Hey folks! I’m back in Northern Maine and with a new best friend!
Let me tell you about the whole Canine Companions for Independence team training experience. In just a few words… absolutely wonderful, emotionally exhausting, super rigorous, inner peace inspiring, and heart opening.
Those are some pretty strong words, and honestly I wasn’t prepared for how impacted this whole experience would leave my heart and soul. There was no question that I’d get an absolutely incredible dog, and have to put in some rather hard work along the way to make it happen. They made that all very obvious at the interview when I worked with my first dog. What I wasn’t prepared for was going back to my room at CCI after the third night of classes and feeling this overwhelming sense of happiness and inner peace. Pretty cool, huh?
So what all went down? Let’s see… It started something like… driving… driving… 5 hours later we’re driving south through Portland, Maine. Yes, believe it or not for all you non-Mainers, there is a Maine 5 hours north of Portland! And no… Augusta or Bangor is NOT northern Maine! Back to another few hours of driving, ferry across the Thames River, driving through vineyards, then traffic, that my mother pushing her foot through the passenger side floor trying to stop the van when my father doesn’t notice the line of brake lights ahead of him over and over again, and… PHEW! Finally we arrive at the Canine Companions for Independence Miller Family campus and settle in for the night. A few pictures along the way:
And then starts the week of exhaustive learning and training with the pooches. Not a whole lot of pictures for the first few days, because they wanted us to keep our cameras to ourselves until the dog matches were made. Monday was a bunch of classroom time, me falling in love with ALL THE DOGS! (and maybe a few of the trainers 😉 ), some basic working (SIT/STAY/walking around) with a bunch of the dogs, and then home after the first night with a reading assignment and quiz. YIPPEE! Homework! Tuesday was more classwork and a lot more working with the dogs, but this time it seemed like they were working us with specific dogs for a longer amount of time, and there seemed to be more thought going into which dog they were trying us with. All along there was a whole horde of trainers/instructors not so inconspicuously watching on, taking notes, and paying very close attention. Almost like they were going to be matching us with our super dogs that evening. During all this work with the different dogs I really began forming a connection with one in particular… as my classmates would say… “The bromance begins.” So I was already in love and had found my 4-legged soulmate, but it was then up to instructors… the people who knew these dogs inside and out, had reviewed my personal life extensively, and studied me in action with the dogs to make the choice. Golly Gee I hope they made the right choice. It was so torturous to wonder which dog they thought would be my best counterpart. I mean, all the dogs were amazing, but one of them… well he was… just yeah!
When we arrived at class Wednesday morning instead of 12 dogs, there were only 7, one for each of us! Each of the instructors grabbed a few leashes and started walking around the class handing the dogs off to each of their potential matches. I’m told there were many tears, and lots of smiles/laughter, but to be honest I missed all that because I was so into my lovefest with my dog. They chose Caleb for me and I couldn’t have been more happy! We worked together throughout the day, and every minute it seemed things got easier and we got closer.
That first day after working with Caleb I went home with this whole new feeling inside, a feeling of contentment/inner peace that I hadn’t felt since 4 years ago before my skiing accident. But he had to go to the kennel for the night and me back to my room, and I thought about my new little man and missed him. I’m told I even called out his name a few times during the night.
Thursday I remember getting jealous of the trainer Flora as Caleb kept looking dreamily over at her, distracted, and wagging his tail. It seemed I had some competition with a much sillier, fun voice, with dog treats!
Friday was a bunch more classroom time, working with our dog’s time, and our first public outing to the nearby Target.
Then Friday night was our first night home with our dog. Caleb kept roaming around the room unable to settle, until I reattached him to myself and he takes comfort and sleeps for the night.
Saturday… yup those slave drivers! Is another day full of classes, a field trip to Lowes, and an introduction to our dogs favorite pastime… playing in the fenced in doggie play yard!
Onto the final week, each day my relationship with Caleb builds: playing with friends out in the fenced in yard, exploring all sorts of grocery/hardware/pet stores… even the mall, and learning some pretty cool tricks along the way. As we work together and our bond strengthens I notice those dreamy eyes that were once gazing at Flora are now finding their way at me. I mean, holy cow, I’ve fallen in/out of love a couple of times in life, but this is special… so unconditional and free.
Wait a minute here… This blog post is just getting way, way too long and I’m not even at graduation yet, which was definitely the most impacting/touching part of this whole journey. How about a few more pictures of me and Caleb, the super dog, working together and I’ll tell you all about graduation and meeting Caleb’s absolutely amazing puppy raiser in my next post.