Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Puppy Love?

In less than a month, I could have an eight-week old golden labrador puppy wriggling in my arms, licking my face, peeing on me out of sheer excitement at being alive.

Tonight I went to an information session for the Pacific Assistance Dog Society (PADS) to find out how to become a puppy raiser. Turns out it's a lot of work and a lot of fun and they need people DESPERATELY to take a puppy home for a year right away. The litter is three or four weeks old, which means they've got to be matched with their handlers (puppy raisers) just before Christmas. Bad timing for most people, of course, especially me, actually, since my brother is getting married on New Year's Eve, but that's life.

I want one. I want one SO BADLY it hurts. They had two little 12-week old golden labs at the info session wearing their smart little yellow capes and they just made everyone smile. How could they not? They're the epitome of cute.

These dogs are super adorable, but they're also incredibly impressive, even at such a young age. They already know to come on command, lie down, and to stay quietly at their handlers' feet. They're also probably already worth about the same as my car.

A puppy handler (hopefully me, in a month) gets the dog at eight weeks and begins a 12 month journey of a 24-hour per day, seven day per week volunteer job that involves socializing the dog before it goes for formal training with professionals. There is nowhere these puppies cannot go: school, work, the mall, the movie theatre, restaurants, SkyTrain, ferries, hospitals, libraries, churches, concerts, Safeway, you name it. Handlers actually get to carry a card that officially states the Governor General gives them permission to take their puppies anywhere a disabled person would take their service dog. Which is everywhere. I love the idea of walking into Holt Renfrew with a big ol' lab!

But these dogs learn right from day one that when their yellow cape is on, they're working. No playing, no biting, no barking, no distractions. People should not pet these dogs and puppies. They shouldn't even ask if they can pet them. They're working. However, when the cape comes off, it's like Jekyll and Hyde and the dog becomes a regular goofball puppy again.

I love the idea of a dog being at my side all day, every day. Of course, I don't like the idea of having to give him to someone else after a year, but knowing it's not just anyone but someone who will make the best use of (and hopefully really love) the dog is well worth it. The challenge is huge, I suppose, but then again, anything worth doing is difficult.

When I was 13 I got a lab-cross puppy and she was inordinately destructive and took forever to be housebroken. But in the end, she turned out better than alright, and I wouldn't have passed up the chance to have a wonderful 12 years with Velvet. And despite the inevitable agony of having to say goodbye to another k-9 friend again, at least this time it won't be a permanent farewell, but a toast to the promising future of this well-socialized dog who will be starting a very important job with his or her ecstatic new owner.

So, fingers crossed, I'll be the proud new (temporary) owner of a little bundle of furry joy in a few weeks time.

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