwise quiet days. She was so proud to introduce you. We both were proud as you demonstrated sit, down, come, and later heel and would even give paw. You were the best entertainment to both her and others in the long-term care unit.
You quickly grew into your “puppy in training” jacket and you wore it so proudly. Like a little kid who quickly changes behavior when donning dress clothes for a fancy occasion, you seemed to recognize the importance of that jacket and every adventure we took. From visits to the local coffee shop where we practiced patience and settle, to entering and exiting each door, to the mall where we worked to avoid the gum or crumb you would encounter here and there on the floor, you consistently rose to the challenge. “Those eyes,” I would often hear remarked. As you worked, you would check in, always waiting for a reward for your effort, but also connecting with me as your handler.
Though we did our work every day, the play we have had brings some of the sweetest memories. You quickly showed us your love of water and I took advantage of my love for it too. Our first time loading into a kayak, I wasn’t sure about a lab’s ability to stay in a boat, but you settled down and enjoyed that paddle as much as I did. When given the chance, you took advantage of wading and swimming. The long summer days and our proximity to a lake brought us both a lot of joy, not to mention all of those “firsts” I watched you experience as you played in the sand, surf and found every stick you could unearth.
Over the last year, you have become my buddy. In the mornings when I stretch or do a little yoga, you are my sidekick, rolling onto your back and ready for a belly rub while my intent was to reach for my toes. You have become my fitness trainer, always ready to go out for our 2-3-mile walk, no matter the weather or day of the week.
As you get ready for your next adventure, I reflect on how much you have learned. And, of course, how much I have learned and experienced because of you.
You are now ready with all your basic household skills and so many life experiences too. The sounds, smells, people, places we’ve traveled, car rides...what a joyful puppyhood it has been. And on the eve of the anniversary of your arrival, I’m reminded that our time together, your puppyhood, is ending soon too.
Izzy, you are ready to explore your potential, to work one on one with a professional trainer who will explore your ability to change another life, to give independence where there perhaps was little. Thanks for allowing me to be part your journey.
All the best.