Raising A Service Dog – A Rich Experience

Raising A Service Dog – A Rich Experience

I stood there as he was led away, tears welling up in my eyes and slowly dropping down my cheeks.  He actually turned his head and looked back like a child looking for that last wave good-bye.

Our nineteen months of raising Yael, our foster puppy, had come to an end.  We returned him to CCI, Canine Companions for Independence, to begin his testing to see if he’d qualify for being a service/companion dog for a person with disabilities.

Our job was complete, the end result being unknown.  It would be about six months until we’d find out if he ‘passed’.

What began as looking into a companion dog for my daughter with disabilities ended up with serving the cause – raising the dog for another.

This greater cause grounded me and kept me focused on the task at hand: to do the best possible job at raising a gentle, well-mannered and well-trained dog capable of carrying out his mission in life.  My  husband and I worked at following his instruction manual pretty much to a tee.   It was hard, meaningful and joyful – an overall rich experience.

We naturally fell in love with his adorable nature and looks; his sleek yellow body that always looked for  cuddles, hugs and playful belly-rubbing.  The common question (and statement) we encountered was, “how are you going to give him back?  I could never do it.”  Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was to be a lesson in letting go; connecting and letting go.  We knew from the get-go he wasn’t ours.  We were ‘in service’.   We literally let go of his leash with sadness.

Months later when we got his acceptance letter in the mail, we were ‘faklempted’; we were filled with emotion.   And for the second time we let go of his leash, this time for good at graduation, as we walked him up onstage and handed over his leash to his new ‘owner’ – a boy with cerebral palsy.  We were filled with pride and joy, and a lot of ‘happy sadness’ – faklempted again.

This ranks up there as a highlight {experience} in my life.    What makes for a rich experience?

  • Meaning – a keen sense of purpose.
  • Deriving pleasure and enjoyment.
  • Giving  love and being loved.
  • Working on the problems, challenges and difficulties.  We become more flexible, adaptable and resourceful.
  • Feeling all the emotions – the positive ones and the negative ones.  We give ourselves “permission to be human” and feel it all while doing a wonderful deed.
  • Pushing through for that greater good stretches our own capabilities.


A rich experience is not devoid of hardship or pain.  Rather they co-exist with the positive and are integrated to create triumph, resilience, competence and pride; all those internal riches that fill us.

What rich experience have you had and what went into it?   


6 thoughts on “Raising A Service Dog – A Rich Experience

  1. Jennifha says:

    This is beautiful. And inspirational.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Great to ‘see’ you here. Thanks for your comment. And coming from a writer it’s even more complimentary.

  2. Paula Jo Nyman says:

    Harriet this was so sweet! He is a beautiful dog and it is an awesome thing to know he is in service for someone else now! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Paula,
      Yes, it feels so good to know he’s in service with someone. Mission accomplished!
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. KendraKay at havemercyblog.com says:

    What a gift to the world! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Hi Kendra,
      Thank you for your kind words. Nice to ‘meet’ you here.

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