The only way we can provide service dogs to our clients, is through the generosity of our puppy raisers. Puppy raisers are selfless, altruistic, amazing people, who constantly keep me humbled to be around.
I find myself worrying about our puppy raisers often. How do I address the puppy raiser who is raising a puppy that won’t make it as a service dog? How do I break bad news to a family that raised a puppy for us, a puppy they believe will be a life changer?
I could not start a blog about puppy raisers without discussing a painful defining moment which result determined how we do business at the Monkey Tail Ranch.
In 2011 we were raising a beautiful yellow Service Puppy Hopeful. While this puppy was in our care, he ate a poisonous mushroom and died in our arms. It was excruciatingly difficult to not only cope with this puppies death, but the guilt that we felt for allowing this puppy to get into a situation that he had access to a mushroom. Beyond our grieving and guilt, we also had to inform a family who was anxiously waiting for their service dog to be trained for their son, that their service dog prospect was dead.
We thought up stories about how we were going to spin the story of a dead puppy. I questioned how we may be able to protect the family from the truth. We decided that any lie will eventually catch up to us, and we would, rightfully so, never have credibility again. We decided that if we are going to run a business, we will always be honest. Totally transparent, no white lies, no avoiding hard conversations that needed to be had.
Telling the family for whom this service puppy was being trained for, that their puppy died was very difficult, but surprisingly, we found the family was comforting us. Telling us how sorry they were, how difficult it must have been on us to have a puppy die. At that point we knew, the only way to run a business with people, is to never insult anyones intelligence by covering up the truth with a lie. We also learned just how much these puppies become a part of your heart. Even if they have an ultimate goal not to live in your home, they live in your heart.
The Monkey Tail Ranch puppy raisers take these puppies into their homes at 8 weeks of age. The puppy raisers stay up with them as little pups and tend to them when they cry in their crate. They clean up accidents on their favorite rug, and have favorite shoes ruined by a teething puppy. Puppy raisers skip out on soccer practice so they can take the puppy to puppy school, and then, just as the dog is becoming easy, and fun, they give the puppy back to the ranch so the pup can start their formal obedience training. The puppy raisers get these puppies knowing that these puppies are going to a greater good. The puppy raiser trusts that we will be the dogs advocate, that we will care for the puppy in the same way they did. What an honor to be so trusted.
Sometimes Service Dog Hopefuls don’t make it as Service Dogs. Sometimes Service Dog Hopefuls have health issues and have to be pulled from the program. Sometimes Service Dog Hopefuls have to have their original placement changed. Each time a placement of a Service Dog does not happen as originally planned, I have angst about how to tell the puppy raiser family. They had so much hope invested in the dog, so much trust in me that I was going to make the placement work. Each time I tell the service dog family, I am always amazed at the comforting conversation about how we are going to keep the happiness of the dog our first priority. We always agree on that.
There are a lot of amazing, altruistic people in this world. People who donate money, people who teach, or preach. But if you had to find a group of people that had the biggest heart, the most altruistic soul, and the most generous with their time and patience, my bet is on the Service Dog puppy raiser.
To all those who have raised puppies for us. I salute you.