Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mighty Mr. Micron makes his mark

My favorite kid
You never really stop worrying about your kid, even after you've sent him off to college. Ask any mom who's been there. You just worry about things in a different way.

How ready is he for the real world, all the good and not so good? Is the kid well equipped to handle new adventures -- and those tricky challenges that come with change? Did we offer up enough valuable life experiences to tamp down any naivete?

But you know, the simplest way to summarize my biggest worry as a mom is . . .

Did I do my job?
  
Dropping my favorite kid off in a dorm room with people we've never even met before was a truly unsettling experience. Sure, I know that this kid is old enough to drive, vote, defend our country, and now, as he told me, fully capable of living his life independent of his mother's overprotective grasp. I do know this.

Because we worked hard to get him ready.

Over the past eighteen years, this clever young man had learned the basic life skills of preparing meals, doing his own laundry, and thanks to Scouting, can survive outdoors in freezing temps and even start a campfire in the rain. All good marketable skills, although not all are critical for life on campus.

So yeah, I worried about him. But not too much. He was absolutely ready for this next step. And this life event was all of three years ago. My successful young son is walking head on into his senior year this month.

Mini Mr. Micron
This past May, I was reminded of personal growth through life changes when we returned Micron to Canine Companions for Independence so he could complete his training as an assistance dog.

Although we only had eighteen months, not years, to prepare this fuzzy fellow for his adult life, we did try to get him out and about so there wouldn't be an excessive amount of Holy Cow experiences for him.

Micron was there for the daily office grind. He found out how mind-numbingly boring grocery shopping can be, which could only be trumped by another miserable scrapbook trip to Hobby Lobby. But new adventures could be a blast, like the RV vacation to Pennsylvania. And visits to family in assisted care facilities got a lot of positive attention. The farmers market was always a good time. So many festivals in town, so little time, Micron says.

When the time came for Micron to go to CCI college we were feeling rather confident he was prepared for this next step. We had showed him the world.

We did our job, we said. With a long hug and some tears, we sent him on his way. Go do good stuff, we said.  Make good choices, now.

So, as they say, life is what happens while you're making other plans.

The Mighty Mr. Micron returns
When the call came three months later that Micron was being released from CCI, I experienced a mental hurricane of mixed emotions.

Darn it all, we worked so hard at this. Eighteen months all for nuthin?  Deep breath, let the dust settle in my head.  Ok, I know the success rate of these dogs has been estimated at less than fifty percent. CCI sets very high standards for their assistance dogs, so in truth, less than half of the puppies in the program will graduate. I know this.  It's information that's covered in the puppy raiser interview process. 

I also know Micron. He's a happy, lovable velcro dog. He is a little light in the work ethic department though.  He is so much dog, such a big personality, that my hopes for him were that he might be placed as a facility dog so all that Microness could be shared with a lot of folk. A room just feels better if Micron is in it. He exudes positive energy like heat waves, if you believe in such stuff.

But in the end, a CCI career was not for him. In CCI speak we refer to these dogs as COC's.  Change of career.

So what happens now, you ask?  Well, the Mighty Micron becomes a highly trained pet.  As his puppy raisers, CCI is generous in offering us first dibs, so to speak.


Food Lady!  Didja see it?  Micron's back!

Not what we worked for, not what I had hoped for his destiny. But having Micron in my home as my very own personal cuddlebug and fuzzy friend?

Well, that's one helluva consolation prize, I'd say. I'll graciously accept it with a huge smile on my face.

I just adore this dog.

Doggy smiles

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Landlocked in the midwest

Because Canine Companions for Independence is a national organization, you can find a volunteer puppy raiser just about anywhere. Just this morning I was looking at photos of a CCI training event with a backdrop of swaying palm trees, clear blue water and sailboats. Ah, nice.

Yaxley's littermate Yarrow (second from right) joins
in a doggie birthday celebration


But hey, I got photos, too. Just because we're in landlocked Ohio (the Heart of America!) doesn't mean we're just mosquitoes and humidity around here. We do have lakes and things.  And we have Ohio State Parks, always a fine choice to see our state's natural wonders, especially with your favorite dog at your side.

Hi! I'm gonna be a service dog
when I grow up!
To help in raising awareness of their dog friendly parks, CCI was invited to share the Ohio State Park information booth at our state fair this weekend. Yaxley stepped into his yellow cape and we headed out to Columbus to work the crowds. 

A typical August day in Ohio, warm and muggy, with the occasional flash flood thunderstorm. But it didn't keep folk from enjoying the state fair. Several puppy raisers and a few service dog teams were at our Meet & Greet booth to share information on CCI.  The dogs earned their kibble, too. Just non-stop activity all day.

Yaxley shared his shift with the lovely Wish, a fellow puppy-in-training. Families stopped by the booth to meet these two adorable yellow puppies. Yax just has it in his nature to love little kids, but when they're fresh from the midway smelling like deep-fried fair goodness, well, that's just a bonus.

So another training opportunity for the pup to work on that ever elusive skill of self-control. There's not really a don't lick command to whisper in his ear. It's more like a just plain and firmly stated Don't!  Keep in mind that there's a fine balance between effectively correcting your dog while not scaring the diaper off the little kid who's getting the ketchup cleaned off his face. I'm still working my finesse on that one.

Wish and Yaxley await their audience

So, another day of time well spent. Raising awareness and training opportunities. Now I'm off to practice giving firm commands using my indoor voice.


I'm saving myself for the cover of the Rolling Stone

Now if someone would just slip a dog biscuit into my mouth,
I believe we'll have a trifecta
Red, Yax & Mojo take a short break
It seems that Red may be sharing a naughty joke
with Yaxley.
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