I've been having a great time this summer enjoying the weather and lots of play time! I've also been hard at work with my skills training – I'm currently learning how to turn light switches on and off, how to hold a credit card without eating it, to leave items that look enticing, but aren't for me, to ‘Stay' even in distracting situations, and many more! Today is a big day though; it's the day of the switch. Here's a note from Jesi to tell you more about this day….
It takes 2 years to train a service dog. While each dog is in the program for 2 years, they typically have 2 trainers as well. The main reason for the switch is so that the dogs get a chance to experience new/different situations, work environments, lifestyles, people, commands, etc. Today Toula will be moving to her next trainer, Victoria, who's been training Toula's brother Truman for the past year. Truman will be moving to Karen, who's been training Teal and Teal will be my new trainee.
“How do you give them up?!” This is definitely the most frequently asked question I get from everyone when talking about training service dogs. This isn't as easy to explain as one would think. I get attached and there's just no way around that. Over this past year I've spent more time with Toula than with anyone or anything else. Can you imagine the hours we've put in together? It's not easy to let that bond go, but that's ok. I have a year's worth of incredible memories with Toula. Looking back, what I've personally gained as a trainer over the past 3 ½ years actually makes me think, how could I not? I don't want to say good-bye, but I'm thankful to have the opportunity to do so than to have never had this experience.
Toula has given me the confidence to talk to strangers, go outside my comfort zone and so much more. She's been my side-kick who makes everyone smile when they see her.
Toula is one of the coolest dogs I've known. She is Miss Happy-Go-Lucky. She's a hard worker, but also shows a little attitude when she wants to. She loves a good hip massage and loves to snuggle. She will certainly be missed by everyone at WKOW, my family, friends, husband Justin and me. I am so proud of her and I'm confident she'll continue to shine in her training and change the life of someone who really needs her.
If you've considered becoming a trainer, but this situation has held you back, please don't let it. What you can gain from this experience is like no other. I am honored to be a part of something truly amazing and you would be too.
There you have it. I'm about half way through my training and moving in with Victoria today. I've had a great year with Jesi and everyone around her, but I'm also excited to make new friends and continue with my training. Another year to go and hopefully I'll be all set to move into my forever home and change someone's life like they never thought possible. And don't worry; I'm still going to stay in touch with you over the next year!
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
Roger A. Caras